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Mass Effect 3 Fixes: Black Screen, Loading Crashes, Lag, and more

Posted on March 14, 2012

Bioware may be well-known for their controversial storylines and successful RPGs, but that doesn't make them immune to the onslaught of crashes, bugs, video artifacting, freezes on loading, and black screens that Mass Effect 3 would inevitably face. ME3's had a shaky launch for PC gamers -- similar to our "Skyrim Fix Checklist," we'll take a look at Mass Effect 3 alt-tab black screen fixes, crashing fixes, and freeze fixes below.

mass-effect-3-crashYou crash in the game, you crash in real life! The same goes for death.

Before even getting into the fixes, make sure you meet the minimum requirements for Mass Effect 3:


Minimum Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1, or Windows 7
  • CPU: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo or equivalent AMD
  • Memory: 1GB on Windows XP, 2GB for Vista and 7
  • Hard Drive: 15GB
  • Video Card: 256MB with Pixel Shader 3.0 support


Recommended Specs

  • CPU: 2.4+ GHz Quad-Core CPU
  • Memory: 2GB RAM
  • Video Card: AMD 3850 and up, nVidia GTX 260 and up


If you don't meet those, it's very likely the root of your problem. We offer help with newcomers to PC gaming, so feel free to ask us on our forums if you need help putting a build together! Alternatively, we also just posted another budget gaming PC build guide.

Mass Effect 3 Doesn't launch or opens and closes sporadically!

EA's rocky launch with Origin hasn't helped its reputation. Luckily, a lot of basic startup issues can be resolved by performing the following regiment of updates:

  • Update EA Origin to the newest version
  • Exit Origin completely (kill the process, if necessary)
  • Right-click on Origin, choose "Run As Administrator"
  • Update ME3 and attempt to run.


If this doesn't work, you might also try redownloading the core files (back-up your saves) through Origin in the event your install was corrupted. Unfortunately, Origin does not have a means through which we can verify the integrity of the game's installation, but a repair might do the trick.

  • Right-click the game in Origin
  • Choose "Repair Install"


Alternatively, ensure your drivers are up to date. AMD and nVidia have both launched ME3-specific drivers.

The next option might also be worth trying...

My Mass Effect 3 CD Won't Install!

Also known as "Origin's perpetual download glitch," since it will simply continually attempt to download the game and never install it fully. We've experienced this issue in Battlefield 3 as well, so it's no news. Try this approach:

  • Launch Origin -> Click on 'settings' in the top right corner.
  • Choose 'delete all game installers' and restart your system to clear any cached files.


Mass Effect 3 crashes to desktop randomly

Sadly, CTD errors are common across all PC games - the good part about that is the same which makes it bad: They're common, which means answers are abundant. To combat random crashes in Mass Effect 3, try this:

  • Launch Origin
  • Settings -> In Game
  • Uncheck 'Enable Origin In Game'
  • Save and try launching Mass Effect 3. Steam's overlay also causes this problem frequently, and we've normally fixed it by merely disabling the overlay.


Update: We've noticed that, in some instances, disabling benchmarking or troubleshooting utilities (Afterburner, CPU-z, Fraps) helps dissipate crashes with some players.


Texture Artifacting and Glitches/Flickering

This is typically an underlying hardware problem. Assuming your system has sufficient cooling and isn't overheating, you should try re-mounting your video card and blowing the dust out of your case. If this issue only happens in ME3 and not in other games, then it might be worth lowering your settings in an attempt to troubleshoot the root cause. Let us know what you figure out below and we'll help with the rest!

Mass Effect 3 "Failed to initialize physics system" error

This one's also simple to fix, luckily. Try uninstalling PhysX via your control panel (or update it through nvidia's panel). Update to the newest version, try again.

Crash-to-desktop on quad-core systems

Mass Effect 3's multithreading isn't the best (as seen by observing the CPU usage distribution when playing), so if you're on a quad-core system (or greater) and experience instability, you could force ME3 to run in a dual-core mode. This is more of a quick-and-dirty fix, but it gets the job done.

  • Launch Mass Effect 3
  • Open the Processes tab in Task Manager
  • Locate Mass Effect 3.exe, right-click on it
  • Set Affinity -> Cores 0 & 1


Alt-Tab Blackouts in Multi-Monitor Setups

This quick tip addresses black screen issues or crashes that trigger from minimizing, as suggested by DarthParametric in the comments below: Try running your game in windowed (borderless) mode at the native resolution of your display configuration; this should help with escaping windows and re-launching them.

Mouse Acceleration Lag in Mass Effect 3

Some users have reported mouse acceleration and "lagging" when using third party software to manage mouse drivers (Logitech's panel is a common one). Try disabling any third party software (I know - it's a pain, but only temporary) to see if the result is different. If not, try these two fixes that we've used in our other guides:


  • Launch the NVIDIA Control Panel (right-click your desktop).
  • Go to "Manage 3D Settings" and then the "Program Settings" tab.
  • Add Mass Effect 3 as a program.
  • Locate "maximum pre-rendered frames" and change it to 0, which should help with input lag.
  • You might also consider changing Vertical Sync (at the bottom) to "Force off" just in case.


  • Install ATI Tray Tools or the ATI Catalyst.
  • Locate the 'Flip Queue' setting and adjust it similarly to the NVIDIA setting above: change it to either 3, 2, 1, or 0 (recommended).


Have a problem we haven't addressed here? You might be able to do some hacks to force it to work, but describe your problem below and we'll see if there's anything we can do!