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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    High end(?) computer suddenly suffering long load times and random stutter

    So I have a Cyberpower computer that's only about 6 months old. I think it's overclocked, I game a lot, and sometimes I leave it on overnight, maybe even 2 nights in a row even though I was advised not to (not sure if that's relevant). Here are the specs:

    Windows 7 Home Premium
    Intel Core i7 (8 CPUs) 3.7 GHz
    16 GB RAM
    AMD Radeon 6800 Series
    1000GB HDD with 641 GB free complemented by a 100GB (I think) SSD

    Up until yesterday, I have never upgraded any of the drivers, the Windows 7 software, etc. I shut off Windows Update because it hogged all my bandwidth and usually updating Windows broke something until it updated again.

    All of the sudden, yesterday, I started having issues with TERA taking forever (read: About 5-6 minutes to get all the way in-game) to load when it had been fine before, and once in-game, NPCs failed to load correctly at first. I later tried to load up Far Cry and it took literally almost 2 minutes to load just the level. I then, just to test, tried loading up The Witcher and Hard Reset. Hard Reset took about 3 minutes, the Witcher took somewhere in between 3 and 5. All of them had noticeable stutter. It wasn't often (30 seconds-ish in-between), but it's something that has never happened before. Then, later, the load times went down significantly while still seeming a lot higher than usual. The stutter when I shot went away in Hard Reset. Didn't check all of them.

    Yesterday, I updated the AMD Catalyst drivers for my graphics card. The first download ended up being corrupted during install, so I re-downloaded. The install worked, but the driver was still reading 11.9 (the current one is 12.4), and it still said there was an upgrade available. So I redownloaded the installer and installed it again. Nothing changed.

    Today, I loaded up Psychonauts, and while it loads pretty quickly, some areas are stuttering like 1 stutter per second. It's pretty noticeable and probably shouldn't happen.

    I still haven't upgraded Windows itself.

    I don't have an antivirus, but all the sites I've been to since the issue started and before I noticed the issue. The only ones that I wasn't 100% sure about were the HPSSims site (creators of Tigers Unleashed, been featured here, Google Safe Browsing said 55 pages or so were clean), and the open source Ur-Quan Masters site and download, but it's pretty popular so I gather it's safe (EDIT: Oh, and the Spy Party site, which I'd never been on but I gather that's safe too :P). All the other sites have been regular forums, blogs, etc I visited long before the issue.

    I really don't know what could be causing it, barring that my computer is slowly wearing down after only 6 months.

    Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by johnki; 16-06-2012 at 12:07 PM.

  2. #2
    Are Windows, Tera and Psychonauts all on the SSD?

  3. #3
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    No, they're all on the HDD, as far as I know. TERA and Psychonauts for sure. To be honest, I don't know where Windows is installed. Either way, they haven't changed location since they were working fine.

    I'm pretty sure the SSD is just for quickly loading the operating system, or at least I got an explanation similar to that.

    EDIT: I don't know if it's related, but I am getting disturbingly regular page crashes in Google Chrome, and occasional full on crashes of Google Chrome and this started before the stutter/load issues. I cleared the cache and everything, but it's still been doing it.

    In case it's relevant, my computer is custom-made and it's got some sort of bootloader of its own before it starts Windows.
    Last edited by johnki; 16-06-2012 at 01:13 PM.

  4. #4
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    Well first of all disabling Windows Update is a bad idea, the updates are there for a good reason, and often address security exploits or stability issues. In particular, a lot of the behavior relating to SSDs was addressed via updates, so you really should install them all.

    Your issue sounds software related, although it could be a HDD issue too. The first thing I would do is download and run Malwarebytes (don't bother with the "full" trial, just install the free version) to make sure you don't have anything nasty causing the problem.

    What make & model is your SSD? A lot of drives have crippling firmware issues, so it's really important to make sure you're using the latest firmware version.

    You might also want to run chkdisk on the HDD to see if there's any issue there, and perhaps use something to check it's SMART status to see if there's any indicators of imminent failure.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    This is just a guess and could be completely wrong.

    Windows 7 and Windows Vista do this thing called SuperFetch: it's like the prefetch caching of previous versions of Windows, but more advanced. While PreFetch kept application data cached in memory after you quit the application (making it quicker to load again), SuperFetch pro-actively copies application data it thinks you're going to need (based on your previous behaviour) into memory, so that they'll load quicker. It can discard cache if it needs the memory for something else: that's why, in the Task Manager, it reports much more 'available' memory than 'free' memory. This doesn't just happen when you boot up, but it tries to recognise your routine, so it caches different things in the evening than in the morning, and so on. While this theoretically makes your system run faster, it does slow down while it's caching. The more memory you have (and I think 16GB is the maximum Windows 7 Home can recognise), the more it'll use for cache, and the longer it'll take to copy those cached files from the hard disk to memory.

    If, somehow, my guess is right, your system isn't wearing down after 6 months, but Windows thinks it has learned your routine, and is using a lot of your memory for cache, which is good, except that it means long periods where it's copying files to memory, and slowing down the hard disk for other things. Whether or not you should disable SuperFetch is a heated debate, because a lot of people mistakenly want to disable it to get more Free memory. The standard answer to that is that you should focus on Available memory rather than Free memory (which is true, because unused memory is wasted memory), but that completely ignores the disk overhead of copying that data into memory in the first place, which is not negligible. Unfortunately, I think your only options are to leave SuperFetch on or disable it; if it's possible to control how much memory it uses for caching (and thus how long it takes to copy the cached files from disk), I don't know how. It seems like, if it's enabled, it'll use as much memory as it can.

    If you really want to disable SuperFetch (bearing in mind that a lot of people don't recommend it) you can do that by going to the Task Manager, going to the Services tab, clicking on the Services... button, finding SuperFetch, double-clicking it to bring up the Properties window, and changing the Startup Type drop-down box to Disabled. That should give you a bit of overall slowdown, since you no longer have caching, but eliminate those periods of extreme slowdown when Windows is copying cache data into memory.

    I don't want to recommend disabling it, but you can, at the very least, disable it to see if it helps and re-enable it if it doesn't.
    Last edited by thegooseking; 16-06-2012 at 01:21 PM.
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  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Okay, chkdsk found nothing wrong.

    When I go to properties for the C: drive, all I can find is one drive and it is telling me it's working fine. Don't know the make or model, but I can give you the name if that'll help.

    I was told I have an SSD, and even shown the SSD in the computer, but it's not picking it up. I think it might exclusively be for backups or something to do with whatever loads Windows up before Windows actually loads up.

    EDIT: As far as anti-virus/anti-malware, is Malwarebytes the way to go? Or is that just an install, scan, uninstall deal as described here? I had Microsoft Security Essentials on my last computer and it seemed to work pretty well. Before that, I had a Trend Micro subscription (came with the computer...got that one from Best Buy), but it seemed to take up a LOT of CPU.

    Oh, and as far as SuperFetch goes, I'd rather not turn off something that's supposed to help until I run out of options.

  7. #7
    Lesser Hivemind Node Feldspar's Avatar
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    You might lust want to check your cables, make sure the drives are plugged securely into the motherboard, long shot, but it's something that I suffered from.

  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    You might lust want to check your cables, make sure the drives are plugged securely into the motherboard, long shot, but it's something that I suffered from.
    Yeah, I'll give that a shot. The thing gets moved around a lot going back and forth between places.

  9. #9
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Okay, I think I know what's wrong (but not how to fix it), but it'd be fantastic if someone could give me insight into how right/wrong I might be.

    So, about a week or two ago, I started getting the first blue screens that I've gotten with this computer. It didn't happen often, as of today, maybe a third or fourth time ever, but it always came up with the error "MEMORY_MANAGEMENT". Well, I didn't think anything of it. I have 16 GB RAM, never use more than 20% of it, it didn't seem that there was actually anything wrong with it, and, of course, it's Windows. I've had Windows blue screen over pretty much nothing on other setups.

    Anyways, after today, I decided to look into it. Given that I'm assuming from the caching and the SuperFetch and all that load times are pretty dependent on memory and management thereof, it seems safe to assume that, from my research, what is wrong is that one or more of the sticks of RAM in my computer have gone bad. Perhaps it's only just now gotten noticeable.

    Anyways, if this is the case, how would I go about testing it? I'm not really an expert on hardware, so I'd need a rundown on how to tell where the RAM is, how to single out a bad one, etc. Maybe even tips for making sure they run efficiently.

    Thanks again guys. :)

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Try auslogics defrag(its free) , run an optimise it'll take a few hours.
    Edit: bad ram? Take some out, bench mark the ram, pit it back in, take other piece out.

    Process of elimination.
    Last edited by Heliocentric; 16-06-2012 at 03:06 PM.
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  11. #11
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliocentric View Post
    Try auslogics defrag(its free) , run an optimise it'll take a few hours.
    Edit: bad ram? Take some out, bench mark the ram, pit it back in, take other piece out.

    Process of elimination.
    Alright, should I turn the computer off each time I change out the RAM? And how do I benchmark it? After that, what am I looking for to know it's bad?
    Last edited by johnki; 16-06-2012 at 04:33 PM.

  12. #12
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bobtree's Avatar
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    Any stability problems at all suggest you should undo the overclock, especially with that BSOD, and check that your settings are correct in BIOS/UEFI (RAM timings, CPU freq, bus speeds, etc), and then run memtest86 overnight. If you find it's hardware related (like memtest86 throwing errors), make sure your cables are neatly routed in the case and not next to sensitive components.

    Do enable windows update, and use the download but ask before installing if you want to, but always apply security updates regularly. Antivirus programs often cause performance issues, especially things like game loading if they want to check every file as they're accessed. MSE is among the least intrusive and best behaved, and free from MS, so I recommend using it and no other permanent scanners.

    If the SSD has a certain Sandforce controller, that's a known BSOD source and you can get a firmware update from the manufacturer. My OCZ Vertex3 had this issue and would BSOD once a week until the fix came out 4 months later. The update came last October, so your machine shouldn't have this problem unless it's got an SSD that sat on a shelf for a long time.

  13. #13
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    Faulty RAM can cause bluescreens, but it won't cause this sort of performance issue. You can test RAM using Memtest or something similar, but I don't think this is your issue. Blue screens are an indicator of a either a hardware or driver issue, and aren't something you should ever ignore (they don't happen without a good reason). The STOP code displayed during a BSoD can help you to diagnose it, but if you didn't catch it you might want to wait until it happens again and make a note of the code, or enable minidumps which will provide a log containing some useful information.

    Of course, driver bugs/incompatibilities can also cause BSoDs, which is why it's not a good idea to disable Windows Update as device drivers won't be made for compatibility with Windows pre-updates. If you're pre-SP1 in particular that's going to cause tons of potential issues.

    As for your missing SSD, can you check the Device Manager and see what is listed under "disk drives"? It's possible your SSD is set-up as a cache drive for your HDD, rather than as a storage volume.

  14. #14
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bobtree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnki View Post
    Alright, should I turn the computer off each time I change out the RAM? And how do I benchmark it? After that, what am I looking for to know it's bad?
    It sounds like you shouldn't do this yourself johnki, and yes the system must to be off for you to swap compontents. Memtest86 is a tool you boot the system with (instead of an OS), that repeatedly tests RAM in several ways to find errors. If it's clean, you're done. Errors can be tracked down to individual bad sticks, interference from wiring, or even bad motherboard slots. It's a technical, tedious process, so I suggest you get someone to help you. Motherboards also don't support all combinations of RAM sizes in all slots, so it's important to read the manual or look up what sequence they they need to be in. Since you have 16GB, it's probably 4 sticks of 4GB, which makes it simpler, but you still may need to fill only certain slot combos, or fill them in a certain sequence. Installing components is also somewhat delicate, and a static discharge can fry parts if you're not careful.

    I got the MEMORY_MANAGEMENT BSOD exactly once in my current system, which has been utterly reliable except for the early SSD issue. Memory bits can be flipped by cosmic rays (radiation from space, no joking), but this wouldn't cause repeating problems, so I think that's what happened in my case. The OS may also not be bug free yet.

    Memory errors are likely to be completely unnoticed, or corrupt some data, or to crash the system. They probably wouldn't make games load slowly. You could still have some malware or misbehaving antivirus, or a disk related hardware issue.

  15. #15
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    So taking it one step at a time, I decided to install the Windows updates...only every time I try to install them, it gets hung up on a random update somewhere in the teens. I've been having a lot of issues with corrupted downloads recently, also. Except stopping installations doesn't works (stays hung up) and telling the computer to restart gets it hung up where it was before and I had to force restart it.

    Great, you know what, it's a hard drive issue, isn't it? I mean, there IS probably something related to the RAM that's causing the blue screens and I still need to figure that out, but there also might be something wrong with the hard drive...right?

    EDIT2: ...but chkdsk didn't find anything wrong. Could there still be something wrong?

    EDIT: Installing one update at a time seems to be working, but that's...bleh, that could take ages...
    Last edited by johnki; 17-06-2012 at 03:29 AM.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    It's not good enough to just turn the pc off when you swap ram, you'd need to isolate it(switching it off *all* the power sockets used by your pc and anything plugged into it for example) and drain it (this one is easy, the power on button if held downloads for 15 seconds will drain the capacitors).

    So checklist

    Turn off all mains
    Hold down power (15 secs )
    Open case
    Reconfigure ram (do process of elimination, assume 1 stick is bad, hell it might just be 'seated' badly or all your ram could be faulty)
    close case
    Turn on mains
    turn on pc
    Run memtest
    Oberve for errors, return to start

    Found out what's wrong?
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
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  17. #17
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Thanks, Heliocentric, although I'm starting to think it's the hard drive, as someone suggested it may be. Even more so now. Windows System Assessment ran on its own today, so I checked the ratings. Everything is a 7.7 except the hard drive, which got a 5.9. Apparently that's still really high, but it sounds like it might affect large and/or more demanding PC games, which is what seems to be happening.

    It'd also make sense that downloads were being corrupted if that happened, and might explain the Google Chrome pages crashing. Maybe it's having issues saving to the hard disk, so downloads are corrupting, and then it's having issues loading the cache, so Chrome's pages are crashing.

    Alright, what's the usual course of action for testing this?

  18. #18
    Lesser Hivemind Node Feldspar's Avatar
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    I'm sorry, I think you really don't know what you are talking about.

    The Windows System Assessment is just a way of rating the relative speed of components based on some arbitrary scale known only to Microsoft, it is in no sense a diagnostic tool. 5.9 is probably about as high as you can get on a traditional HDD and in no way means it is slowing things down.

    If it was corrupting downloads by saving them on the HDD, then it would also be corrupting everything else saved on the HDD, very soon you would have a completely garbled drive and nothing would work. Hell, I doubt it's even using the drive for web pages, you have oodles of RAM.

    I'm slightly worried that you think you have a SSD, but it doesn't seem to exist, having an SSD 'for back-up' doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

    Some of your symptoms could be explained by graphics card issues, others point to your internet connection, it sounds like it's crap and maybe you're getting noise from somewhere.

    Honestly, I think you should get someone else to fix this.

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Windows actually really cleverly manages hard drive corruption, it often spots it before its a problem (it writes the file, read it and then notes the failure) and flags the hard drive area as "do not use".

    Transient errors (things which happen in a seemingly random way) are nearly always ram.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
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  20. #20
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feldspar View Post
    I'm sorry, I think you really don't know what you are talking about.
    Honestly, I don't. Frankly, if I did, I'd be fixing it right now. I game, I dabble in programming, but that's about all I know about computers. But at the same time, I can't really afford the price of Geeksquad just to have it looked at and some diagnostics that I could probably get instruction on and do myself for free (even if it takes a while) and we don't have local shops to get computers fixed at.

    I do have an SSD, I can see it (I checked when checking where the RAM was and all...and yes, I Googled all this to know what I was looking for...), but it definitely isn't showing up anywhere, and yeah, that's concerning. There's a ehm...Gigabyte Touch Bios thing that loads when the computer starts and loads Windows off it (I couldn't remember the name earlier), and I was told that that's what the SSD is used for. But, at the same time, I was told it was used for some sort of backup/cache that makes loading Windows faster.

    Since you guys are pretty sure it's RAM, I'll see if I can find someone to take a look at it. But I don't really see what RAM has to do with corrupted downloads and consistent webpage loading errors. And Chrome doesn't generally break when the network is acting up, it just hangs and sometimes won't load another page (even once the network IS working) until I restart it. That, and the wireless adapter is younger than the computer and has been working fine in a visible way up until now.

    I am in no way challenging what you're saying, just trying to think it out. At the same time though, I'd really hate to think that a bunch of things are breaking on the computer all at once.

    Anyways, I'll see what I can do. Thanks for putting up with my not knowing what I'm talking about and such and responding. If there's any specific thing you think I should look into, I'm all ears. Since everyone's definitely thinking it's RAM, I'm going to look there.
    Last edited by johnki; 17-06-2012 at 10:57 AM.

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