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Gaming causes system to freeze/lockup

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December 29, 2013 1:16:07 PM

Hey folks, I know I'm not the first to suffer this, just a Google search shows that many people have been in the same boat but I'm hoping someone with a similar setup to mine has had similar problems! I'm getting a system lockup/freeze in any game I play. Recently I've been playing GTAIV, Dirt3, F1 2013. Freeze up can happen after a couple of minutes or it can wait for over an hour. The screen will just freeze, the speakers continue to play sound for about 10 seconds - but it's just a buzzing noise presumably the last sound made just "frozen" then stops. Non responsive to the keyboard or mouse when this happens and even pressing capslock doesn't light the light on the keyboard. So I have to hit the reset button. Very annoying. System isn't overclocked in any way, everything is stock, latest Catalyst drivers. My system:

Windows 8.1 Pro 64
Asus M5A97 R2.0
AMD FX-6300 with Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO
AMD Radeon R9 270 (Powercolor OC model)
8GB (2x4) Crucial Ballistix Tactical 1600
Corsair CX500
Sandisk SSD/Seagate Momentus 2.5 HDD
Coolermaster K280 case with three fans installed.

Windows event log not showing anything really worth noting (I don't think). Temps are good - before fitting the Hyper 212 I was getting 65-70 on the CPU making me think this was the problem, it's getting barely past 55 with the EVO fitted. GPU hits 66 max and sits there. Motherboard ambient never goes above 24. I'm also occasionally getting freeze-ups when the PC is shutting down or restarting - wonder if this is somehow related? It has frozen once or twice in general use (web browsing, videos etc etc). It's Prime95'd 12 hours no problems and it's got through 45mins of furmark fine (temps on GPU 66 max). Memtest says the RAM is good. I'm hoping it's not the PSU 'cause I thought getting a Corsair one was playing it safe!

Thankyou in advance for any ideas :) 

Bob

More about : gaming system freeze lockup

December 29, 2013 1:40:55 PM

The first thing I'd do is run CCleaner and have it clean out junk files and registry errors: https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner
You may have to run it more than once if your system is especially fouled up.

Next, I'd see how much stuff was running in the background that could be conflicting with the game. Check your System Configuration/Start Up tab and see how many items are checked to start with Windows and run in the background. (I'm assuming M$ didn't get rid of that when they turned perfectly good Win7 into Win8) If there are several (+8 to 10), disable as many as you recognize. Some poorly written junk causes memory conflicts that can crash a system.

Finally, you may have a bad RAM stick. Run memtest with each stick individually in the first slot for at least one FULL pass.
http://www.memtest.org/
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December 30, 2013 11:29:53 AM

Thanks for your suggestions.

I have run CCleaner but there wasn't much junk to be honest, though enough considering the PC is only 4 weeks old. On startup the only things that run are Antivirus (avast) and Catalyst Control Centre. Everything else (only 4 other items) are disabled.

I have run memtest86 on both dimms individually in slot 1 and both check out fine after two passes each. The RAM has an XMP profile of 1600Mhz, but the motherboard autosets them to the jedec 1333. This RAM is on the compatibility list for the motherboard and I have manually run them at 1600 and let it auto at 1333 but the lockups happen either way.

I've had a couple of other pretty random thoughts while passing the time at work today - the games are installed to and run off of a laptop 2.5 sata-II 7200rpm HDD. Is this little drive perhaps struggling? I'd have thought not, but a larger proper desktop drive is on the cards soon when I get some spare cash. The other thought is user error - when I built and set this thing up it was late, I was tired and had not set the time/date correctly prior to installing Windows. I set it correct about halfway through setting everything up. I know it's a long shot but well, we know what Windows can be like... I'm wondering if a clean install of Windows might help? I don't mind this option as Win 8 installed in about 10 minutes.
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December 30, 2013 11:49:38 AM

It sounds like you have done all the right things to troubleshoot. I wasn't aware the PC was that new, or I wouldn't have bothered you with running CCleaner and doing all the start-up checking. So many folks have never seen a pgm they didn't want installed on their system. And never pay attention to what the pgm is installing in the background; search bars, ad-ware, junk, junk, and more junk.

I can't imagine the laptop drive being the issue, unless it is just failing and somehow crashing the system. After running memtest, we can assume that RAM isn't the problem. Are you running the latest gfx driver for that card and Win8 from the website? There was a few bugs fixed in a recent driver update.

If the only changes you made in BIOS was to the RTC, I can't see where that would be the issue. The way you describe the issue would make me wonder about a hardware failure. Card. MB. You might try disabling Avast and see if the issue still occurs. I gave up on Avast years ago due to some issue I was having. But now I can't remember what that was. Lol.
I only use Microsoft Securities Essentials (free) for Virus and Malwarebytes (licensed) for malware now.

Doing a clean install would at least put your mind at ease as to whether or not you made an installation error. Or you could just try uninstalling the gfx driver and then run Driver Sweeper from safe mode to remove any AMD, Nvidia, and ATI gfx driver remnants it finds. Then re-boot, run CCleaner again, and re-install the latest driver from the website.
Driver Sweeper: http://www.techspot.com/downloads/4266-driver-sweeper.h...
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December 30, 2013 1:27:43 PM

Hey thanks again for coming back on this one!

Right... AMD drivers uninstalled, ran Driver Sweeper and re-installed AMD Catalyst drivers. After finding out how to get into Windows 8.1 safe mode... it seems nothing's simple nowadays! Decided to try a game out and loaded up DiRT3 (this game is most consistent in its "freeziness") and it locked up within 5 minutes. Rebooted, tried again, same. Decided "what the hey" and stuck the Windows DVD in. The PC froze up 3 times during the install! I can remember fairly clearly the install four weeks ago and it did not freeze up back then. I'm beginning to think like you that there is a hardware fault somewhere now. I'm thinking it's most likely the motherboard, would the GPU if faulty cause a lockup on an OS install? Doubtful it's the CPU as I Prime95'd it again for 16 hours last night and it was absolutely fine.

Thanks again for your help!
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December 30, 2013 1:35:01 PM

Additionally - I guess I can definitely count out the little lappy hard drive as a culprit - that thing wasn't involved in installing Windows and it still froze. I like the idea of a laptop drive anyway - less heat less power :)  I'm on a 500W PSU, but its a decent (I hope) Corsair one. With the modest power requirements of my system a 500W unit should be more than adequate.
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December 30, 2013 2:06:09 PM

Yes, the gfx card can easily cause those issues. That's why I was hoping you had access to another card to test with. but, So could a failing PSU. But the Corsair should be a good name. Although even good PSUs can go bad. Right now, I'd try to find some way to test the gfx card theory. Does the card's temp get high when stressing it?
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December 30, 2013 2:26:35 PM

No it's got an excellent cooler on it and I've never seen the temps on the graphics card go above 66. I've also tried manually setting the fan higher, which of course cools it more (and is noisy) but it has no effect - the crashes still occur. After the re-install I've gone straight in to another game of DiRT - managed 15 minutes and it locked up on a menu screen. That was also on low res (1024x768) and medium graphics settings, just to try. So low GPU usage - but I guess that could still be the problem... Sadly I don't have access to any GPU other than an ancient AGP Radeon 9600! My Christmas present to myself this PC is - shame it's turning out to be a bit lame :( 
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December 30, 2013 2:32:36 PM

Oh yes - also as its now a fresh install there's nothing "extra" installed, no junk. Just Windows, and Steam client so I can run the games installed on the D: drive. I'm now off to sort antivirus out! I'll try the Microsoft Security Essentials thing while I'm at it.
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December 31, 2013 6:18:31 AM

Oh it's all getting very odd now, I'm getting the computer to hang on the Windows sign in screen no response to anything (not even shouting and swearing at it!) I've tried DiRT and GTA again this morning and it's now locking up almost immediately after you start a new game.

Anyway I've been on the phone to eBuyer and they've agreed to RMA the graphics card, so that's going back on the 2nd. The plan is get the new one and if the system still craps out on me I'll be suspecting the motherboard. Fingers crossed it is the graphics card as this is all very annoying. Good little card though the R9 270; decent performance for the price and it runs cool n quiet - that is when it actually does work... lol
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December 31, 2013 4:55:47 PM

I'm hoping it was the card too. Because then you'll have a new card and a working system. But if the 2nd card gives the same results, it's back to the drawing board. The MB would be the next item I'd suspect. It contains the most components that can go wrong.
Too bad that MB didn't have integrated video so you could test with it.
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January 10, 2014 4:18:01 PM

It's been a few days!!

Well, I'm using the PC for the first time in a week - thanks to a god-awful 2004 vintage Radeon X300 that I have scrounged. (With extremely flaky 2010 drivers, on Win 8.1...). But, the thing works, no gaming of course!

At the moment I'm awaiting the verdict on the RMA'd Radeon R9 card. But I have to say, with several hours of use under it's belt the system has been rock-solid on this ancient card, and ancient drivers - I really think it was the R9 card that was/is faulty. Fingers crossed I'll have it back, or a new one, within a few days so I can test some games out and confirm.

Lesson learned, next time I'm getting a motherboard with integrated graphics - so at least I'll have a backup in case things go wrong.
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January 10, 2014 7:16:57 PM

Thanks for posting back. Glad to hear the PC is running normal with the old, slow card. I'm surprised you found a driver for it that Win8.1 will accept. But as long as it is getting you by until you can get a replacement card, better leave well enough alone.
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January 11, 2014 7:07:34 AM

The PC is still fine with the old card, no hangs or crashes. Wish I could test a game or two but as this is a DX9 low end card that's not going to happen. All the random things that used to happen aren't happening now. No freeze-ups, the thing shoots down in about 2 seconds where before it used to either take 20-30 seconds or just hang. Oddly, before I sent the card back the Sounds option in Control Panel would take ages to open or hang but it now it opens fine. Very strange.

Getting the X300 card to work took some effort, but its got Catalyst drivers from about 2010 installed (Windows 7 x64 drivers) from the legacy drivers section on AMDs website. Well they seem to be working OK, however Windows 8 isn't very happy about them! Shame I can't get 1366x768 which is my monitors native resolution, but 1280x768 will do for now!
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January 15, 2014 3:35:47 AM

At last, so I have a solution?!

Well, with that old graphics card installed the computer was stable-ish. I had started to notice some lockups during shutdown/restart, which was elevating my concerns again. Anyway, my replacement R9 270 arrived and unfortunately everything resumed as before - lockups in game, freezing on reboot etc. I wasn't impressed.

So, as a last effort before starting to RMA pretty much all my nice new components I dug out my Windows 7 Pro install disc. Installed that, plus all current updates. I noticed during the install that all reboots were fine (unlike during Win 8 installs) and the system seems just as quick as Win 8 . I then installed Steam, crossed my fingers and after some DX issues everything is working fine. For now at least! All games run happily, no freezing, hanging, crashing of any kind.

Good old Windows 7! The PITA thing is that I've had to deactivate the license of my laptop to use it on here - but I might just have Win 8 on the laptop instead (though that laptop is old and rubbish).

Theories? Well I have a sneaking feeling it could be an issue with the SATA controller, or more specifically the drivers for that. Under Windows 8 the drivers were installed automatically from Microsoft, but 7 needed the AMD drivers for it all to work. Well thats a theory anyway, but as it now seems to work I'm happy with that.

Thankyou again clutchc for your input and help on this one. Sorry to go on (as you can probably tell I'm quite happy right now, lol)
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January 15, 2014 8:35:37 AM

Well that is indeed a strange result. I hated Win8 from the onset, but I never heard of it causing those kind of issues. You may be on to something with the drivers. But, weren't there any MB drivers on the Asus website for Win8?

How did you go about "deactivating the license" for Win7 on the laptop?
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January 15, 2014 10:51:24 AM

It is odd, isn't it? Well I've been off work today and had the house to myself - so after 4 hours solid on GTA IV (I deleted my save games - d'oh!) and it hasn't missed a beat so I'm tentatively saying it's fixed. The most crash likely contender for lock-ups, DiRT 3 has also been absolutely fine, though I've only managed one hour continuously playing it so far, but that's better than the 10 minutes I was getting before.

Drivers - nothing came up on the ASUS website in terms of chipset drivers for Windows 8.1, just utilities and BIOS updates. One thing I notice is now in the BIOS the SSD, which is the Windows boot drive, is recognised as an EFI boot device which it never was with 8.1 That could've been an install error on my part but I doubt I could've messed up two Win 8 installs?

As for the deactivate the license well I thought it best to deactivate Windows on the laptop, after I had installed 7 on the desktop and got it updated and tested it a bit. There's a little string you type into the command prompt and it basically removes the key from Windows rendering it as not activated. I then typed that same key into the desktop machine and it activated instantly. It was my crossed-fingers way of not having to call Microsoft during activation, lol. Whether it made any difference I have no idea! That laptop is awful though, from 2007/08 so I might bang XP on it and let the kids kill it - 7 was dire on it and I doubt 8 will be much happier on 1Gb RAM and a single core Celeron CPU!
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January 15, 2014 11:06:43 AM

Now that you have a clean install of Win7 on your SSD, you may want to take some time to optimize it. The SSD requires a few modifications not necessary with a HDD if you want best performance out of it. Check out this guide if you haven't already: http://www.computing.net/howtos/show/solid-state-drive-...

How did you arrive at that string to type in the command line? Did you use the "change product key" option in Control Panel?
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January 15, 2014 11:31:19 AM

I googled "deactivate windows" and I found this command "slmgr.vbs /upk" which did the job. As soon as that is run Windows pops up a message advising you that it is not activated, thus I assume releasing that key for install on another computer. I bet it won't work with OEM copies, mine is a full retail Win7 Pro that I bought way back on release day.

Thankyou for that link, I hoped I'd done enough to optimise the SSD but it looks like I've missed a couple of things. I had moved the swap to the HDD, turned off indexing and turned off system restore.
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January 19, 2014 2:14:56 PM

Another update, if you don't mind!

I borrowed a sata HDD to test install Windows 8.1 back on the system. Now I've got a stable Win 7 install I don't want the hassle of reinstalling all over again... Anyway, with 8.1 on the HDD, using the standard Microsoft sata drivers the crashing problem returned. On the ASUS website there are no 8.1 drivers (as I've previously mentioned), but there are vanilla Windows 8 drivers for my motherboard so I installed those. For most of the day it seemed to be OK, so I was quietly confident that the problem was solved. I even tried some gaming, managed over an hour on DiRT 3 (the only game I could be bothered to download and install to be fair!) which ran for about an hour without hanging. After that I shut the system down and the hanging returned. Out of 10 shutdown/restarts it might hang/lockup 3 times. Better than almost every time before, but still an issue. I'm fairly sure that the sata drivers are the cause - but it can't be the hardware as that's absolutely fine in Windows 7... Guess I'll have to wait for some updated drivers and try again. The spare HDD is sat in the case disconnected but standing by for retrying it. I don't want to give up on Windows 8.1 just yet (I'd gotten quite used to it!)
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January 19, 2014 2:26:14 PM

I admire anyone that can can 'get used to' Win8. ;-)
But it is strange how the system runs fine on Win7 and not on Win8. All else being the same. Did you install both OSs with the SATA mode set to AHCI? Or IDE?
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January 19, 2014 2:53:55 PM

Yeah it's strange I know, but I had got accustomed to Win 8 - in fact I'm actually missing one or two features :0

Both systems were installed with the BIOS set to AHCI - the BIOS hasn't been touched aside from when I flashed it to the latest version (hoping that might solve the problem) and I double checked the sata controller settings.
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January 20, 2014 11:30:04 AM

I have just run that - it mentions that some games and applications are not compatible (games, mostly) but I didn't install them when I did the test run with the spare HDD I borrowed. As fort hardware it doesn't flag up anything as incompatible.

I've also wondered if it's a wi-fi issue (thinking out of the box lol). I used a USB Netgear adapter that constantly dropped it's connection, yet used to work fine in the laptop. I'm now using a TP-Link wi-fi PCI card and though I've not had many connection dropouts it does happen randomly.
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January 20, 2014 11:54:10 AM

Well, I would stay with Win7 if it is stable. I really can't offer much more advice for Win8.1 since I quit using it, and I refuse to try it again after trying it on a desktop and a Surface Pro Tablet.
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January 20, 2014 12:28:51 PM

Yeah - I think you're right. If 7 is fine then that's fine with me. Put it down to "one of those things" I guess! I'm relived that the hardware on this PC is basically sound, perhaps I'll wait for Windows 9 and try that lol. Thanks again for all your help and suggestions.
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