New rig problems with graphics cards and sound :(

Hello everybody,

I'd like to ask anyone here for some advice on how to fix a couple of problems that my newest rig seems to possess!

First off, whilst I have some computer expertise (this is my fifth rig I've put together) I'm by no means a veteran, and ever since I left Uni I seem to be keeping up to date with new tech less and less! So please feel free to ask any question/suggest anything :)

Basically, the computer is as follows:

Motherboard: MSI 970A-G43 Socket AM3+ LAN 8-channel audio ATX
Chip: AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz Socket AM3+ 14MB Cache
RAM: Corsair 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz XMS3 Memory Kit CL9 1.65V
HDD: Seagate 1TB Barracuda 3.5" SATA-III Hard Drive - 7200RPM 64MB Cache
Graphics card: Asus GTX 660 DirectCU II OC 2GB GDDR5
PSU: Corsair CXM 500W Semi Modular 80+ Bronze Power Supply

Everything fired up fine, and I installed Windows 7 Premium without and difficulties. However, there were a couple of problems with the graphics - flickering and crashing.

Crashing

The crashing was of the momentary black screen and the "the xxx.xx driver stopped working and has recovered" bubble message in the taskbar. It crashed when playing games, and it crashed whilst browsing the internet. This seemed to be a common problem with the 660, and I tried several of the fixes suggested on this website, including disabling some of the 3D physics features, keeping the card at high performance power mode and increasing the windows graphics recovery timeout. These fixes were largely successful, and I could browse the internet without crashes, but I was still getting maybe 1 crash a day during gameplay.

Flickering

From quite early on, I noticed quite a lot of flickering on screen during games, particularly in older games like Empires: Dawn of the modern world, Rome Total War 1, but also in recent games like Magic the Gathering 2013, Empire Total War. I replaced my VGA monitor for a DVI one, and this helped, and then I switched the cable to an HDMI and this helped further. I should emphasise that some games played very well (XCom enemy unknown, Assassin's Creed III, Metro Last Light) with very little flickering, so I guessed it was something to do with the graphics engines used by certain games.

I contacted Nvidia about these problems, and they decided it was a driver issue, so I tried almost every driver available, none of which made the slightest difference. After talking to them for several months, they concluded that it might be a hardware failure, and eventually I got an RMA from Ebuyer to return the card. Since I was going to lose the card for some time, I decided to buy a replacement card to both cover the gap and potentially to replace the 660, since I've lost a lot of faith in the Nvidia cards. So I opted for a SAPPHIRE HD 7870 GHz Edition OC 2GB GDDR5, since I've had a lot of success with Radeons in the past. Card installed fine, but lo and behold, the same games are still flickering! In a different way, perhaps, in that it's less pulsing and more jagged, but still there. And additionally, the Radeon has also crashed twice in the same manner as the Nvidia (driver stopped working). This has made me wonder if perhaps there is another component at fault.

Sound problems

However, at this point I should mention the other problem that is currently afflicting this system, which is the audio. At low volume, it works fine, but at high volume I get a high pitched interference noise from the speakers. After doing some browsing online it seemed possible that the problem was my HD audio from the graphics card clashing with the mobo's onboard sound, so I bought a small PCI sound card, and installed it. Weirdly, the interference was much worse with the card, I was unable to get any sound out of it at all without a loud overlay of buzzing/scratching. Now something did happen to the computer about 6 months ago, when I had my 3D printer plugged into the computer and something shorted inside the power supply for the Arduino, which I believe caused some kind of surge on the USB, crashing the computer. The upshot was that the computer worked fine except that the audio was completely fried, anything plugged into a jack got a much louder and stronger version of the noise I'm getting now. So I replaced the mobo with a new one (identical model), and the problem went away (except for the smaller interference issues mentioned above).

To anyone who is still reading this essay at this stage - thank you for persevering, and I shall try to summarise the situation.

Graphics - flickering on two different graphics cards, and both crashing
Audio - high pitched whine audible on both on-board sound and dedicated PCI audio.

Now the only thing I can think of is that there is some problem with the motherboard or processor causing these issues, and to that end I'm considering replacing both with perhaps an Intel i5 4440 and a Gigabyte B85M-HD3. Is this likely to solve anything, or am I just going to end up throwing good money after bad? I'd appreciate any insight anyone can offer, I don't usually appeal to the internet in this way but I seem to be canoeing without a certain stick-like object at the moment :)

Thank you for reading.

Chris
5 answers Last reply
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  1. so when you installed the sound card you now have 3 different sound devices ( DRIVERS ) installed..........

    can you try ( not go out and buy ) a better PS?

    did you try playing games in compatibility mode for..................

    did you mess with any graphics settings in the games control panel at all?
  2. Wow that was swift - thanks for the reply :)

    so when you installed the sound card you now have 3 different sound devices ( DRIVERS ) installed..........
    Yes, but in each case I disabled the 'other' sound cards in the device manager, so only one was active at a time, but the drivers for all were installed on the system.

    can you try ( not go out and buy ) a better PS?
    I could probably borrow one off a friend, but when I considered the power supply as the cause of the problem it seemed a bit unlikely, being a Corsair (and therefore good quality) and 500W is well over the max theoretical draw of the system - however a power problem would certainly explain the graphics card crashes, and I guess also the noise?

    did you try playing games in compatibility mode for..................
    I tried compatibility mode with the flickery games, which didn't make any appreciable difference

    did you mess with any graphics settings in the games control panel at all?
    Yes! I tried every combination of everything :) Well, I tried with no/2x/4x antialiasing, low/med/high etc etc, and in most cases fiddling with the graphics settings fixed things for a few minutes, but then it returned.
  3. did you try under clocking the graphics cards ram and processors at all? 50 or 100Mhz each to start?

    did you try a cmos reset to put voltages in check?

    did you set the pci-e bus to run at 100?

    you say this stuff happened with both amd and nvidia?

    you swapped cables but can you try another monitor?

    I don't know what to say. I rarely see stuff like this. Only once in a while.
  4. did you try under clocking the graphics cards ram and processors at all? 50 or 100Mhz each to start?

    No, I haven't adjusted the graphics card clock settings at all, I'll try underclocking and see if that helps.

    did you try a cmos reset to put voltages in check?

    Nope, I could try that as well

    did you set the pci-e bus to run at 100?

    100Mhz? I haven't changed any bios settings, what setting are you recommending I change?

    you say this stuff happened with both amd and nvidia?

    Yes, similar issues with different cards, which is what makes me think the problem may lie with the mobo or processor...

    you swapped cables but can you try another monitor?

    Good idea, I haven't got a spare monitor here but I'll see if I can nab one from work and give it a go.

    I don't know what to say. I rarely see stuff like this. Only once in a while.

    Same here - I've never had this kind of persistent problem on any system before, but perhaps it's just a bad combination of kit :(
  5. Hello all,

    Firstly - thank you for all your help, I went through your (excellent and thorough!) list of suggestions, although sadly none of them helped. Finally, I solved the problem by accident - when I took out the RAM out in order to clean the computer. I didn't mount one of the sticks properly when I re-fitted it, and suddenly the problem was gone! It turns out I had a dud stick of memory all this time, and a quick bit of googling indicated that actually this is quite a common problem.

    Just a quick note for all those suffering the same conditions ;)
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