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Desperately looking for advice - at my wit's end

Last response: in Video Games
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June 21, 2012 2:53:58 AM

Greetings all. First would like to say I've come here many times for various advice about computers, but I've always found said advice by reading others' posts and never had to make my own.

However, I've come across an issue that seems relatively unique, or at least I haven't had any luck fixing it after months of troubleshooting.

Here goes: so, my computer is very unstable. It is especially unstable when installing games. I bought the PC for the sole purpose to play games, so it may have issues simply with installations in general, but because I've mainly been downloading and installing games, that's where I've noticed the issues.

Basically, my computer locks up or blue screens a lot during installation. It's ok during the download, but as soon as any type of patcher or the like starts working, my computer is ticking bomb ready to freeze or blue screen. Some times the installing happens, usually not. I've combated this by... attempting to reinstall whatever it is I'm trying to install and keep hoping it'll work (great technique, I know). Because there is a chance it will work, I can usually eventually get through the installation.

Here's a quick history of installing issues I've had with games:

-SWTOR installer would lock my PC up every time. This was the worst case I've had. It just never worked. I eventually had to download the game to a different Windows 7 PC and transfer the folder and files over manually. This would allow me to play. Every time I tried to use the game's installer/patcher though, BOOM, frozen/blue screen.

-Tried to play Age of Conan. Freeze every time during installing. Gave up.

-Tried installing TERA, freeze up. This would make good progress before freezing, though, so I kept trying. Eventually, after using likely around 100GB of bandwidth, it worked after an overnight installation. I was rather shocked, really.

-Blizzard's launcher/patcher for WoW and DIII have been fine. No issues and smooth installation. I did have one freeze during the DIII install, but that was it (somehow, only one freeze up seems like a major victory).

-Today I've been trying to install The Secret World to take part in the Beta weekend, and it goes fine for about 10-15 mins, but then locks up or BSODs. This was the final straw. I'm pretty much ready to kick this PC out the window. I write for a website that covers the game industry, and this is hindering my ability to review games (and enjoy them).

-Steam games download fine, usually. But, some of the beefer ones can end up with partially corrupted installs. The game seems to run fine, but will crash during one specific part or something. I've learned to use the Validate Game File feature after every Steam install - many times it finds corrupted files and replaces them. Then I'm good to go.

Now, once a game does install correctly, everything is peachy. Almost never have any issues whatsoever. I've had a few hiccups here and there depending on the game, but I've managed to troubleshoot those issues and fix the prob. For example, I had to do a BIOS update to get Serious Sam 3 to run without chugging terribly. Once I did this, it ran perfect.

I'm really at my wit's end with this whole installation issue. I tried several fixes, with no luck. Here's what I've tried:

-Ran memtest for about 36 hours. Not sure how many passes, but a lot. Not one error. Despite that, I bought entirely new RAM. Problem persists with new RAM.

-Ran windows harddrive tool (not sure the name, basically checks for corrupts files or whatnot?) No problems.

-Ran windows memory test. No problems reported.

-Updated every driver I could think of, though my lack of PC knowledge makes me wonder if I manage to get all of the up to date.

-Installed every windows update.

Here are my PC basic specs (from dxdiag), let me know if you need more specifics. I'm pretty good and researching and troubleshooting, but my actual tech knowledge is limited.

Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit (6.1, Build 7601) Service Pack 1 (7601.win7sp1_gdr.120330-1504)
Language: English (Regional Setting: English)
System Manufacturer: Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd.
System Model: GA-970A-D3
BIOS: Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG
Processor: AMD FX(tm)-8150 Eight-Core Processor (8 CPUs), ~3.6GHz
Memory: 16384MB RAM
Available OS Memory: 16366MB RAM
Page File: 1990MB used, 30738MB available
Windows Dir: C:\Windows
DirectX Version: DirectX 11
DX Setup Parameters: Not found
User DPI Setting: Using System DPI
System DPI Setting: 96 DPI (100 percent)
DWM DPI Scaling: Disabled

Thank you in advance! If anyone can help with this issue, even just a little, you will make my year. Not kidding!
June 21, 2012 3:11:12 AM

Can you list your system specs other than what your DX Diag has posted?

Also, when the blue screen happens there is usually some type of file associated something like xxxxx.sys or something to that extent.

Try a disk check for errors.

Then let me know after, so we can troubleshoot more.
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June 21, 2012 4:21:35 AM

Here are my specs (xps file):

https://www.box.com/s/6b35d25a6ea8907b9f56

Here's a summary list of recent BSODs I've gotten (png file):

https://www.box.com/s/ce234c0443c20dee2c4c

It appears that the BSOD's I got today were caused by driver nvlddmkm.sys, which is might have something to do with nvidia? As you can see, though, the driver causing the BSOD changes a lot.

I did check the hard disk for errors. Twice, I believe, with no issues found. But I'll give it a go again and report.

Thanks for working with me on this!

Oh, btw, my CPU is not overclocked and never has been.
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June 21, 2012 4:23:41 AM

Yep, it's an Nvidia issue. Have you rolled back your drivers? Meaning did you have problems when updating to newer drivers for the video card?
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June 21, 2012 4:29:30 AM

The freezing has happened consistently, more or less, since day one (about six months ago when I got the PC.). I have updated my Nvidia drivers since, but the freezing still happens, so I didn't suspect a correlation.

Should I roll back? (also, how would I do this? :p )

And what about the laundry list of other BSODs that didn't list that driver as the cause?
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June 21, 2012 4:35:19 AM

Start->Right-click Computer->Click on Device Manager (should be on the left of the window->Click on tiny arrow Display Adapters->Right-click on GTX 560->Click on Properties->Click on Driver tab (Next to General)->Roll Back Driver (if you have the option).

Should your PC still have problems, I'd talk to tech support of your PC brand if it's still under warranty. A new PC shouldn't give you BSOD problems.
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June 21, 2012 4:37:20 AM

Ugh, I feel dumb. My Nvidia driver hasn't been updated to the newest version that was released last month... Totally forgot to do that. >_<

I'm updating right now. That said, my comp has had the same freezing issues during game installations since day one, regardless of what Nvidia driver I had, so, I dunno.
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June 21, 2012 4:45:18 AM

It could be the Hard Drive. But, let's see how your driver does.
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June 21, 2012 4:52:12 AM

So, I went to download the new driver, and when trying to install it fails to a "7-zip CRC error." Apparently the file I download is corrupted. Tried different browsers, same result. This has to related to my computer consistently have issues with corrupted files (in Steam games) and patching/installation issues with many, many games.

What would cause my PC to not be able to DL files cleanly? Any ideas?
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June 21, 2012 5:01:23 AM

Well, there seems to a be a possible problem with the OS or something corrupting any downloads. Best idea is to RMA it for a completely new computer. Let the tech support know of this situation.
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June 21, 2012 5:33:02 AM

Just a quick update before I hit the hay. I tired re-downloading and installing the Nvidia driver about 7 or 8 times with different browser from different sources and it 7-zip CRC error'd every time. Finally, it just blue screened.

So I got on my laptop, downloaded the driver and then put it on a USB drive and transferred it over to my problem desktop. It installed perfectly first time. This is exactly how I had to get around the SWTOR installer crash. DL on a different comp, transfer, then run.
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June 21, 2012 5:34:49 AM

Yea, you should definitely RMA your computer.
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June 21, 2012 9:46:01 AM

Do you have an up to date antivirus?
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June 21, 2012 12:17:31 PM

simon12 brings up a good point. Malware running in the background can corrupt files. I have also seem trojans replace "explorer.exe" with a phony version which causes all sorts of havoc on infected PC's. I would run a malware scan in safe mode, then run a checkdisc to see if the drive has any bad sectors.
At any rate, if the PC is under warranty, it would be less effort to simply replace it, but it will take some time to get the replacement and you would lose any data that is on the original.
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June 21, 2012 3:29:10 PM

I use MalwareBytes to periodically scan and have never found anything. My active protection is from Windows Defender, which I also use to scan occasionally, and also have never found any malware.

And since my PC was doing this installation freeze thing since day one, that would mean malware was on my computer when it left the iBuypower (where I purchased). I guess that's possible, but it seems unlikely.

That said, I have yet to try big fixes like formatting the HDD or re-installing Windows - would that be recommended as a last attempt since, as fantastik said, it could be an issue with the OS?
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June 21, 2012 4:01:11 PM

Hi,
a strange problem indeed, but could be several causes

1. malware/virus - as already suggested make sure you got latest antivirus/etc and scan your whole comp, preferably in safe mode
2. faulty NIC driver - make sure you have updated your LAN driver as it seems you have problems with downloaded content only
3. faulty HDD - but you seem to have ruled it out, plus if you transfer from USB it works fine, right?
4. cpu problem - the 101 BSODs are shitty, try the following:
- try the system file checker to make sure your windows files are ok http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/1538-sfc-scannow-c...

- go through this http://www.carrona.org/verifier.html for driver verification

lastly it could be this: http://www.tomshardware.com/news/STEAM-AMD-FX-Processor...

so, as article states, reach out to your mobo manufacturer and check with them. I'm guessing to double check this, turn off steam and try installing some game (the secret world?). Looking at your BSOD error codes this seems to be the most likely issue.
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June 21, 2012 6:46:12 PM

Thank for the additional tips.

I'm at work right now, so can't do anything until I get home in the afternoon, but when I do I'll try these:

1) Run a full anti-virus scan of my computer while in safe mode.

2) Make sure my NIC driver is up to date. This one is a big red flag to me because I don't think I've ever updated it and my issues seem heavily DL related. Which reminds me, the other day I was unable to install 4 out of about 12 new windows updates released by MS. The error when failing to install pointed at...you guessed it - corrupted files. I still haven't attempted a work around for this one yet, so those updates are still uninstalled.

3) Use sfc to verify that my windows files are ok.

4) Use driver verifier

I don't believe the FX/Steam issue is the same as mine (I researched this a few months back), because this happened long before I installed Steam (and happens whether or not I have Steam running). Also, I've upgraded to the most recent BIOS and on top of that I don't even think my mobo model was one of the ones having issues.
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June 21, 2012 8:11:35 PM

If it isn't malware or bad sectors on the HD, and since it's under warranty, I would return it. Something is flaky.
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June 22, 2012 12:27:18 AM

You could try a total reinstall
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June 22, 2012 12:38:06 AM

Hi :) 

How PRECISELY did you check for a failed hard drive, as it has all the symptoms of one to me... ??

All the best Brett :) 
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June 22, 2012 2:41:36 AM

Another quick update. I got home from work and did the following:

1) Ran sfc and it verified that all of my windows files are ok.

2) Attempted to find a potential new version of my NIC driver, but couldn't turn up with anything on Realtek's website.

3) Ran verifier.exe. Chose list all drivers installed on my PC and indicated that I had to reboot, so I did. Then my PC blue screened after rebooting. I thought this was it, because trying to boot in safe mode gave me a disk read error. I then chose the option to do a windows repair, and it asked if wanted to use system restore to attempt to fix the issue. I said ok, and it worked. *whew* So I guess using driver verifier is a no go for me.

So that's where I am now.

As far as checking my hard drive for errors, I used the built in windows tool to check, and there were no issues (checked a few times over the past several months).

Now I'll boot in safe mode and run an anti virus scan.
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June 22, 2012 3:53:12 AM

Full scan in safe mode finished. No malicious items detected.

*shrug*

Story of my last 6 months troubleshooting this thing. :( 
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June 22, 2012 11:08:05 AM

Try a complete format & reinstall this will rule out any software problems
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June 22, 2012 12:09:14 PM

I wouldn't reformat and reinstall if the PC is still under warranty. At this point it's less effort to RMA and get a replacement.
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June 22, 2012 7:41:40 PM

+1^

been trying to recommend that this whole time.
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!