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FX-60 cpu spike cycles. Please help I'm at the end of my wit

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June 4, 2006 3:15:46 AM

I just built myself a new system and I'm having strange problems with it. It seemingly randomly goes into cycles of periodic spiking of the cpu usage. These cycles don't seem to have specific triggers to start them. For example just before I posted this I was attempting to play a 2D online game. This game uses about 65% processing power of one core. I can play for about 2 minutes before a cycle starts. The cycle will stop after about 8 spikes or so. For example after I decided to post this, the previous cycle that started in the middle of my game had stopped, so I started setting up the screen shots below. Just after I got the display properties box up another cycle started. Even while I am simply typing in this post a cycle has started on its own. I have also seen a short spike cycle immediatly after installing windows and reaching the desktop for the first time! I was moving the task manager window around at the time.
It also seems that commands are like queued up during one of these cycles. For example during a cycle while I was taking the pics below I was trying to open up paint. It took 3 spikes before paint opened up and after it opened it the cycle eneded. So it seems like the command wasn't let thru during the cycle. This is also sort of related to the fact that if you try to restart or shut down the comp during a cycle it will hang at the shutting down screen.

Here are my system specs:

Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe, updated to latest BIOS
Athlon FX-60, stock 2.6GHz, cpuz reads around 3.9-4v
OCZ GameXstream 700W PSU
2GB Corsair 3200 RAM, cpuz reads running at 200.9mhz
2x eVGA Geforce 7900GT KO Superclocked, didn't touch anything on these, they are in SLI mode using drivers that came on disc.
Soundblaster X-Fi XtremeMusic
Two NEC DVD burners
WinXP Pro SP2 running on a 30GB raptor
160GB Seagate drive
300GB Maxtor drive

I'm at a loss as to what might be causing this. My PSU certainly has enough raw power, and the voltage readings from ASUS probe seem fine.
Neither the cpu or the graphics cards seem to be overheating. CPU is idling at 38c as i write this and graphics cards run at about 55c.
I started this whole system with a reformat of course and I started seeing the problems before I touched anything in BIOS aside from boot priority. I tried setting the cpu voltage manually to 1.325 but that changed nothing. Its currently on auto and reads in the high 1.3x's as I stated above. I installed the latest drivers from eVGA and downloaded all the Win updates i could get my hands on but the problem was not fixed so I tried a reformat again but I'm still stuck here. Oh and I tried that /usepmtimer change to the boot.ini file before my current reformat and that did not work either unfortunatly. (I installed that using AMD's "dual core driver" or something from their web page, under the fx-60 section) . I can't find any rogue program causing this and I don't think its software related as I did see a short spike cycle immediatly after getting to the desktop for the first time on a fresh install of windows. I was moving the task manager window around the desktop when it started.

Below you will find links to some hopefully helpful pics of the spikes and temp and volt readings from asus probe. ANY ideas are welcome as I can't play any games right now and its driving me mad! Please help me!

Pics: http://img464.imageshack.us/img464/2550/spikes7wo.jpg
http://img54.imageshack.us/img54/7888/spikes21ax.jpg

Thanks in advance for any insight you can give me.

Spinny
June 4, 2006 3:41:19 AM

did you check the process tree to see what process is eating the cpu cycles? Pretty weird issue.

Double check your memory timings in BIOS vs spec. not likely to be an issue, but I have seen bad/mis-timed memory cause some strange things to happen.

Did you install the mainboard chipset drivers?
June 4, 2006 3:54:40 AM

Thanks for the response. I did try to find what was spiking it by sorting the cpu usage highest to lowest but unfortunatly the task manager freeze during the spike and nothing pops up to the top. I did install the nforce drivers, didn't work.
To be honest I don't know a whole lot about tweaking memory, so far I have just let the mobo do what it wants. The sticks are rated for 2 3 3 6 and this is the info i got from the memory config screen in BIOS, forgive me if its not what you were looking for.
CAS Latency: 3
RAS/CAS Delay: 3
Min Active RAS: 8
Row Prechange: 3
RAS/RAS: 2
Row Cycle: 9
Row Refresh: 13
Read/Write Delay: 2
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June 4, 2006 4:05:59 AM

This is one of those weird things that used to make me pull my hair out.

You said you did a clean install. Did this problem surface at all before drivers for the various hardware were installed?

Try and remember where the issue first surfaced and what you did right before it happened. Typically something like this will start occurring upon the installation of a certain driver.

The memory settings are a bit looser than what the memory is spec'd
Probably no problem here. But you may want to tighten the timings a bit once you get this resolved
June 4, 2006 4:28:13 AM

After I discovered it happening on my first install I did a second clean install and was very careful. Immediatly after seeing the desktop for the first time, super low resolution and everything, I opened up task manager and watched the usage charts while I moved the task manager window around the screen. I saw a small (3-4 spike) cycle in this environment, without even the display driver installed. Could IRQ's still be to blame if I witnessed it in that pristine environment?
June 4, 2006 4:30:23 AM

Thats a good idea. I would start with the soundblaster card. I can remember a few systems where sb cards would not work properly in a certain pci slot. That was a few years ago though.
June 4, 2006 4:44:31 AM

What I would usually do at this point would be to unplug everything from the mainboard except one video card and the boot hard drive and one memory stick. Try to see if you can get it down to a board level issue by eliminating as many variables as possible.

If the problem goes away doing this, starting plugging things back in one at a time until you can determine what the offender is.
June 4, 2006 4:53:54 AM

Thanks guys I'll try disabling the soundblaster first and if that doesn't work i'll try the minimal configuration then start adding stuff. It'll take me a while but I'll let you know how it turned out
June 4, 2006 5:03:43 AM

Best of luck to you.
June 4, 2006 5:21:30 AM

I had a very similar problem a couple of weeks ago in a new computer I built for our church secretary.

Every thing seemed fine except for strange slow downs and and random cpu spikes that came out of nowhere, on a clean install.

It ended up being the 36 Gig WD Raptor drive. It had come with bad sectors already on it. I did a chkdsk from the drive properties, and it rebooted the computer scanned and fixed the problems with the files that were in the bad sectors and it is running sweet as a nut now. I'm still ordering a drive and plan to replace the defective drive.

The main problem was that one of the files that was in a bad sector was ntoskernel.exe. That is where the cpu spikes were coming from.

The problem you described sounds almost identical in nature. Definitely worth doing a chkdsk to find out.

Hope this helps.
June 4, 2006 2:26:19 PM

OK I think its fixed! Seems to be my NEC 2550 dvd burner was causing the trouble for whatever reason. The jumper settings seem correct, 2550 slave 3550 master on same IDE. But when I unplug the 2550 my problems seem to have dissapeared now, its been about 1.5 hours of usage without a cycle. I can finally put this all behind me and play some games! Big thanks to everyone who offered help!
June 4, 2006 3:58:11 PM

coulld be Windows doing that stupid media check on your drive. It periodicaly? checks for new media even if it doesn't see a drive action. This is just an idea thrown out, don't flame if totally wrong.
!