Sluggish performance after CPU upgrade, poor benchmark results

Hey everyone,
I need advice on definite procedure of identifying the source of sluggish performance and instability after a CPU upgrade.
I upgraded from Phenom x4 9150e (1.8GHz, quad, 65w) to Phenom II 925 (2.8GHz, quad, 95w) and problems began two days later, not instantly. There were no previous performance or stability problems, handed down the old CPU to a family member.
The short version: Stability problems and sluggish performance, not overheating, nothing else (major) changed in the system. Need help!
The long version:
I guess at this point it would be appropriate to introduce my hardware (and basic software):
Phenom II 925
Arctic Silver 5
Thermaltake Blue Orb II cooler
Gigabyte GA-MA770-UD3 v2.1
PNY 2x2GB DDR2 model MD4096KD2-800 (this variation)
MSI 9800GT 512MB model N9800GT-T2D1G-OC
Seagate 2x 1TB ST31000528AS in RAID 1 (on AMD RAID)
Enermax 4x 120mm magnetic barometric bearing case fans
Cooler Master Cosmos 1000 case
Cooler Master 500w PSU model RP-500-PCAR
Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition SP2 32bit with 5 CALs, PAE enabled
Avira AntiVir Server

Machine is a general use workstation, I have somewhat a minimalistic approach to software.

So what was happening? Well, I installed the CPU into the socket, there were no bent pins, it went in easy. Gently wiped the top of it with Isopropyl alcohol, dried instantly. Evenly spread Arctic Silver 5 on top of the CPU dye cover, lowered and secured the cooler, which was also wiped clean with alcohol prior to installation.
When booted the system immediately identified the CPU correctly. I installed monitoring and tweak utility from Gigabyte to check temperature readings and other stats. It was idling at 34C which is nice and chill. Then I installed Burn In 2008 and did a 4 core stress test for 30 minutes. Temperature peaked at 46C which is also normal. As the CPU cooler is set on Auto, it adjusts RPM as load/temperature increases. During stress test the CPU cooler became audible which to me is not desirable during normal use, so I decided to go ahead and undervolt and underclock the CPU. I went down .175v on CPU core (1.150v result) and to 10x multiplier instead of 14x (2.0GHz result). Temperatures became 32C idle, 37C stress, CPU cooler not audible. Just how I like it. I figured if I ever have a gaming crave (I have been too busy as of late) I can always just return the clock to stock.
No, I never overclock my hardware. My data and my time are worth more than the hardware, or its upgrade.
And so, the system was fine for two days. On the day the trouble struck, I returned from lecture in college, woke the system up from standby, and instantly noticed the screen resolution was wrong (was panning around my desktop at low resolution). Eventually after a few attempts of changing the resolution I got it back to the native 1680x1050 of my LCD. About 20 minutes later I was listening to music (known good MP3s) using Winamp and squaks and pops started, like skipping or damaged CD. Then it just became white noise, changing tracks or restarting winamp didn't help, system sounds also garbled. Then my instant messaging client, Pidgin, crashed throwing Visual C++ exceptions, and not able to restart (Cairo, part of GTK I presume, kept crashing). Next I got a completely garbled image in Google Chrome browser, like image sheared at an angle. Still trying to figure out what is going on I started my other browser of choice, K-Meleon (native Windows implementation of Mozilla), and fonts were all wrong, some corrupt, some wrong size, everything just completely out of whack.
At this point I decided to reboot, and surprisingly enough, I was able to gracefully reboot. I opened the side of the case and reached in to touch the CPU cooler and video card. The CPU cooler was at about ambient temperature, and the video card barely warm, so I guess not overheating.
I went straight into the BIOS and returned CPU voltage and multiplier back to normal.
After booting back up I am experiencing sluggish performance, like the system "waits" sometimes, and then proceeds fast as normal. Essentially everything happens in lumps. Now I hear a pop or squeak about once a minute while listening to music. Buffered flash video stutters, freezes, then proceeds as normal, then a few seconds later stutters again.
I ran the 4 core stress again with error checking, I noticed these "pauses" in output updates once a few seconds, consistent with the sluggishness of the rest of the system. No calculation errors found.
Tried running connection speed test I normally use, speakeasy, and the visual update of the flash animation was sluggish, jumpy and not smooth. Registered speed was about a quarter (1/4) of what I normally get.
Then I installed PassMark PerformanceTest, to see how my system scores, to see if its just me or if the problem is real. Conclusion: I scored 70% less than an early, inferior C2D baseline machine, which is just plain crazy. Compared to stats of my actual CPU benchmark score with a sample size of 457, which is very reliable result, I scored 2577 instead of 3435, or 33% LESS!
I got even worse results on graphics and hard disk benchmarks. Memory was not as affected.

So at this point I need to definitively identify the cause of the problems, and if its the new CPU that is bad, to quickly return it and look for another one. Perhaps I have damaged this CPU by undervolting and underclocking? Seems impossible but who knows...
I have difficulty troubleshooting myself because there are no errors thrown, no BSODs.

Help is much appreciated! Let me know what other information is needed.

A little bit about myself:
I am a senior in undergraduate Computer Science and Computer Engineering programs at Virginia Commonwealth University.
I have acquired 3 base industry certifications since 2004, Comptia A+, Network+, Security+. Currently working on Linux+, Server+ and Project+.
I do a little bit of business software development for a living, a little tech support, installations and other type of tech work here and there.
3 answers Last reply
More about sluggish performance upgrade poor benchmark results
  1. I suggest you use Windows Task Manager or the excellent Process Explorer app, and keep an eye on your system resources during general use. See if there is a process using abnormal amounts of memory/CPU, and check what happens during one of those periodic slowdowns.
  2. “VCU Rams Football: Still Undefeated in the CAA” :lol:

    Unplug, pull the battery for a minute or so, press the power button to discharge your caps, plug 'er back in, reboot, enter the BIOS and *Load Optimized Defaults*

    Re-set your boot sequence, HDDs, SmartFan, etc. Switch your VCore off *Auto* ('-0.0125v' will work nicely [:jaydeejohn:5]). F10 save and exit

    If it's available use the F11/F12 *Save/Load* BIOS --- save your settings. I like descriptive names: '240MHzC&Q-125v'. The F11/F12 is a great tool for saving different BIOS tweaks.

    Under-volting a PhII is like stealing. I've dropped my volts at the wall 33% at 'load' - over-clocked and unlocked. 1.1875v at load seems to be the sweet spot for me on a number of chips. The key is your volts at idle. 0.085v is generally the best I can do. If you go too low you have issues coming out of sleep - something a GB AM2+ mobo seems to have problems with, anyway (with the additional annoying consequence of borking the BIOS).

    And, finally >>> Your PhII 925 has the 'highest' (0.90v) low-volt specs of any Deneb I can recall, and sometimes with older versions of Windows (especially after 2+ years of operation) that have undergone significant hardware/software upgrades/changes a fresh install can work wonders.
  3. If a cpu makes errors it sometimes corrupts the windows registry.
    Hopefully this has not happened, cpu's have a turn on voltage, where below that they do not work right at any speed,
    To be honest if you wanted a low temp/power chip nothing beats the regor, they clock to 3.6ghz at 1.425v but only use 65 watts. My friend got a cheap regor 250 upgrade kit, it runs at 3.6ghz@36c under full load, the cooler is tiny and totally silent. The 3.6ghz speed is needed for windows to run faster, most windows tasks are only one or two threaded so sometimes clock speed is king and not more cpu cores.
    If the cpu makes mistakes it can corrupt the files on a hdd also, because files go to virtual memory first, through the cpu cache then to the hdd, this is why any overclock or undervolt carries some risks.
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