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Troubleshooting: Issues with Recent Build and Optimizing What I Have

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October 28, 2011 12:29:14 AM

All,

Thanks in advance for your participation in this thread.

First, I want to try to troubleshoot some issues I've noticed, and I have no idea where to start. I am at your mercy.

Secondly, I would like advice on steps I can/should take to optimize performance on my system, benchmark exactly where I'm at - just basically get the most out of the beautiful, expensive, overkill computer I assembled. I am at your mercy on this one too.

Specs:

CPU: Intel 2600K
Mobo: Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3P
Memory: 8GB (2x4GB) Corsair Vengeance 1600
GPU: AMD 6950 1GB (specifically, the Gigabyte OC edition with three fans)
Case: Cooler Master 932 Advance (with sick blue LED fans)
SSD/System Drive: OCZ Vertex 3 120GB
HDD/Storage Drive: WD Caviar Black 1TB
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium

Specific Issues:

1. When playing TF2, the graphics will all of a sudden get very jumpy/jittery. Instead of smooth graceful movements, the video will jump jaggedly around. My system should be able to absolutely own a game like TF2; my initial tests indicated around 200+ fps.

I also notice, even outside of TF2, that my mouse will exhibit similar behavior (sudden jumps across the screen). At first I wrote this off to the fact that I went wireless on my mouse and keyboard - a decision I plan on rectifying immediately (by replacing both with wired). However, the video issues I mentioned are almost certainly not related to that; the problems seem much more fundamental. Not only does it make TF2 occasionally unplayable, it bothers the hell out of me given the $1,500 I spent on this system.

What advice can folks offer as to how to diagnose and troubleshoot this problem?

2. The first couple of days with my new system, I noticed some basic stability issues. Steam locked up the computer once, and I needed to completely power off my power supply in order to get the system to shut down. Another time, I recall the system completely flipping out while viewing "My Computer" - like it was having an epileptic seizure.

How do I ensure my system is configured correctly from a stability standpoint?

3. In "My Computer", there is no drive mapping for my storage drive (HDD). According to SIW, the HDD is connected and is fully recognized by my system. What do I need to do to be able to map to/access/utilize my HDD as my storage drive?

Observations:

4. According to SIW, speed of memory is DDR 1333, running at 667 MHz, (PC3-10700H). However, it recognizes the part number as CML8GX3M2A1600C9, which should be the 1600 speed, which is of course what I purchased. Is my memory running more slowly than it should? How would I examine this, rectify it etc.?

More General Questions:

5. Given my investment, I want a computer that runs cleanly, efficiently, and at its best. I have not overclocked anything, because as it is, the components I chose for this machine are overkill for the basic internet surfing, word processing, and light gaming I currently engage in. All of this explains why I would be enraged if my system failed to do anything "basic" perfectly.

If you just built this machine, what steps would you take to achieve this goal? What settings are appropriate for my BIOS? What driver updates are necessary - and where should I get them? If this were a car - what steps should a mechanic perform to tune it up?

6. I asked an amateur builder to assist me with this build - as such, we discussed all of the major decisions as we assembled the rig together. However, I do not possess the experience or background to know if we made any mistakes in the process. Are there certain utilities I should download and run to assess whether any problems exist with the hardware itself? Any benchmarks or tests I should put it through?

If there are any issues I should have raised here but didn't, help me out. My goal is to have this beast perform at its best. I'll gratefully accept advice on all subjects, whether they are included here or not.

Thank you in advance for your time and effort in helping me.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 3:27:07 AM

Lotta questions, so I/we may lose track of stuff along the way. First some questions for you:

- Screen size, resolution? Make/model is also useful.
- Psu Make/model/Wattage?
- What BIOS is your mobo using?

Utilities with ** should be downloaded from:

http://forums.tweaktown.com/gigabyte/30530-latest-overc...

Your Questions 2/5/6:
We're going to go back to basics, and do what you might have done right after the build was complete.

1. Uninstall any program that can overclock cpu/gpu or change BIOS. This would include the Gigabyte Utilities . . . let me look them up . . . EasyTune6, Smart6, etc.

2. Download a fresh copy of the latest WHQL driver for your video card. Uninstall your current Catalyst software. Do NOT install the new drivers yet.

3. Power down. Clear CMOS (use mobo feature or unplug pc, remove battery, press the case power on button a few times, grab a cup of coffee, replace battery, plug into wall.)

4. Power up into BIOS. Load Optimized Defaults. Make only those changes, if any, that are needed for your PC to run correctly. Save and exit, booting through to Windows.

5. Install the fresh video drivers.

6. Use CPUID Hardware Monitor** to monitor gpu/cpu temps. Run Prime95** Stress Test for 10 minutes, run Furmark** Torture Test for 10 min, then run both for 5-10 minutes. Temps should rise and then hover around a set point, like 75C cpu, 85C gpu.

If at any time cpu temp reaches 80C or gpu temp reaches 90C, stop the test and resolve the heat issue. If Prime95 says it has an error (eg, rounding error) you likely have a memory issue which we'll work through.

If/when your PC passes these tests, an overnight (eg, 8 hours) Prime95 run should probably be done. Success here means we have a working, stable PC . . . which may still have issues lol.

Your question 1
If TF2 has a graphics setting called "Vertical Synch" or similar, turn that feature on. Does the video stop jumping around?

Your Question 3
I assume the drive is brand spanking new and unformatted? If so, type "Disk Management" in the Windows Start search box, and click on "Create and Format . . .". Carefully use that tool to create a (single) partition using all of the space on your 1TB disk, then format it. Go out to a dinner and a movie.

Edit: We'll take care of your memory question later.
October 28, 2011 3:41:19 AM

Firstly, thank you for providing such a thorough response.

Secondly, I will provide answers to your initial questions in a moment. Thanks!
Related resources
October 28, 2011 4:01:58 AM

Monitor: 24" ASUS VE248H
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
PSU: Corsair Professional Series 850W - 80 Plus Silver
BIOS Version: F5 (Award Software International, Inc.)
October 28, 2011 4:36:10 AM

Quote:
Download a fresh copy of the latest WHQL driver for your video card


Should I be downloading the newest version of the Catalyst software suite (11.9), or specifically just the display driver and/or OpenGL driver?

EDIT: Also - I happened to notice that the integrated graphics (i.e. Intel HD 3000) information is also showing up in my SIW video tab - and the Intel HD Graphics drivers are inexplicably installed (as well as the ATI ones of course). Is this a factor?
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 4:37:54 AM

Whole package, latest WHQL - no beta, etc. Sorry for not being clear. Glad you're following that closely lol.
October 28, 2011 4:45:08 AM

No problem - thanks for the fast answer. 11.9 appears to be WHQL, 11.10 is out as a beta right now.

As for the EDIT to my last post - should I uninstall the Intel HD drivers? Shouldn't those be irrelevant since I'm using discrete graphics? Or could it potentially be creating a conflict?
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 5:29:28 AM

Let's treat those as chipset drivers for the moment, and leave them in. For the time being :) 
October 28, 2011 5:53:18 AM

Too late, already wiped them out. :)  Didn't seem to matter.

As for clearing the CMOS - is it absolutely critical that I open the case and manually short the CMOS jumpers? Or is it sufficient to simply do as you suggested (i.e. disconnect power cable, switch off the power supply, hold down the power button for a while until every microjoule of power has evaporated, have a bowl of ice cream etc.)

I guess I am a little sketch on performing surgery on my motherboard, even when it is as simple as holding a screwdriver between two jumpers for a few seconds. I am paranoid of frying something.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 6:18:00 AM

LOL your mobo is something its good to get familiar with. And its pretty tough when approached with reasonable care.

In any case, you need to pull the plug, then remove the cover and either (1) short the pins using a plastic jumper or a metal screwdriver or (2) follow what I said which includes removing the battery from the mobo. I'd recommend my approach, since it combines two methods and is virtually 100% successful in clearing CMOS.

No problem about the drivers.
October 28, 2011 6:36:16 AM

Went ahead and did it before I saw your response - just did the screwdriver method.

Reinstalled Catalyst.

Ran Prime95 and Furmark separately and concurrently. CPU temps never exceeded 55 C. GPU temp never exceeded 67 C.

Mouse still seems to jump around the screen at intervals - so I am guessing the mouse itself is the culprit of that minor problem - which will hopefully resolve itself when I replace with a wired unit.

I am going to test TF2 for a bit to see if the graphics issues I mentioned initially are resolved or persist. Will be back with an update.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 6:54:31 AM

Temps are excellent, and your mobo is comfortable running your memory.

Use CPU-Z** and report the DRAM frequency being used (Memory Tab).

Assuming its still running at 666 (1333), check the SPD tab for sets of memory timings that can be used. If the only "800" setting is in the column XMP, you need to get into BIOS at tell it to use XMP. If there is a "Jedec" setting showing 800, you will need to go into BIOS and manually enter the parameters in that column (ie, take the mobo off "auto" regarding memory).

If you enter parameters wrong, the system may not boot, or will show other problems. Not to worry though, you now are a pro clearing CMOS and reloading Optimized Defaults. After that, boot thru to Windows to make sure the PC is working again. Then you go back to BIOS and try again. Voltage is the only parameter not to get wrong. It's probably 1.5V for all parameter sets.

Bed time here. Back in about 12 hours.
October 28, 2011 7:29:00 AM

Checked CPU-Z - it was running at 668.

Rebooted into the BIOS, turned on XMP. Saved setting and rebooted.

CPU-Z now shows DRAM frequency at 802.4.

Checked in SIW though, and still shows old frequencies. Not sure what that means.

EDIT: SIW has now updated to show DRAM frequency at 802.4.

I have checked out a few programs to verify this - when I look at the memory information, in the SPD tab of each program the bandwidth for each module still says PC3-10700H. So although the frequency is 802.4, I still question if this is set up correctly. Perhaps I am overthinking this.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 5:36:02 PM

One of the reasons we use CPUID's utilities is that they have been found most reliable over the years by folks here. Recently, we have had anecdotal evidence that perhaps GPU-z has some issues identifying graphics card settings in crossfire. Reason I mention this is that the long-timers here track this stuff for obvious reasons.

Anyhow, we now have your memory running at 800 - its time to re-run Prime95 for 15 min or so just to give us some level of confidence in stability at the new settings.

Going back to TF2, does it have a graphics setting option called "Vertical Synchronization", "V-synch", or similar? This would tell the program to cap frame rates at 60 fps. Frame rates higher than the monitor's refresh rate (yours is 60/sec) can cause "tearing". I don't know if this is the effect you're seeing, but pushing >200 fps on a 60 cycle monitor in a 3D graphics game is suspect.
October 28, 2011 6:34:43 PM

You are correct in that TF2 has a setting called "Wait for Vertical Synch?". I tried enabling that last night, and it did cap the frame rate at 60fps as you suggested. I also maxed all settings and turned on MSAA 8X to see how it worked, and it looked fantastic. There were still a few jitters, but I am fairly convinced these are due to the inconsistent signal from the mouse (i.e. sudden jumps in the mouse's perceived location translating into sudden jumps in the directional orientation of the POV). I will retest this hypothesis once the mouse has been replaced with a reliable wired unit.

From your response - I take it that my concerns (about the SPD tab saying the bandwidth for each module still says PC3-10700H) are unwarranted/irrelevant. So long as the DRAM frequency is 800, I'm good.

I will re-run Prime95 for 15 minutes or so tonight.

Regarding the instructions on my HDD, I followed them and created a single volume, which mapped as drive I:\. The formatting allegedly took about 5 seconds - shouldn't it take a bit longer than that? I have not yet attempted to move any data onto the drive, so I have no idea if my efforts were successful, but "My Computer" does see the drive now, and indicates 931GB free.

Since I have heard that Windows Experience Index is considered to be a fairly worthless tool, I downloaded a few other programs to get some general ratings on the system. One was HWM Blackbox - after running a system diagnostic, it rated everything between 7.7 - 7.9, similar to WEI.

If I experience any issues with Prime95, TF2, or anything else I will report back. Is there anything else you'd recommend I do to either optimize system performance, keep things clean, benchmark to identify problems, benchmark so I can brag etc.? Given the minimal practical uses I would have for doing such a thing, is there any good reason to overclock anything? Any other pro tips, sites, reference materials, or anything I should look at?

And finally - thank you for taking the time to walk me through this. I appreciate having access to a community of helpful folks, and you've been exemplary.
a b B Homebuilt system
October 28, 2011 9:39:20 PM

brentbgerson said:
You are correct in that TF2 has a setting called "Wait for Vertical Synch?". I tried enabling that last night, and it did cap the frame rate at 60fps as you suggested. I also maxed all settings and turned on MSAA 8X to see how it worked, and it looked fantastic. There were still a few jitters, but I am fairly convinced these are due to the inconsistent signal from the mouse (i.e. sudden jumps in the mouse's perceived location translating into sudden jumps in the directional orientation of the POV). I will retest this hypothesis once the mouse has been replaced with a reliable wired unit.
A couple of other things to tuck in your mind along with "high frame rates and tearing". First, your diagnosis of possible mouse issues causing the problem is quite reasonable. You could try adjusting the mouse's dpi - up or (more likely) down and see which if either has an effect. A wired/better mouse may also be the solution.

Further, I have no experience with "Virtu" software, and would consider disabling/uninstalling it in an attempt to fix your issue if it persists.

Re-installing the game, patches etc should be considered when you know your drivers are WHQL up-to-date (re an older game) and benchmarks like Furmark show no heat, power, or gpu-related issues.

brentbgerson said:
From your response - I take it that my concerns (about the SPD tab saying the bandwidth for each module still says PC3-10700H) are unwarranted/irrelevant. So long as the DRAM frequency is 800, I'm good.
Again, I apologize for more deflection than direct answer. So let me be blunt. I know the CPUID utilities work. I know very little about the other tools - there are LOTS of them - and given something free and simple works, the CPUID utilities are my "resident expert", trumping other results.

IOW, I can't account for what the other tools say. I could tell you that maybe they are reading the Jedec settings and not BIOS. But it would always be couched "maybe". And yes, *I* would ignore them except if I became curious about *why* those other tools don't work. But I'm not curious about that :) 

brentbgerson said:
I will re-run Prime95 for 15 minutes or so tonight.
Don't forget to run Prime95 overnight once. Wouldn't want you to get 4 hours into a gaming session and have a failure you might have detected earlier, maybe fixed by tweaking memory voltage up one step.

brentbgerson said:
Regarding the instructions on my HDD, I followed them and created a single volume, which mapped as drive I:\. The formatting allegedly took about 5 seconds - shouldn't it take a bit longer than that? I have not yet attempted to move any data onto the drive, so I have no idea if my efforts were successful, but "My Computer" does see the drive now, and indicates 931GB free.
Short formats are instantaneous. Long formats on 1 TB give you time for a movie. Let it be.

Assuming you want your 1TB to be drive "D" . . . use Windows "Help and Support" to search for "change drive letter". Follow the instructions there to change your 1TB drive to "J". Then change whatever is "H" to "I" . . . "D" to "E", and finally change your 1TB from "J" to "D". Do thios before you install any programs on your 1 TB drive.

brentbgerson said:
Since I have heard that Windows Experience Index is considered to be a fairly worthless tool, I downloaded a few other programs to get some general ratings on the system. One was HWM Blackbox - after running a system diagnostic, it rated everything between 7.7 - 7.9, similar to WEI.
WEI is what it is, and is not without value. But it is not designed to draw sharp performance distinctions between, eg, 2 SSDs.

brentbgerson said:
If I experience any issues with Prime95, TF2, or anything else I will report back. Is there anything else you'd recommend I do to either optimize system performance, keep things clean, benchmark to identify problems, benchmark so I can brag etc.? Given the minimal practical uses I would have for doing such a thing, is there any good reason to overclock anything? Any other pro tips, sites, reference materials, or anything I should look at?
Tip #1: If you can avoid it, don't change more than one thing at a time, and allow a "testing" interval to insure that change is stable before making the next. Example? Don't permit a Windows update and in the same run download new video drivers. Don't permit WIndows to update automatically; have it check for updates and notify you so you can install at your convenience, and know you only made "one" change.

Tip#2: Explore overclocking. You now know how to clear CMOS, reset BIOS to defaults, touch your mobo etc. So when something goes wrong - and it will - you know how to get out of it. If you do, you should download CoreTemp** or RealTemp** and have one load automatically during Windows boot up. Compare those temps to HWM; temps should "match" given differences in sampling rate and timing of the sample.

Then re-install the Gigabyte utilities. Try the various automatic OCs from small to large. Watch the heat buildup, see the performance impact on your system if any, judge whether you want it. See what it changed in BIOS. If interested, read more and learn how to OC a Sandy Bridge k-chip manually.

You don't mention a cooler, so I assume you are using the stock cooler. This will limit your practical OC, but is a great place to start because you will see the heat buildup quicker. If you decide you want to run 24/7 with some level of OC, get a new cooler. Coolermaster Hyper 212 is cheap and is a good sized upgrade from stock - and there are others that do much better.

brentbgerson said:
And finally - thank you for taking the time to walk me through this. I appreciate having access to a community of helpful folks, and you've been exemplary.
Thanks. But you actually made it easy - you demonstrated an ability to read and comprehend more than one sentence at a time. That encourages us to explain more rather than to say:

" Reset CMOS, load BIOS defaults, and re-install fresh video drivers. Set your BIOS to use XMP. You may be tearing the screen - set VSynch on." :) 
October 28, 2011 9:53:23 PM

CPU Cooler/Heatsink: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - apologies for the omission

Thanks again for all of the pro-tips, advice, and above all patience. I will explore further - so I appreciate the education.
!