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Games, iTunes, and web browsing freeze my computer, any ideas?

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Last response: in CPUs
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April 2, 2012 5:25:35 AM

I have been having this problem infrequently ever since I got my build about two years ago. I had a factory PC (Hewlett Packard of some kind) and then I got all new components and copied info on my old hard disk to this new system and fresh installed Windows 7:

CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 (645)
Mainboard: MSI 870-G45
RAM: 4x2 GB DDR3
GPU: AMD Radeon HD 6900
HDD: Seagate 2 TB
PSU: Rocketfish 450W

The exact problem is this: during certain programs (I’ll be more specific further on) my computer freezes, loops the last millisecond of sound (if there was sound playing) and requires a hard reboot. I’ve seen this problem posted before but when I followed the advice given to those posters it did not solve my problem. What’s causing the freezing may be different than others with a similar problem because it is very specific:

When it does freeze:
-during games, after random amounts of time (seems truly random, from 10 minutes in to hours)
-When iTunes is open (even if nothing is playing) and my perception is that this happens a little sooner than during games but still at random intervals
-If I leave the web browser open for long enough (I had to turn off the auto-sleep option to figure this one out, it takes hours before it freezes) on any site (streaming video or just ebay left on idle)

When it does NOT freeze (even after 24 hours or so):
-If I leave the computer on idle at the desktop
-Photoshop CS4 left on idle
-Microsoft Word left on idle
-During stress testing of the memory, PSU voltage, GPU and CPU temperatures (used OCCT, Prime 95, and Memtest to figure this out)

What I have tried so far:
1 – At first I assumed it was a faulty graphics card, because my first graphics card was a returned GeForce 240 and there were occasionally artifacts and other graphics-related problems. I got the Radeon listed in my build above once I could spare some cash for it (about six months ago) and that solved the artifacts and other graphics-related issues, but the freezing persists. That’s when I started testing everything I could think of.
2 – Once I tested enough programs it seemed like a sound-related issue. I had a sound card (something cheap and standard by SoundBlaster) so I uninstalled the drivers, took it out of the system, and used the sound from the graphics card instead. This didn’t solve the problem.
3 – Following the assumption this was sound-related, I found a similar problem someone posted in a forum like this one, and they said they solved it by disabling the onboard sound for their Motherboard in BIOS. I did this in my BIOS, but I’m still freezing
4 – I thought it might be temperatures getting too high, but according to CPUID Hardware Monitor they are well below dangerous temps even after a couple of hours of gaming. OCCT tested CPU and GPU temps and no freeze. After about 4 hours of the OCCT GPU stress test the GPU reached 85 degrees and stopped testing but I understand that the stress test is way harder on the GPU than gaming, plus I never play any games for 4 hours. I did re-apply thermal paste to the CPU heatsink just in case. The factory stuff was pretty bad for my CPU (I’m told) so I got Arctic Silver 5 and applied that a couple of weeks ago, following the directions very carefully. No change.
5 – I have updated drivers for pretty much everything. Problem occurred prior to updates and continues to occur after.

What I haven’t tried yet:
1 – I know that my PSU isn’t very good and that Rocketfish went out of business, etc. etc. This is a component I should replace eventually, but could it be the cause of these particular symptoms? The other day I opened iTunes and the first song I played froze my computer after about 10 seconds. Could iTunes really be taxing the power supply very much? Don’t PSU failures usually cause an instant reboot rather than freezing?
2 – Motherboard diagnostic… I don’t know much about BIOS or motherboard troubleshooting. Someone with a similar problem was instructed to get a new motherboard and she did but her problem persisted with the new one.
3 – You tell me :)  ! I’m not an expert on hardware and even worse in software so I really have no idea what to do (or even the appropriate place to post this, sorry). This is a problem I can live with but after so long and so many attempts enough is enough. Please help if you can!
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April 2, 2012 6:09:10 AM

Virus? I would also do some file cleanup with somethign like norton.
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April 2, 2012 6:19:49 AM

I had almost the exact same problem a few years back with an old Pentium 4 computer. It turned out that my problem was caused by a faulty fan on my graphics card (and the graphics card was therefore overheating), and the fan on my cpu was packing up. Once I replaced the graphics card and cpu fan, it basically fixed my problem

iTunes is a fairly memory intensive program.

It does almost sound like an over heating problem. I wouldn't have thought it would be a psu problem. I had a faulty psu about 6 years ago (on the same Pentium 4 system), and it would just suddenly restart by itself, turn the computer on by itself, and then one day I just couldn't turn on the computer at all.
Someone else might have a better idea about whether a psu could cause those kind of problems.

As the above post said though, it could definitely be a virus (I find both norton an bitdefender both very good).
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April 2, 2012 3:34:07 PM

I can see why you'd want to upgrade the PSU, as you might be nearing the threshold for stable power output, but I'm wondering if it's a memory issue. 4 channels of memory, with possibly high latencies, could be bogging down the memory controller. I'm no expert on it, but I remember reading a few articles on Tom's about running 8GB RAM with 2 sticks of 4GB vs 4 sticks of 2GB, and the memory controller with high latency came up often. Usually the picoseconds difference don't matter unless loading multiple memory-intensive programs, as you're doing.

It sounds weird, but since you're trying everything else, why not try taking out 2 sticks of memory (make sure to keep the remaining ones in matching channels) and trying just 4GB across two channels. If that helps, it might be an easy investment to get a low latency 8GB dual channel kit off newegg, it'll set you back maybe $30, and you could craigslist or ebay off what you already have to offset it.

I'm interested to see if that helps, and I'm looking for a few of the threads and articles that I'm referring to.
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April 3, 2012 6:42:37 AM

Good thought about the ram - I only have 4 GB DDR3 ram, which runs perfect for me.
I would definitely try taking out 2 sticks.
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April 4, 2012 5:56:04 AM

Thanks for replying everyone, I was hoping the few and the brave might actually read that long-A post. As it turns out, I used to have 2x2 RAM and upgraded to 4x2 when a friend got an alienware computer and didn't have use for his. The problem was present before the upgrade and is still present now. Should I still try isolating the sticks to see if something is wrong with one of them? I have a different thread going about Prime95 consistently freezing my computer during the blend test, could I have a faulty stick?
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April 4, 2012 6:01:38 AM

I would run both an Antivirus program (I really like AVAST) and an Anti-Malware/Trojans program like Malwarebytes. See if that comes up with anything. I had a problem with slowness and freezing with my HP and I ran both programs. Avast come up with a couple viruses and Malwarebytes found something like 90 Malware, Trojans and other bad stuff. I also ran Revo-Uninstaller and got rid of all the garbage bloatware that came on the computer.
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April 4, 2012 6:08:05 AM

I have Norton Internet Security running all the time. Is there anything more specific I can do in there, ie to check for malware etc?
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a b à CPUs
April 4, 2012 6:12:36 AM

Meh I can't stand Norton. It use to be good but anymore it seems like it doesn't catch anything. For Malware I would try Malwarebytes like I mentioned above.
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April 4, 2012 6:22:26 AM

I assume I gotsta pay for it?
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a b à CPUs
April 4, 2012 6:50:43 AM

No you download a free version of both. There is also a paid version that gives extra features but IMO it isn't worth it. The free version has done just fine.
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April 4, 2012 6:55:56 AM

Ok thanks, malwarebytes is scanning right now AVAST is next.
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April 4, 2012 11:07:33 AM

Well I got sidetracked before I got to AVAST but malwarebytes did catch 9 programs (6 adware, 1 trojan, something else too) and I removed them. Still got a freeze after that though. On to AVAST.
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April 5, 2012 1:28:42 PM

If the problem was present before upgrading your ram, after running the anti-virus programs, try isolating the sticks of ram - remove the old ram, and just use the new ram.
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April 6, 2012 12:08:50 AM

kilobyte said:
If the problem was present before upgrading your ram, after running the anti-virus programs, try isolating the sticks of ram - remove the old ram, and just use the new ram.


Good catch, this was actually the problem (99% sure). I isolated the RAM and found that stress testing doesn't cause a lockup of my system with only the new pair installed. Then I switched the seating of the old and the new and stress testing did not cause a lockup either (even after many hours) but I did freeze up during a game... so now I'm back to just the two newer sticks and waiting for an in-game lockup but hopefully I won't see one.
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April 6, 2012 5:53:31 AM

Good to hear! Hopefully you won't experience any more freezing (fingers crossed)!
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April 13, 2012 1:38:02 AM

Best answer selected by Ludo_Down.
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April 13, 2012 1:39:14 AM

Final report: it was RAM. I just had two faulty sticks, some cheap brand. Running on my 4GB Corsairs alone now and everything is running faster than it was on 8GB. Don't go cheap with RAM :) 
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