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

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April 2, 2012 4:11:59 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!

Best solution

a c 78 B Homebuilt system
April 2, 2012 8:25:41 PM

First of all, the PSU can cause any problem you can imagine pretty much. Pretty much any problem is a potential PSU problem. The PSU touches every part of the computer and a flaw can be on the giving or receiving end of any connection and the PSU is a giver for every part.

If you can't trust your PSU, you can't trust anything in your whole computer. Any test you do with a faulty PSU would have to be redone with a good one in order to be able to trust the results.

So, regardless what the problem is I would still suggest you get a good PSU. The XFX Pro 450w Core is a really good one.

Do most PSU failures cause rebooting? Not really. They can manifest any number of ways, but to say that a PSU failure should manifest primarily as a reboot is incorrect.

In fact, if anyone's computer just completely freezes during a game, it is almost always a PSU problem.

It doesn't make sense at this point to rule out the PSU, because of how it should or shouldn't be manifesting problems.

That being said, if you are crashing in something that is not at all demanding like using a web browser, then I would think it was not related to the PSU.

I will have you try three things, though.

1) Go into the device manager (just hit the start button and type device manager in the box at the bottom) and disable anything and everything even remotely related to sound. If it sounds like it has to do with sound, disable it. If you aren't sure, just disable it.

Then try to crash it doing whatever works the most often and the fastest.

2) Reboot into safe mode. Do whatever you can to try and crash it.

3) Download a program called MemTest86+ and run that while you are sleeping, tell me if there are any errors when you wake up. If you don't need to use the computer right when you wake up, then let it keep going until you do need it. Getting all the way through with the 10th test would be ideal. Each test is about 1 hour with 8 GBs of RAM, so that is like 10 hrs for 10 tests. Longer if you have more than 8 GBs of RAM.
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April 4, 2012 6:04:48 AM

Thanks for replying, and many agree with you about the PSU. In fact I had another thread going exclusively about my PSU and I was convinced, I now have a Corsair GS700w. However the instability on my system persists.

I have memtest and have run it several times without issue. Is memtest86+ any different? If so I can run that. I don't know if this is related but I also have Prime95 which has several different testing options and only one of those options ever freezes my computer (and does so quickly, 2-3 minutes in). This is the blend test, which says it tests "a little of everything" so I don't know how helpful that is.

As for sound, I also tried disabling sound-related devices, even on-board sound in BIOS, but to no avail.
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a c 78 B Homebuilt system
April 4, 2012 1:45:22 PM

MemTest86+ is different, yes. You should run both. I have heard of one messing up while the other didn't. In my experience, the one with the + is better, it is the only one I use.

If you look at the documentation for Prime95 for the Blend Test, you will see that it says this test is the one most likely to fail if you have bad RAM, that is why I suggest taking the time to do the other RAM test.
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April 4, 2012 4:17:37 PM

Best answer selected by Ludo_Down.
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a c 78 B Homebuilt system
April 4, 2012 5:14:20 PM

Did MemTest86+ show errors?
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April 5, 2012 5:07:43 AM

I didn't run memtest86+ until after reseating the RAM. It showed no errors and I'm getting no crashes now. Greatest thing that's happened to my build! :bounce: 
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a c 78 B Homebuilt system
April 5, 2012 5:33:41 AM

Glad it is fixed.
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