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Diagnosing an issue

Last response: in Systems
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August 17, 2012 2:19:25 PM

Ok, so the release of Guild Wars 2 is fast approaching. I decided to take the route of building out two towers that could run the game above and beyond the minimum requirements of the game. Both are made from a combination of new/used parts, with one having more new than the other. The one that has the majority of older parts seems to be experiencing problems, and I cannot pinpoint the source of it. I was hoping to tap the minds of the people here as I have found large amounts of good information from reading other posts in the past.

First, here is the setup of the machine in question:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz
Memory: 3 chips. (2x Patriot DDR2 800mhz 240-pin DIMM 1GB, 1x Samsung DDR2 800mhz 240-pin DIMM 1GB)
Video: ASUS (don't know number, running the GeForce N210 GPU) PCI-E x16 1GB memory
HDD: WD Caviar 250GB SATA 1.5gb/s
Power Supply: Cooler Master 500w ATX power supply
OS: Win XP Home (only until I can get Win 7 in a couple of months).
Network adapter: Tenda wireless network adapter
Internet gained running wireless tether from 4G LTE Android phone, max signal strength (live 1/2 mile from tower with no notable interference).

The issue:

At first we just thought it was Guild Wars giving us the trouble, but that only seems to be what triggers it fastest and most often. We will be playing the game, and probably every 2 minutes the computer will grind to a halt. If we keep trying to move or do anything it stays there and the mouse cursor completely disappears (so we don't know if it's locked in place or not). If we stop and wait about 15 - 20 seconds the game catches back up, and we can proceed for maybe another two minutes before it happens again. Same thing happens when we are doing anything else on the computer, but no where near as frequently. Being on the internet doesn't seem to matter as playing Flight Sim 2004 offline gets the same result as GW.

What I have done:
Run Western Digital's HDD diagnostics, the drive passed.
Run Memtest86 5 passes, no errors found.
Stress tested the video, no errors encountered.

My suspicion:
The memory is 3 1GB chips, all unmatched, all used, on a Dual Channel board.
I suspect that if I were to replace the three chips with 2x 2GB matched pair it would work.(yes I know Win XP only supports 3GB, but I'll be getting Win 7 soon).

My question to all of you is, "what are your thoughts?" Obviously I don't have money to drop on buying each piece new in a "trial-and-error" format, and GW2 early access day is on the 25th, so I'm running out of time (and hair to pull out...).

If anyone has any ideas they would be GREATLY appreciated.

More about : diagnosing issue

a b B Homebuilt system
August 17, 2012 3:40:23 PM

I had that board..make sure you have all the bios updates for it. I will tell you it is picky on the ram you use. I had 4 one gig 1066 ram that i tried running in my board and it caused a lot of bsod. What i would do is download cpu-z and look at the ram info under the spd tab for each dimm. then i would try the same game out with the two match dimms in one bank. (make sure you have the newest intel chipset drivers and nvidia driver loaded and sound card.) with two g of ram make sure you turning off stuff in start up like quicktime and java updater. (use msconfig) use the start up tab. one other issue it might not be hardware but how windows xp built in anti virus runs or an older anti virus program. I look at avast or avg or a free one that has a game mode. (you dont want the anto virus scaning or running in the background when your full screened. if you have an extra hard drive (i would download the windows 8 preview) and see if the older system runs better with games under windows 8 then xp.
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August 17, 2012 5:35:46 PM

As someone who upgrades old computers, I would not recommend looking to replace all your RAM. DDR2 RAM is very expensive in comparison to current DDR3. For example 2x2Gb sticks of DDR2 go for $50-70 and 2x4Gb sticks of DDR3 go for around $40-50. Check to make sure all the RAM is PC 6400, and maybe the CAS latency and timing for any non-matches.

I'm currently building a computer with older components and identical RAM. I upgraded RAM to 4 Gb from 2 for $25 and the GPU is an XFX HD 6870 1Gb. It handles Skyrim on Medium settings with an equivalent AMD motherboard and CPU. It won't be used for MMOs so I can't guarantee that the GPU is your only bottleneck. Many MMOs are CPU intensive.

Windows XP can throttle game performance in some cases. With Skyrim, upgrading to Windows 7 can increase performance by 25%. If you are waiting a few months, Windows 8 will be a cheaper upgrade than 7 and is less demanding. Like smorizio said, try it out now and decide later.
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August 17, 2012 7:15:43 PM

Well, I'm not too worried about this computer being able to run GW2 on the CPU side. The minimum requirement is a Core 2 Duo 2.14Ghz, and we are running a Core 2 Quad 2.4Ghz.

According to srtest my computer blows the minimums away on video with the n210 GPU (granted I know this mainly a ballpark figure, but it's been pretty close in the past).

Given the issue, is the memory the most likely cause of this?
If it's not the memory, would the graphics card be the next most likely cause?
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a b B Homebuilt system
August 17, 2012 7:45:52 PM

could be ram or a heat issue. your better off starting small. do a little house cleaning like ccleaner and making sure your drivers are all there and up to date. check the temps of the gpu and cpu. (if they look like there running hot open the case and check to see that all the fans are moving and there no dust.
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August 17, 2012 8:08:43 PM

I'm not currently in front of the computer, but I can add the following details:

I do not know what version the BIOS is, but I have what I need to update it this evening if it needs it.
All drivers are the most current versions available.

This system was built out two days ago, and does not have anything but Windows, Guild Wars, Flight Sim 2004, and AVG installed. I have gone through and stripped out all startup items, and I have set the Page Files to 1.5x physical memory.

Heat is not an issue... The Cooler Master power supply has a 120mm fan on it and lots of open space.

I have 4x 80mm fans on the front Pulling air in. A duct on the side cover over the CPU. 2x 80mm fans on the back pulling air out along with the Power Supply. The CPU heatsink is clean as is the fan. All are operating normally.

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