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FPS Drop outs

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January 27, 2013 11:02:54 PM

Hi,

First time poster, long time reader :) 

I have been experiencing a problem with my laptop and World of Warcraft for a while now and the problem seems to be getting incrementally worse. It started around October of last year and while there are posts from players relating to some similar issues (but not all) on the WoW Tech Forums I wanted to ask a wider (and more informed communities advice. The game was working perfectly both before and after the MoP expansion, the problem really arose about 3 weeks after the expansion and has just gotten steadily worse since then.

Basically I can be running around with 30-100fps (depending on whatever settings I'm running) and suddenly my FPS drops by 50% for about 1-2 secs and then returns to its previous level causing the game to freeze entirely for 1-2secs. In the beginning it was not so bad but it seems to have gotten progressively worse to the point that it is a complete freezefest now and the game is unplayable. Another symptom (though possibly unrelated) is that the sound/music is constantly skipping both in the game and in the login menu.

Fixes applied so far in no particular order in some cases applied a number of times:
1. Switched from Dx11 to Dx9 and forced the 32bit client
2. Rolled back Nvidia drivers - Initially seemed to make some difference but after the problem resurfaced and fix 3 & 4 were implemented this fix no longer makes any difference.
3. Updated Nvidia drivers (at a later date) - note this seemed to make the problem worse.
4. Uninstalled the video driver and allowed it to reinstall using factory settings.
5. Deleted WTF/Cache/Interface, deleted Cache in the Battlenet folder.
6. Used repair tool in launcher.
7. Reduced all graphic and sound settings to low and in some cases disabled them altogether (e.g. SSOA).
8. Checked CPU and GPU temperatures and they are well within the norm.
9. Checked CPU activity to see if I could correlate the FPS drops withe CPU spikes - I could not.
10. Turned off "Max Foreground FPS" (and the other setting underneath it).
11. Updated Addons.
12. Removed Addons.
13. Flushed DNS.
14. In "Properties" for Wow.exe I have unchecked "Disable Desktop Composition"
15. In "Properties" for Wow.exe I have set the game to "Run in compatibility mode for Windows XP SP3
16. Disassembled my laptop and cleaned out all dust - made zero difference at the end of the day and tbh there was only a tiny amount of dust in it.
17. Did a fresh install of windows and wow, updated all drivers using Driver Genius.

I can post a dxdiag if needed

Laptop is:
Dell XPS L501x
Intel Core i5-480M (2.66hz, 4Threads, 3MB cache)
Memory 4096MB 1333MHz Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM[2x2048]
Video Card 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 420M
Hard Drive 320GB (7,200rpm) Serial ATA Hard Drive
Win 7 Home Premium 64bit
Intel® Wireless LAN 6200

Could anyone out there point me in some direction as although my fellow wow players have tried to be helpful I have yet to come up with a fix =/

More about : fps drop outs

January 28, 2013 12:09:10 AM

Reinstall Windows. If you need to know how to do this properly just ask.
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January 28, 2013 12:36:08 AM

JefferyD90 said:
Reinstall Windows. If you need to know how to do this properly just ask.


I'm not being difficult but is there something that implies I did it incorrectly in in point 17?

I will do it again if needed but I believe I have already done so "properly"
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January 28, 2013 12:45:46 AM

You updated drivers using a 3rd party program, which assumes you connected via internet before installing the drivers... Which REALLY means Windows done found its generic drivers and your not doing a clean install. Would you like me to give you the proper steps?
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January 28, 2013 12:50:08 AM

And if you would like, Ill be happy to compile the downloads for you. im not going to leave you in the dirt by yourself.
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January 28, 2013 1:10:25 AM

Hi again,

Let's try it again then and see what happens. It will take a few days before I can both reinstall windows AND wow (ill need to be elsewhere to d/l the game) but I will get back to you as soon as I can.

I would very much appreciate a walk through so that we're sure I've completed the step correctly.

On a side note I was testing the GPU after posting the fist post and it seems the GPU load is dropping randomly in game. It doesn't happen in (e.g) Team Fortress though.
Any thanks
D
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January 28, 2013 1:33:33 AM

Ok, so here is what you do... download your copy of Windows from a legit source, don't use a public torrent as they are ALMOST ALWAYS tampered with. If you don't have one, let me know I will find one and post it for you.

Unplug EVERYTHING from the notebook besides the power cable.

Download drivers and save to a USB drive.

Insert boot media (I always use a USB Flash Pen but you can use a DVD if you want)

Install OS. Do CUSTOM install and delete your partitions and then create new partitions. Let the Windows Installer work its magic.

Once you get into the desktop copy your driver folder over to the desktop and UNZIP ANYTHING that is zipped up.

You want to install your drivers in THIS order:
BIOS update: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Chipset: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Audio: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
USB 3: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Card Reader: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Management Engine: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Turbo Boost: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
WebCam: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Rapid Storage: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
LAN: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
Bluetooth: http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...

This next part is dependent on your notebook, these are the wireless drivers and can make a HUGE difference: (I would have only posted 1 of these but I don't know which one you have, you can run all 3 and the 2 that you don't have, just simply wont work)
http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...
http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta... (I personally hate this adapter, just wanted to be on record)
http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/19/DriverDeta...

You may now connect to the internet.

Then go to Nvidia's website: http://www.nvidia.com/Download/index.aspx?lang=en-us And pick option #2 for the graphic drivers.

Run Windows Updates. Do it again, and do it about 3-5 more times until you get ALL of them. (make sure to always, even if you see some, "check for updates" when you start this process). Also select the option for other Microsoft updates, this will install Microsoft Security Essentials which works WITH windows and is one of the best anti malware programs out there.

Install wow NO ADDONS, NO OTHER 3RD PARTY APPLICATIONS! Check to see if it works. And a word of advice with that video card your looking at High settings at best.
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January 28, 2013 1:40:24 AM

And btw, use DX9 not DX11. The only thing DX11 about wow is the actual buttons you press... which is stupid... But leave everything other than graphic settings at default, and just use the slider, don't custom stuff (the game is actually made to work with that slider not the custom options)
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January 28, 2013 1:41:30 AM

And one last thing :D  lol If you think this is going to be too overwhelming let me know and Ill help. Like I said not going to leave you out to dry.
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January 28, 2013 1:45:08 AM

Thank you for taking the time to explain it all fully for me, I'll get onto it over the next couple of days and let you know how I get on,

br

D
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January 28, 2013 1:58:19 AM

And just to be clear about this, do NOT install other programs. Don't install Chrome or whatever, or anything. This should be used as a controlled test. After about a week of WoW runnin the way it SHOUD you may then make your PC personal again.
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January 28, 2013 1:58:30 AM

Btw I believe the copy of windows I got was from softpedia, I am guessing that it was an original as I had a key and wasn't looking for any type of hacked software. If not a genuine d/l location would also be much appreciated.

D
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January 28, 2013 2:10:14 AM

Directly from Microsoft:
http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-58997.iso

That is the latest version of the disc so you know it has the most built in updates. Just makes the total install process quicker.

Also, this is the tool I would use to make a USB boot drive: http://images2.store.microsoft.com/prod/clustera/framew...

Do Download the ISO, make the boot drive. Then download drivers, and make a folder in the USB Pen called "Dell XPS" and put the downloaded drivers in there. And start installing windows.
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January 31, 2013 7:02:12 PM

Hello again,

Well I have done exactly as you asked me and yesterday I booted up wowfor the first time and there seemed to be little or no problem. I had only a few minutes (literally 5mins tops) to assess but there was no stuttering graphics, no time lag for the duration, there was also no skipping music. I powered on again today and it has reverted to how it was before, music is skipping and the game is freezing due to fps drop outs.

Before I took the steps you had advised and around the time I made this initial post, I noted that the GPU load was dropping to 0% and that these load drops were directly related to the FPS drops. Any idea where or what I should look at next? :cry: 
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February 3, 2013 12:24:46 AM

So let me make sure I understand correctly, it worked wonderful for the first "clean" boot (I call the first clean boot the one where you don't have any drivers or anything to install and its ready to play) but the second boot it functioned the same as always?

And just to clarify as well, we are running without addons, and NO third party software (this includes other web browsers, malware protection, music players, or anything). Just the clean install of Windows, the drivers, Windows Updates installed, and WoW?

If the answer is yes, then tell me HOW bad does it fall out?

If it falls out, completely, for 5-6 seconds, then it is a memory issue. If its marginally falling out for a few seconds, then I would have to say it is heat damage or something similar.
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February 3, 2013 12:30:17 AM

And just to answer you question about the GPU load, that pretty much tells us it is something other than the video card. If the video card was at fault the load would go to 100%. But the fact that it drops to 0% means the video card isn't being fed data. (this is a CPU, Northbridge chipset, memory, or HD failure)

CPU and Northbridge failures are FAR and few between, so little in fact I would totally bet against it.

Memory timing and stuff are common problems, also cheep to fix.

HD failure is common BUT usually is only a issue with the load times, or if your system is using the page filing system often (which means you have little amount of RAM).
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February 3, 2013 12:42:01 AM

Ok thank you. In answer to your question there were 2 differences between boot 1 and boot 2. The second time I booted I had connected an external mouse & keyboard (both Microsoft make if that makes any diff) and I was also connecting to a different router/ISP.

In relation to your question regarding drop outs, initially (ie before the fresh install) the drop out could last 1-3 secs, now they last c. 3-5secs. I will get that program and use it over the next couple of days.

Thanks again for all your help it really is appreciated!

D
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February 3, 2013 12:50:41 AM

If memory is the issue, what you should do is take 1 of your sticks out, see if it still happens. If it does still happen, swap the two out and check again. If the problem persist with both sticks of RAM then we can assume its something else. If the problem is resolved with only one of the sticks, then we know the issue is RAM.
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February 3, 2013 12:54:19 AM

And this is another issue that I have personally never seen before, but could be at fault... even though routers are not directly connected to the PC they still have a driver that is loaded (especially with some of your nicer routers). So it is POSSIBLE that the router (and the simple fact of info being pinged back and forth) is causing the problems. Also, keyboards and mice COULD cause it too. Drivers are a big part of your machine. Without the right drivers, you wouldn't notice a difference from a Wal-Mart Emachines to a top of the line Server PC.
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February 5, 2013 3:51:16 PM

Update:

So to be totally sure that the keyboard/mouse drivers were not factors I did a clean install again, deleted partitions and reinstalled both windows and wow. This time I tried an extended test and found that the problem was there before attaching any 3rd party peripherals.

Aside from the driver list you supplied me with the only other things installed were Intel HD graphics driver (http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/04/DriverDeta...) which I had to install before I could install Nvidia drivers, Java plugins for the nvidia website and adobe flash pluggins for another site.

Since then I have installed the BurnInTest program and run it. It shows no errors, neither when running alone nor when running individual tests alongside WoW when its glitching. I am happy to check the RAM if you think I should but as BIT checks RAM I'm not sure there would be any point...

A few things I've noticed which might be of help in determining the source of the problem:
1. The sound in wow is constantly skipping
2. IE seems to be unrepsonsive to my typing in the search feild and address bar sometimes. This can be - not seeing a flashing cursor, typing out partial words (as if lagging) or not allowing any typing at all for a few secs. Typing in this "Quick Reply" box seems fine however - Its odd because it wasn't like that before I reinstalled windows (though admittedly I didn't use IE very often either).
3. When scrolling quickly through a fully loaded webpage the screen can freeze for a sec or two.
4. After checking and testing again, the FPS drop outs are between 1-3 (4 max) seconds.

You mentioned heat damage in a previous post, is there a way I can investigate this further?

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February 5, 2013 3:57:56 PM

You could probably disregard point 3 above, I've just tried testing that again and it doesn't seem to be happening any more.

Also I have tested this with both of the previous routers used and in the same sequence.

Lastly sorry for taking so long. This laptop spends most of its time in a rural area with little access to high bandwidth uncapped broadband and only on weekends can I really bring it to a place where I can d/l wow again.
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February 5, 2013 8:57:13 PM

I understand, I live in the same situation.

Okay, if the RAM test turns out fine then its PROBABLY not that.

Do this to eliminate HD errors... Start>My Computer (right click)>properties>Advanced System Settings>Advanced (Tab)>Performance "Settings">Advanced (Tab)> Virtual Memory "Change">Unselect "Automatically manage..." and select "no pageing file">Ok Now restart your machine.

See if the problem continues. Also, check normal "non graphic" programs, like the burn in test, see if they have the "fall out" like WoW does. If the whole machine hangs, then it is MOST CERTAINLY a memory issue, if it is JUST WoW and select programs, then let me know.
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February 5, 2013 9:50:07 PM

The HD idea made things worse to the point that the game crashed once and hung a number of times for long periods...

I am off tomorrow so will spend some time swapping in and out the RAM modules.

As for checking if a non-graphic program hangs, IE does sometimes but WMP works fine and so did almost every other program I had previously installed. I also borrowed a copy of Portal 2 and I was thinking of installing that tomorrow to see if there are any probems with it.
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February 5, 2013 9:51:58 PM

BTW do I need to set my page filing back to automatic now?
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February 6, 2013 12:45:07 PM

Update:

First of all I set the Page Allocation setting back to automatic before testing the RAM modules. I also set the game to low graphics and returned any of the settings that might reduce game performance to its lowest setting. I then took out each RAM module and tested the game with one or the other stick in place but I still experienced FPS drop outs.

I did notice the following however:
With module A I had severe dropouts while flying high in the air in a MoP zone. The game was so choppy I just checked for dropouts and then moved on to module B.
With module B I only experienced dropouts when engaged in combat or looting (two of the most common causes of dropouts I experience). I replaced both modules and

As I just noted above the graphical freezes I experience in game are most commonly occur when looting, when engaged in combat and also when I target an NPC or player sorry it only occured to me to say this now. Other graphical anomalies I notice are:
1. White screen just before login screen (i.e between launcher and login).
2. Maps/Questlog/Bags are slow to load - for example with bags, over the space of 1-2 secs I will see in this order - black space where bags will be, the numbers of stacks of items I have and then the item icons appearing on top of the bagspace/numbers, for Maps its a black screen with icons denoting quest objectives and then the map appearing as if being discovered at sime insane speed (not sure if I'm doing the explaination justice here).

Lastly, after the last test I undertook I have noticed that while tabbed out and writing here, I am experiencing keyboard lag - e.g. I am writing but nothing appears for a few secs and then the last word I typed will appear or I am typing and nothing appears and then the whole sentence will appear. This has been something I had attributed to IE (as I normally use firefox) but its only been occuring recently (i.e. since frsh install) and it seems to be getting worse.

I hope I'm not giving you a headache with all the questions and random problems, I will endeavour to give you all the information in future. The only other thing of significance I can think of is that around the time this problem started I would get an occasional error from windows to tell me that Windows Aero was not suitable for this system I was given the choice of change to normal, ignore and something else I don't recall, after the first couple of times I know I turned it off but the problem persisted however this problem has not occured since fresh install.

Hoping that the above is a help rather than a hindrance.
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February 6, 2013 11:55:52 PM

two further things that occur:

1. I have a device in my devce manager which has no driver and is an unknown device. I have tried updating it and also tried downloading all drivers from the Dell driver page to no avail. Would it be ok to reinstall Driver Genius to find out what driver is missing?
2. I would also like to reinstall some of my programs such as firefox, Codecs, VLC and IDM, any objections to this (as they are obviously not the cause) and or the game Portal 2 (to test to see if it has problems too?
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February 7, 2013 3:18:38 PM

Go ahead and install Portal and check it out. Also, give me the details on the driver that is missing (go to the device manager) right click on device>properties>events (tab) then copy and paste everything in the "information" box. (usually this is something silly and stupid that dell leaves out of their driver list and does not affect performance, like a Bluetooth driver).

If it got worse with page filling turned off, that almost 99% clarifies that it is memory issues. I would suggest buying some good, high end RAM, ($30) and replacing it.

And never use a 3rd party program to find drivers... Its just bad practice all the way around.

And to make it 100% sure that it is memory related, is the "hanging" your seeing for a few brief seconds where practically NOTHING happens at all, and then for about 10 second or so it works flawlessly? If that is the case, it absolutely is RAM, but this would be system wide (for the most part depending on which one of the modules are bad)
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February 7, 2013 9:00:53 PM

I can't see any "Event" tab... I went to device manager, right clicked on the "unknown device", went to properties...As Am I in the wrong place?

As regards the page filing, I am unsure as to whether there was an FPS issue as the game was hanging so much and crashed a couple of times it was hard to tell. I can test that again and just wait for it to settle.

With regard to the hanging I'm seeing it is really only in game and sometimes in IE. I can watch .avi's in WMP without any system hanging issues.

I will get around to Portal either later tonight or sometime over the weekend. Thanks again for the input, at least I feel like we are tracking down the culprit now. You say "high end", are you talking in terms of manufacturer or size?
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February 11, 2013 10:16:16 PM

Ok I have installed Portal 2 and it lags out almost worse than wow does.. So the verdict seems to be memory, thanks I wouldn't have gotten this far without your help!

I havelooked for a few different cards and I was hoping you'd direct me to good ones, I live in Europe so ordering from the States can be expensive! Here they are:

http://www.dabs.ie/products/corsair-4gb--1-x-8gb--ddr3-...

http://www.dabs.ie/products/corsair-4gb--1x4gb--ddr3-16...

I will make an order in the next few days and if upon delivery my problems are sorted then I'll change the status to solved.

Thanks again for all your time and advice!

D
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February 11, 2013 10:33:10 PM

Search for this item number on your countries Amazon website: CMSO8GX3M2A1600C11

That is the kit I totally recommend.

The right price for the kit is going to be around 35-40 euro, I can get it for $50 here in the states, so I definitely don't want you overpaying for it.
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February 15, 2013 1:53:49 PM

Ok so I purchased the RAM recommended and it arrived today so I did as follows:

1. First I powered on my laptop to check if it was still having problems - problem still existed.
2. Removed old RAM and inserted new RAM and powered laptop - this led me to "Windows Error Recovery" screen with options to
a) Launch Startup Repair or;
b) Start Windows Normally

2a). Choosing the first option resulted in a new screen with a loading bar that when finished rebooted the system and returned me to point 2.
2b). Resulted in the computer rebooting and returning me to point 2.

These options/solutions just loop with no change.

So I took out the new RAM and inserted the old RAM, this resulted in the computer reaching option 2 above and upon choosing that option it went beyond the loading bar and started the Windows Recovery tool offering me the option of a restore point. After it had finished the laptop rebooted and windows loaded.

I have gone through step 1 and 2 twice now with the same result.

So next I removed the old RAM and inserted one stick of the new RAM, this resulted in this BSOD the first time



and this BSOD the second time.



Upon removing that stick and inserting the 2nd stick of new RAM I got the second BSOD again. Replacing the old RAM resulted in point 2 above and I was able to do a Repair and return to windows....

What am I missing? I checked out a vid (www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1oTz-F6xME) on on how to replace laptop memory before I started and as far as I can see I've followed all steps correctly =/
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February 16, 2013 11:05:18 AM

I should probably also note that my BIOS registers that there is 8gb of RAM inserted when the two new sticks were inserted. Should I try a combination of new and old?
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February 16, 2013 11:56:35 PM

No, do not try a combination of new and old RAM.

Go into your BIOS and select the "Defaults" option, then save and exit.

If you get the Windows boot menu, with this particular situation, always "start windows normally"

You didn't take the RAM out with it in Standby did you? You actually went to START > SHUT DOWN right? not just hitting the power button right?
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February 16, 2013 11:59:31 PM

Im wondering if you may have not got the RAM completely pushed into the slot where it will make good contact.
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February 17, 2013 2:15:36 AM

On the bottom right of your posts is where you can edit what you said so you dont hvae to double posts....

Other than the software side of things, is your RAM working fine?
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February 17, 2013 2:31:51 AM

Maybe I want to type 2 post? And he said he tried both sets of RAM, the one that we knew worked, but performs bad, and the one that is new, but doesn't seem to work.

It sounds like he pulled it with it in sleep mode, and/or the Intel chip isn't compatible with that set of RAMs timings... Which in todays age seems unlikely, but if it would never work, a Intel platform is where you would have the problem.
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February 17, 2013 2:38:34 AM

And another point, does this notebook get extremely hot? If so, the memory controller could have gone bad.

I didn't even know that happened anymore, but I had a system that I worked on Thursday and the memory controller in it was bad. All the dump files related to memory issues, and I exchanged RAM that I knew was working and it still did it.
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February 26, 2013 1:06:15 PM

Hey,

I have tried setting default configuration in BIOS but that makes no difference.

In relation to your question as to whether I had powered off the laptop before working on it I'm 95% sure I did (though it was a couple of weeks ago and I don't recall exactly my actions... also the laptop spends a lot of time in sleep mode so your question has me questioning myself). What (if anything) can be done if I did take the old RAM out and inserted the new RAM while the computer was in sleep mode? Wouldn't that have affected the old RAM also? I am considering bringing the new RAM to a laptop repair shop to have it tested, I may do this later today.

Lastly relation to your question regarding heat, the laptop has always had some heat, though nothing excessive (like my old Sony vaio)... Is there any way to test the memory controllers?

Before I rebooted windows I "think" my laptop was going OK in terms of normal functions such as internet etc but I am really noticing hangups in terms of clicks and typing these days.

I look forward to your reply,

D
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March 1, 2013 1:44:05 PM

Update:

New RAM has been tested in 2 other laptops and works perfectly - mem tests performed and more importantly / they booted up.

Could my laptop just not like the new RAM or could the contiuously deteriorating hangups also account for the incompatibilitys between Laptop and RAM?

Also if its a memory controller and I'm outside of dell warranty is there any hope for my laptop at all or should I bite the bullet now and pick up a more reliable machine?
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March 1, 2013 11:21:12 PM

Well, to be honest... I think its mem controller... that is either integrated in the CPU or on the MB so its a big money thing. I think that it is probably best to buy a new machine... to be honest, this machine is nothing special as it is, and for less than $600 I can find you a MUCH better machine. If you need help selecting a new notebook, Ill be more than happy to make a few suggestions.
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March 4, 2013 10:29:30 AM

Hi,

First off thank you for a the time you've invested helping me and others like me out. It has been much appreciated!

While the solution isn't what I had hoped for its not the end of the world and I guess I'm in the market for a new mobile machine. I would like to be able to play games such as Crysis, Far Cry etc but I am also constrains financially. Add to that I live in Ireland and watch the prices soar! But I would appreciate any suggestions you may have as though I think I know a good bit, clearly you know a lot more :) 

Thanks again for your time and look forward to hearing from you,

D
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March 5, 2013 1:38:31 PM

This is the best gaming notebook you can buy. It will serve you right:
http://www.msimobile.com/level3_productpage.aspx?cid=6&...

Now the best VALUE notebook you can get is:
http://www.shopping.hp.com/en_US/home-office/-/products...

Customize it with the A10-4600M APU and the 7670M GPU for a added boost in performance. But for $600 your not going to find a better machine. The A8 is as low as I would go to be serious with gaming. Even the A6's are probably better than what you had anyways.

You will need to go to your country/region's MSI and HP website to order it, as the ones I linked you are USA websites. But it lets you get the feel for what you want/need.
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March 10, 2013 10:18:38 PM

Hey!

Thanks for the info on those, I haven't made a firm choice as yet but I will over the next while. Thanks again for all the input.

Regardsd
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June 5, 2013 2:38:53 PM

Did you ever make a decision?
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!