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CPU utilization drops and freeze spikes

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  • CPUs
  • World Of Warcraft
Last response: in CPUs
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February 18, 2013 7:32:52 AM

Hello everyone,

a few days ago I started experiencing problems while playing games on my laptop. They run smoothly as always, but every few seconds the audio starts looping the part it was playing and the screen freezes for 0,5-2 seconds, then it continues as normal for a few seconds and repeats itself. At first this was only happening in Ghost Recon Online, however, now it also happens in KoTOR2 and WoW (probably it didn't "spread" – is that even possible? – but got worse to the point I started to notice it).

I've noticed that these freeze spikes coincide with drops in CPU usage – in WoW's case (didn't examine it with other games, though I think it would be the same) it goes from 100% on CPU0 to 0%, then bumps back up to 100%. Also, on the Intel turbo boost utility it looks like the CPU went into economy mode (the little green leaf appears).

My specs are:
ASUS G74SX TZ031Z
Win7 Ultimate 64-bit
Intel Core i7-2630QM @ 2.0GHz, 2.6GHz with Turbo Boost
Nvidia GTX560M w/ 3GB VRAM
8GB RAM
All drivers up-to-date as far as I can tell.

My guess would be that the problem is caused by either:
1. Audio driver – Sometimes only the audio stutters, not image.
2. Network card – I've had some problems with it before.
3. Malware – In the last few days I've noticed my Peerblock blocking more access attempts than ever before, even when I was not browsing the net or playing games. I guess it is possible that some may have got through.

So, do you guys have any ideas what I could do?

I'm looking forward to your suggestions :) 

More about : cpu utilization drops freeze spikes

February 21, 2013 7:50:12 AM

Since posting the OP, I have tried running Checkdisk (0 errors) and reinstalling Win7 from scratch, yet the problem persists.

Does anyone have an idea what else I could try? I'd rather not send the laptop for repair (I need it for school), but it's the only option I see right now.
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a c 79 à CPUs
February 21, 2013 8:06:18 AM

cpu should never go to 0 % while gaming. How are your cpu temps? It seems like you are experiencing thermal throttling. Have you checked for viruses?

run a virus scan and see if gaming improves.

update your graphics driver and then again see if there is improvement

and most importantly, use real temp or core temp and see what are your max gaming temps. if it is in the vicinity of 90-95C or even more and yet you do not hear your cpu fan speed up, the fan error and high temps might be the reason for all this.

check and post back

good luck
-satyam

p.s. you can also download IPDT (google it, It's Intel processor diagnostic tool), run it and see what temps it is reporting. what it does is, towaards the end of the tesp, it performs cpu load test and will simultaneously monitor the temps your cpu cores reach. It will issue a warning if you are reaching critical temps.

do not get too anxious with high temps (if they show up). your cpu has failsafes to guard it and your laptop against such events and your system will shut itself down but not get damaged.
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February 21, 2013 11:19:42 AM

Sorry for the late reply, I got a bit distracted while putting the CPU under load... :D 

CPU temps were about 40 degrees Celsius while idle, about 65-70 degrees when playing in a PlanetSide 2 Crown zerg (which is probably the most CPU-intensive thing I can do, gaming-wise). Surprisingly, PlanetSide 2 didn't have these spiking issues, just the usual badly optimised performance. The CPU also passed the IPDT test.

In my last post I forgot to mention I also ran a few virus scans with Avira, Spybot S&D and AdAware. I even tried Combofix, but none of them found anything.

I updated from 310.90 Nvidia driver to the newest one (314.07), no improvement. Other drivers should be up to date (well, at least as up to date as the ASUS' driver site is...).

However, I think the HDD might be the culprit after all. I accidentally launched WoW from an external HDD, where I backed it up before reinstalling Windows, and it worked fine. Tried launching it from the HDD where it was installed before and the issues were there. Then I moved it to a different partition on the laptop's second internal HDD and it works fine. The funny thing is that I used to have it installed on the same HDD as PlanetSide 2, which, as mentioned, works fine. Could the HDD have a problem that Checkdisk can't reveal?
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a c 79 à CPUs
February 21, 2013 12:25:02 PM

and now it's my turn to apologize for a late reply. :)  yes there are several instances where hdd bad sectors may not be picked by checkdisk. and a HDD read/write issue can cause crashes in applications (for a laptop, your temps are excellent).

Searching online, you can locate a hdd health check tool specific to your model and make. If its seagate, you can download seatools utility. that program can help you monitor your HDD health although there is no software that can detect a failing HDD with a 100% accuracy.
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February 21, 2013 3:31:50 PM

OK, I will look for a utility like that when I find out what brand of HDD I have... It's nowhere to be found, no stickers, it's not on the net... I'll have to take the thing apart and take a look, I guess :D  I'll post here when I do, kinda'don't have the time now :/ 

Thanks for your help so far :) 
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February 25, 2013 3:48:50 PM

So, I've finally found some time to follow up on your advice, sorry it took so long :(  . I've found out the drives are indeed made by Seagate, so I've downloaded Seatools and ran the S.M.A.R.T check, Short Generic test and Long Generic test on both drives. They passed all the checks without any errors. Seatools also said my drives' firmware was out-of-date, so I updated it, but it didn't help with my problem.

Since the HDD itself seems to be fine, yet the issues are still there, I think we need to look for some other cause, seemingly "between" the HDD and the other components.
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March 4, 2013 7:04:54 AM

Bump?
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a c 79 à CPUs
March 4, 2013 9:10:57 AM

^nah dont bump. against forum rules. Have you tried cleaning out your video drivers with like driver sweeper, installing the card into a different slot and then reinstalling the latest drivers?
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March 4, 2013 12:43:06 PM

satyamdubey said:
^nah dont bump. against forum rules. Have you tried cleaning out your video drivers with like driver sweeper, installing the card into a different slot and then reinstalling the latest drivers?


I'm sorry if bumping the thread caused any trouble, but it was that or making a new one... I decided bumping was the lesser evil.

I have tried Driver Sweeper using these instructions (http://www.guru3d.com/content_page/guru3d_driver_sweepe...), but the problem persists.

Installing the card into a different slot isn't really an option, because I'm using a laptop.
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a c 79 à CPUs
March 4, 2013 12:53:15 PM

^ "install card in another slot"yeah that was indeed a stupid suggestion. my bad. have you performed memtest?
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March 4, 2013 4:47:43 PM

satyamdubey said:
^ "install card in another slot"yeah that was indeed a stupid suggestion. my bad. have you performed memtest?

I ran Memtest86+, it took 3 hours (is that even normal? I mean, 8GB of RAM took longer than a 500GB HDD Checkdisk run), 0 errors.
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a c 79 à CPUs
March 4, 2013 4:56:54 PM

yes that is normal. 0 error's the important thing. So waht do we have?
1. cpu temps check out fine
2. HDD checks out
3. Ram's fine
4. Drivers have been clean installed and updated
5. Virus and Malwares have been erased if any were found.
6. BIOS checks out.
7. system is not running in power saver mode.

So this leaves the GPU, the game install registry itself, the laptop battery and the battery charger and HD audio.

This looping never happens while watching movies, HD videos?
game with your charger adaptor plugged in and then without it and see if there's any difference in performance in the two scenarios. I have a feeling this one's for the experts.
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March 4, 2013 5:12:29 PM

satyamdubey said:
yes that is normal. 0 error's the important thing. So waht do we have?
1. cpu temps check out fine
2. HDD checks out
3. Ram's fine
4. Drivers have been clean installed and updated
5. Virus and Malwares have been erased if any were found.
6. BIOS checks out.
7. system is not running in power saver mode.

So this leaves the GPU, the game install registry itself, the laptop battery and the battery charger and HD audio.

This looping never happens while watching movies, HD videos?
game with your charger adaptor plugged in and then without it and see if there's any difference in performance in the two scenarios. I have a feeling this one's for the experts.

Tried playing with and without the adapter, no change.

I have tried watching some 720p/1080p videos on Youtube and I didn't notice anything.

I've been suspecting it could be something with the audio drivers too, because as I said, in some cases only the audio loops, but since then I have found out that in Sins of a Solar Empire (and probably others) the image freezes, but not audio.

I can't help but think it has something to do with the HDD. I mean, how is it possible that there are problems when some games are ran from it and none when I just copy-paste them over to the other drive? This doesn't explain why some games run fine from the first drive, however. Could the cables have shaken a bit loose while I was carrying the laptop around or something like that? You know, an issue concerning the HDD but not with the HDD itself? Yeah, I'm growing THAT desperate :D 
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a c 79 à CPUs
March 4, 2013 5:24:54 PM

that thing you said bout some connector coming off loose has now put the idea of something shorting in my head. Shorts can cause that kinda behavior. wont be a bad idea to blow out some dust and check if some things got loose.
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a c 79 à CPUs
March 4, 2013 5:24:59 PM

check the cpu fan connector too.
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March 4, 2013 5:32:53 PM

OK, I will try that ASAP, but I think I won't have access to the necessary tools until Wednesday... I will post when I get it done. Thank you for your help :) 
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a c 79 à CPUs
March 4, 2013 5:49:00 PM

take your time man :) 
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March 8, 2013 12:31:59 PM

So, I took out the drives and put them back in. As far as I can tell the issues seem to be gone (didn't test extensively, though long enough for them to manifest if they were present) from Sins of a Solar Empire, KoTOR2 and Mass Effect 3 (newly discovered, funny thing that only the pre-rendered cutscenes were freezing), but they persist in WoW and Serious Sam 3 (newly discovered as well).

I didn't want to go as far as the CPU fan, because I think it would have voided my warranty (still have a year left and I guess I'm gonna' need it quite soon if we don't figure this out). However the fan seems to work fine according to SpeedFan.

It is starting to get pretty crazy how this problem seems to affect each game in a different way...
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March 8, 2013 2:33:54 PM

... and now it's happening on YouTube as well (480p video) when downloading stuff/copying stuff to that drive. I mean, WHAT? If I didn't reconnect the HDD correctly, the laptop wouldn't start up at all, not create other similar issues, right?
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March 8, 2013 5:51:34 PM

OK, after fiddling with the HDDs the issues got so weird and are manifesting in so many ways in so many different pieces of software that it can't even be explained coherently without sounding like I'm making stuff up. I'm just going to send the laptop to ASUS and let them take care of it. Thanks to everyone who's tried to help, at least I learned some new stuff :) 
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March 8, 2013 5:52:47 PM

Best answer selected by Ysquanir.
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