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An aging computer's issues - troubleshoot or get a new one?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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November 26, 2012 5:44:18 PM

Greetings,

Back in late 2009 I purchased this computer to be my super gaming powerhouse:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It was great for a while, but it started to show signs of aging after a year or so. Since then I've tried my best to troubleshoot the problems it had, but only with partial success. At the start of this year, I thought that surely my video card was the culprit - so I replaced the video card with an AMD Radeon HD 6850. The only thing it fixed was some minor coil whine my system had. Then I tried reformatting. Not sure if I did it right, but it also didn't seem to help anything.

It's been 3 years since I got my precious beast, but she is really is only showing the same issues that she showed after maybe a year or a year and a half of use. Really it's just one issue that bothers me, but it's a big one that I have not been able to solve for the life of me. In a nutshell...

Slow handling of games - seemingly graphics related. This is something that only really occurs during 3d gaming applications like Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, heroes of newerth, etc. Basically I get this weird skipping effect that I would best describe as stuttering - instead of moving smoothly everything kind of pauses for a brief portion of a second. It's hard to describe, but it's a subtle mini-stutter. And it happens pretty much constantly.. In times of old it would occasionally stop for a while (especially if i alt tabbed out of the game and came back) and you could really notice the difference in fluidity. It's gotten worse since when it first started, and in the last year or so it actually causes massive frame-rate issues when the game gets crazy (like in starcraft when you get a bunch of units together).

I would think that given the stats of my computer it should still be able to handle Starcraft2. Am I wrong to assume so? Should I continue my troubleshooting endeavors or call it a day for my machine?

Here's some things I've tried:
1. Disk defragmenting, virus scanning, ram optimization programs, anti-malware programs
2. Re-installation of windows. I meant to completely erase everything off of my computer but it put everything I used to have in a windows.old folder
3. Cleaning inside of the computer / examining parts
4. Changed out video card / updated drivers
5. Ran hdd test
6. Ran memcheck on individual sticks of ram

Any advice? Should I troubleshoot more or get a new one?

Many thanks in advance,

-Scott
a c 105 U Graphics card
November 26, 2012 5:53:59 PM

3d weighs heavy on graphics cards. perhaps the limited amount of vram on either of those 2 cards ?
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November 26, 2012 5:57:07 PM

That's definitely a possibility, though even if I turn the graphics settings down to the very lowest it doesn't seem to help my issue at all. I would think a 1gb card could handle starcraft2 on lowest graphics, but maybe not
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a b U Graphics card
November 26, 2012 6:13:40 PM

if what u just describe doesn't help, then there is a processor bottleneck or drive read/write is too slow, if the game is reading from/to a drive while playing

i say u get yourself a new 128GB SSD and install Windows fresh, and then you can compare the two games between the HDD and the SSD
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a b U Graphics card
November 26, 2012 6:17:58 PM

Could run memtest to make sure your RAM is good.

Also maybe OC the CPU a little? Thought I read that CPU is good for that.
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November 26, 2012 6:38:42 PM

Dingo I like that idea - I may give that a try. I hear nothing but good things about SSD's.

JED - already ran memtest on the individual sticks with no faults. As for overclocking the CPU, that's an interesting idea. If it is a processor related issue, that could help troubleshoot it. Creative and worth a shot. I've never done any OC before though

-Scott
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a c 260 U Graphics card
November 26, 2012 6:47:20 PM

In theory, you should be good.

Some ideas:

1. My suspicion would run toward a cpu limitation.
Try a test, where you lower the resolution and eye candy.
If your FPS increases, it indicates that your cpu is strong enough to drive a better graphics configuration.
If your FPS stays the same, you are likely cpu limited.

Another way to experiment: Limit your cpu, either by reducing the OC, or, in windows power management, limit the maximum cpu% to something like 50%.
This will simulate what a lack of cpu power will do.

2. AMD cpu's are more sensitive to ram speeds than Intel. You could try faster ram if you stick with this pc.

3. If it seems to be a cpu limitation, overclocking can help.

4. A 6850 is a sideways step from a 5850. I would expect no change at all.
If you make a graphics change, it needs to be several tiers higher or you will not notice the difference.
Something like a 7950 or GTX670.

5. Regardless, Installing a SSD will make everything you do feel so much quicker, and I heartily recommend one.
120gb will hold the os and half a dozen games. And... you can delete windows.old once your new windows is stable. It is there only for recovery purposes. Look to Intel or samsung first for reliability.
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November 26, 2012 7:03:03 PM

@geofelt:

1. I have tried lowering the resolution and it is basically the same. This is an indication of cpu limited? Interesting... I'll experiment with your tests to see if I can confirm

2. I was considering playing around with getting some new ram, but I was a little unsure of what all my motherboard could handle

3. Will experiment with this too, thanks

4. Ya that was kind of the idea - my theory was not that my previous card wasn't good enough, my thought was it was dying. It was making a nasty little coil whine sound anytime I would move my cursor around that was pretty annoying, so I was convinced that it had broken down in some manner. So I replaced it, and as you said - no change noticed (except no more coil whine)

5. I think I am going to go ahead and order one of these, sounds really cool

Again, thanks for the responses thus far everyone - no one has suggested a new comp yet!

-Scott
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a c 260 U Graphics card
November 26, 2012 7:19:41 PM

Here is a study which includes Starcraft 2 that shows it to be cpu intensive.
The tests were done with a 7970 to eliminate graphics limitations.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-fx-pentium-a...
Even a $65 Intel G630 looks to perform better than a X4-980

I see no reason for a whole new comp.
But you could change out the cpu and motherboard.
If you live near a microcenter, you can buy a 3570K for $170 or a 2500K for $160.
A Z77 based motherboard can be <$100.
Your ddr3 1333 ram will be good, and you can reuse everything.
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November 26, 2012 8:01:51 PM

Awesome test! I had no idea it was so CPU intensive.. Really helpful! Ok sweet, I am pumped to test all of this out. And alas, no microcenter but I don't mind waiting a little for shipping.

Plan of attack:
1. Run some of the aforementioned tests of CPU power. Try overclocking
2. Order 120+ gb SSD drive
3. Change out cpu and motherboard

Any recommendations on a well priced upper-echelon cpu? I'm not particularly processor savvy, is there any resources I could check out to read up on them?

Thanks again,

-Scott
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November 27, 2012 2:30:32 AM

So I ran amd's CPU auto-overclocker program, and interestingly enough it blue screened. Not immediately, but after a little bit. It started at 3500 mhz, and i think it blue screened around 3800 mhz. It now allows me to overclock up to 3600 mhz, so I'm giving that a try, but I thought I should note the blue screen.

-Scott
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November 27, 2012 6:06:49 PM

Swifty, not sure if this really applies to me - when I mentioned 3d gaming I was just talking about games that seemingly process a 3d environment, not running actually in a 3d vision mode. Pretty sure my computer would blow up if I tried that, if that is even possible on my current card. But yes, these cards are all way more powerful than mine, so perhaps I should consider a true vid card upgrade, not just a sidestep. However, the evidence right now is pointing towards it being CPU limited

-Scott
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a c 105 U Graphics card
November 27, 2012 8:05:00 PM

insert "Lurch's" moan here................
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December 3, 2012 3:23:34 PM

Best answer selected by ScottStyle.
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