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*.exe stopped working in games (but not always!)

February 11, 2013 1:19:29 AM

Hello, everyone.

I have got a small problem. I checked various forums and other sources of information, and though I found many description of similar problems, they all are a bit different from my case and no solution provided there worked for me.

Problem Description

My problem is that the games I try to play always freeze after a short amount of time (5-15 minutes) or simply crash to desktop. When I switch to desktop via Ctrl+Alt+Del or Alt+Tab, a message '[insert the game main executable] has stopped'. Also, a 'Failed to start game (app already running)' message is usually displayed by Steam client. There are no problems with launching the games. I also noticed that Reliability Monitor often refers '0a9e' code (sometimes in 'Additional Information', sometimes also as 'StackHash_0a9e' in 'Fault Module Name'. Sometimes I got 0x0000005 error. This suggests physical memory failure, but running the resource-heavy game for 12 hours without problems (see below) seems to contradict this assumption.

When I restart the game immediately, it crashes after even shorter amount of time. If restarted three or four times in a row, it locks up with screeching sound, sometimes with a scrambled screen. This is the only symptom, there are neither display issues nor any kind of lagging in the game itself.

Given the rather tale-telling symptoms, my first suspicion was overheating. But it wasn't the case (see below, 'General Notes' section). I also excluded the possibility of power insufficiency - in such case it would be a forced reboot/system failure instead of clean single application crash.

Then I tested by memory with MemTestx86 4.0.1 run from boot disk (comprehensive test, several iterations, 5h testing) - no errors were indicated.

I have tried several games (all in 1680x1050 with full bells and whistles - this configuration is above and beyond requirements for almost all contemporary games), namely: "Sleeping Dogs", "Just Cause 2", "Borderlands 2", "Deus Ex: Human Revolution", "Stranglehold", "Dishonored" (various producers, various years, various platforms). Same effect. It makes little difference if I actively play them or leave it idling. BUT see below.

Tech Specs:

ASUS F2A85-V PRO Mainboard
AMD APU A8-5600K X4
Sapphire HD 7850 DDR5 2048 MB RAM
2xKingston DDR3 1866 MHz memory 4GB (8GB Total)
OCZ StealthXStream 2 600 W PSU
1 TB WD HDD (~850 GB free)

Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
DirectX 11 (installed with Windows 7)
.Net Framework 4.0
C++ 2005, 2008, 2010 [Steam games install 2005 by default, regardless of newer versions present]

Computer is brand new, I'm using it for less than two weeks.

General Notes

Neither CPU nor GPU is or ever was overclocked (I even underclocked CPU to nominal 3600 MHz, even though optimal BIOS settings are 4300 MHz) I tried to run the game using AMD Overdive in Catalyst Control Center to underclock GPU (770/1000 MHz core/memory versus native 860/1200). No difference. Definitely not an overheating issue - GPU temperature does not exceed 43 degrees Celsius, in the FurMark Burn Tool in stayed at 55 degrees after an hour of very heavy load. CPU temperature also stays normal (23-25 degrees C). CPUID HW shows similar values.

The funny thing is, I was able to play sometimes for several hours (switching games, turning them on and off, without rebooting the system) with no problems at all (what makes me the more certain that this is not a hardware issue). Yesterday I was leaving game on when I was going away, running it effectively for 12 hours without any problems. So, one day I am unable to play at all, on another day everything runs smoothly, and on the next problem returns. Curious. I haven't installed anything in the meantime and both Windows Update and Driver Update in Devices and printers menu are set to manual, so it is unlikely that system downloaded something automatically.

Ten I turned the computer off for the night and when I turned in on today, the Windows rebooted twice on loading screen before loading the system properly and the problem with games returned. I heard the rebooting is normal for some motherboards, but as the system asked if it should repair the system or run Windows normally, I think this reboot came too late to be a part of normal start-up procedure and this suggests some technical problem. This happened also last time, before I reinstalled the system.

Other applications (Microsoft Office, Steam, SDL Trados, InDesign, Winamp, Media Player, mplayer, Opera, OS itself, Diagnostic tools) work smoothly with no problems.

Remediation Attempts Taken

This is the list of the ideas I found in various places:

1. Format and reinstall. As little sense as this advice makes, I tried it. It was a new system with few apps on it, so no harm done. Alas, problem persists.
2. Running as administrator/Setting the compatibility mode to XP/Vista. Some of the games require Win 7 to run and my only user account is an Administrator account (and this is a general solution for apps that won't start at all which is not the case), but I dit it. Problem persists.
3. Turn Stereo Mix on in Control Panel/Sound Recording. Problem persists.
4. Backroll to ealier versions of Catalyst. Tried all up to and including 12.6. Problem persists.
5. Disable firewall. Disabled it. Problem persists.
6. Validate the integrity of Steam cache files. Did it. Problem persists.
7. Re-download games. Redownloaded. Problem persists.
8. Disable Realtek sound control application. I killed the process and uninstalled the driver. Problem persists.
9. Run Steam from C:\ volume. Tried on C:\ and D:\, no difference. Problem persists.
10. Change the sampling rate in Sound properties. Tried several settings. Problem persists.
11. Uninstall C++. Uninstalled all instances. Problem persists.
12. Disable Steam overlay in Steam/Settings/In-Game. Problem persists.
13. Disable DEP for the game executables. Problem persists.

For brevity sake, I haven't included any failure reports or additional information (that would be a lot of data), but I will provide it if necessary, if we'll narrow the problem down.

Thank you in advance for any help or advice.