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Old 08-27-2009, 05:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Unsolved Mysteries: PC edition

I hope I'm posting this in the right place. A friend recommended me to this site and said you guys might be able to help with my unsolvable PC problem, so here goes.

Unsolved Mysteries: PC Edition.

Hello everyone. I would like to tell you a story, a story of a PC problem that is quite honestly frightening. It is a problem, that has no solution. Which has lead me to believe in theories of paranormal activity, and a poltergeist. I hope you are ready for a long read, because I will be truly shocked if anyone knows the answer to this problem, or how to fix it.

about 3-4 months ago my trusty 5 year old gaming PC died on me. We believe it was the motherboard that went out, and took the processor and a few other things with it. At this time, I had just gotten a bit of money, just enough to build a new PC. Now, the previous PC I had built myself. I never had any problems with it other than some RAM going bad after about two years, which I replaced and it continued running great for it's next three years. I have worked on PC's my entire life, since I was a kid. I have built them for other people, and I have been a expert when it comes to troubleshooting.

But onto the story...

When I decided to build this PC, I ended up using my old tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and power supply. Everything else was new. I bought a new motherboard, a new processor, a new hard drive, as well as some new RAM. The motherboard I bought was a Gigabyte MA78GPM-DS2H, the processor, a AMD Phenom 2+ Quad Core 2.2ghz, a hard drive, Seagate 1TB 3200rpm, and 2 sticks of RAM, Ballistix DDR2 8500 1GB each stick (total of 2gb of ram).

Now, this motherboard came built in with a integrated graphics card. A radeon HD3200. For awhile, I ran the PC off the integrated graphics card. The only thing I used the PC for is random media (watching movies, youtube, downloading music and anime and such) and playing a 7 year old game, Final Fantasy XI online. Now, FFXI worked fine on my previous gaming rig, even at the highest settings. Being a older game, it's not incredibly demanding to run. I put it up on it's highest settings, and it ran absolutely fine, if not better than my previous gaming PC.

Everything was perfectly fine, until one day... I got a little extra money again, and decided I would upgrade. I decided I would get a new tower, 2 more sticks of ram, and a XFX GeForce GTS250 graphics card.

I followed all the procedure's to the tee. I uninstalled all the drivers for the integrated graphics card, put the new one in, booted up the PC, turned off the integrated card in the Bios, and proceeded to install the drivers for the GTS250. Everything ran great for awhile. The PC was fast, looked good, graphics were sharper and brighter than ever. I was completely happy, till one day... One day about 2 weeks after getting the new graphics card, RAM, and Tower...

This is when the hauntings started...

All of a sudden one day, I started noticing a strange lag problem in FFXI. When I was moving around, everything was smooth, and as normal... But once every 15-20 seconds, the frame rates would "stutter". They would freeze, for just a fraction of a second and continue. So I would be running along, perfectly smooth, and every 15-20 or so seconds for a brief fraction of a second the FPS would drop down to 0 then continue as normal.

I started wondering what this could be, so I started troubleshooting. I started by making double sure none of the ATI drivers remnants remained anywhere, even in the registry. I tried downloading the latest GTS250 drivers. None of it helped... I then went to what seemed like the next possible cause, and checked the RAM. It turns out the RAM I had just purchased was a different speed, and brand. I thought surely this was the problem, and I had neglected to notice this important detail.

I took the ram back to the store, and got some RAM that was the exact same brand, model, speed, everything, as the original two sticks. So now I had 4 perfectly matching sticks of 1GB ram (4gb total). I booted up the PC and the game, only to find out I was still having the same problem... I then went to the next step, and removed the two original pieces of RAM and tried running off the two newer sticks. Still, the problem was there.

After this, I figured it could be some kind of software related issue that was deep within windows, so I did a FULL (not quick) reformat, reinstalled windows, and the problem was still there... At this point I tried the next most possible cause, and replaced the hard drive. I got a brand new Western Digital 1TB Caviar Black hard drive. I slapped it in, installed windows, downloaded my game, installed all the updates and what have you, and still... The problem was there.

Another thing to note is, with FFXI, you cannot play the game unless you are always running on the most updated version. It won't let you sign in. But it's easy to update. Before you sign in, if there are any updates it simply automatically downloads them. This includes new content, bug fixes, etc.

At this point I started getting worried. I went back to the PC store to ask what the problem could possibly be. They said although highly unlikely (which I knew myself) it could be a compatibility issue between using a GeForce card on a AMD chipset/motherboard/processor. I shrugged it off, took a deep breath, and returned the GTS250. I then bought a Diamond Radeon HD4780. I took it home, and to be extra safe once again, did a full reformat and reinstalled windows. I downloaded the latest drivers for the HD4870, got everything downloaded, booted up, and ready to go.

I signed into FFXI, only to notice a even worse horrow. Now, for some reason, the lag had gotten worse. Not only was there the stutter every 15-20 seconds, but there was general, flat out, LAG. The kind you get when you are running too many background applications, doing too much at once, or your PC just isn't powerful enough for the game you're playing. Now, take note, I was running no background applications (and was sure to check many times) and only running FFXI.

At this point I started thinking it was either a FFXI server issue (although I had asked on FFXI boards and no one else was experiencing it) a internet lag issue, or something else... But then... My PC started randomly crashing. Out of no where. It would some times freeze completely, it would some times just freeze a application, but most of the time it would blue screen and just restart itself. I tried rolling back the drivers, and using older drivers, updating newer drivers, etc. I tried all I could with the 4870 as far as drivers go.

With all that said and done I figured it had to be one of two things, the motherboard, or the processor. So naturally, what did I do? I tried replacing them. One at a time. I bought another AMD Phenom 2+ Quad Core, but this one was a bit more powerful, at 2.8Ghz. I tried popping it in and giving it a go... And still... It did absolutely nothing...

At this point I figured, sadly, the only thing it could be is the motherboard. I bought a brand new motherboard. It was a Gigabyte, almost identicle to mine, but I think it had one number in the name slightly different. I was told it was fine if I didn't reinstall windows since I was using the same chipset, as long as I remembered the bios settings just in case. I put it in, windows was working just fine, everything booted up, and again, nothing had changed. The lag was still there...

I had tried everything. Nothing was fixing the problem, so I took out the new motherboard, put the old one in, and figured I would test something out... I took out the Radeon 4870, uninstalled the drivers, and switched back to the integrated video card, being sure to update the drivers and what not. This is when it gets odd.

Now the bad lag from the HD4870 was gone, everything was back pretty much to normal, but that stutter was still there. I was back to Square One. Not only that, but for some reason, I kept having the PC freeze ups and crashes.

One of the only things I hadn't tried at this point was replacing the power supply. So I went and bought a brand new, thermaltake 600w power supply, a very good brand from what I've seen and read. I slapped it in, made sure everything was hooked up right, powered up, and of course, the problem was still there.

And this is where I am now...

I have no idea what to do, how to fix this problem. I've even tried testing different wall outlets to see if it was a power issue. I tried calling my cable company and having them resend the signal and restart my modem. I don't know what else I can try at this point, or what has caused this issue.

At this point the only thing I can do is try rebuilding from Square One. I remember my old gaming PC was a intel system. I've been tempted to take back as much of this as possible and get a complete intel setup. A intel processor, a intel motherboard, possibly a new hard drive, some new RAM? I'm not sure. I'm just not sure what to do at this point, so I come to you...

Does anyone know, what could possibly be causing this, what steps I could try taking, what I could try doing? I hope you read all the steps I did to this point by now, and if you have, I hope maybe you can give me some sort of advice.

Thank you very much for your time and for reading this.
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Old 08-27-2009, 07:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unsolved Mysteries: PC edition

Sounds to me like it could be a RAM problem, or possibly hard drive.

Quote:
I took the ram back to the store, and got some RAM that was the exact same brand, model, speed, everything, as the original two sticks. So now I had 4 perfectly matching sticks of 1GB ram (4gb total). I booted up the PC and the game, only to find out I was still having the same problem... I then went to the next step, and removed the two original pieces of RAM and tried running off the two newer sticks. Still, the problem was there.
Since you still have the old sticks of RAM installed, it could be a problem with either of them. Try running the new RAM on its own, alternatively if you want to be thorough then you should try every stick on its own.

Another possiblity would be to install your OS on an old hard drive (or a small new one if you don't have that), and if it still occurs then you can rule out both the hard drive and your OS. But if it does solve the problem, then I would reinstall your OS on your current hard drive, and then replace the hard drive if it continues to occur.
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Old 08-27-2009, 08:51 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unsolved Mysteries: PC edition

I would run Prime95 to test out the CPU. I would run some hard drive utilities to test out the hard drive. I would run MemTest86 to test out the RAM 1 stick at a time.

This will eliminate the CPU, HDD and RAM. At which point we could continue on with the diagnostics.
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Old 08-28-2009, 01:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unsolved Mysteries: PC edition

I tried testing each stick of ram, was one of the first things I tried. I even tried buying new ram of a different brand and testing it out to. I can almost be certain the ram is not the problem. As for installing the OS on another hard drive, I did indeed install it on a brand new hard drive. Microsoft Windows XP 32 bit. It's a legit copy as well, and the problem kept happening.

Thank you for the replies.
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Old 08-28-2009, 08:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unsolved Mysteries: PC edition

What about Prime95, HDD Diagnostics? What about a Stress Test?

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Old 08-28-2009, 06:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Unsolved Mysteries: PC edition

What is the make and model of the power supply your using. You said you were using your old one, which is always a bad idea unless it's a top of the line model.
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