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Audio playback crackles & pops, CPU spikes, and system lags - its killing me

By EduBsAs
Jul 14, 2008
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  1. Dear forum users:

    System details
    Dell Laptop - Inspiron E1505
    Genuine Intel CPU: Core Duo Processor T2400 @ 1.83GHz
    1GB of Ram
    Video: ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 (using Omega 3.8.442 drivers, Dell drivers where outdated)
    Soundcard: sold as Soundblaster HD... but really is a SigmaTell integrated HD
    WiFi and Bluetooth
    HDD Toshiba 100GB
    Running Windows XP SP3 (final release)
    System age: 25 months


    I've come to you as a last resort. So you see, I have an outdated system that fared pretty well for over two years. Despite low memory, I've been able to play almost all big title games (from HalfLife 2 to BioShock, low details ofcourse) and I've also been able to work with serious engineering software (from AutoCad to SolidEdge and ANSYS modeling). The system has normal lags, but it carries through.

    Now the sob story. I was surfing and listening to some mp3's on my iTunes (yeah, it works fine for me, go figure!) and suddently the system starting lagging, the audio starting crackling and poping. I stopped iTunes. Started over another song and the first 5 seconds where ok, but then the lagging became evident (mouse moved very slowly, almost non-responsive) and the audio stuttered and crackled for 10 to 20 seconds, then it seemed to smooth out. I was baffled so I tried closing every program running and left iTunes. Again, to no avail, the crackling and lagging came after 5 to 10 seconds of Audio. I tried different mp3 players. Same result. I tried online audio (aka youtube). Same stuttering. I restarted. Several times. Again, crackling. In all this I noticed that if there were various processes/programs running, the lagging and crackling became worst. I also noticed on my CPU monitor that activity of the CPU spiked to over 70% during the crackling, then came down to the normal 3 or 4%. This, as you might imagine, is very annoying.

    I have now spent a good part of 3 weeks trying to solve this issue. Since the first awful night of crackling songs, I've done all of the following:
    - Reinstalled all audio and video drivers, codecs, and audio and video related software
    - Removed unnecessary software from my system (old games, freeware, etc)
    - Scanned several times with different online and offline antivirus programs
    - Scanned several times with different malware and ad-aware programs, cleaned everything there was to clean. Still nothing.
    - Updated Windows with every single patch known to Bill, even installed SP3 finally
    - Created a secondary user account with admin privileges.. still same audio problem
    - Cleaned my registry several times with various registry fixing software
    - Defragmented HDD twice!
    - Ran all diagnostic test that Dell includes at startup (from battery tests to full mem tests)
    - Updated BIOS from Dell support
    - Tried turning off wifi card and bluetooth.. to no avail
    - Reinstalled latest DirectX software. Still nothing.

    So, you see, the plot thickens. I've searched hundreds of similar posts, but I haven't seen one possible solution. What's even worst is I've seen posts where people actually reinstall the whole OS and everything else and the problem persists. I've also seen people adding twice the RAM and still no dice. I mean, why should I need more RAM or a better processor if things where running perfectly fine??

    I mean, honestly, the damn thing was working perfectly and then this happens. For no reason?

    Can it be a battery issue? Can it be a HDD issue (all diagnostics return OK)? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
  2. realmoonlight

    realmoonlight TS Rookie

    About the Audio Playback Crackle...

    I know it has been a while but hope this helps someone with similar issues just thought I'd register and post away the solution that fixed my audio playback crackling...


    I am not sure if this would help you guys with your problems but it definitely helped me a lot and I think its worth a try.... I recently started to get those nasty crackles during audio playback + the windows sounds WDM / Direct Sound (no DAW or recording) I tried all sorts of codecs+updates to chipset drivers+directx+updates+sound card drivers to no avail.

    I just did not want to do a system restore or a reinstallation of the OS because its a hassle at first and many have reported on the net that it still fails to fix the crackling audio issue so I am not sure if that would fix it or not as I have not tried it,but it seemed to be the CPU hanging as well that caused the sound to struggle though my PC is quite ok when it comes to specs and I was sure that it could not be the sound card either because it was working just fine until two days ago and I've updated my drivers too (M-Audio Audiophile 192)therefore, I assumed there was something wrong somewhere else and started to google out....

    Anyways,to make the long story short I found out the problem and fixed it... I've realized that the IDE Controllers were messed in the device manager my controllers were set to use the DMA if available but was currently reporting in PIO Mode or not capible,I will not go into the deep details of what they are for but basically my HDs connected my IDE /SATA Controllers were struggling to write/read the data and there was a delay on data transfer rate I guess although it was not noticeable when copying data from one HD to another,it was what causing the CPU to crawle and the sound to crackle and stuff...

    I also noticed that my PC went really really fast after using the DMA +Ultra DMA modes not to mention the joy being able to listen to my MP3s after two days of sleepless nights...

    I felt like registering here to post my comments about to help some others to avoid this annoying problem...

    Please check the link here on how to fix it or better how to set your IDE/SATA Controllers to DMA Mode without physically changing any jumper settings of your drives,

    I hope it helps....

    You will need to go to the Device Manager and check if your IDE controllers were set to PIO Only mode or DMA if you see anything fishy in there please check the link below that helped me fix this in 2minutes and after a reboot it was all good again,I hope you can fix yours too,

    so here is the link ;

    http://sniptools.com/vault/getting-back-to-dma-mode-in-windows-xp#comment1891

    please edit the hxxp to http as I was not able to post the links here yet I had to change it but I've just signed up to post this link in the hope that it helps someone fix their problems so I wish the moderators here would see my point ,thanks ...Good Luck all...
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