Computer freezes/crashes randomly during gaming/normal use [Long]

By unx · 4 replies
Nov 5, 2006
  1. Specs (nothing is overclocked):

    Windows XP - Fully updated
    MSI 648 Max (6585)
    ATI Radeon 9800 128 MB(MSI)
    Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz
    Crucial PC3200 512 MB
    Superflower TTGI 550W
    Creative SB Live!
    DirectX 9.0c
    Western Digital 7200 rpm 120 GB (primary), 80 GB (secondary)

    I apologize for the narrative, but I think it might be necessary to figure out what's going on.

    My computer is about 4 years old now. It’s been running with no problems for quite some time. A few weeks ago, I decided I should try and update my video card drivers. It had been awhile, as I don't really play to many new games. I was going from the 6.4 Catalysts to the 6.9 Catalysts. There was no problem in updating, but all hell broke loose after I restarted.

    First off, I should note that less than a minute after I restarted, my computer crashed. Every time I have tried to update or rollback drivers after this point, my computer would crash after the first restart. There would be no problems after the second restart. Secondly, with the new drivers, whenever I tried to scroll through a window or a web page, the movement was not fluid. It was like what was displayed on the screen couldn't refresh fast enough. Also, when trying to load any game, it would immediately crash back to the desktop.

    I then promptly rolled back my drivers. Everything seemed okay at first. However, after playing a computer game (not any newer games: Tribes 2 for example, which my system has handled fine from the beginning), the screen would freeze, usually putting my monitor into powersave mode. The only option at this point is to force restart. As annoying as this was, it only applied to when I was playing any computer game at first. Unfortunately, it then started freezing during regular computer use, such as internet browsing or using Word. Please note, that these crashes are completely random. I've had the computer on for only 5 minutes before it crashed and other times it'll be on for 3 hours or more before crashing.

    So over the next couple weeks, during my small amount of free time, I've tried a number of things to fix this. Since it happened after updating my video card drivers, I went through the process of cleaning off all the previous drivers, using Driver Cleaner in safe mode, and then reinstalling new drivers. I did this process for newer drivers first (6.8, 6.9) and then went back down older ones (6.3, 6.4). The only one that appears to be stable is 6.4 at the moment. However, this did not stop my crashing problems.

    I looked at temperatures, and dusted out my computer thoroughly, but the highest system temperature I've seen is 40 - 41 degrees celsius.

    I looked at my system event log information. I did have one event that said the 'ASPI32 service failed to start.' Related or not, I installed updated drivers for that. The event hasn't popped up, but it didn't help my situation.

    I reinstalled new sound drivers thinking there might be a relationship, but that didn't help anything.

    I went through the process of repairing windows: no dice.

    I ran memtest86+ with no errors found.

    I defragged my hard drive. Ironically (or coincidentally), my system froze up right after that finished.

    I don't have the option to disable Fast Write, as it's not listed in my bios.

    And that brings me to the present. The crashing is seemingly random. I've managed to play a computer game for 3 hours straight before, yet other times it'll crash within 5 minutes. The same can be said for internet browsing and other normal computer uses. Sometimes, the screen will go to black and the monitor will enter powersave mode. Sometimes, the picture and sound will freeze at certain spot. A couple of times, I've gotten the message that my monitor's hertz speed is out of range. And a few times, the screen will go to black...and then somehow recover itself again. If this happens while gaming, the textures will be all kinds of jacked up, but everything responds correctly. If this happens with my internet browser up, the images on the websites are scrambled and screen doesn't refresh fast enough when scrolling.

    SO! What's the problem? What haven't I tried? I don't really have time to reformat or even reinstall windows at this point, but, at this point, I'm not sure what the other options there are. The whole situation is just bizarre to me, but maybe there's something simple I'm forgetting or don't even know about? I guess I'm equally curious as to what might be causing the instability in the first place.

    Thanks for any help or input. I'll be impressed if anyone even reads all of this actually.
  2. DonNagual

    DonNagual TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 2,406

    Could be a number of things. You've done a great job of ruling out lots of them, but I'd continue the troubleshooting by checking the following:

    1. My hunch is that your card is overheating. 9800s are famous for this. Unfortunately, I don't think the 9800s have heat sensors built into them except for the xt version (going by memory here). As a crude test, open up your case, and aim a house fan at the graphics card and try gaming. See if this doesn't stop the problems.

    2. Check your PSU stability. Download speedfan and tell us what it is reporting on your +3.3v, +5v and +12v rails.

    3. Can you test that graphics card in another system?

    4. Did you try updating your motherboard's chipset drivers?

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
  3. unx

    unx TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks a bunch for the response and recommendations. First off, I installed new motherboard drivers, but that didn't change anything. Also, I don't have another system to test on. I do have another video card I can use though. However, that's probably not necessary, as you'll see in a moment. Really quickly as well, here are my PSU readings:

    +3.3V: 3.33V
    +5V: 5.05V
    +12V: 11.98V

    Now on to what matters. Putting a fan directly on my video card is something I should have thought about. I actually have 3 small case fans within the video card vicinity. And my PSU has 3 intake fans and one exhaust. You'd think that'd be enough! Regardless, with a fan blowing onto my video card, I've been using my computer for the last 5 - 6 hours without crashing once. That includes switching between normal use and gaming multiple times.

    You are right, as there are no temperature readings for my video card. But as a gauge, my system temps are currently about 8 - 10 degrees Celsius cooler. So, what do you recommend? I scanned this article and it seems to give a probable explanation for my problem:

    It is weird though, no? Why would this problem start as soon as I switched drivers, when I had been using this computer for the last year with no problems? Coincidence? And why did my system react differently to the different drivers as well? So weird.

    Anyway, thanks again for the advice. At least I have a probable cause now.
  4. Gars

    Gars TS Booster Posts: 232

    Did you try the "Rollback driver" thing? it helps sometimes.
    Try drivers from MSI (card manufacturer)
    Just a month or two ive got the same problem with R9550 from Gigabyte. WinXP is get it wrong as R9500 Pro and this was fatal for the updating.

  5. comrade

    comrade TS Rookie

    unx I think you have to reinstall windows from a boot CD if you have one, Start from new and download driver from where ever you can but I think its windows beter to start from new. Also check you'r computer for viruses.
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