Intermittent Frame Rate problem - GeForce 8600 GT

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I have the GeForce 8600 GT, and I have been noticing a problem with my graphics-heavy games.

Every ten minutes or so, the frame rate will slow down to something pitiful like 2fps, and I'll have to stop playing - a tough task in online games. It usually lasts for anywhere from five to ten minutes, and will then, with just as little warning, resume at full speed.

I have only been able to pin this on the graphics card, as I don't see it happening in any other instances than graphics heavy games. If it were consistent to a certain game, all the all the time, or if the effects were fixed by moderating graphics options, I would not be confused.

The thing is that it is not consistent. It happens on multiple games, and it happens on older games that my computer should run flawlessly, that lesser cards and rigs have run perfectly. I have completely undercut the game's performance settings to see if less work on the card will equal more performance, but there has been no change. It still continues to sporadically crater, and I am completely bewildered as to why or how to fix this problem. The game will work fine half the time, then work terribly the other half. It seems to me that if it were a problem with the games being too labour intensive for the card, it would be consistently occurring from the moment the game is loaded, not intermittent and without being context-sensitive to graphics-heavy situations such as smoke, etc.
It is very impudent when my computer tells me when to take a break, lol.

Here is my rig. Any help is appreciated.

Windows XP SP2

nVidia GeForce 8600 GT - 512MB

ASUSTeK Computer INC. P5K SE Rev 1.xx
Bus Clock: 200 megahertz
BIOS: American Megatrends Inc. 0401 07/19/2007
Realtek Onboard Audio

2048 Megabytes DDR2 RAM

2.00 gigahertz Intel Pentium Dual
64 kilobyte primary memory cache
1024 kilobyte secondary memory cache

1651.27 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity
376.19 Gigabytes Hard Drive Free Space
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