Computer, run a level 4 diagnosis…

My desktop is having unexplained issues. It will occasionally freeze up and crash, often with an accompanying Blue Screen of Death. This usually occurs shortly after I start up STO or LOTRO. Not after playing for awhile. If it’s going to happen, it happens early. The crash is preceded by screen “spluddering” and some weird sound issues (popping noises and screetches from the speakers). I can normally catch it, close the game, and then reboot before it crashes. If I close the game, I can do most other things with no problem before I reboot (use Word, a browser, etc).

It doesn’t happen every time I play these games. Sometimes, the computer has been off for quite awhile, I turn it on, load the game, and it happens. Sometimes, the computer has been on or in standby for days, and no problems. It’s a self-built machine, about 2 years old. With my vast array of computer knowledge (read: none), I’ve figured it’s one of a few possibilities:

  1. Graphic Card– I have two nvidia GTX 260’s running in SLI mode. These are the most likely culprit. Due to the motherboard set up, there is only a few centimeters between the two cards, so the one on top has very little breathing room for it’s fan. I checked it out after the last near crash and it felt significantly warmer than the bottom card. I’ve taken it out and am running on a single card for now, to see if there is any change. Since the crashes are random, it will be awhile before I can feel that this was the problem.
  2. Sound Card- Mainly, the fact that I don’t have one. Since I normally use some boring desktop speakers or a headset, I didn’t invest in a sound card, opting instead of the onboard sound. Quality wise, it does just fine. I wonder if there is some issue due to that. The main reason I think this is due to the weird sounds that happen before a crash. But that might be a symptom rather than a cause.
  3. RAM- I’ve an issue before with a BSD caused by bad RAM. I’ve running 12 gbs right now, so I have plenty to spare. If the graphic card removal doesn’t stop it, I’ll try removing pairs for RAM next.
  4. CPU or Motherboard- This is my worst fear. Really hard to diagnosis it being the CPU or motherboard.

Any wizards out there have any other thoughts? Anyone know when computers will be able to diagnose themselves and tell us what’s wrong?

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6 Responses to Computer, run a level 4 diagnosis…

  1. Sienn'lyn says:

    Since it’s random, it shouldn’t be overheating I think.

    Funny though, I recently bought a new computer and it came shipped with a faulty graphics card. The crashes were random (screen went black, sound stuttered and sounded horrible), and only happened when I did something graphics intensive (like games). Windows reported it as a blue screen, though I never saw one.

    I realized it was due to the graphics card though, since the crash report mentioned an error caused by a file called nvlddmkm.sys. I’d suggest looking at the reports and see if you can spot something.

    Dunno which version of windows you’re running, but if it’s Windows 7 check in the control panel and you should be able to find an icon that looks like a blue flag. Click on that one, and you should be able to see the error messages. See if it points out a specific filename and google it?

  2. Tamarynn says:

    What Sienn said. Check the logs, see if there is anything that pops out there. Also, sometimes the BSODs can be informative. Does it say a reason for it?

  3. Maarkean says:

    Nothing jumps out in the logs. No reference to a file or anything I could interpret anyways.
    The BSOD message is usually this one: “A clock interrupt was not received on a secondary processor”. That is why I was thinking about the graphics card.

  4. Sienn'lyn says:

    Hmm, I’m hardly an expert on hardware, but I would guess it’s referring to the CPU not one of the graphics cards. I assume the CPU has more than one core?

    Is it overclocked?

  5. Maarkean says:

    The secondary processor part is what led me to think graphics, since they are their own processors. But it could be referring to the CPU as well. From what I’ve read in regards to that error message, it could mean anything was the problem.
    It is not overclocked to the best of my knowledge. I never overclocked it, not real sure how, and I assembled it myself.

  6. Sienn'lyn says:

    Well, the reason I guessed it was the CPU was due to that “clock interrupt” part. If I recall anything (which I might not do) from the courses I took back in university when I studied informatics over a decade ago (yes, I am old), interrupts (IRQ) are signals from other hardware to the CPU.

    But I dunno, maybe the GPU uses interrupts as well?

    Anyway, I googled a bit on that message, and it seemed that some people experienced it due to an overclocked processor. Scaling that back made it vanish. But that was just some of the solutions out there, there’s no telling if it will help for you.

    And yes, there’s gotta be a better way to diagnose hardware…