My sound card has suddenly started making crackling sounds

My sound card has suddenly started making crackling sounds, especially when the processor is taxed. I've never had latency problems before. I unistalled and reinstalled the latest drivers and frimware. No significant improvement. Thanks.
jodyfaisonAsked:
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cuziyqCommented:
OK, this is gonna sound weird, and I don't know if this is the problem or not . . .

USB sound cards generally suck this way.  USB does not have its own address and interrupt controller, so it must rely on the system CPU and chipset to do all that.  The USB headers are generally wired on the motherboard to the PCI bus.  The crackling you hear is the interrupt controller getting pegged and dropping out.

Are there any other USB devices attached to that controller?

Have you added any hardware to the computer lately?

Try moving any PCI cards in the system to the slots closest to the processor (those are run by the Northbridge chip, whereas the lower ones are run by the Southbridge chip, which is where the USB headers are usually wired).

There may not be anything you can do about this.  USB is just not designed to sustain large amounts of data for long periods of time.
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jodyfaisonAuthor Commented:
Hmm ok, wonder why it just started? I have re-added my usb keyboard (with no outside electrical input) though it worked fine with it before- few months ago.
My sound card now is the only input into a pci card with 2 inputs. It is located at the top of my rack of cards (closest to the onboard nic and usb and etc) I have another pci usb card at the bottom of the rack in my tower.
I just changed that around. The two inputs in the lower card are now in the top pci card and the sound card is alone in the 4 port bottom pci card.

I do have a new item, that I don't think I used much before- a usb air click that I use to remotely control my media players.
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cuziyqCommented:
Ya, this is one of those oddball things.  USB is just a "dumb" serial interface, so devices on it compete for CPU time just like everything else in the system.  This is why high-end digital camcorders use FireWire instead of USB.  Firewire has its own address and interrupt controller to arbitrate between devices on the chain so the CPU is freed from having to deal with it.

PCI Express also muddies the waters between the north and south bridge controllers as well, insomuch that moving devices to different slots may not make any difference anymore.

When the CPU gets pegged, are the hard drives thrashing also?  The IDE and SATA interfaces are connected to the southbridge as well, and they are also "dumb" devices (although they're slightly smarter than USB).
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jodyfaisonAuthor Commented:
Well it seem I have something that is now causing the hard drive red light to blink constantly.
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cuziyqCommented:
There must be some rogue process on the system that is making the system work harder than it has to.

Try this . . . when you hear the sound card crackling, fire up Task Manager, go to the processes tab, and sort the list by the CPU column, descending.  The process hogging all the CPU time will be at or very near the top of the list (note, the System Idle Process will almost always be at the top of this list, and that's perfectly normal).

Kill that process and see if the problem goes away.
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jodyfaisonAuthor Commented:
Ok, and it does seem to be a little better with the new usb input arrangements.

yes the rouge process theory has been my suspicion too. I didn't know what to do about though.
I thought it could be malware, but I've run three or four different manufacturers scans and checked the Hijack this log. Nothing but the same ole line of trackers.

As it is better but not gone, it may take a bit to get back to you. But I will.
Thanks so much, btw
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cuziyqCommented:
Doesn't necessarily indicate malware.  It could be that the HD is fragged out and the antivirus is doing a random scan or something like that.  Or if it happens during a game... well, there's nothing you can do about that then :-)
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jodyfaisonAuthor Commented:
Well I've been trying to chase down that rouge process for about 24 hours, not much luck. The clicking starts when I have programs open and in the task bar I just see the applications I'm running. Hard to ID, except it went nuts when I was trying to copy a cd with Nero Express- Media Monkey's sound completely distorted. Is there any process or malware I could look for associated with the dvd drive?
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jodyfaisonAuthor Commented:
Ok, yes my sound card is toast I think. I've unplugged it and gone with on-board sound and the cracks and pops are gone.
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cuziyqCommented:
Ahhh.  The fact that you are burning a CD when it happens says a lot.  Access to physical devices such as the CD-ROM produce a hardware interrupt that does not get reflected in the Task Manager, and Windows does not thread it out so it monopolizes Explorer.exe while it's happening.  You can see this effect when you have a File/Open dialog on the screen, and you insert a CD into the drive.  When you hit the location dropdown, the whole system will appear to be frozen while it is mounting the disc in the CD drive.  Then, when it finally does mount the disc, all the clicks you did while it was waiting will suddenly catch up.

I think it's more of a design flaw on the part of Windows.  Explorer behaves badly when dealing with files on removable media, or when there are tens of thousands of files in a single directory.  The only solution is to not play sounds while burning a disc.

Also, are your hard drives in a RAID configuration?  There's another source of CPU interrupts that don't get listed in Task Manager.
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jodyfaisonAuthor Commented:
Hi cuziyq,
I've been out of town, and still am, but got the dsl working today. So I'm just getting this message. But no I'm not in Raid configuration. Nothing I can do to check that the cd playing and writing process is functioning correctly?
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