games/PC freezes up

PC approximately 2 ½ years old.

Asus M2R32-MVP
AMD Athalon 64 X2 6000+ 3.2 GB
2GB DDR2 (Corsair 2 x 1GB paired)
MSI R5450-MD1GH Radeon HD 5450 1GB 64-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support
300 GB Western digital sata HD

Play any game (Section 8, Starwars Battlefront 2, Farcry 2) and it plays fine for a while. After anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, game freezes up. Most times, I can ctrl/alt/del to get to task manager to stop the game. No games will start after this until a reboot.

Temperatures are all well below any range considered as ‘Hot’ for vid card and CPU.

What’s been tried so far:
1)      Replace video card with new. Previous card was ATI Radeon HD with 512 ram
a.      No change
2)      Ran 2 different mem diagnostics. Mem86+, and another windows mem tester.
a.      No mem errors with either
3)      Reinstalled games
a.      No change

No other issues with PC. It is on 24/7 since it was built.
During my research into the cause of this, I’ve found others with similar issue being resolved by different means. Some resolved by replacing power supply, some added or replaced Ram or CPU or even motherboard.

I’m trying to find a way to pin point what the cause might be. Any assistance provided will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
Sudden freeze or do you get problems playing that warn you before it happens?
Until you mentioned temperatures that is exactly where I was going with the graphics card. If it's just 3D games it's going to be something that is failing while you're stressing the system. If you got freezes randomly outside of gaming I'd be looking at software or motherboard.
What temperature monitoring are you using? Asus's own Probe or Tempster or HWMonitor/SpeedFan?
Is the case relatively dust free anyway?
What is your PSU?

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Ensure that you have upgraded every hardware drvier possible onthe system. Critical components are as follows:

1. Chipset / Hard disk controller (Because Chipset usually upgrades hard disk controller)
2. Video Card

Also make sure you have run all of your operating systems updates. If you still experience issues after taking these steps then it could be a heat issue, bad ram, video card, mobo. I would suggest creating a bootcd loaded with the "Ultimate Boot CD" ISO. Run the included diagnostic utilities on your hardware components to find clues. link to UBCD ISO provided below:

Post your results, successful or otherwise

It could also be a dead/dying HDD.  Games are somewhat I/O intensive and if disk times out too many times,  well, you get this.

A painless starting point is to do tell windows to "scan the hard drive for errors", when you rightclick the image of the disk drive.
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Sounds like it is not a hardware issue to me. If you can still get to task manager once the game crashes then it is definitely not the video card.

Although, as mentioned already, it may be that some drivers are out dated.

I am thinking also that the possibility of it being the hard drive going out is slim to null.

In my opinion, I would try a reformat of Windows after updating drivers. If this doesn't help then it may very well be a hardware issue after all and in that case it could be somewhat difficult to pinpoint. Try removing hardware that you don't need (assuming their is on-board video I would start with the video card)... single sticks of RAM... anything you could turn the game on and it still run.

Best of luck!
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
I apologize for not including that in things I've already tried. I've updated all drivers including motherboard/chipset drivers.

The highest I've seen the video card run is 52 degrees Celcius. Temp shown in ati catalyst control panel. The new card runs even cooler usualy around 46. When it freezes up, there is no warning. The only other strange thing I've seen lately is at boot up windows hangs with desktop partially loaded. Reboot and all good again. That's only happened twice here the last couple of weeks.

I'm planning on reformatting and clean installing xp, installing drivers, installing xp updates. Then installing one of the games and play. If the problem doesn't happen I'll know it was just a windows snafu. If it still freezes up, then I'll start strategically replacing parts until I've either found the one causing the problem or built an entirely new PC. :)

Thanks all the good advice. I'll let you know what happens.
A similar thing has happened to me with CoD: WaW, when well into game-play the game would all of a sudden freeze CTRL + ALT + Delete worked. The problem was my power supply it was not powerful enough to run my graphics card when it was using max power, configure your graphics card to lowest quality (to test) let me know if problems persist.
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
I will try that today after I get home to see what happens. I've been suspecting the power supply as a possible culprit along with the hard drive.

I did a clean install of xp, installed all microsoft updates and all motherboard drivers and other hardware drivers. Installed a few of my most often played games that had worked fine for the last 2 1/2 years.

There's been no change in issue since the reinstall. Same thing continues to occur. graphic card temps are around 105-110, CPU temp= 100 - 105, MB temp= 110 - 120. It will freeze or lock up during gameplay or while merely sitting on the menu screens. lol

I will test the power supply out tonight and let you know the results. If power supply appears to be ok, I plan on replacing the HD next payday. Thanks again for all of your advice and I will keep you posted.
Since you are a gamer, you probably have some older PCs in the attic.  Crack it open and let the power supply from the old PC drive your peripherals.  This will balance the load, and you won't have to invest in a power supply upgrade for testing purposes.
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
replaced power supply with a spare 850 Watt PS. No change in game behavior.

I believe it is a hard drive issue. Entire drive became fragmented in less than a week to the point that when I run "Analyze" from the disk defragmentor, it shows entire drive red.

I have replaced the HD and am currently in the process of installing windows and all. Plan to test it out tonight. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks again for all of your advice.
Windows has the ability to at least scan for unreadable blocks.  Not much of a diagnostic, but painless to run.  right click on the picture of the HD, and there is an option to to check for errors, when you click on it, another window appears with option to scan/repair bad blocks.  

If your disk is becoming fragmented so quickly, then it is doing so because your software is telling it to do so.  You have some crappy app running that is causing defragmentation, which is probably root cause for this.    Usually adding memory makes all the difference in the world, because whatever you run won't have to write to disk as much.   If you have just a few games you run most of the time, then do a defrag, run one of those games, and then look at the defrag analysis.

Gut feeling that is the root cause to all of this, and the HDD is fine, it is just getting pounded so much it is resulting in all of this.  2GB of RAM is not a lot these days.  Adding more ram will typically make the system and games run much faster anyway, so a good investment.
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
Thanks Dlethe,

After xp reinstall on new HDD, no change. I'll follow your above advise and let you know what happens. I didn't figure I would need to add ram when win xp will only recognize 2 or 3 Gb.
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:

Just a quick update on this. My job has been keeping me pretty busy.

I've installed 2 additional GB of Ram, new sata HD, new graphics card, and still having the same issue when attempting to play any games that had worked fine for the last 2 1/2 years on this PC.

Next step is waiting on new power supply to be delivered. If that doesn't fix it, then it looks like new motherboard/CPU. LOL basically an entirely new PC at that point.
have you tried killing all unnecessary processes b/f starting the game up?
what are you using for your antivirus/firewall?
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
Yes, I've killed all unnecessary processes/services before starting games.
I'm leaning towards it being the CPU and/or motherboard. CPU usage is at 100% when games freeze. Nothing is getting hot.

Only thing left to replace that hasn't already been replaced is cpu and motherboard. :)
Have replaced/upgraded video card, hard drive, ram (4GB), power supply (850W), cdrom.

So, planning on ordering new motherboard and cpu soon.
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
oops, I left out what I use for anti-virus.
I use Bitdefender 2010

I've rules that out by not installing it after last clean install before testing games. Two guys I game with also use Bitdefender so I didn't think it was responsible.
It could also be your video memory... does this happen with 2d games as well?  what happens if you put the game into lower details instead of higher details.  Try different levels of stress on the video card and see if that's causing it.  
tjlaporteAuthor Commented:
I'd pretty much ruled that out by replacing the graphics card with a new one with 1GB of mem.

I have tried running games with settings all low. No difference.
I've seen this issue before, and the only success we had was replacing the motherboard.

Sometimes you can tell by visual inspection:

Open your case and look very carefully at the Capacitors on the board (usually they are concentrated around the CPU) and see if the tops are bulging or deformed. They should be flat, but if they are not then they are damaged.

Even if there is no visual clues the motherboard is very complex and based on what you've gone through already I would be suspicious of it.
When I had the same problem, the problem was driver related. And not video card drivers related, but I/O controller drivers. When I installed intel matrix storage drivers everything worked ok. Hope it works for you too.
Could be a problem with the MB, I had something similar some months ago, my pc was restarting after a couple of hours when on, and when playing games sometimes it freezed or restarted. Got a new MB with all other devices left intact, and works fine...urs is for the time freezing up, so if possible get another MB (lend from someone if possible) and test with the other devices left as they are
Christianity2 has a good suggestion, and this is a sure sign of a bad motherboard. Though remember,the absence of visual cues doesn't mean the motherboard is fine, a capacitor could have gone "quietly" bad.

However, given your problems I would start with getting a power supply tester EVEN if a new motherboard fixes the problem. Power issues are the leading cause early of hardware failures. I would also recommend a power cleaner or a UPS if you live in an area with "dirty" power.(Power which is inconsistent and has frequent slight brown-outs and power surges)

With all your new parts, it would probably be a good suggestion to replace your power supply anyways, if for no other reason to protect your new parts.
You can eliminate disks and Microsoft from the equation and concentrate on motherboard/cpu/memory, if you download and boot an Ubuntu LiveCD (unplug disk drive cables to make 100% sure you don't screw up and install LINUX).   The LiveCD will give you a ramdisk-based operating system.   There are a few built-in games, and memory diags, and since you have network access you can look around for some decent linux-based games to keep the CPU busy.

Even if you have no idea how to use LINUX, the Ubuntu Live CD is painless, and this WILL let you know what you can absolutely eliminate from being the problem, depending on whether or not it continues to lock
Could also be that other processes are consuming memory in background while the games are being run, and thus after some time you have only sufficient memory to run windows and some less demanding apps, as 3D games require more, and in your case I believe these games must have a minimum requirements of 1gb ram specified to be able to play them, thus 2gb will end up fast enough if other apps are running alongside.
So try closing processes which you will not use before launching a game, like if windows vista close the sidebar, and kill some processes which you see are consuming much memory (from task manager), except system ones, which will not close or which if closed can cause your system to become unstable. Also I would recommend to try add another 1gb or more ram if you have a free slot just to test how your system performs (could lend one just for test purpose)
here's also a list of windows services which can be stopped to increase performace:
Yep, but stopping windows services to increase performance is typically statistically insignificant unless you have minimal amount of RAM and are paging because of the additional memory footprint.   It won't account for this particular problem.  (but still a good thing to do, no matter what, as some of these services open up security holes as well).

Perfmon is a WONDERFUL thing.   Kick it off and keep an eye on it when things lock up .... but I still say boot the system to another O/S.  This will tell you if you have a hardware problem or software problem, then you can spend time looking at the problem rather than floundering around wasting time looking at the wrong things.
Try pulling out the older RAM stick this sounds like bad memory to me.

Try playing with just the new stick of RAM in there and see what happens.
Are you running XP which service pack?
I think it boils down to the motherboard as well, also you said you had 64 bit version
Could be an unreliable heatsink fan, I had issues like this with on my new build and had to replace my Fan and heat sink and PSU with a reliable brand such Thermal Take
OCCT helped me to pin point which hardware was the problem.
 try this diagnostic tool
Rob KnightConsultantCommented:

Try updating the Motherboard BIOS and setting the settings to performance defaults - see if that helps.


I think this has expired,
for anyone else thinking of posting an pushing it back out of clean up cycle

04/02/10 03:52 AM
Lol  that's a lot of green   :)
cool !!
 Thank you anyway and now it's closed.
Have a great week end
Regards Merete
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