How can I get rid of a stutter (on a computer)?
October 10, 2008 10:12 AM   Subscribe

All audio on my Windows XP machine stutters. Not constantly, but enough to make listening to music or watching movies annoying. YouTube videos, iTunes tracks - anything. Even if I give priority to those applications. I'm on a Windows XP machine with a 3.2 ghz Pentium 4 and 1.50gb of RAM. Realtek HD drivers. I've tried everything on the Web and on AskMeFi but none of it has changed the stutter yet. So I'm opening this up for debate.
posted by skylar to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Previously I had this issue. I was able to track it down to a USB wireless adapter. I don't know why it caused the issue, but it happened on every computer I installed the adapter on--with or without the software that came with it. Do you have one of these installed?

Another possible cause might be something pegging the processor for a second intermittently. It probably wouldn't even show up in the task manager as behaving this way, given the slow refresh rate of the menu and how quickly something can spike in processor usage.

Those are two causes I've seen, but really, there are tons of things that can cause it. You might want to look into removing/reinstalling/upgrading the Realtek drivers as well, as those can be problematic. It might be worth peace of mind to pick up a cheap sound card from retail and see if the stuttering continues.
posted by Phyltre at 10:20 AM on October 10, 2008

I had a similar problem on XP. Evvery now and then my machine would stutter and when I dug into it, I found it was spending an inordinate amount of time in Deferred Procedure Calls (DPCs), which indicated a driver problem. I went through and updated as many drivers as I could and the problem seems to have gone away.

BTW, I used the Sysinternals Process Explorer, regular Task Manager does not give you that level of detail.
posted by tommasz at 10:29 AM on October 10, 2008

A friend had this problem for the longest time and nothing could solve it. We tried everything, from reformatting to system cleaning. Curiously, it got fixed when, by chance, I disabled the power management settings in the BIOS.
posted by Memo at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2008

These are the things I've done in similar circumstances:

- delete crud and defrag hard drive
- reinstall audio driver
- reinstall Windows

These go from easy to hard, but also from less to more likely to solve the problem, in my experience.
posted by zippy at 10:50 AM on October 10, 2008

On my Dell laptop - the audio stutters when the Wireless network card is switched on, all updates have failed to stop the problem, only solution is to turn off the wireless card using the side switch.
posted by clarkie666 at 11:08 AM on October 10, 2008

Is it a brand name system, or a "white-box" (generic, someone built out of random parts) ???

Things I would check or update:
--motherboard BIOS
--motherboard chipset drivers
--Audio drivers
--video drivers

If the above doesnt work.. I would then start trying to simplify the environment:
--clean out your Startup Folder and/or try to minimize the amount of programs running on startup
--Defrag and clean up your machine
--Remove or unplug any unnecessary hardware (as a test, unplug everything except the basic necessities of : Power cord, video cable keyboard and mouse...... Test the system with just these 4 things ... does it still do it ?

Still doing it ?... then I would follow Tommasz's advice and use something like Sysinternals Process Explorer to see if you can determine what system process might be causing it.

All the times I've ever seen something like this, it was typically some sort of audio driver problem.
posted by jmnugent at 11:56 AM on October 10, 2008

Thanks for the help. I've already replaced the audio drivers with no luck.

I've minimised the number of startup applications - even with all of them stripped out the problem still occurred. It does feel as if something is just grabbing the memory for a fraction of a second, because the stutters are intermittent and very short.

I do have a wireless keyboard with a USB wireless stick so possibly it could be that - I guess I'll need to try without.

The suggestion of simply buying another sound card isn't so bad, actually. But I might try Sysinternals. Any other suggestions gratefully accepted.
posted by skylar at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2008

I have a Futjitsu-Siemens laptop with a Realtek HD audio chipset and I have exactly the same problem. It started after installing the drivers from Realtek which are from from 2005 and since then never got updated and sometimes conflict with a few games. I can solve this stuttering problem by using the drivers from Futjitsu-Siemens instead of the Realtek ones.

I have also noticed that enabling or disabling hardware audio acceleration sometimes helps, which can me done by executing 'dxdiag' and under sound slide the slides from full to none (puzzle quest then works stutterfree for me for example with this)
posted by marcelm at 2:01 PM on October 10, 2008

Googling my make/model at the time (Inspiron 1000) found several forums discussing the issue, which led me to update the optical drive firmware, which fixed the problem.
posted by mysterious1der at 6:01 AM on October 11, 2008

To clarify, my sound was stuttering all the time, not just when using the optical drive, but updating the optical drive fixed everything.
posted by mysterious1der at 6:02 AM on October 11, 2008

Update: I tried everything above and no luck. A piece of software showed that there were huge DPC spikes as described above but even disabling pretty much all the computer and stripping down to bare bones did nothing. So I took a cheap USB-powered sound output card I have around the house...and wowsers, the sound's fine. Thanks to all who offered suggestions.
posted by skylar at 12:47 PM on October 12, 2008

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