Why does my computer keep freezing?
July 28, 2013 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Why does my computer keep freezing during video games and HDTV playback?

My home built HTPC has been freezing after about 10 minutes of video game play, and occasionally during HDTV playback. I am using an onboard nVidia GeForce 9400 graphics card, an Intel Core2 Quad 2.83Ghz chipset, 8 GB of RAM, and Windows 8. I had issues like this when I first built the machine 4 years ago, but after diagnosing the problem as an overheating CPU and installing a new heatsink, I was able to solve the problem. I have not had any further problems until now.

I did notice that I was able to abate the problem in Borderlands 2 by reducing the framerate and resolution, but the problem persists in Rocksmith, and has frozen once recently while just playing back HDTV in Windows Media Center.

As far as I know there are three common causes:

1 - CPU Overheat - I have checked the CPU temperature using RealTemp, and I have watched the game freeze with the system running at tempuratures around 70 degrees.

2 - GPU Overheat - I have checked this as well using GPU-Z, and I have watched the game freeze while the GPU is running around 68 degrees.

3 - Power under-supply - I checked my system's power requirements at Power-On.com and it spit back a number of 239.5 Watts. My power supply is rated for 500 Watts.

What am I missing?
posted by soy_renfield to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Some other kind of temperature related fault, e.g. a dry joint or loose connection which fails when it gets warm enough. Could you try running it without the lid on and a fan blowing over it?
posted by epo at 6:22 AM on July 28, 2013

Response by poster: epo: How would I find this fault? I will try opening the case, dusting it, and then running it as open as I can.
posted by soy_renfield at 7:56 AM on July 28, 2013

What specifically happens during the freeze? Black screen? Stuttering sound?

Can you see any interesting messages in Event Viewer that might point to a cause? Sometimes driver problems will be readily apparent when scrolling through the logs. Check what's in there right as your computer freezes.
posted by dobi at 8:22 AM on July 28, 2013

Response by poster: dobi: The computer just locks up. The screen does not go black, and I do not hear any audio breakup. It simply stops, becomes unresponsive, and stays as it was at that moment. When my CPU used to overheat, there was an audible alarm, which I do not hear this time. I will check the logs when I get home.
posted by soy_renfield at 8:27 AM on July 28, 2013

I had a similar problem, but I don't know if yours is the same. It turns out that the store that built my computer incorrectly installed the heat sink on the hard drive. I recommend taking it to a repair place to have the case blown free of dust and the connectors checked. The fact that the freezes are occurring with intensive video processes is a pretty good sign it is heat related, even if you are not getting the motherboard heat alarm. I hope that helps.
posted by seasparrow at 9:47 AM on July 28, 2013

It is a process of elimination. A first step is to open it up and dust it off, ensure all connectors and RAM are tightly seated then see if that makes a difference. My initial hunch would be it is heat related. If it doesn't fail when there is extra cooling then that would be supporting evidence. The system logs might be illuminating. Is it networked? When it is locked up can you log in remotely?
posted by epo at 9:50 AM on July 28, 2013

Are all your drivers, bios, and firmware up to date?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:27 AM on July 28, 2013

Response by poster: So here's an update. I took the cover off and dusted the inside. It wasn't all that dusty, but I blew it out thoroughly anyway. and checked all the connections. I then plugged it back in, but left the cover off and a fan blowing over it. I was able to play for an extended period of time, and the GPU/CPU temps were considerably lower. Nothing got above 52 degrees. Next I plan to run it with the fan off, and then again with the cover back on and see what happens.

So if it is a heat issue, but my GPU and CPU are running within acceptable ranges, what do I do?
posted by soy_renfield at 1:25 PM on July 29, 2013

A new power supply and new/better heatsinks or fan will help, if you can afford them.
posted by seasparrow at 4:07 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could possibly add a case fan to help with this - a new fan and heatsink for your cpu could help (with thermal putty in between), but it sounds to me like it's the GPU that's the source of the heat, and replacing the heatsink/fan on those is a bit more work.

I'd go with new case fans in intelligent locations/orientations, and maybe a new power supply, depending (the power supply fan also helps to expel heat from inside the case).
posted by destructive cactus at 4:31 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

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