My media players keep skipping, is this a sign of a RAM problem?
March 8, 2016 8:44 PM   Subscribe

For several months now the media players on my PC "skip" when playing music. At first I thought it was just WMP but it's happened on iTunes and JRiver Media Jukebox as well. This PC is a Dell, about three years old, and replacing it just isn't going to happen this year. I've reinstalled audio drivers, even reinstalled Windows 10. All to no avail.

I have noticed on the task manager that spikes in usage do occur roughly the same time as these skips but can't figure out what's causing the spike. I usually have Chrome open, media player, and either Word or Excel.

I work at home and need my tunes to block out all the distractions in the house. I could use my laptop but my old fingers can't take that small keyboard for long periods of time. I need to make this PC work for at least a year. Is there any solution that won't break the bank?
posted by Ber to Computers & Internet (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How much RAM do you have at present?
Where (disk-wise) are the media files? Are they going over a network connection at any point?
posted by pompomtom at 9:02 PM on March 8, 2016

Have you (re) installed codecs?
posted by rhizome at 9:19 PM on March 8, 2016

It's not a RAM problem. If you had a RAM problem, you'd be experiencing crashes. Do the files skip at the same time, every time, or do they skip at random times? If they skip at the same time, you may have corrupt audio files.

I would NOT recommend installing a codec pack. This is completely unnecessary to play an MP3. Your first step should be to install the sound card/audio drivers for your PC from Dell's website.
posted by cnc at 10:18 PM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

From experience: this is probably due to badly ripped mp3s (in other words, the files themselves are the problem). Have you tested the music on the laptop or another PC to see if the same thing happens?
posted by gakiko at 11:11 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

How often does it skip? And if you copy the file to another computer, it's fine? I very much doubt it's a RAM problem.
posted by Standard Orange at 11:53 PM on March 8, 2016

You don't happen to have Realtek HD Audio do you? It's caused numerous problems with Windows 10. Mine was causing audio to drop in every app, including while watching videos. You can either try downloading the newest Realtek driver directly from their website (uninstall your current realtek driver first and reboot), or you can try and install the default Windows 10 hd audio driver (instructions here). I could not get Realtek HD working so I ended up just using the default Windows 10 driver. No sound issues since.
posted by katyggls at 12:08 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you play the music on your laptop while you work on the desktop until you find a better solution? Or run a USB or Bluetooth keyboard with your laptop?
posted by Night_owl at 6:19 AM on March 9, 2016

Response by poster: Actually most of the files are WAV and FLAC. They were re-ripped (what a time suck that was) and they work fine on the laptop. I do run the music through the laptop but it seems ridiculous. The sound driver is not Realtek, it's another HD driver. I did the whole reinstall of drivers from Dell and it made no difference. Perhaps those drivers from the idjits at Dell just doesn't handle W10?
posted by Ber at 6:34 AM on March 9, 2016

Have you taken a look at Event Viewer
posted by Chitownfats at 7:18 AM on March 9, 2016

If you install VLC, does that skip too?
posted by flabdablet at 11:03 AM on March 9, 2016

I just use Winamp Lite to play music. Itunes/WMP are overkill. Maybe something to try?
posted by getawaysticks at 11:08 AM on March 9, 2016

It's almost certainly your audio hardware/drivers. One way to test this would be to plug in a USB headset or stream audio over bluetooth, if you have such devices. If the problem persists there, then something else is up.

In terms of a potential fix that won't break the bank, you could try one of these cheap USB interfaces - even if it doesn't solve the problem, you're only out the price of a burrito.
posted by destructive cactus at 12:17 PM on March 9, 2016

Response by poster: Yeah, I've got VLC. Skips as well. All drivers have been replaced, even went with the Windows driver. Still the same crap. And it does seem to occur when I've got a lot going on which makes me suspect something is happening in the RAM.
posted by Ber at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2016

It's probably not RAM, unless you have a drastically low amount of RAM. To rephrase: if it's RAM, it's not that the RAM is bad, just that there's not enough and you've got a throughput bottleneck.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2016

Please, please take a look at Event Viewer as I suggested above. Some Windows error messages and ID numbers might go along way to resolve this. What you've been doing so far is too far within the problem, need some distance. destructive cactus makes some good suggestions, to which I would only add that the hard drive or its buffer could be causing this too.
posted by Chitownfats at 4:47 PM on March 9, 2016

err, "along" == a long
posted by Chitownfats at 8:11 PM on March 9, 2016

Response by poster: I have the event viewer up - I'll see what it shows next time this bitch skips. Thanks
posted by Ber at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2016

Response by poster: OK - skipping just kicked in. I see no error message on the event viewer for the time the skips happened.
posted by Ber at 12:36 PM on March 10, 2016

Windows still has Task Manager, hit ctrl-alt-del and select "Task Manager" and check if the CPU is at 100% when the skips happen.
posted by rhizome at 1:08 PM on March 10, 2016

Response by poster: rhizome, see the second paragraph, it definitely spikes in Task Manager.
posted by Ber at 1:20 PM on March 10, 2016

Ah, duh. OK, click on the "Processes" tab and click the "CPU" column header to sort from highest to lowest. See if anything floats to the top when it's skipping.
posted by rhizome at 1:31 PM on March 10, 2016

Response by poster: OK, I'll give that a shot next time it happens. Could Chrome be causing this? I know it's kind of a resource hog.
posted by Ber at 1:39 PM on March 10, 2016

I run a lot of tabs and I've found Firefox to be much more sensitive to resource exhaustion. Chrome runs each tab in its own process, so it's easier for the OS to put inactive tabs to sleep (figuratively). Firefox is one big process for all windows and tabs (currently my firefox process is using 1.4GB RAM). Anyway: more troubleshooting!
posted by rhizome at 3:18 PM on March 10, 2016

Response by poster: If anyone is still paying attention I think I have found the culprit. Task Manager finally pinpointed "system and compressed memory disk usage" as the CPU hog. A Google search takes me to that @#$% Onedrive, which I never use but apparently is embedded into Windows 10. Any suggestions on how to delete it or subdue it? I tried a couple things but they didn't work.
posted by Ber at 8:48 PM on March 12, 2016

Here's the official howto.
posted by flabdablet at 10:26 PM on March 12, 2016

Response by poster: I've tried that one. For some reason the Gpedit.msc brings up nothing in Run. The worthless Cortana refuses to find the local group policy editor
posted by Ber at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2016

Response by poster: I was able to get OneDrive settings open and killed everything in there. I have no idea why Windows won't let me get into the local group policy editor but maybe disabling OneDrive will do it. I do wish all these companies would quit with "the cloud".
posted by Ber at 8:29 AM on March 13, 2016

You probably don't have Windows Professional, then. Hang on, I'll see if I can find out what registry keys that policy setting actually affects.
posted by flabdablet at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2016

Here you go. Method 5 on this page should have the same effect as the gpedit.msc manoeuvre that Microsoft describes, which is the same as that page's Method 4.

I've checked the registry script linked below the description of that method and it does indeed cause the same changes to the registry that are described, so that will probably be the most reliable way to get this done.
posted by flabdablet at 12:01 PM on March 13, 2016

By the way, I would expect those OneDrive settings you got into to apply to the current user only. The gpedit/registry thing should turn it off regardless of who logs on and regardless of what their individual OneDrive settings are.
posted by flabdablet at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2016

Response by poster: Method 5 accomplished. I'll cross my fingers and report back in a day. Thanks a ton.
posted by Ber at 2:52 PM on March 13, 2016

You're welcome.

I do wish all these companies would quit with "the cloud".

But that is definitely something that people do!
posted by flabdablet at 9:47 PM on March 13, 2016

Response by poster: God, that Onion piece is perfect.

Update: after deleting OneDrive...yep, it's still doing it. I've seen a lot of computer issues but this one takes the cake. I officially give up.
posted by Ber at 8:07 AM on March 14, 2016

Are you still seeing something peg the CPU at 100%?
posted by flabdablet at 10:49 AM on March 14, 2016

Response by poster: Yep. The audio started skipping and I whipped up Task Manager. 100%. Once it was Chrome and the other time is was some innocuous Windows function.
posted by Ber at 8:22 PM on March 14, 2016

What antivirus suite are you running on this box?

Is there anything under Programs and Features that has the names Conduit, Optimizer Pro or Uniblue associated with it in any way?
posted by flabdablet at 8:49 AM on March 15, 2016

Response by poster: No, none of those. I use Webroot as my antivirus. I played with uninstalling that, running with just Windows Defender, etc, didn't make any difference. It's odd. It's like the system has good days and bad days. Today it's playing nice but yesterday it was terrible. And there was absolutely no difference in what I had up and running on these two days.

A female coworker of mine used to say "if it has tires or testicles, it's going to give you trouble". I would add tech to that proverb.
posted by Ber at 12:08 PM on March 16, 2016

Response by poster: Now the culprit seems to be "system and compressed memory". Good lord, this PC has 8gb of RAM, it should be able to handle these functions.
posted by Ber at 8:50 AM on March 17, 2016

What make and model are the network interface cards in your Dell?
posted by flabdablet at 12:32 PM on March 17, 2016

Response by poster: Good question, I'm trying to get that info from Dell.
posted by Ber at 3:01 PM on March 17, 2016

The Device Manager will tell you definitively. Right-click Computer (or is it This PC in Windows-10 speak?) and choose Manage > Device Manager. Find your network interfaces under Network Adapters, right-click and choose Properties > Details > Hardware IDs. You should see some strings that look like PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1000&SUBSYS_00011AF4&REV_00. Extract the vendor and device IDs (1AF4 and 1000 in the example) and look them up in the PCI ID Repository.
posted by flabdablet at 8:16 PM on March 17, 2016

Response by poster: There appear to be two interfaces. ID Repository says they are "10ec Realtek Semiconductor" and
"168c Qualcomm Atheros"
posted by Ber at 7:41 AM on March 18, 2016

168c is Atheros's vendor ID. If you go back to the PCI ID Repository and click the 168c next to Qualcomm Atheros, that gets you this list of Atheros's devices. Does the device ID from your Atheros adapter's Hardware IDs string turn up in that list?

Also, do you have something called Killer Network Manager listed under Programs and Features in the Control Panel (or whatever they're calling that in Windows 10)?
posted by flabdablet at 11:03 AM on March 18, 2016

If you do have Killer Network Manager installed, it may well be causing the CPU usage issue you're seeing. Even if it isn't, you'd probably be better off without it; in all the years I've been fixing PCs, I have never once found a good reason to install the bloatware that network interface vendors love to bundle in their driver installation packages.

So the first thing to do is download the plain drivers that don't come with all the bundled crap. Those drivers are supplied in a zip file, which you should extract to your desktop; it will make a folder there called Drivers.

Next, uninstall the Killer Network Manager and restart Windows to get rid of anything that the uninstall couldn't shift straight away.

Next, hop back into the Device Manager and install the plain drivers for your Atheros network interface. After doing that, you can delete the Drivers folder from your desktop.
posted by flabdablet at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2016

Response by poster: Killer Network Mgr is definitely NOT on this PC.
posted by Ber at 2:03 PM on March 18, 2016

Do you have anything under Programs and Features from Atheros or Qualcomm Atheros? It's at least plausible that the relevant bug in Killer Network Manager might have been inherited from an earlier version of their network supervision bloatware.
posted by flabdablet at 11:22 PM on March 18, 2016

Response by poster: No, nothing of the kind in Programs and Features. I've spent a lot of time on both my laptop and the PC stripping out bloatware (sometimes to catastrophic effect). The laptop, a Samsung, had far more than the Dell although it's a more solid machine.
posted by Ber at 2:05 PM on March 19, 2016

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