I feel like the Flash at a disco.
August 22, 2008 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Why is MP3 playback sssuuudddeennllyy gggrriiinnddiinngg doowwnnnn?

Until about six months ago, give or take, I could listen to MP3s on my computer pretty much regardless of whatever else I was doing. I did a pretty routine wipe everything/reinstall everything (XP Pro, upgrading from SP2 to 3 after the reinstall) back in May.

Recently, the MP3 player has started to grrriiinnnddd when I do pretty much anything on the computer. I've gone from WinAmp to QCD to Billy to try to minimize the program's CPU "footprint," but it persists. The songs start to stretch out, like HAL at the end of 2001 but with more digital artifacting. The MP3 players never crash, but stutter and grind to a halt, then slowly get up to speed, then start staggering again.

This happens when I open a program, or a document, or save something, or copy a file from one folder to another, or check my e-mail, or load a Web site like MetaFilter, etc. etc. Pretty much everything other than typing or moving the mouse -- and sometimes it just starts to spontaneously stutter as well.

I have an up-to-date Avast!, Ad-Aware and ZoneAlarm (free versions of all) showing no viruses, malware, etc. on my computer.

I've used the Ctrl-Alt-Del resource manager to see what's hogging resources, but the open programs like Firefox, Celtx, Thunderbird, etc. all clock in about 25K for CPU resources, and this "grinding" often happens when I'm running at about 50% of CPU in use.

Nothing on my computer has changed in terms of hardware since before and after this big reinstall and the consequent MP3 grind. No major software changes, either. It's really danged irritating. Is it SP3? General resource creep making all the programs that used to not kill my system resources suck up all my system resources? The difference between six months ago and now is extraordinary: I used to be able to just listen to music while doing whatever, and now everything makes playback stutter and stall.

I've reached the limits of my knowledge. Insight, folks?
posted by Shepherd to Computers & Internet (3 answers total)
Take a look at the mem usage in task manager. I have an add-on to Firefox that seems to inflate itself when FF is left open for more than a few hours, and the RAM usage causes problems with other apps as the RAM for FF has to be swapped in and out (pseudo-IT diagnosis). Take a look at the CPU graph while the MP3s are lagging as well, if it rises when there is stuttering then you're getting closer to the cause.

NB: I haven't upgraded to SP3 yet.
posted by rhizome at 11:38 AM on August 22, 2008

This seems like a pretty common problem. You might try this. Or in general install the newest IDE/SATA drivers for your computer.

It might help if you give us your audio and motherboard specs.
posted by robofunk at 2:00 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: This took me a while to get back to.

The task manager shows the mem usage highest at 53K for ashWebSv.exe (an Avast process), then Firefox at about 52K, then CDisplay (a comics reading), VSMon, explorer.exe, svchost.exe, and ashServ.exe at 20-30K each. After that, it drops off remarkably to a ton of processes running at 5K or less each.

I have a P4M800 mobo, a Delta 44 soundcard (a bit of an odd duck, but it's never been a problem before), running a 3GHz processor with 2GHz of memory (PC3200 400).

In the Performance tab of the task manager, the CPU just seems to spike periodically for no discernable reason; it just goes haywire and pegs at 100% for five or six seconds when I try to do something like load a Web page or document.

Ad-Aware 2008 and Avast make me out as clean as a whistle. I run ZoneAlarm and browse almost exclusively with Firefox and NoScript turned on (disabling as necessary to download things), so while this might be malware or a virus, that'd be... weird.
posted by Shepherd at 4:46 PM on August 26, 2008

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