Graphics freeze whenever hard drive is accessed

freezegraphics cardlagnvidia-geforce

Any time I'm playing a game (and even sometimes just using desktop programs), whenever the game accesses the hard drive the graphics freeze. Sometimes the audio stutters, most other times it doesn't.

I cannot figure out what's wrong. The games will run fine for a few seconds, but whenever something loads (i.e. I look at something new), the game will freeze for a few moments and then resume at full-force.

This happens at any point with any game, and is not your regular lag. Some games do so whenever a new model is loaded (or, for instance, when a block is broken in minecraft).

How can I go about debugging this issue?

The laptop isn't that old, and has done this ever since it was purchased. I was using the updated drivers for a while, and then tried the beta drivers with no luck. No overclocking is being done.

Specs:

  • Alienware M17xr3
  • Windows 7 64-bit
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M
  • Intel Core i7-2670QM 2.20 GHz
  • 8 GB Ram

The laptop is an Alienware, so the model number is, of course, nowhere to be seen on the bottom. Model number added to specs.

EDIT: As suggested in the comments, here are the temps during both idle and gaming sessions. It should be noted that whenever the freeze occurs, the GPU usage drops to 0.

CPU Min/Max [core 1,2,3,4] : GPU
(All are in degrees Celsius)

  • Idle: 56/61, 60/68, 58/69, 52/61 : 62
  • Game 1: 63/76, 66/83, 66/83, 62/81 : 66
  • Game 2: 56/79, 61/85, 58/84, 54/81 : 66-67

Something else I should add is that the CPU power drops from around 32 watts to less than 15 (often times down to 7) whenever the freeze occurs – however, the programmer in me thinks that it's a side effect of the program itself due to the freeze and not being able to query the CPU.

Another note is that background music plays without interruption during these freezes; the CPU is still doing something when it freezes. Some of the game's sound effects will loop, but not in a soundcard freeze way.

Best Answer

My own suspicion is that this has a connection to the fact that your CPU model supports an impressive automatic overclocking from 2.2 to 3.3 Ghz, but that Windows 7 also supports CPU core parking. There might be some kind of a conflict between them going on in that souped-up Alienware model of yours.

You might be able to use the tool TMonitor (if it supports your CPU) to watch the power fluctuations as a complement to Resource Monitor.

To test my above theory, you might try to temporarily disable core parking, at least partially for a couple of cores.

Here is a very exhaustive article on the subject :
Disable CPU Core Parking Real-Time - No Reboot.

This article links to the ParkControl free utility that enables/disables CPU core parking for any given power profile (and which I never tried). There is also a discussion about how to do the same using PowerCfg.

I suggest to be very cautious and create a System Restore point before changing these parameters and to mind your backups. Before starting, the first step should be to use Windows Update to ensure that all your drivers are up to date.

If the test shows this as the cause (or if it doesn't), you could contact the Support of Alienware for a solution.

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