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Old 03-13-2005, 06:24 PM   #1 (permalink)
The Pusher
 
Rlyss's Avatar
 
Location: Edinburgh
CPU spike every 20 seconds

Hi everyone, I've got the world's most annoying computer problem.

My system's a Dell Inspiron 5160 (laptop) with Windows XP Pro (SP2), 3.06GHz Pentium 4, and all the updates, 512MB RAM, 60GB hard disk and a GeForce FX Go5200. I know the video card isn't the best but it's a laptop so what can you do?

My CPU spikes to almost 100% every 20 seconds, like clockwork, and remains that way for 20 seconds, then it's back to normal for another 20 seconds, then it happens all over again. This happens when I play Need For Speed, Red Alert 2, Counter Strike Source and when I'm watching a movie with Windows Media Player. It doesn't seem to happen when I'm online or using Office.

I've checked for spyware, adware and viruses, and I don't think it's a network problem since it happens when I'm not connected to the network (via an ethernet card). I've got no programs updating themselves in the background, I've got disk indexing turned off and Windows has assigned 768MB to the paging file. My hard disk is also only 20% full, AND I've only just formatted and re-installed XP tonight to try and get rid of the problem but it's still there.

I've tried this with hyperthreading enabled and disabled, and it still spikes and leaves the computer unuseable for those 20 seconds. I've also seen CS:Source played on an identical laptop and there are no problems. I've got the latest drivers for the video and sound cards.

When it happens and I check the Task Manager the System process seems to be using a lot of the CPU, but since the computer's so jerky it's hard to catch the culprit in time, and by the time I can get a good look the System Idle Process is back to its usual 99%. I've checked all the process names in Google and nothing listed seems to be out of the ordinary.

Does anybody have any ideas why this is happening? It's a great machine, only two weeks old, this is ridiculous. I'm pretty sure I've given enough detail there about what I've already tried but if anyone's got any ideas I'll try anything. Cheers.
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Old 03-13-2005, 06:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
Tilted
 
Location: Portland, OR
i have this same problem with a dell laptop (inspiron 5100) except that instead of hitting 100% every 20 seconds and then going down, it seems to start being less and less efficient as time goes on. if you close a particular program and then start it again, it's fine, but i can't even for example play a flash game (with the sound off and quality on low) for more than 5 minutes without it freezing up on every single frame.

it's actually a fairly recent problem for me, i was thinking about reinstalling windows and seeing if that fixed it. it's interesting that we're having such similar problems with such similar hardware, though.
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Old 03-14-2005, 04:10 AM   #3 (permalink)
The Pusher
 
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Location: Edinburgh
I've found a few things. Another message board had this post:

Quote:
I had a similar problem, but every twenty seconds. I eventually found the prob. I had installed a new HD and moved one from slave to master on a different channel, but hadn't switched the jumpers. Looked OK in BIOS and Windows, but was getting spike every twenty seconds via System process. Switched the jumpers and now all is well in the world again.
But this is a laptop, I wonder how the hell I'm supposed to change the jumpers?

I also realized that my fan is always on, it never turns off in AC or DC mode. A program called I8KFanGUI tells me that me CPU temp is ranges between 71 and 75 degrees celcius (about 165 farenheit). I've blown the dust out of the fans and they sound like they're working (very loud) and they're blowing out air. I've only got one Firefox window open - hardly intensive - and the CPU temp is that high? I read that a high CPU temperature can lead to shit like this happening so kid astronaut you might want to clean out your fans and see if it helps?
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Old 03-14-2005, 06:10 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: texas
#1) What BIOS are you running Rlyss? I see that the latest is Dell Inspiron 5160 System BIOS, A07.

#2) Have you also installed the Intel Chipset drivers and the Microsoft Mobile Pentium 4 drivers from the Dell website?

#3) Have you tried reloading Windows XP on the laptop? If it's the stock install from Dell, I would recommend this anyway. Just start fresh from the XP cd they gave you and don't install all of the extra crap that comes with the computer. I know you said the laptop is only 2 weeks old, but when I got my Latitude D8100, the first thing I did was wipe the hdd and reinstall.

The support site for the 5160 is at http://support.dell.com/support/down...&os=WW1&osl=EN
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Old 03-14-2005, 07:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
The Pusher
 
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Location: Edinburgh
I have re-installed XP Pro three times now - the first time was the day I got the laptop (it came with XP Home and I wanted Pro) and then twice last night. Each time I've installed all the drivers and utilities that Dell supplied me with, and have also gotten the latest stuff from the website (using my Service Tag) so I know I've got the latest everything. I've also tried not using the latest everything, just a standard XP Pro install and nothing more, but I get the same issues: overheating CPU and 20 second CPU spikes.

I'm using the AO7 BIOS, which was already on the laptop and there are so far no updates to it. I've downloaded the BIOS from the Dell site anyway but it did nothing, they're the same version. I've got Quickset too.

I've also got two files from the site:

<a href="http://support.euro.dell.com/uk/en/filelib/index.aspx?sid=INS_PNT_P4_5160&cat=0&os=WW1&dev=1134&devlib=27">R58370 - Intel Mobile Chipset</a>
<a href="http://support.euro.dell.com/uk/en/filelib/index.aspx?sid=INS_PNT_P4_5160&cat=0&os=WW1&dev=6044&devlib=27">R79460 - Microsoft Mobile Pentium 4</a>

The first one works fine and installs, but the second (Mobile Pentium 4 Driver version A01) tells me "This computer does not support this operating system" and doesn't let me go any further, it just gives me an Ok button. This is definitely XP Pro, with SP2, and this is a brand new laptop, designed for XP, so I don't see why this is happening.
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Old 03-14-2005, 07:26 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: texas
Then I guess I would call Dell TechSupport and say WTF.

Tell them what you've already done, don't let them push you around if they start to. Stay on their ass. Write everything down, names, case numbers, etc...
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Old 03-14-2005, 07:34 AM   #7 (permalink)
Tilted
 
Location: Portland, OR
actually i just put the laptop in my lap for the first time in ages (my battery is completely shot-- with 27% of the charge left i am going to get an estimated 9 minutes of use)

since the fan is on the bottom of the machine, it cooled down almost immediately and started running much smoother. i haven't paid much attention to the cpu usage in terms of stats since then but it's a very noticable difference. so, at least for me, that does seem to be a big part of the problem. i'm embarrassed i didn't think of that earlier.

typical of dell to design a computer that you can't put on a desk.
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Old 03-14-2005, 10:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
Banned
 
Location: San Antonio, Texas
More than likely it is the video card.... Try taking the default "_Vertical Sync_" to Default off... Vertical Sync has the ability to make your computer undergo many vigorous lag spikes.... Try that and if it does not work feel free to email me and i will figure out your problem for you.
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Old 03-14-2005, 10:25 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Location: In my angry-dome.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kid astronaut
...
since the fan is on the bottom of the machine, it cooled down almost immediately and started running much smoother. i haven't paid much attention to the cpu usage in terms of stats since then but it's a very noticable difference. so, at least for me, that does seem to be a big part of the problem. i'm embarrassed i didn't think of that earlier.

typical of dell to design a computer that you can't put on a desk.
The fans may be contaminated with debris. The "feet" may have come off or compressed with age. I've gained a 2nd life on several laptops by adding slightly taller rubber legs on the bottom to improve the airflow. If the gap between desk and laptop is only 2mm another 1mm makes a big difference. Most stores, certainly hardware stores, carry stick-on rubber feet.
<img src="http://www.surplussales.com/Images/RubberPlasticEtc/rubber%20feet/No156C.jpg">
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Old 03-14-2005, 04:35 PM   #10 (permalink)
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you probably have a lemon. I got a lemon from quantex a while ago, had to restart it every hour...couldnt even keep time..it was like the cpu clock degraded as a function of the uptime. Most annoying, couldnt even listen to mp3s, and it was a pentium 2, it wasnt like the processor coundlt decode it.....I would send back asap if I was you, warrenty is probably time limited.
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Old 03-14-2005, 04:55 PM   #11 (permalink)
The Pusher
 
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Location: Edinburgh
I sent an e-mail off (using their website) to Dell support and their auto-response gave me a bunch of fixes for a dead pixel on the screen. They said to just hit reply and send if that response was irrelevent (obviously) and a tech support person will contact me. Since it got delivered to me on the 2nd of this month (thirteen days ago) they should still fix everything free of charge. I've heard nothing but good reviews about Dell in the UK so I'm semi-hopeful this'll get fixed, whatever the problem.

I tried disabling vertical sync in the GeForce options but it didn't seem to make a difference.

I've found a bunch of other peoples' problems about this, and the fixes are varied: overheating, auto-updating software, drive indexing; bad USB ports; problems with SpyBot and the hosts file; old printer driver issues; mobile phone software, and even a cable select option in an integrated NIC card. I've tackled all these options but none make a difference.

Using the netgraph in Counter-Strike Source my FPS goes from 70-90 FPS for the first 20 seconds, down to 9-12 FPS for the next 20, and then back up, and down again, so it's not all in my mind.

I'm going to give Dell a call tomorrow morning and tell them all this, since I don't have much faith in their online tech support. I've never had a good experience with anybody's online tech support - usually the problem just goes unanswered. I'm hesitant to keep using the computer, because even though a mobile P4 is very powerful, a CPU temperature of 70 degrees celcius sounds dangerously high.
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Old 03-15-2005, 05:02 PM   #12 (permalink)
The Pusher
 
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Location: Edinburgh
I called Dell and they're coming by tomorrow to pick it up and check it out. I've had nothing but the worst luck with this damn computer.

For the hell of it I thought I'd just post some of my theories. I'm always interested in this type of stuff, maybe others are too.

The CPU temperature hovers around 70 degrees celcius. The fans are on all the time, however they are blowing out cool air. If the temperature was so high wouldn't it blow out hot air? I think the fans aren't actually reaching the CPU for some reason. My friend's identical system sometimes blows out air so hot that it's painful when he's doing some really intensive on the computer.

Since Windows is fine, and this only happens in games, I think the GPU is overheating. For the first 20 seconds it's fine, and then it gets too hot so it scales itself down. That might explain the sudden drop from 90FPS to 10FPS in Counter Strike. The CPU tries to pick up the slack by jumping to near 100% usage but chokes the system by doing so. After 20 seconds the GPU has cooled down enough to go back to normal, but then it heats up again and everything repeats. Strangely enough I have absolutely no problems playing Quake 3, but Age of Empires, Red Alert 2, CS, Need for Speed and Windows Media Player all choke.

Perhaps none of this is true, I'm just thinking out loud. It doesn't explain why I can't install the Mobile Pentium 4 chipset driver thing though, that just makes no sense to me. The two stickers on my case say 'Pentium 4' and 'Designed for Microsoft Windows XP', and yet the program tells me "This computer does not support this operating system."

I think the most likely theory is, as my flatmates have agreed, that Dell has sold me a computer case with a hamster on a wheel inside and the poor little guy keeps getting tired.
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Old 03-18-2005, 12:55 AM   #13 (permalink)
High Honorary Junkie
 
Location: Tri-state.
Rlyss, this is a great thread. I'd be interested to hear what Dell has to say (push them to give you more than the layman's answer :-)

I like your theory on the overheating GPU, but you should then be checking the temp. of the GPU to verify it. Might be a general lemon, though, if it's been this way since the beginning.

Good luck and keep us posted!
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Old 03-22-2005, 07:10 AM   #14 (permalink)
The Pusher
 
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Location: Edinburgh
I just got it back from Dell this morning, the paper says "The actual fault found by our technicians: faulty motherboard - fan" and "We have replaced the following items: motherboard - fan". So it looks like our speculations were pretty accurate.

I'm running it now and it seems to work fine. I'm installing a few games to really test it but right now the CPU temperature is at a steady 36 degrees C. I was a bit annoyed that they didn't mention the fact that I never got a Windows or Drivers and Utilities CD with the notebook when I got it, and even though I wrote a note detailing my issues with the computer they never addressed the issues of the missing CD.

I understand that the drivers are all available online, but in this case the native WinXP ethernet drivers don't work with Dell's card, so I couldn't get online to download the drivers. The notebook came with WinXP installed - I didn't want it installed, but still, I paid for the software, shouldn't I have a copy of it? I may have misread the small print, maybe the OS only comes installed and not on a CD, so I'll look into it more before I decide if I want to complain.

So it seems to be working just fine now, I'm glad
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