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**PC gaming troubleshooting FAQ/guide**

Discussion in 'PC Games' started by HangTime, Feb 2, 2007.

  1. HangTime

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 25, 2002

    Posts: 27,451

    Location: Hampshire

    Intro
    Looking at the stickies in this forum, they all relate to specific games (or consoles!) This FAQ/Guide is intended to answer/resolve some of the more frequently asked questions/issues which I see pop up in this forum from time to time. It is not intended to be an exhaustive explanation of all the issues mentioned, but merely as a pointer to give people ideas as to where they can start looking. It's also written primarily for Windows XP as I am holding fire on Vista until I get more RAM.


    General Advice
    First of all, it is assumed that users will undertake the following steps in order to ensure their games have the best chance of running correctly. These steps are explained in far more depth elsewhere, for example you may wish to refer to the General Hardware or Graphics Card sections of this forum for more info:

    Patches
    Make sure your games are running the latest version. The best place to look for these is on the developer or publisher website, although most major games will have patches mirrored elsewhere over time (see the links section below). Many modern titles also have auto-update functions. Don't assume that just because a game has only just gone on sale that no patch will available yet! Likewise, just because you haven't experienced any issues yourself, doesn't mean to say that it isn't worth installing a patch. Often these will increase performance, add more options or features, or fix bugs you haven't yet encountered.

    Drivers
    Another important factor is to keep your drivers up to date. These include:

    Directx: http://www.microsoft.com/directx

    Graphics card:
    Nvidia: http://www.nvidia.co.uk/page/drivers.html
    ATI: http://ati.amd.com/support/driver.html

    Motherboard chipset:
    Nforce: http://www.nvidia.co.uk/page/drivers.html
    Intel: http://www.intel.com/support/index.htm?iid=engHPage+nav1_support
    VIA: http://www.viaarena.com/default.aspx?PageID=420&OSID=1&CatID=1070

    Soundcard:
    Creative: http://uk.europe.creative.com/support/downloads/
    Onboard sound: Motherboard manufacturer is often the best place to look



    Custom resolutions
    Many gamers are now using monitors running non-standard resolutions, often in widescreen aspect ratios. A common issue is the desired resolution not being available within the menu of a given game. Here are some general workarounds, followed by some specific advice for some of the more popular games:

    Configs
    Some games will store the resolution in a config file of some description, often with a .cfg or .ini (especially for older titles) extension. Have a hunt about for any likely variables, a good tactic can be to simply do a search for one dimension of your last selected setting in the game. So, if the res is currently 1280x960, do a search for the string "960" in both the install directory and also any other places it stores game files (typically subdirs of My Documents). Then modify the setting to suit, assuming it's clearly the resolution being set!
    Example: The ra2.ini file from Red Alert 2 stores resolution info in the [Video] section.

    Registry
    Some games store game settings in the registry. Try doing a regedit search (if you don't know how to do this, it's probably not something you should be messing with!) for the game or developer name. Skip through until you find a registry folder with a batch of configuration settings (typically install path and stuff like that) - you may get lucky and find the resolution stored here.

    Hacks
    Visit http://widescreengamingforum.com and do a search on your game - there may be a hack available to enable your desired resolution

    Quake3/Doom3 engine games (e.g. Quake4, Prey, CoD, JK2, EF2 etc)
    Q3/D3 engine games can use ANY resolution defined in your graphics driver - all you need to do is set r_customwidth and r_customheight to the relevant values, and then set r_mode to -1 to enable it. You should find these variables in the main .cfg file.

    Battlefield series (BF1942, BF:V, BF2, BF2142)
    Add the following command line parameters to your game shortcut: "+szx X +szy Y" where X and Y are your desired width/height.


    Common problems

    My framerate is mostly OK, but occasionally it really slows down a lot and/or hitches!
    This is often symptomatic of a lack of memory. Check your Peak Commit Charge in taskmanager->Performance after playing the game. If this exceeds your physical memory, then you have a problem. There are three solutions to this:

    1) Buy more memory. As a rough guide I recommend 1.5gig for WinXP and 2gig for Vista. Be sure to consult the forums first though before choosing your upgrade, to avoid any potential compatibility or performance issues!
    2) Reduce your memory usage during gameplay. As a general rule, this involves closing all running programs, clearing out resident programs from taskbar/systray. Things like MSN/Browser/Email/ICQ/IRC/FTP/P2P/Anti-Virus/Firewall/Monitoring tools etc. Then there may be services or startup processes you can disable using services.msc / msconfig - check elsewhere in the forum for guides on how to do this.
    3) Lower game settings which have a profound effect on memory usage. Far and away the most important here is the Texture setting. In modern games such as FEAR and BF2, the difference in RAM usage between 'Medium' and 'Max/High' textures can be as much as 300meg! Even if you have a 512meg+ video card, your system still needs a lot of physical memory to handle these textures. Other settings include number of sound channels and decals, although I have found the savings to be much smaller there.

    I get really long load times compared to other people, and it takes an age to display the desktop after quitting a game!
    See above - very likely down to a lack of RAM.

    My game frequently crashes to desktop, locks up, bluescreens or resets my machine!
    First of all, ensure you have all the latest patches and drivers as described above. If the problem persists, it may be down to excessive overclocking. Even if your system is prime/3dmark stable, that does NOT mean that certain games may not uncover problems. Try running at stock speeds and see if this fixes things.
    Failing that, it could be down to overheating, especially if it only happens after you have been playing for quite a while. Try cleaning out your cpu/gfx fans, and improve the airflow inside your case.
    Unstable memory is another common cause of games CTD in my experience. Try running memtest86 to check that you don't have any problems in that department.
    Bluescreens can sometimes give you some insight as to what is causing the issue - disable automatic restarts by going to system properties/advanced/startup and recovery. Take a note of the error and do some googling :)
    As well as signs of an unstable machine, spontaneous reboots can also be pointing the finger at a suspect PSU. If you are running a high end cpu, gfx card and a bunch of hard drives, maybe that generic unit you got with your old Packard Bell can't hack it. And while that '550W' Q-Tec may have saved you some pennies, but it certainly hasn't saved your rapidly receeding hairline.

    ATI users may ironically find that disabling VPU recover fixes some issues.

    I'm getting really bad lag when playing online - it sucks!
    There can be many causes of lag, but here are some things to think about:

    -Bear in mind that with gaming becoming global, it's entirely possible the server you have chosen may be in another country. This can sometimes mean you get high latency. In general it's a good idea to try a few different servers, including some in the UK to make sure it's a problem at your end.
    -See what the connection to the server is like from outside of the game, to rule out in-game settings. e.g. ping the IP from a command prompt.
    -Don't do any downloads/uploads on your connection. Even on fast, 8mbit+ download connections a relatively slow or capped download can still cause gaming packets to be delayed unless some form of traffic shaping/QoS is used. If using a shared connection, make sure no other users are using it at the time.
    -Check what your connection speed is set at in the game. Setting it too low can cause problems due to not being able to send/receive enough data from the server, whereas setting it too high can cause you to get flooded. Important settings are often called "rate", "cl_maxpackets" or similar, but do some research for the game concerned.


    I'm trying to play online, but I can't connect to any servers and/or they all have 999 ping!
    Assuming your connection is working fine otherwise, this may be down to ports required by the game being blocked. Check the game manual/docs and google to see which ports you need to forward/open up on your router/firewall.

    My game is running REALLY slow/fast. Framerate isn't an issue, it's like someone pressed the >> button!

    This can occur in some games when using a system with multiple cores, whether that be a genuine dual-cpu system, a dual-core cpu or even a Hyperthreaded P4. A good start is to download a processor driver (www.intel.co.uk / http://www.amd.com/gb-uk/Processors/TechnicalResources/0,,30_182_871_13118,00.html ).
    If this doesn't help, you may need to set the affinity to a single cpu(core). You can do this by right-clicking the process in taskmanager. If this fixes it, as a long term solution you may like to set up a batch file to automatically set the affinity whenever you run the game - see here: http://www.informit.com/articles/article.asp?p=465310&seqNum=2&rl=1


    My fps are OK, but my mouse still feels really laggy? WTF?
    There are three main causes of a laggy mouse:
    1) You have enabled 'mouse smoothing' or similar within the game. Such features average out mouse movements, making them feel smoother, but adding to the latency (sometimes by as much as a frame)
    2) Your mouse sampling rate is too low. For PS2, this should be set to 200hz (default is ~40hz in win98, and 60hz in win2k/xp iirc). USB defaults to 125hz which is OK in general, but there are utilities available to set it to 250, 500 or even 1000hz - e.g. http://files.filefront.com/usbmrs11exe/;4509114;;/fileinfo.html
    3) You have VSync enabled and/or set Max D3D frames to render ahead (a setting in nvidia gfx drivers) to higher than 0. Generally speaking I would advise against using vsync unless absolutely necessary (e.g. you get bad tearing), since it can also cause your framerate to drop by more than it would otherwise in cases where you can't get stable FPS. Triplebuffering can help, but it's still sub-optimal.

    My sound is really crackly/skippy in games!
    Assuming you have the latest drivers for your soundcard/chip, this problem can sometimes be resolved by turning down the hardware acceleration slider in the Sound tab of dxdiag (start->run->dxdiag).

    Addtionally on some older onboard sound chipsets, such as the Nforce2 Soundstorm, crackling can develop after say 20mins of gameplay. The cause of this is often an overheating southbridge on your motherboard, which can be resolved by adding a fan.


    Performance

    Framerate/Benchmarking
    Quite often people want to know what kind of performance we are getting from a game - maybe to compare with other users, or to see what effect changing some of the settings have. Some games have a built in framerate counter (often accessible via the console), but not all. A useful tool to use here is FRAPS (http://www.fraps.com/download.php). This lets you have an overlaid framerate counter, and it works with pretty much all games. It also has a screenshot and movie capture facility, although I would recommend that you disable the hotkeys for these features unless you plan on using them - it can slow your game down considerably if you accidently press them! For example F9 is video capture by default, yet many games use that for QuickLoad.

    Additionally quite a few games will have a built in benchmarking or 'timedemo' feature - do a google to check this out. These are useful because they run through a pre-recorded section of the game as fast as possible, and quote some stats back. The most important number to look for is the Minimum (if available). Also bear in mind that the actual minimum framerate you experience in game will in all likelihood be far lower than that quoted by the benchmark, due to additional drain on resources (AI, input etc) and it rarely portraying the worst case scenario.

    There is a lot of debate over what is a 'good' framerate. But as a rough guide from my personal experience, I would say that under around 45fps starts to feel pretty jerky, 75fps is fairly smooth and over 100fps is lovely. Certainly in fast paced games like FPS, and especially in multiplayer, I would say that dropping under 30fps can be a very serious problem. Whereas in strategy or RPG games, the benefits from over say 50 or 60fps are minimal and you may get more enjoyment from those type of games by cranking up the settings.


    The game runs all slow and jerky!
    Some modern games are very demanding, and just because your shiny new monitor can display 2048x1536, it doesn't mean that your gfx card will be capable of rendering it that quickly in all games. Try lowering your resolution, turning down detail settings etc. In my experience the following settings in particular can cause slowdown and you may see a significant performance increase by lowering the setting:
    -Shadows
    -HDR lighting (looks great in places but can be VERY slow)
    -Anti-Aliasing; when using high resolution this can really hammer FPS on slower cards
    -Dynamic lighting; depends on the game but this can slow things down greatly
    -Motion Blur

    It's probably also worth running some 3dmark benches to compare how your system fares against similar specced rigs - thus ruling out an overall problem.


    Refresh Rates
    A common problem some people seem to have is that their games aren't running at the optimal refresh rate for that resolution. For Nvidia users, the solution is pretty simple. After running coolbits2, in the 'classic' control panel view, there is the option to override all your refresh rates. Simply enable the override and set it to the required level for each resolution you use.

    Owners of other brands of graphics card may find the ReForce utility of use: http://www.pagehosting.co.uk/rf/

    There is a way you can calculate the Maxmimum refresh rate for a given resolution, as long as you know the Horiztonal frequency (kHz) rating of your monitor. The formula is:
    Max refresh rate = Horizontal frequency/1.1/screen height
    So, if you have a monitor with a 96khz horizontal frequency, in 1024x768 the maximum refresh rate will be 96000/1.1/768 = ~113hz

    If you exceed this value by more than few hz, it is likely that your image will become very distorted and may not even display at all (prompting the 'frequency out of range' message). It's always worth installing a monitor driver to let windows know what it can handle in any case.


    I want to build/upgrade a gaming PC - what should I look for?
    The best place to ask this question will usually be in the General Hardware forum, together with an approximate budget and current specs if applicable. However as a general rule, the GPU makes by far the biggest difference to gaming performance and it is not somewhere you should be stingy. Currently a good level to aim for is Radeon x1950pro or above. Obviously you need to pair this with a decent cpu, but any P4>3ghz, A64>2ghz or C2D system should be OK in general. As far as memory goes, 1gig is the minimum required; however as explained earlier there are clear benefits from more and anyone buying a new system would be well advised to go for 2gig RAM. Faster memory is obviously better, but don't break the bank just so you can run faster timings, if it means you have to get a worse graphics card. A system paired with a 8800GTS and 2gig cheap RAM will blow a x1950xt rig with 2gig of the posh stuff out of the water when it comes to gaming.


    Useful links
    The following are websites I find useful. For the download sites, I have deliberately only listed ones which give direct access to the files, without needing to log in or any of that despicable nonsense.

    www.gamerankings.com - A good 'hub' site which links reviews to thousands of games, both old and new, along with their ratings. From here you can access many respected review sites such as IGN and Gamespot.
    www.firingsquad.com - A wonderful mix of hardware and gaming news, reviews and editorials. Definitely worth checking out if you want a gamers perspective on hardware.
    www.anandtech.com - for the more technically minded, this is one of the most respected hardware review sites in the industry
    www.gamefaqs.com - comprehensive database of walkthroughs/guides for games
    http://gamefiles.blueyonder.co.uk/blueyondergames/ - a huge, fast archive of gaming files. Not always bang up to date but the demo and movies folders are always worth checking out. Also available in ftp:// format :)
    ftp://ftp.multiplay.co.uk/pub/games/ - another fast UK FTP for demos
    ftp://ftp.games.skynet.be/spool1/games/ - great mirror of some other, slower FTPs such as EA. When you want to grab their latest demo, get it here at 100x the speed.
    www.gamershell.com - nice site for grabbing the latest demos/trailers/patches etc. Has a good range of fast mirrors.
    www.filefront.com - similar to the above
    www.esreality.com - for the more hardcore, online gamer, this site covers the competitive side of gaming
    http://uk.gamespot.com/forums/show_msgs.php?topic_id=24525221 - A list of promising PC games due in 2007, categorised by genre, complete with screenshot and brief description. Very good list, but dialup users beware!
    www.challenge-tv.com - great depository for game demos (replays), especially for Quakeworld and Promode.
    http://amo.net/NT/02-21-01FPS.html - an excellent article explaining the 'need' for framerates 60fps (and more!). Be sure to read the follow-up article linked at the bottom too.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2007
  2. Behemoth

    Mobster

    Joined: Dec 1, 2002

    Posts: 2,834

    Location: Cornwall

    hey thats a great post, though I'd add this in because I've seen it alot recently

    Problem - When I run certain games my monitor says sginal out of range.

    Solution - Depending on the type of game and I had this problem with BF1942 but it for some reason required me to have my driver installed for my monitor, that cured the problem. I worked out in the end it only happened in OpenGL based games.
     
  3. killer_uk

    OcUK Staff

    Joined: Mar 12, 2003

    Posts: 4,055

    Location: OcUK HQ

    Nice post, I vote for sticky!
     
  4. afraser2k

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 7,516

    Location: Glasgow

    Choppy sound/"skipping" is another problem I've come across in some peoples setups, sometimes sorted by turning off sound hardware sound acceleration in dxdiag.exe.
     
  5. JUMPURS

    Capodecina

    Joined: Sep 27, 2004

    Posts: 10,864

    Location: The Ledge Beyond The Edge

    What he said /\ :)
     
  6. Yewen

    Capodecina

    Joined: Nov 9, 2003

    Posts: 17,719

    Location: Leeds

    Stuck. Having a move about with the gaming stickies when I get enough time so expect this to feature in one larger one in the coming months. :)
     
  7. HangTime

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 25, 2002

    Posts: 27,451

    Location: Hampshire

    Updated with sound issues and monitor refresh info.

    Feel free to suggest some more links, providing they don't require registration :)
     
  8. Tical

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Nov 19, 2002

    Posts: 2,020

    You can just change the "+fullscreen 1" part in the target of the Battlefield 2142 shortcut to "+fullscreen 0". It'll open up windowed, run off the refresh rate of your desktop, then let you change the ingame refresh rate (if that was the problem). Then just change the target back to fullscreen once you're done.

    Accidentally changed the refresh rate beyond my monitors signal range quite a few times. :o

    Nice post HangTime! Nice to see an FAQ sticky that isn't 4 years old! :p
     
  9. A2Z

    Sgarrista

    Joined: May 9, 2005

    Posts: 7,939

    Location: London

    why is it all in a quote though ?
     
  10. HangTime

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 25, 2002

    Posts: 27,451

    Location: Hampshire

    Hit quote instead of edit yesterday, then cutand pasted it back in to the original post when I realised what I'd done :)

    Fixed now.
     
  11. rbrtben

    Associate

    Joined: Oct 30, 2004

    Posts: 54

    www.gamerankings.com - A good 'hub' site which links reviews to thousands of games, both old and new, along with their ratings. From here you can access many respected review sites such as IGN and Gamespot.
    www.firingsquad.com - A wonderful mix of hardware and gaming news, reviews and editorials. Definitely worth checking out if you want a gamers perspective on hardware.
    www.anandtech.com - for the more technically minded, this is one of the most respected hardware review sites in the industry
    www.gamefaqs.com - comprehensive database of walkthroughs/guides for games
    http://gamefiles.blueyonder.co.uk/blueyondergames/ - a huge, fast archive of gaming files. Not always bang up to date but the demo and movies folders are always worth checking out. Also available in ftp:// format :)
    ftp://ftp.multiplay.co.uk/pub/games/ - another fast UK FTP for demos
    ftp://ftp.games.skynet.be/spool1/games/ - great mirror of some other, slower FTPs such as EA. When you want to grab their latest demo, get it here at 100x the speed.
    www.gamershell.com - nice site for grabbing the latest demos/trailers/patches etc. Has a good range of fast mirrors.
    www.filefront.com - similar to the above
    www.esreality.com - for the more hardcore, online gamer, this site covers the competitive side of gaming
    http://uk.gamespot.com/forums/show_msgs.php?topic_id=24525221 - A list of promising PC games due in 2007, categorised by genre, complete with screenshot and brief description. Very good list, but dialup users beware!
    www.challenge-tv.com - great depository for game demos (replays), especially for Quakeworld and Promode.
    http://amo.net/NT/02-21-01FPS.html - an excellent article explaining the 'need' for framerates 60fps (and more!). Be sure to read the follow-up article linked at the bottom too
    **********************************************************

    some of the linkes have Trojan horse
    www.gamerankings.com


    Discovered: January 11, 2005
    Updated: February 13, 2007 12:59:39 PM
    Also Known As: PWSteal.Lineage
    Type: Trojan Horse
    Infection Length: 230,400 bytes
    Systems Affected: Windows 2000, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP


    Infostealer.Lineage is a Trojan horse that attempts to steal the password to the "Lineage" online game and send it to the creator of the Trojan.

    NOTE : Definitions prior to May 10, 2006 may detect this threat as PWSteal.Lineage
    ProtectionVirus Definitions (LiveUpdateâ„¢ Weekly) January 12, 2005
    Virus Definitions (Intelligent Updater) January 12, 2005
    Threat AssessmentWildWild Level: Low
    Number of Infections: 0 - 49
    Number of Sites: 0 - 2
    Geographical Distribution: Low
    Threat Containment: Easy
    Removal: Moderate
    DamageDamage Level: Low
    Releases Confidential Info: Steals passwords to the "Lineage" online game.
    DistributionDistribution Level: Low
     
  12. HangTime

    Man of Honour

    Joined: Oct 25, 2002

    Posts: 27,451

    Location: Hampshire

    ^anyone able to confirm the above?
     
  13. DuffMan

    PermaBanned

    Joined: Apr 30, 2007

    Posts: 106

    File Information
    Filename: mouse_fix.zip
    Author: Cyberathele Professional League
    Size: 297.00 B
    Uploaded: August 07, 2005
    Downloads: 634,946 Times


    File Description The CPL Mouse Fix allows Windows XP users to counter-act the effects if locked mouse acceleration in Windows XP. This registry file is designed to fix only the problem associated with Windows XP. Use on operating systems other than Windows XP is at the sole risk of the user.

    http://hardware.gotfrag.com/portal/files/82/
     
  14. richieboy

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Dec 29, 2004

    Posts: 2,118

    Useful tip if your BF2142 is crashing to desktop randomly, especially if you have been playing in a server for 2-3 minutes and then it freezes spectacularly.

    Ensure hidden files/folders are shown aswell as hidden operating system files.

    Find radial.cdb, which is located in C:\Program Files\Electronic Arts\Battlefield 2142\ by default, and delete or rename it. A new one is created when you load 2142 up the next time.

    This solved my crashing problems and i haven't had any issues for 4 months now (touches wood).
     
  15. RobH

    Mobster

    Joined: May 9, 2005

    Posts: 4,524

    Location: Nottingham

    UPDATE: This applies to most THOMSON SpeedTouch devices including the latest versions of O2 Wireless Box, BeThere BeBox and the BT HomeHub. However the BT HomeHub has had telnet disabled so the only thing you can do is to forward the ports which should fix the problem although it's not the perfect solution.If your having problems playing certain Steam games online, including Half Life 2: Deathmatch and Team Fortress 2 relating to lost connection shortly after joining a match and you are running a Speedtouch router including rebranded ones such as the BT HomeHub and the BeThere BeBox then this article should help you out.

    http://support.steampowered.com/cgi...WFyY2hfdGV4dD1zcGVlZHRvdWNo&p_li=&p_topview=1

     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2009
  16. RobH

    Mobster

    Joined: May 9, 2005

    Posts: 4,524

    Location: Nottingham

  17. rjk

    Caporegime

    Joined: Aug 8, 2007

    Posts: 25,240

    thread rated 5*

    good job
     
  18. Rage474

    Gangster

    Joined: Sep 10, 2008

    Posts: 144

    Location: N. Ireland

    Good thread, saves alot of time :p
     
  19. XRAY

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Dec 3, 2008

    Posts: 1,553

    Could I suggest the program Gameshadow be added to the list? I'm sure you'll want to try it out first before updating the first post.

    It's a program which scans all of your games and notifies you about any relevant patches (also has a number of mods and map packs on its database).

    It allows you to download these from its own servers at really fast speeds (compared to other sites, e.g. fileshack).

    I've used it for a while and never had a problem.

     
  20. craig3000

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jan 25, 2009

    Posts: 1,398

    I would recommend gamebooster by Iobit added to the list