Computer tech help S.O.S.!

computerspecs

Since some of you reading this are far more tech savvy than I, I wanted to lay out my computer issues to date with all the information at my fingertips to see if anyone has any good suggestions. You can see my hardware specs above.

The Issue

I built this computer last year and it’s worked but hasn’t shown any measurable improvement over my previous computer (which was 4 or so years old at that point). In particular, all of my games — especially my online ones — are displaying lower-than-expected frame rates. I’ve tested several titles, and most MMOs (including Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter, WildStar, and The Secret World) fluctuate between 10-35 fps.

I am not getting any other serious problems — no crashes, no BSOD, no overheating (I’ve been monitoring CPU and GPU temps). I replaced my old graphics card with a newer GTX 950 and there hasn’t been any improvement. My machine build is based on a very tried-and-tested build from pcpartspicker.com and has no apparent conflicts.

My goal is to get the FPS up to a decent number, at least 60 so it’s not hitching constantly in play. The weird thing is that no matter what I adjust my settings at — in-game or in the Nvidia control panel — the FPS remains the same.

What I’ve Tried So Far

Here’s a list of what I’ve been trying, based on my own poking around, suggestions from various forums, and from my tech support bro-in-law:

  • Flipped between DX9 and DX11. No difference.
  • Turned power performance up to high. No difference.
  • Turned Vsync on. Turned it to adaptive. No difference.
  • Took out the graphics card and put back in my old one. No difference.
  • Reseated my graphics card. No difference.
  • Updated from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Same speed.
  • Fiddled with all sorts of in-game graphics settings. Same FPS on low as in ultra.
  • Updated all drivers. Updated them a second time.
  • Booted the computer in diagnostic mode, no difference.

Maybe I made a mistake when I put this computer together? Maybe there’s some sort of setting causing a bottleneck or a purposeful throttling down of the frame rate? I don’t know. But if anyone has any suggestions, believe me, I’m all ears.

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33 thoughts on “Computer tech help S.O.S.!

  1. МИР/k.o. (@krieglich) February 11, 2016 / 9:06 am

    This is a total shot in the dark – can you tell us what power supply you are using?

  2. Syp February 11, 2016 / 9:21 am

    I’ll check my power supply when I go home.

  3. Aywren February 11, 2016 / 9:41 am

    Power supply is a good suggestion. If there’s not enough power to run everything, it could effect performance.

  4. ChaosConstant February 11, 2016 / 9:45 am

    Check the slot the graphics card is in. Make sure it says PCIe x16 next to it. If not, try moving it to one that does.

  5. DocHoliday February 11, 2016 / 10:00 am

    You mentioned MMOs specifically, but what about stand-alone games? Something like Dragon Age, etc. Or perhaps a dedicated benchmarking tool (the only one I’ve used is 3DMark, which does have a free option) might help track down the culprit.

    Also what speeds are your RAM and Hard drive?

  6. Syp February 11, 2016 / 10:02 am

    It’s a small motherboard, there’s only one PCIe slot on it.

  7. Giles Linnear February 11, 2016 / 10:35 am

    How much of an evolution is The Secret World’s game engine over their past games? Because I recall the Dreamworld engine relying much more heavily on CPU rather than graphics cards back in the Anarchy Online days…

  8. dibblethewrecker February 11, 2016 / 10:39 am

    In my experience, most online games aren’t well optimized for GPUs and rely on your CPU to do most of the work.

    FFXIV is a great example. If I uncap my FPS it’s the CPU fan that goes bat shit, not the GPU.

    In the past I upgraded my GFX card for games and it made almost no difference. Looking at the tests above, I think you’ve actually ruled out your GFX card as being an issue.

    I know things like the Clock Speed on your RAM and CPU should ideally be the same. Also, things like the Front Side Bus speed vs your CPU clock speed need to be considered.

    I’d look more closely at your Mobo. There’s a big variety in price for a reason.

    I’d look online for a benchmark test comparing your CPU and Mobo combination.

  9. das Mo February 11, 2016 / 10:53 am

    There was/is (?) a driver problem recently with Nvidia cards downclocking their coreclock to a very low value (sub 500 MHz) and staying there until reboot. Not sure if that has been fixed yet. Try running something like MSI afterburner and check the core clock and all other values while ingame. Google the clocks a 950 GTX should normally have when under load and compare. Core clock around or >1 GHz. Total shot in the dark since you said that your drivers are up to date :/

  10. Ettesiun February 11, 2016 / 11:01 am

    Have you also checked your Screen cable ? You are using DVI cable (or HDMI), not the old VGA one, correct ? I remember that the capacity of the VGA is not that great, and could create issue, even more if you have a longer cable – DVI shall be perfectly fine.

  11. Azuriel February 11, 2016 / 11:06 am

    Hrm. What was your videocard from before? A GTX 950 isn’t exactly all that much powerful than a lot of cards from the last 5 years. On this chart, for example, it’s on par with a 770 and 660ti. Granted, the chart also says that FF14 should be 60+ fps, but still.

  12. Syp February 11, 2016 / 11:26 am

    My old card was a 750ti. We looked at the charts and while it’s not a huge bump, it is an increase.

  13. Syp February 11, 2016 / 11:28 am

    Ettesiun – I’m using a DVI cable right now.

  14. Jacob February 11, 2016 / 11:52 am

    I have seen problems like this that are not even hardware related. I know on an old system there was some kind of frame-grabbing software running by default after I installed the graphics card programs that turned out to be the issue. Can’t reacall what exactly it was called though.

    I would be very careful about what software is actually running when you start your computer, try running msconfig to see what is actually starting up. Here is a quick primer I found for Win7, but it basically still applies in win 10.

    http://www.groovypost.com/howto/performance-disable-startup-programs-windows-7-vista/

  15. bhagpuss February 11, 2016 / 11:55 am

    Can’t help with the tech but I would agree with Dibble above that many, possibly most, MMOs use the CPU far more than the GPU. What’s more, they don’t even use that very efficiently by most accounts. You might get more meaningful data by testing some non-MMOs that are known to be heavy on the GPU, if you benchmarked those with your old and new cards for comparison.

    On Frame Rate, can you actually see any difference between 30-35 FPS and 60FPS when playing MMOs? I can’t. Never could.

  16. Thomas Kennady February 11, 2016 / 12:39 pm

    make sure your bios is set to pcie 3.0 8x or 16x. I have seen motherboards drop to pcie1.0 4x. gpu-z should confirm what it’s set at.

  17. Peter Leskovar February 11, 2016 / 12:51 pm

    I echo Kennady’s comment, check your computer’s BIOS. If you’re feeling adventurous, set BIOS to Safe Setting or Performance Setting. CPU-Z and GPU-Z are nice tools to check your hardware.

    Your PC’s hardware is plenty capable to handle MMOs at medium graphics settings at 1680 x 1050 px … unless you participate in Rift’s invasion events with 100 other people. 🙂

  18. Telwyn February 11, 2016 / 1:07 pm

    Out of interest does the motherboard have a cheapo “on-board” Intel graphics chip on it or similar? Doesn’t matter what the monitor is plugged into many, if the computer wrongly uses the non-3D on-board chip instead of the plugged in card you’ll see awful gaming performance regardless of the processor, RAM etc. If you have the nVidia control panel installed check the “Manage 3D settings” page and the top “preferred graphics processor option. If you have two cards listed then this could be the issue. You can use this option to force the computer to use the plugged in card as the default at least for testing purposes or the game-specific profiles to set this on a game-by-game basis.

    Of course if your motherboard doesn’t have an on-board chip then this is irrelevant to your woes…

  19. ichthyo_stega February 11, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    well…

    1) you have to be more specific about your hardware. gtx 950 dosen’t say much. maybe there is an issue related to particular card model or model’s revision you’re using. same goes for mb, ram and power supply. it’s hard to suggest anything without knowing exactly what rig you use;
    2) as others suggested above – check if there is a difference in single player games;
    3) do you run games on sdd or hdd?
    4) what about your monitor? did you upgrade it as well? post model and parameters.
    5) try to stress test your computer with furmark or alternative stability benchmark. if your issue is related to insufficient power or overheating you should be able to crash your pc within first 20 minutes if not immediately;
    6) what about your ram frequency? did you try to set it up at least to xmp value or did you just slot modules into mb? download and install cpu-z and post somewhere screenshots of following tabs: cpu, mainboard, memory, spd;
    7) what was your previous processor?

  20. Silverangel February 11, 2016 / 1:59 pm

    The 3.2 GHz CPU is the same as my 5-year old i5-3470. Testing games that use GPU vs. CPU might be a good idea, as someone said above.

  21. ichthyo_stega February 11, 2016 / 2:11 pm

    actually your 5-year old cpu has slightly better max clock speed than his

  22. Ocho February 11, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    I’ll throw my shot in the dark here… Generally on systems that are having major fluctuation issues, I’ve found the issue to almost always be related to CPU temperature. You said they’re running fine, though. What sort of temps are you getting and what program are you using to check them?

  23. Syp February 11, 2016 / 7:28 pm

    Thanks for all of the suggestions/pointers — I’m working my way through them.

  24. Vagrant Zero February 12, 2016 / 1:14 am

    I’d say run your games at the minimum resolution (640×480) and see if there is a massive jump in performance. First step of the troubleshooting game is to isolate the CPU.

  25. Dolnor February 12, 2016 / 2:37 am

    If you don’t have one now, get an SSD. The older 480gig are almost cheap these days. Yes, a newer SSD drives are much faster but are much more expensive. Get an SSD and put your Windows 10 OS and perhaps 1 or 2 of your most played games on there too. Rest of your games/programs should go onto a fast hard drive (like a 2tb WD Black). Most SSD drives come with a utility to transfer the OS to the SSD easily.

    My old 260gig SSD really helped my systems…which is now 7 years old! -)

    TQQdles™

  26. Mbp February 12, 2016 / 2:38 am

    Is there any chance you have plugged your monitor into the VGA connector on the motherboard rather than the graphics card?

    Other thought: Are you streaming or recording video? Both are very CPU dependent.

  27. Syp February 12, 2016 / 9:37 am

    MPB – The motherboard doesn’t have a video out, so no, it’s definitely plugged into the graphics card (and I tried both slots on the card too). And I’m not streaming or recording.

    I do have an SSD for my games and my power supply is 750w. Graphics card is definitely plugged in. No integrated graphics chip that the computer might be confused about.

  28. j3w3l February 13, 2016 / 6:39 pm

    I’d say power issue as well- gpu will just go on available power rather than what’s needed. Ms afterburner can let you play with power settings. Few other good options in it as well.

    I’d say try forcing certain settings through the nvidia control panel rather than in game as well.

  29. Pierre February 14, 2016 / 5:07 am

    Hi Justin, I’ve been going through andthought a lot about your issue and your PC configuration and I must admit I don’t see what can be the reason capping your fps like that, whatever you do.
    The only thing strange with your configuration is the resolution you run: 1680×1050, not a standard one. Can you tell us why you have to use this resolution, is it your screen native resolution?
    One thing you can do is force change the resolution to more standard ones like 1280×720 or 1920×1080 and see if the issue is still present.

  30. JThelen February 15, 2016 / 11:06 pm

    There’s a lot of folks asking a lot of questions about things that have squat to do with performance; I’ll start with those.

    If you’re having performance issues, here are things that don’t matter:

    – Cables
    – Your power supply
    – Your motherboard
    – Whether or not your CPU has onboard video(it probably does, but it’s deactivated by the BIOS when you have a discrete card in use)
    – The output you’re using on your graphics card
    – Whether you have an HDD or SSD.

    Your issue, plain and simple, is that your video card is no good. It’s low end, and is going to struggle with anything beyond medium resolution and settings at mediocre framerates, which is exactly the problem you’re describing.

    So, you’ve got two options. Either drop resolution and settings until your framerates are acceptable to you, or buy a new card. Going forward, you generally want to be spending at least 2/3rds of what you spend on your motherboard/CPU as you do on your graphics card if not an equivalent amount. Yes, that sounds like a lot, but if you’re after performance, that’s what’s going to deliver it.

  31. Syp February 16, 2016 / 9:34 am

    Thanks for your comment JThelen, but as I noted in the post, dropping resolution and settings does nothing to improve the framerate. It’s the same on low as it is on ultra, and last night I confirmed that a lower resolution is treated pretty much the same.

  32. Roger Prouse February 18, 2016 / 11:31 am

    Looking at all you tried, I’m wondering if it’s a processing or bus issue. It looks like you are either being capped at how much is being processed, or something is eating processes while you play.

    Have you opened task manager while playing to see if something else is running and taking up a lot of processor power too?

    It sure doesn’t look like a graphics card issue. But are you able to put it in another computer to see if it works better or worse there? Though it sounds ruled out already, so you probably don’t need to bother.

    You mentioned it was a small motherboard. I wonder if you are able to compare the bus speed with other motherboards. If the bus is slow, that’ll bottleneck the rest of the system.

    Is this the build you went with on pcpartpicker.com?
    http://pcpartpicker.com/guide/7MMnTW/i5-4460-radeon-r9-390-gaming-pc

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