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Frequent system freezes, graphics screwy [RESOLVED]


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#1
EMDF

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Short version:
My system (details of which can be found at the bottom of this post) is having some issues where after a certain amount of time, text starts disappearing from everywhere in the system, from the title bars of programs to the programs themselves. Around this time, certain programs (like Word 2007 or even mspaint) start giving me these errors as if I'm out of memory. I have 3GB of it, and am only using 1.5 when this happens, 2 at the most. It started about a month ago, at which point I could leave my computer running 24 hours a day for about a week before I got the problem. Now it's about a day and a half. I barely have anything running at startup, I notice no problems via task manager, and a hard drive test showed no problems.

Long version:
I've been having a strange problem for over a month now. It used to happen once a week, and now it's happening every one or two days. When I turn my computer on, at first everything works fine. It stays that way until the problem starts occurring, at which point I'm forced to restart if I want to do anything with my computer. Before this problem, I would leave my computer on for a week at a time with no issues, then restart to prevent various "application could not be initialized" errors that I thought was just an XP thing. I had that for basically the entire time I was leaving my computer on for a full week, so I assumed it was normal. I even ran thorough tests of my hard drive, and it passed every test with flying colors.

Then, within 7 days of around November 1st, 2010 (I don't remember the exact date), things got much worse. Instead of the errors I used to have, the graphics of the OS would get very screwed up. When popup dialogs would appear, it was normal, but the button text went missing when you hovered over it. When I would switch Firefox tabs, the title text disappeared, and would stay missing no matter what tabs I went to. (The first two symptoms appear at roughly the same time, although I haven't done any tests to verify that.) Programs began to have strange errors and symptoms as if there was a memory leak (some of them said "not enough resources available" or similar, Word 2007 would go to the smallest zoom possible, etc.). If you switched windows, the title bar would disappear, along with the three buttons in the top-right corner, which would reappear after you hovered over them. Then popup dialogs (such as Firefox's "are you sure you want to close this multi-tab window?") had zero text whatsoever, just blank buttons, a blank space, and images, although the buttons had the "shortcut key" underlines visible. Upon a restart, the symptoms would disappear, only to show up some time later.

This led me to believe it was a problem with my video card drivers. I upgraded to an ASUS EAH4670 (running the ATI Radeon 4670 HD GPU) about a year ago, and I never upgraded the driver since then. So I updated the driver hoping that would fix the problem. Needless to say, it seemed to have zero affect on anything, except for the fact that I now have ATI's Catalyst Control Center starting up with Windows.

I keep a very close eye on Task Manager to make sure programs don't consume enormous amounts of memory, and so that I can force-quit anything that gets 25% CPU (I have an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600). A few restarts ago, I noticed that Eclipse was taking up over 1 GB of memory. I was running the Android SDK, so I can only assume that was why. I started experiencing some of the early symptoms of the problem. I saved everything in Eclipse, then force-quit via Task Manager's "End Process" button. The symptoms disappeared long enough for me to save all my work without any hassle and restart. This leads me to believe there's some memory corruption or something, either by improper "garbage disposal" (I'm a programmer FYI), invalid pointers, or by a program reserving memory which is used by another program.

About midway through this problem, I realized that right around the time the problem started occurring, I had installed DisplayFusion. In the middle stages of the problem, DisplayFusion would give an error message and exit, putting all the taskbar buttons on my main screen. I was running 3.1 at the time, and checked to see if there was a newer version. There was, and 3.2 fixed a problem that prevented hangups and freezing on "multi-core systems in some situations", which is exactly what I have. I upgraded to that, and still had the problem. The next restart, I looked online for a solution, and found that there were 8 Beta versions released that supposedly fixed system freezing. So I installed the latest version, and no luck. I prevented it from starting up with Windows, and the problem persisted. I then used Revo Uninstaller to remove all traces of DisplayFusion after uninstalling, restarted, and when it came back on, I had no taskbar. Nothing loaded, including a program I put in the Startup folder of my Start menu. I used Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open Task Manager, closed Explorer.exe and restarted it, to no avail. I decided to look up the answer on Firefox, and when that started, the taskbar reappeared, but my antivirus and firewall were not in the notification area. I restarted, and the taskbar started up with Windows again. But I still had the original problem, so obviously DisplayFusion was not at fault (although it may have started the problem, removing it did nothing).

In the middle of all this, I used Autoruns to keep a very close eye on what started up, with quite a large portion unchecked. The only things that run now are:
- Unlocker (which was installed well before the problem occurred)
- Taskbar shuffle (which was also installed well before the problem occurred)
- Dynex Wireless Utility (which was again installed well before the problem occurred)
- Comodo Firewall (NOT the antivirus, I'm 100% sure of that and it even says the antivirus portion is disabled)
- Avira AntiVir Personal Edition
- ATI's Catalyst Control Center (which was added midway through the problem, so it's not the cause)

And the only programs that I have run every single time the problem occurred are Firefox 3.6.12 (with dozens of addons), Notepad, and Task Manager.

This is not a very big list, and unless Comodo Firewall, Avira AntiVir, or Firefox are causing the problem, there's something wrong with my system.

Here's what I've done to combat the problem (unsuccessfully):
- run Western Digital's hard drive tester on my only hard drive, a Seagate 7200 RPM 500GB version, model number unknown. I literally ran every single test, and it passed them all
- used Autoruns to prevent things like Java Updater from starting up, since I rarely run Java on my system
- uninstalled some programs I suspected were at fault
- updated all drivers that were modified after the older original issue (the weekly error message occurring several months ago)
- kept my system up-to-date with Windows Update
- prevented lexmark printer drivers from starting up (I still have HP drivers starting up though -- could this be the problem?)
- scanned my system with MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, and Avira AntiVir, coming up with no hits

And here's my system setup:
- MODEL: Dell Inspiron 530
- PURCHASED: late 2007 - early 2008
- OS: Windows XP Home Service Pack 3
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
- GPU: ASUS EAH4670 (ATI Radeon 4670 HD GPU; 512 MB DDR3 VRAM)
- PSU: 350W generic power supply
- HDD: Seagate 7200 RPM 500 GB
- RAM: 3GB generic DDR2 memory
- CD/DVD: two CD/DVD writers and readers
- AUDIO: built-in 5.1 surround sound integrated system, connecting to a $10 headphone set
- WIFI: Dynex 802.11 b/g card (unknown model number -- can find if necessary)
- MONITORS: dual 1440x900 LG monitors, primary connected with DVI-D, secondary connected with D-SUB/VGA
- OTHER: 10-in-1 card reader, roughly 6 USB ports, USB generic keyboard, GIGABYTE USB 5-button mouse with scroll wheel and adjustable DPI setting

Since I have no idea what's relevant about my system setup, I listed everything I possibly could.

I did a search on this forum for similar problem, and came up with no one describing anything similar to my issue. I did find something similar on Google here, except it's not as frequent, I don't get the same error messages (although I might if I kept the system running long enough after the problem starts), my icons on my desktop don't disappear (but again, it might if I kept the system running long enough), I don't get that weird file from 1999 that was modified at the time of the restart, and I'm able to restart using the start menu. I looked at his HijackThis! log, and the only thing we have in common is Avira AntiVir, Java, and Shockwave, the last two of which don't run for the vast majority of my "problem-free sessions".

Unfortunately, no one helped the poor fellow out, so I'm still clueless as to what the problem could be ;)

If anyone can help, that would be greatly appreciated :D

Edited by EMDF, 05 December 2010 - 02:10 PM.

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#2
Macboatmaster

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Please don't skip over this thread due to it's length, because I really do need major help


Whilst it was nice of you to apologise, at the start, for it being extremely long, you then add the above.
which sort of spoils it.
Take my advice, please. Everyone here is helping in their own time, free. That is the spirit of the forum.
We are all busy, post a summary.
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#3
EMDF

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Take my advice, please. Everyone here is helping in their own time, free. That is the spirit of the forum.
We are all busy, post a summary.

I apologize for that, I didn't even think of having a summary ;)

Thanks for the advice! I'll start doing that from now on (come to think of it, I'm surprised no one told me sooner :D ) First post edited with a summary.
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#4
Macboatmaster

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The cause was the latest updates from Avira AntiVir.
Early November saw a product upgrade to Avira v.10 that unleashed one [bleep] of a memory leak. If you are crashing and you have this version installed and up-to-date, uninstall it! Try downgrading to v.9 at:

NOT MY COMMENT a copy and paste from a website - the matter is quite well documented - on the web.
I am reasonably certain you will find this is the cause.

A fix is to be issued to the latest updates for Avira.

I would recommend you either uninstall Avira and await news of the fix. If you like it enough to reinstall it.

If it is the free edition you may wish to consider changing.

The choice is of course yours but since its improvements I hold Microsoft Security Essentials in high regard, not everyone will agree.

Edited by Macboatmaster, 03 December 2010 - 11:37 AM.

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#5
EMDF

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Holy shenanigans, I was expecting to take at least a week on this, but less than half a day and the cause is found! Thanks for the help! :D

I do in fact have the free version, so I'll try switching to Avast and see if that solves the problem. I'll report back here if I experience the problem after switching or after a few days if I don't. Now that I think about it, I did in fact update Avira right around that time frame, so that would make sense.

Thanks again! ;)
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#6
EMDF

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It's been 3 days and no more issues after switching to Avast. Considering I had it twice the day I made that last post, I'd say this issue is resolved. :D

Oddly enough, my Vista laptop with Avira AntiVir has no problems, and I've left it on for about a week now ;) But now I'll know what's going on if the laptop starts experiencing the same problem.
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#7
Macboatmaster

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Great and thanks.
Just wanted to know, for certain, as I am sure the issue will arise again from someone else.
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