Question Ghosts in the Machine: Help me analyze my PC's "quirks"!

Mar 14, 2024
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Hey there.

I’m new here and am looking for a technological wizard to help me “identify” some “unidentified items” — namely, the massive pile of weird things that my 8-year-old laptop (I know, that’s like ancient history in tech years) does on a daily or semi-daily basis. I call these “quirks” because, despite being very familiar with computers (or at least, my computer), I am a total plebeian when it comes to the actual tech running the show behind the scenes. I’ve “fixed” (or adapted to) numerous problems with my computer over the years just by noticing patterns and finding solutions by trial and error, but with the prospect of getting a new PC on the horizon (maybe another year or two), I’d like to know what is actually causing the problems. That way, I’ll be better informed going into the purchasing/building process.

First, I’ll list my PC specs as best I can, then I’ll start explaining the quirks. If you need more specs, I can find them, but I might need an explanation as to how.

PC Specs — MSI Laptop Model GE62VR 6RF
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6700HQ CPU @ 2.60GHz (8 CPUs), ~2.6 GHz
RAM: 16.0 GB (15.9 GB usable)
Dedicated GPU: NVIDIA GTX GeForce 1060 (Display memory: 6043mb)
Integrated GPU: Intel HD Graphics 530 (Display memory: 128mb); all games run on my dedicated GPU.
Disk Drives:
・HGST HTS721010A9E630
・KINGSTON RBU-SNS8152S3256GG5
・One HDD (913gb), one SSD (237gb). I don’t know which is which. The OS got installed on the SSD by mistake when I was ordering it. At present, the SSD only has 8.34GB free, while the HDD has 180GB free.

I’m sure it’s not an ideal computer. When I bought it, I had even less knowledge than I do now. Anyways, here are the quirks:

① Screen blackout.
In certain situations, my laptop monitor will unceremoniously start creeping multicolor lines up from the bottom of the screen for around 1-2 seconds before abruptly going black. This is a visual issue only; I’ve had it happen during video/audio calls and the call continues uninterrupted. I believe I can also interact with open program windows, etc, but it’s hard to be sure since I can’t see anything. As far as I know, the issue first started occurring following a faulty boot from sleep mode while on battery power. At that time, the whole screen went grainy black/white like an old box TV and, with no other recourse, I did a hard reboot. It took me a very long time to get the screen back for the first time after that, but I did eventually get it back. Ever since, I’ve gradually learned how to reliably get it back every time this visual error occurs, and I’ve also learned which screen actions have a tendency to trigger it in the first place:
High trigger rate: Webpages with inlaid text editors and scroll bars. For example, I now write all of my forum posts, etc, on cloud auto-saving text editors before copy & pasting, because there’s a high chance of losing it to a screen blackout if I write it directly into the forum’s text editor.
High trigger rate: Screen resolution changes, whether from the PC settings menu or auto-scaling when playing old games.
Moderate trigger rate: Alt-tabbing and/or changing tabs. Changing tabs or alt-tabbing (especially out of a full-screen game) can occasionally trigger it.
Low trigger rate: Anything else. On very rare occasions, the screen will just randomly die even while the computer is idle on the desktop background. Oddly, the issue occurs least often during gaming sessions (excepting games that change screen resolution). I almost never have it happen while in-game (thankfully, otherwise I would have long since ditched this PC).

I’ve had it suggested before that this issue is motherboard-related and/or due to faulty wiring, etc., to the screen. However, that seems to contradict the patterns that I have noticed. And I trust my eye for the patterns. As far as I can tell, based on the circumstances of the first occurrence as well as the reliable method of restoring my screen, it seems to be related to sleep mode somehow. When I lose the screen, the only way to get it back (sometimes) is to do a hard reboot of my computer. However, as I discovered after about a year of repeatedly doing hard reboots with only around a 5% success rate, if I close the laptop lid and reopen it, the success rate massively increases. It sometimes takes a couple of close/open cycles, but at this point I can almost always get it back with a single reboot. However, if the computer fully boots, the close & open trick stops working. It has to be done during boot or it won’t work. I’d really like to know what causes this so that I can be careful to avoid it in any future computer. Perhaps it is down to physical damage or dust, but I’m not sure why it would trigger more often with certain types of applications.

② Stuttering
This is a relatively new problem. I’ve long had trouble running particularly load-intensive games, but over the past year or so, the stuttering issue has become more pronounced. Since I’m not sure if I’m using correct terminology here, what I mean by “stutter” is that games periodically freeze for anywhere from a fraction of a second to a whole two seconds, with the longer freezes typically occurring in load-intensive games. Previously, it was only really a problem with big open world games, and I just put it down to dated hardware not being able to handle the amount of simultaneous loading of resources going on. However, these days I stutter in just about every game. The pattern I have noticed is that games stutter whenever something “new” happens, whether that means loading in distant environments as I move towards them in an open world game or even just loading the animation for an attack that hasn’t been used in a while. For this reason, I’ve always thought the issue came down to RAM issues, although I’m not sure whether it would be RAM or VRAM; I’m not knowledgeable enough to know how RAM even works. Smaller games tend to stop stuttering entirely once all the “new” resources have been “loaded”, I guess. Meanwhile, large open world games never stop stuttering. Or at least they only stop if I stay in the same very small area of the game that my computer can hold in memory? That’s the impression I get, anyways. In case it helps, here are some games I currently play a lot of and my experiences with stuttering in them:
V Rising: High to extreme stuttering. Stutters for 0.5~2.0 seconds while walking around the world, with worse stutters occurring at higher movement speeds. Does not typically stutter, or experiences only minor stuttering, from combat animations. If my computer is “tired” (i.e. probably has a lot of invisible background processes going on) then it starts stuttering seriously from animations as well.
Outward: High stuttering. Stutters for 0.5~1.0 seconds when encountering “new” animations, especially enemy attacks. Does not usually stutter from moving around the “open” world (the game is not a true open world; instead, each zone is just very large).
Risk of Rain 2: Moderate stuttering (temporary). Stutters for 0.3~0.5 seconds when encountering new animations and enemy spawns. Permanently stops stuttering after first encounters, until next game boot-up.
Gunfire Reborn: Moderate stuttering (temporary). Same issue as Risk of Rain 2.
Celeste: Mild stuttering. Stutters for 0.1~0.3 seconds when encountering new animations. Permanently stops after the first encounters, until the next boot-up.

③ Keyboard strokes failing
This problem hasn’t occurred in quite a while, but I suspect it still would under the original circumstances. Simply put, certain keys (keys along the same keyboard connection line, as far as I know) will start failing to register keystrokes at high laptop temperatures. This laptop has serious cooling issues and routinely runs in the 80~90℃+ range when playing games. The keyboard issues more or less stopped after I bought a cooling pad, but it still runs very hot (80+), especially in the summer. It’s strange to me that the issue only occurs at high temperatures, though, and I would like to know why that is. If it was heat damage to the keyboard, I would have expected the connections to become permanently unstable, not just unstable whenever exposed to excessive heat.

Those are three main issues that my laptop has at the moment, besides just generally struggling to run certain games and not others. I’d still like to know why it struggles unexpectedly with particular games, but in those cases it is probably as much the fault of poor optimization on the game’s end as it is dated hardware on my computer’s. Any insight you can offer is appreciated.

Thanks.

~Nocturnia~
 
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