Odd computer freezes

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by tech4all, Aug 8, 2006.

  1. tech4all macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #1
    Brief summary of problem: Computer hangs when doing more intense stuff in applications such as iDVD, iPhoto, and Aperture. When it freezes, the only thing that really works is the mouse. Even when I rollover the dock, the name of the applications don't show up.

    In-depth examples:

    iDVD: I first noticed the problem with iDVD. I made a slideshow and was ready to burn a DVD. It would go through the common stages of rendering the music, slides, transitions, etc., then at a random point the computer would just lock up, and all I could hear is a tiny whine coming from the tower. Sometimes before it would freeze, I would notice that the image in the little preview window would look all "pixelated" or "scrambled". And the one time when it actually got to burn a DVD the image showed the same scrambled look.

    iPhoto: Sometimes when I open an image and do some adjustments, the computer would get into the same freeze. Plus sometimes it will give that same pixaleted or scrambled look to the image when doing some adjustments. It would go back to normal when I reset the settings. It would also do it when I would zoom into the photo as well.

    Aperture: (just installed yesterday) When I used the Loupe tool and was going over some sample images, I could tell it was working hard to process the information, then it freezed up on me again, like it did for iPhoto an iDVD.

    I first noticed this problem back in June when I was trying to make a slideshow DVD. That was with iLife '05. I installed iLife '06, samething. I took the computer to the Apple Store 'Genius'. They ran some test on it and couldn't really find the problem. He had a theory that perhaps one the processors wasn't working and when the computer needed the 2nd processor it would freeze up....not sure if that's the problem. I know this worked fine a bit over a year ago when I did the samething, but that was with iLife '04 and Panther, and I think a different video card; stock Nvidia 5200, I upgraded to an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition.

    Lastly one thing to note is that I had it to where it would ask for a password after coming from screensaver and when I clicked on switch user and it did that cube rotation thing, the image had the same scrambled look as it rotated. Small detail, but seems similar.

    Here are the specs of my machine:

    Power Mac G5 dual 2Ghz
    1.5GB RAM
    ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (256MB)
    OS X 10.4.7
    At least 60GB left on main start up hard drive

    Any ideas? :( :)
     
  2. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2001
    Location:
    Tuttlingen, Germany
    #2
    Have you tried the standard stuff like repairing permissions and running the maintenance scripts?

    EDIT: Also, are you still covered under AppleCare?
     
  3. tech4all thread starter macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #3
    Yes on the Repairing Permissions. No on the Maintenance Scripts. How would I go about doing that? (never done that before)

    Yea I have that till June of 2007 (got G5/AppleCare in June of 2004). They said I could have them take a look at, but back then I was in the middle of some work in which I needed the computer. I can't send it in right now because I have do something in about 2 weeks in which I need it.

    I really hope it's something I can fix on my own.

    Thanks for the reply elfin buddy :)
     
  4. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2001
    Location:
    Tuttlingen, Germany
    #4
    Glad to be of service, tech4all! Smart idea to be covered by AppleCare...if all else fails, get them to fix/replace your PowerMac for you!

    Just another couple questions to help me get my bearings...

    1) Are the freezes 100% reproducible and predictable? By that, I mean, do they always happen when you perform the same sort of task?

    2) Have you upgraded your PowerMac in any other way besides the new video card?

    The maintenance scripts are little programs built into the core of OS X that just clean up the system a bit. There are daily, weekly, and monthly scripts that will run on their own around 3am every night. However, if your Mac's asleep when the scripts are scheduled to run, they will not run on their own. The gradual slow-down of OS X that many users experience is likely due to these scripts never being run.

    To manually force the system to run them, you can either open up the Terminal and type the proper command, or you can download Onyx, which is a third party OS X utility. It can do a lot more than run maintenance scripts too ;) Get that, run all of the maintenance scripts and also tell it to optimise the system. It's fairly straightforward, so I'm sure you can figure it out :)

    If that fails to help, I'd recommend zapping the PRAM, which is kind of like an ace-in-the-hole that magically fixes all sorts of random problems. I haven't had to do it in a while, but I think you do it by holding down [CMD]-[OPT]-[P]-[R] on startup, and waiting for your Mac to chime a few times.

    To be completely honest though, from what you've told me so far, I'm very suspicious of your ATI video card. The common link between all the scenarios is that they are computationally intense, and generally involve graphics. You also mentioned "pixelated" and "scrambled" images on your monitor, which leaves the GPU highly suspect. Much of the graphics on OS X are handled by the graphics card, so a problem with that would likely generate problems in all sorts of graphically intense situations. If I recall correctly, the cube rotation on OS X is definitely handled by the video card, so any scrambling of that would almost certainly point to the graphics card.

    If none of the more standard approaches listed above worked for you, I'd recommend swapping your old nVIDIA in for your Radeon and seeing if that fixes things. In fact, I'd bet a beer on the video card being the culprit ;)

    If even that still fails, try removing any third party RAM that you've installed since the problems appeared. Disconnecting external peripherals (besides the keyboard and mouse!) can also help you isolate the problem.

    I'm very interested in finding out exactly what the problem is, so I'd very much appreciate you reporting back here if anything I've said fixes your problem :)

    Good luck!
     
  5. tech4all thread starter macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #5
    Yea maybe they'll give me a new Mac Pro ;)

    For the most part, yes. If I do some effects in iPhoto, it will probably do it, although not always. While I haven't done it lately, it almost always happened with the iDVD part I mentioned. It usualy did it at slightly different times during that stage. But I do recall that the screen saver tried to go on or something. And last night when it happened with Aperture, I put my iPod into the dock to see if the computer would see it, all I heard was the usual short 'grind' of the hard drive, but nothing else. So techincally I could say that it's 99% frozen when it happens, because there does seem to be some activity, although very little. All I get is the spinning beachball and mouse movement. In order to to get the computer back to nomral I have to do a hard restart by holding down the power button for a few seconds.

    Besided the new video card, all I have addes was 1GB ram (Apple), and recently installed a new second hard drive. But the problem was there before the HD. And oh yeah, I upgraded to Tiger last year.


    Yea I have to agree with you there. It does seem like the graphics card could be the culprit here. It does seem to be that whenever the computer works hard with regards to graphics it does it. I'm guessing the effects part in iPhoto use the graphics card. And I assume with iDVD with regarding to the final rendering, etc. Although it doesn't do it when working with iDVD as you would. Not unless iDVD uses the CPU most of the time. And I know Aperture uses CoreImage, and that has to do with the graphics card. Although it doesn't pixelate when I do the cube thing normally (as opposed to the password thing when coming back from screensaver).

    But one thing I noticed so far is that this problem seems to be related only to Apple apps. I've used Photoshop and haven't experienced any problems. Plus I downloaded the beta of Lightroom and that seems OK when I was playing around with it.

    I'll go ahead and give that stuff a shot. If it is the graphics card, I'm wondering if I could just reinstall the driver that it came with, or do the OS X updates also provide updated drivers? I'm just hoping it's a software problem, so I can just reinstall OS X and be done with it :)

    For sure. It's shame that I can't make a simple DVD because I wanted to do some a slideshow for a cousin in June and it was all done then I get this problem :(

    I'm gonna go ahead and try some of that stuff you mentioned (and maybe reinstall OS X) when I get a chance. Not sure if I should do it now or wait till I don't *need* it (just incase I mess something up).

    Thanks again for your help, elfin buddy! :)


    EDIT: Just wanted to add, that after I get out of the screensaver, sometimes there is a mouse icon on my second display, but it doesn't move, but does changes icons (ie: arrow to pointing finger) as the normal one does. But if I move the main mouse into the second display it goes away and it's fine.
     
  6. tech4all thread starter macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #6
    Update

    Yesterday I switched out the ATI card and put back in the Nvidia card, and did some test runs including making a DVD from iDVD (actually a disc image as not to waste DVDs) and it worked fine; I even watched with DVD Player on OS X fine. I also did the DVD again today and it rendered everything fine with no freezing; although when I did that Switch User thing when prompt for a password after screensaver, the cube did have a distorted look. So it seems like the ATI card is the culprit since everything seems to be working without freezing; with regards to iDVD that is. And iPhotos seems to handle fine when I tweak setting with RAW files from my camera.

    Now if it is the ATI card, what could be the problem? I noticed when I took out the graphics card, there was a significant amount of dust on it. Could the dust cause the card to over heat and thus freeze? Maybe a driver issue? I installed the software that came on the CD that I got with the ATI card though. I'm baffled by this one. I really need to use the ATI card because that's the one supported by Aperture.

    Any ideas? :confused:
     
  7. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2001
    Location:
    Tuttlingen, Germany
    #7
    Hello again! Thanks for the PM reminding me to come back here :) I have a horrible memory for things like that, haha. I'm glad to be of service.

    It's good to hear that we seem to have isolated the problem. Now, trying to figure out exactly what's wrong with the card itself could be a little tricker. There are a number of things that could be causing trouble with the card:

    1) The dust, as you mentioned, could have been screwing with things. I see this as theoretically possible, but I've never [in my limited experience] come across dust as being so horrible. Pretty much all computers get really dusty on the inside, and most aren't bothered by it. Either way, try to get a can of compressed air and give the card a good cleaning. Make sure you touch some sort of grounding object before picking up the card with your bare hands...static can be a b*tch ;)
    2) Perhaps the card wasn't properly set in the slot. If you installed it yourself, it's quite possible that you didn't push it down far enough or there was something else you missed. Try putting it in again (after the cleaning, I suppose), and make sure it's firmly in place. Run your tests again to see if it's fixed!
    3) As you said, this could also be a driver issue. If cleaning and re-setting the card didn't fix your problems, try re-installing whatever software came with your card and see if that fixes it. Hunt around on ATI's website for a newer driver too.
    4) Maybe you've got a lemon graphics card. If you can get your hands on another PowerMac, try putting the card in it and trying to reproduce your issues. If you can do it (while using the latest drivers), then the card is probably defective and your money should be refunded for it. At the very least, you should be able to get it replaced at no cost.

    I have no idea how ATI handles its returns. If it comes down to the card itself being defective, first try returning it to the store where you bought it. If they tell you to contact ATI instead, call their customer service and calmly explain your troubles to them, while slowly running through all the tests and trouble-shooting you've done. If you can convince the customer service agent that you've already done everything in your power to make it work, they'll be much more receptive about giving you a replacement or your money back.

    I had a problem with the plug on my power adapter for my PowerBook about a year ago, and I was dreading calling Apple because I know how difficult they make it to get things replaced or repaired. I made sure to do extensive tests and trouble-shooting before calling, so that I would know exactly what I was talking about. I systematically isolated the problem to the "duck head" connector, and told the agent about it. He didn't put up a fight at all or ask me to repeat any of my tests. Even though the part wasn't technically covered by AppleCare, he sent me a replacement part at no cost because of how sure I was about the problem. He was actually happy to bend the rules and send me a new part, just because I didn't lose my temper with him and I stayed rational the whole time.

    Anyway, that's my story, haha :)

    I'll subscribe to this thread now so that you won't need to PM me whenever you update it. Let me know how it goes!
     
  8. tech4all thread starter macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #8
    Update; sorry for delay.

    Well a couple of weeks ago I switched out the Nvidia card and put back the ATI card. But before I did that I gave it a good blow out with compressed air. But wow, the ATI card had a lot of dust on it. I'm talking about a thin layer of dust either. I'm talking about literal dust bunnies like that kind you find under your bed if you have carpet, or the kind that gathers below your computer desk. There must have been enough of dust on it to fill a jar a of baby food. The entire fan and heatsink had dust bunnies in them; I'm surprised to fan was able to even turn well. But I gave every nook n crany a good blow out with compressed air, put it back into the case and started the computer back up. Later on I ran some 'test' to see if it would freeze up again like last time. So I fired up iDVD and made a DVD (disk image actually), two times actually one after the other all without freezing up. Then did some test adjusts in iPhoto; seem to fine. Then did some stuff in Aperture for a few minutes like play with the Loupe tool and did some test adjustments to work the GPU; no freezes (other than small "stalls" that would probably be better if I added some more RAM).

    So whatever I did seems to have worked. Either the dust caused the graphics card to over heat causing it to slow WAY down, because technically it computer wasn't frozen as the mouse still moved and the screensaver did "somewhat" go one before. But either way it was "frozen" in my book. OR perhaps the card wasn't sitted in correctly, but I would think that there would have been more obvious problems on the screen, like weird graphics or lines or something. I tend to believe it was a dust problem because it seemed to only freeze when the graphics card had to work harder, thus causing more heat, and with the dust in there, it overheated and I guess that significantly hindered it's performance.

    So yea, just wanted to update you on what seems to be a solution to this problem. I don't know how much more testing I should do, can't just sit there all day and do things to see if it'll freeze again. So the problem seems to solved :) (Just have to remember to do a clean out of the case and graphics card every now and then)

    P.S. I'm surprised the 'Genius' at the Apple Store didn't think of this as a potential problem. He did open up the case.
     
  9. elfin buddy macrumors 6502a

    elfin buddy

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2001
    Location:
    Tuttlingen, Germany
    #9
    I'm glad to hear things seem to be working again for you! That sounds like a Hell of a lot of dust. I wonder how so much of it managed to build up...I mean, computers are usually dusty on the inside, but what you described sounds incredulous! Be sure to post here again if your problems return :)
     
  10. trainguy77 macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    #10
    I have done some sys admin work at some places in the past and dust can be a huge factor this is not the first time i have heard of this. Also just a comment try to keep machine off the ground even if its only 4 inches off the ground it really helps. Also the dust is bad for the fans it begins to build up and can kill the fans. So if its on the ground just put it on top of something to keep it up so it does not suck so much dust.
     
  11. tech4all thread starter macrumors 68040

    tech4all

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2004
    Location:
    NorCal
    #11
    Yea it was quite a bit of dust IMO, especially for a graphics card. I tried searching Google for the closest example of what it looked liked; this one from Wikipedia seems closest (minus the hair). It was just a little fluffier. If you have carpet that has dust, like behind a door or under your desk, and you run your finger through it and pick up all those dust bunnies, that's probably what it looked like.

    But yes I really hope that was the problem.

    Good advice. As elfin buddy asked, I think the tower being on the carpet, having all those holes Power Macs have, and adding those cooling fans for the processors AND the fan on the GPU, just sucked in all that dust over time. Definitely going to have to check the inside of the case in a few months to see how much dust has gathered. When I was blowing out the case with the can of air, all this dust just flew out of the case and the card when I took it out to clean it.

    Should have taken a picture of the card with all that dust on it :D
     
  12. Daksher macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    #12
    Radeon 9800 Pro MAC Edition?

    Just thought I'd add a little note in regards to the 9800 Pro Video Graphics card. Recently purchased one on ebay from seller ebcwizard, listed as "Apple ATI Radeon™ 9800 PRO 128MB GDDR AGP G4 & G5 NEW" ... Arrived in opened package - no manuals, no support. Definitely not new. And, it didn't work. Computer froze. Monitor streaky, patchy, lines, etc... Lots of freezing. Turned out the card was not a MAC edition, but a flashed PC edition. Reseated a number of times, froze at startup, image patchy ... an incredibly bad experience. Finaly ready to give up and return for exchange (seller would not refund), and I broke a coil off. Broken now. Dead card.

    Anyway, I purchased a brand new, true 9800 Pro MAC EDITION and everythings working silky smooth now. Wonderful.
     

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