[SOLVED] Confusing stuttering and freezing when game windows are out of focus on new PC

Jan 8, 2022
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I ordered an HP Pavilion TG01 prebuilt gaming desktop a while back and it finally arrived on the 27th, and up until 2 days ago it had been smooth sailing and served me just fine.

Quick specs rundown if it helps; I will share any more that are relevant if needed, though I'm not the most tech savvy person

CPU: Intel i5-11400F

GPU: NVIDIA RTX 3060TI

RAM: 16 GB in total (8x2)

OS: Windows 11

Sorry for the LONG post but I figured the more details on this baffling issue, the better.

Wednesday morning, I left a game running and put the computer into sleep mode while I left to go do errands, and a few hours later I returned and powered it back on to see that the computer had mysteriously rebooted itself in that time, as my game and all programs that were on in the background were closed and it was as if I had turned it off myself before I left.

I assumed I must've pressed the shut down option instead of sleep like I'd thought (I left in a bit of a hurry), or that Windows had somehow managed to autoupdate something on its own and rebooted, but I also considered the possibility that the power might've gone out on its own while I was away. Whatever the reason, at the time I didn't consider it a big deal and I booted up a game (Halo Infinite).

From there, the problems began. Once the game had loaded up and I tried to click on the title screen to enter the main menu, the game completely froze up. I could still hear the audio running perfectly in the background, and as I moved the mouse cursor around the frozen image, I could even hear the UI options making noise as I hovered over them. I alt-tabbed out and, much to my surprise, the game unfroze and could be seen running perfectly in the background as long as the focus was on another window.

But as soon as I'd click back on the game window, or selected it via alt-tab, it'd completely freeze up once again. I tested this even further by loading up an actual match by furiously alt-tabbing in and out of the game window and clicking on the menu options while they were locked in a still frame, and sure enough, when I exited the game window, I could see the match unfolding completely unhindered in the background.

I tried restarting my PC twice, and on the second attempt, the game managed about 15 seconds of normal operation before locking up once more, with the same focus loss unfreezing persisting across all attempts.

I loaded up another game (Borderlands 3) to see if this was just an issue with Halo, and that game suffered from the exact same issue. Completely frozen and unresponsive until I alt-tabbed to another window and viewed the game in the background, at which point it'd run perfectly fine. One tidbit I must mention is that, according to Steam's framerate counter for both these games, they were running at normal framerates (about 80-90 for each) despite visibly appearing to be frozen while in focus.

I loaded up NVIDIA GeForce Experience and saw there was a new driver update available, so figuring this might be an issue with my GPU driver which was several months out of date, I installed it. That proved fruitless as well, and the issue persisted for both games. I then attempted the opposite and used Display Driver Uninstaller to remove all traces of NVIDIA drivers from my PC, then installed one I hadn't tested yet from October.

At that point, the issue finally seemed to disappear, but it was replaced with another; I played Borderlands 3 for about an hour without much interruption until I started getting some pretty bad stuttering that seemed to occur regularly every 2-4 seconds. Upon further testing, I noticed that the stuttering only happened while my character in-game was in motion, but specifically when I moved them around via the keyboard.

I changed my "move forward" key in the in-game options menu to one of my mouse buttons, and perplexingly, there was no stuttering at all. No matter how much I moved, as long as I wasn't inputting anything on the keyboard, the stuttering was absent. I exited the game and started typing in the Windows search bar and Microsoft Edge (yes I use edge because I'm a rebel) and, sure enough, the stuttering was present there as well, in almost exactly the same pattern and time intervals as the stuttering I experienced in-game.

I attempted to plug the keyboard into every USB port available on the PC, and even fetched an old work keyboard and tested that one too. The same issue persisted no matter what.

More testing across different games and programs showed that this stuttering seemed to affect only some things in particular: text boxes, games and certain program windows visibly stuttered as I dragged them around the desktop, while other things did not, which include but probably aren't limited to YouTube videos, the mouse cursor, most Windows programs like File Explorer and Settings, and even some games which seemed to be unaffected.

This problem seems to come and go when running games, and seemingly begins at random intervals. I could start a game and immediately have it stuttering within 10 minutes, while at other times, it'd only kick in after about an hour or two of play, sometimes even longer. Even more worryingly, certain games, usually the ones most impacted by the stuttering, suffer random bouts of immense hitching/freezing; they lock up and hang on a single frame for 3-5 seconds at a time, then unfreeze and repeat in 3 second intervals for about 20 seconds.

Aside from the stuttering and hitching, the only other problem I've had while testing was one game which suffered horrible keyboard input delay issues but was otherwise normal (Deathloop). I haven't noticed any artifacting, blue screen crashes, strange computer noises or anything else that would signal serious hardware malfunction... at least not yet. GPU and CPU temperatures also appear to be completely normal and well below unsafe levels even when the stuttering and hitching are at their worst, so I doubt it's caused by heating issues.

So at this point, I am just completely clueless as to what could be the issue, and, at least to my technically inept mind, there isn't any clear culprit for what I've been experiencing. Corrupted drivers? GPU failure? A power supply issue? Windows 11 being wonky? The fact that so many of the details contradict one another is what's most confusing: system-wide stuttering, but only on certain windows and in certain programs, mostly whenever something is being typed. In-game stuttering exacerbated by keyboard input but completely absent when using the mouse. Game windows that freeze up, but only when they are in focus, still running normally in the background.

I know this was a long post, but as you can probably tell by now if you've read this far, this is a really confusing case and I wanted to share as many details as possible. My plan is to factory reset the computer to see if the stuttering and hitching will disappear in the PC's original state, to rule out possible driver corruption, and if the issue persists, then I guess it's just return time. But I'd really appreciate if some more tech-savvy users could give me a hint as to what could be going wrong exactly before I go too far: is this a software/OS corruption issue or are these signs of a failing GPU/PSU, or other more sinister hardware problems? Thank you!
 

Colif

Win 11 Master
Moderator
the results show as fine, I can't run the tests myself to confirm/deny what your graphics tests showed you as I don't have the right hardware.

so it stutters unless its out of focus. thats odd given how windows 11 works now. it is meant to give applications that have focus more resources than processes that are running in background, to make the focused apps as smooth as possible regardless of what else is running.

Try a clean boot and see if it changes anything - make sure to read instructions and make sure NOT to disable any microsoft services or windows won't load right - https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/help/929135/how-to-perform-a-clean-boot-in-windows

All it does is stops programs running with windows, they can cause conflicts.

if clean boot fixes it, it shows its likely a startup program. You should, over a number of startups. restart the programs you stopped to isolate the one that is to blame.
 
Jan 8, 2022
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have you run the HP Support assistant? it can check hardware and suggest driver updates - https://support.hp.com/au-en/help/hp-support-assistant
Sorry for the the late reply, but the diagnostics took longer than I thought. I did both the "system extensive test" and all selectable "component tests". All seemed to pass just fine, except for the "wired ping test" which only failed because I don't have a wired connection at the moment.

However, I did notice that during the "video extended memory check" and "video fast memory check", the display would flash a series of screens featuring a glitchy mess of rainbow static and various shades of grey. I'm not sure if that's SUPPOSED to happen, but I would hope not.

I uploaded the test logs here if they would be of any use.

Ufile.io - 1641652800

As for drivers, the only ones the HP support assistant app showed that required updating were Realtek audio drivers and a bluetooth one, both of which I have installed now.
 

Colif

Win 11 Master
Moderator
the results show as fine, I can't run the tests myself to confirm/deny what your graphics tests showed you as I don't have the right hardware.

so it stutters unless its out of focus. thats odd given how windows 11 works now. it is meant to give applications that have focus more resources than processes that are running in background, to make the focused apps as smooth as possible regardless of what else is running.

Try a clean boot and see if it changes anything - make sure to read instructions and make sure NOT to disable any microsoft services or windows won't load right - https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/help/929135/how-to-perform-a-clean-boot-in-windows

All it does is stops programs running with windows, they can cause conflicts.

if clean boot fixes it, it shows its likely a startup program. You should, over a number of startups. restart the programs you stopped to isolate the one that is to blame.
 
Jan 8, 2022
3
0
10
0
the results show as fine, I can't run the tests myself to confirm/deny what your graphics tests showed you as I don't have the right hardware.

so it stutters unless its out of focus. thats odd given how windows 11 works now. it is meant to give applications that have focus more resources than processes that are running in background, to make the focused apps as smooth as possible regardless of what else is running.

Try a clean boot and see if it changes anything - make sure to read instructions and make sure NOT to disable any microsoft services or windows won't load right - https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/help/929135/how-to-perform-a-clean-boot-in-windows

All it does is stops programs running with windows, they can cause conflicts.

if clean boot fixes it, it shows its likely a startup program. You should, over a number of startups. restart the programs you stopped to isolate the one that is to blame.
Heyo, sorry for the delay. I tested more games and programs after my last post and I made a surprising discovery: the stuttering I encountered while typing and gaming whenever the keyboard was in use was actually caused by HP's gaming computer monitoring app, OMEN Gaming Hub. Specifically, whenever I have the tab that monitors CPU and GPU temps open, both the OMEN app and any text I input anywhere stutter in 2-4 second intervals, and it also affects certain games as well, though seemingly only rarely. I have no idea why, but I have tested running games and programs without the OMEN app running and the keyboard-based delay is pretty much gone.

I also haven't encountered that full-screen focus freeze issue in at least 2 days now, though admittedly I have only tested ONE of the games that was affected by the issue. With those two problems seemingly out of the way, at least for now, the only two I have left are, one: the random freezing/hitching I encountered, which I have so far only encountered in one game out of the 6 I've tested in the past 2 days (Borderlands 3, if the specific game is of any use). It only seems to occur when the game flashes an error message notifying me that my connection to the game's servers has been lost (I have rather unstable internet), so I'm inclined to believe it's something to do more with that game's poor optimization than anything on my end, as it hasn't affected any other games recently.

And the second issue: very very slight microstutters/frame drops in a few games. I kind of think this is just me looking too deeply, as the few games I've noticed them in generally maintain very high and respectable framerates most of the time, but I have noticed that I feel slight, nearly imperceptible frame drops at times that are also detected by the game's framerate counter as a drop of 10-20 frames, but recover quickly in less than a quarter of a second. I'd have to do more research/use a frametime analysis program to check if this is something actually worth worrying about, but it's not a huge issue as of right now.

If the hitching/stuttering returns in a more severe fashion, then I'll attempt to use the Windows clean boot method you provided to possibly identify if a certain program is causing issues, and make another post if needed, but for now, it seems that some combination of either driver updates, the diagnostic tool, or my disuse of the OMEN gaming hub app seems to have solved the most major issues I was encountering. Thank you for the help!(y)
 

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