Question Random Black Screen while (mostly) playing games

Apr 24, 2019
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Hello all,

First post here because I am completely stumped. People have posted similar problems, but very rarely do people post how it resolved in the end.
I will first present my build, then the situation, followed by everything I have already tried. I have been building computers since 2013, so I have some knowledge, but I know that many of you have more expertise :)

Build:
Windows 10 - 64 Bit
MOBO: ASRock 970 EXTREME3 AMD 970 & SB950 ATX DDR3 800 AMD - AM3+ Motherboard
CPU: AMD FX-8370E Eight-Core Processor
GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti 6GB SC+ GAMING ACX 2.0+
PSU: Corsair HXi Series, HX1200i, 1200 Watt (1200W), Fully Modular Power Supply, 80+ Platinum (yes -- I know, quite large)
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB (2x8GB) DDR3 1600 MHz (PC3 12800)
Monitor 1: Acer Predator XB281HK bmiprz 28-inch UHD (3840x2160) NVIDIA G-SYNC Monitor
Monitors 2 and 3: Acer GN246HL Bbid 24-Inch 3D Gaming Display (144Hz Refresh Rate)
Hard Drive 1: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD - Operating System on here
Hard Drive 2: Seagate 3TB Desktop HDD SATA 6Gb/s 64MB Cache 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive
Hard Drive 3: Samsung 860 EVO 1TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD
Not directly part of the build, but everything is plugged into a UPS to ensure safer, more consistent electrical flow.

Situation:
First note -- despite what I will say, my computer crashed while first making this post.

I estimate that about 2ish months ago, the problem started happening. When playing games, my computer would randomly black screen. The screen would turn off, but lights on my mouse/keyboard would remain on, and fans would keep spinning. No key inputs would work (including refreshing video drivers), and sound would briefly continue/loop, and then cut out. I was forced to turn it off by holding the power button. I'd guess that about 95% of the time if a crash happened, it would be when playing a game, though a few have happened with youtube/music. That being said, those types of crashes happened shortly after a gaming black screen (including the one for this post). I have also gotten a couple of memory errors that resulted in a BSOD. The only one I was quick enough to get a pic of was "DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL. Importantly, this has happened with Rainbow 6 Siege, Overwatch, and Rocket League (i.e., not all of those are intensive, and it has happened while just in the menus of those games). Also important, Rainbow 6 is on the 1TB SSD, while Rocket League and Overwatch are on the 3TB HDD.

Something interesting with the PC properties (i.e., go to "My PC," right click, and click "Properties). It was saying "16 GB (8 GB usable)" - see point 3 below for how this played out.

Lastly -- It feels like the frequency has drastically picked up this week on the above symptoms.

Things I have tried (not in chronological order):
  1. Cleaning the inside of my computer. Can confirm it is clean.
  2. Reinstalling windows 10 (two clean installs plus a reset because the computer randomly wouldn't let me login during this process)
  3. Swapping the power supply - not successful
  4. Temps all within normal ranges (CPU in the low 40s / GPU in mid 50s with lighter games, 65ish max for more intensive games, but this isn't unreasonable for this GPU). Monitored them in general, as well as when playing a game.
  5. RAM - RAM originally in 1 and 3. Switched it to 2 and 4. Nothing. Put it back to 1 and 3, and the "8 GB usable" disappeared. After next crash, I booted up, and the "8 GB usable" was back. Tried taking sticks out and just using one at a time - crashed for both sticks, regardless of slot. Also tried to pull some old (but functional) 2x4 GB ram - I got the same "4 GB unusable" message. Currently, even after the crash from this post, I have 16 GB, so it looks typical. (And yes, the sets of RAM were purchased as a set, and no mix-matching has occurred. I have only been using the above listed RAM).
  6. Swapped out my old mobo with another mobo that was the same model (I had two of the same model). This made all symptoms go away for probably 2ish weeks. In rebuilding the computer when changing the mobo, I doubly made sure things looked clean.
  7. Installing a number of different GPU driver versions for my GPU. By that, I mean that I updated to the most recent. When the problem persisted, I rolled back a few months (i.e., January, when I knew it wasn't a problem), but the problem persisted. Currently on the January driver.
  8. Removing the 4k Monitor -- same symptoms.
  9. Have done CPU and GPU stress tests. No crashes or temp concerns (though they did get to the highest they usually do, as expected)
  10. Have used Memtest86 on both sets of RAM mentioned in Point 5 - no issues on either.
  11. I do not play my games on highest settings and 4k. To ensure frame rate fidelity, I play on 2k and high graphics. On rainbow 6, about 1/2 of my VRAM was is use.
My current thoughts:
  1. I am afraid to update my BIOS because I know it can murder your mobo. While I know people emphasize this, I honestly am not sure what the BIOS really does. As such, it hasn't been clear if updating it could help this problem or not. I am open to doing so, but a link to a reputable video/instruction would be very much appreciate. If it is a potential solution, could someone at least explain why -- and, in doing so, explain why it would happen so randomly (mostly so that, if it is the culprit, I have the knowledge for future computer diagnoses).
  2. With the RAM inconsistencies that have persisted between 2 mobos and 2 sets of RAM, it feels like a software-type memory problem. But, I really can't say that this is anything more than a hunch.
  3. Was thinking GPU before, but would point 5 above occur if it were the GPU? This option is frightening because upgrading is very expensive (see below). That being said, I can try another GPU -- time has just been tight, and I thought your thoughts would be more helpful.
  4. Could it be some of the cables between the PSU and various components? I haven't changed those, as the Voltage/Electrical side of computers is unclear to me.
  5. I upgraded my router (NETGEAR AC1200 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet) on 3/6/19. I do not have a clear memory when this problem started, but is it even sightly possible that this could cause it? Seems silly.
  6. Also borrowed a new headset in mid March (CORSAIR Void PRO RGB). I set it up and use the iCUE software for settings. Also seems silly, but possible software conflicts?
Last statement:
I am a clinical psych doctoral student who has to juggle clients, coursework, research, students, and a very very tight budget. I say that for two reasons. 1) As you wonderful people provide suggestions, I will try to address them as quickly as possible. However, I am at the end of the semester and things are absurdly busy. As such, maybe consider subscribing to the thread so that, if there is a 1-2 day delay, we can still stay in contact with one another. 2) I do not have a spare CPU or another GPU on par with the 980 ti (can test, but would really like to stay on par with the 980ti in the end). So, I'd like to try to be as certain as possible that those parts are the culprit before buying them, as I'll need to dip into my savings to replace them. (This build was made before grad school when I was working full time and had a disposable income, so that is why my computer and income are so inconsistent lol).

Thank you all very much for your time.
Much appreciation,
Charlie
 
Last edited:

onespeedbiker

Prominent
Apr 13, 2019
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I read about a similar problem which involved the seating of the CPU. Try removing the fan, remove the CPU (obviously check the pins) reinstall with new grease. Hey, it worked for the other guy..
 
Apr 24, 2019
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I read about a similar problem which involved the seating of the CPU. Try removing the fan, remove the CPU (obviously check the pins) reinstall with new grease. Hey, it worked for the other guy..
Thanks for the reply! However, when I switched mobos, I had to remove the CPU and heatsink, remove and reapply the thermal paste (arctic silver), and then reseat the CPU. When I first removed it, I had no bent pins. Since the symptoms were present before the mobo switch, I'm not sure there is reason to believe it is the CPU seating or pins.

Thanks for the idea though
 

iMatty

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Mar 14, 2019
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And you should really start testing all of the parts, cause sometimes blackscreen can be related to power supply issues, you should start with only cpu and cpu cooler and 1 stick or ram and power supply
if it kept happening then start changing things up and try to test the parts in another rig if possible that will help in troubleshooting your problem.
 

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