High CPU usage on laptop?

Hey all. I have a techincal question. I’ve been running a Diablo 2 TCP/IP internet game with friends, and one of them is having crash problems. I’ve been trying to get it licked for weeks without lasting success.

The problem is that the game video hangs at irregular intervals. The game continues to play underneath (you can hear the sounds and so forth), but the video just freezes. Sometimes it comes back after 5 seconds, sometimes it comes back after 60 seconds (honestly, it hangs that long), sometimes it never comes back. Other times it runs totally smoothly, which makes it really hard to troubleshoot.

Today as I was looking at it again, I noticed that when the game is running, the CPU usage spikes up near the top of the graph–around 85-95% on average. Turn the game off and CPU usage drops down to the 2-5% range. This seems totally wrong to me–it’s a P4 1.4 GHz and shouldn’t be brought to its knees by Diablo 2, right?

If anyone can offer insight into why the CPU usage would be so high and what, if anything, I could do to help bring it down, I’d appreciate it. I saw the 85-95% spike off of a clean reboot with nothing running in the start menu other than things that are necessary and no background apps other than the Net connection. System specs:

Dell Inspiron 2650
P4 1.4 GHz
384K RAM
Geforce 2 Go video card w/ latest driver
DirectX 8.1

Thanks very much for any help!

I can see how that would be a problem. Seriously though, was Diablo II running in 3D mode? Did you see the same problems in 2D?

What OS? Have you done a defrag lately?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the game itself. D2 is notorious for having big hitches like that in boss/miniboss areas, with Duriel’s chamber being the biggest example. Have you noticed what parts/actions this freeze up happens on, or is it completely random?

Type /fps in the chatbox when you’ve got it running. If it shows D2 as sucking up every bit of that 384 megs of RAM and a good chunk of your swap to boot during these hitches, then you can basically get more RAM and hope for a minor improvement. You can also try copying the music files to the HD, turn music off, or turn sound off altogether with -nosound (i think) in the command line.

Also notable is that Diablo2’s D3D mode is pathetic, and you’re better off with DirectDraw 2D for any card not made by 3dfx.

I have to disagree with just about everything Jon R. said. I recently played Diablo 2 + LOD for the first time on a 700mhz laptop with 128 meg ram, 8 meg S3 graphics chip and a 6gb hard drive. I ran it in 3D mode and I never once noticed a hang-up or a slowdown or any of the problems Rywill is describing. Given my experience, I’d say there must be something more fundamentally wrong with the computer besides Diablo 2. And hello, Blizzard? Where’s the 1.10 patch already?

Thanks for the replies. We had the problems in both 2D and 3D mode. After I dl’d the latest video driver, 3D mode wouldn’t even work, so we’ve been playing in 2D mode but still had the problems. She’s running WinXP. The crashes appear at random, certainly not just in boss areas. Sometimes she’ll just be standing still with nothing on the screen and the game will freeze. I’ve noticed it always hitches the first time it loads a new animation (like the first time she attacks after starting the game) for just a second. Weird.

I hadn’t tried a defrag, so I’ll give that a shot. We already maxed out the memory in trying to fix this, so I’m kind of stuck at 384. But I’ve become convinced–maybe irrationally–that the problem is not lack of memory (even peak usage is well under her max), but rather this incredible tying-up of the CPU while the game is in use.

In my experience, the newer the video card I have, the worse Diablo 2 runs. The smoothest I have ever seen D2 run was on a p2-400 with a matrox mystique. Smoother than it runs now on my Athlon 2500 and a Geforce 4.

The defrag can’t hurt, but I doubt you’ll see a huge amount of improvement with that alone.

I suspect the video card driver just doesn’t like the game. Can you get hold of a history of video drivers for the card? It might be worthwhile trying old drivers until you find one that likes the game better. It’s not a great solution so by all means try everythign else first. Good luck.

[color=red]EDIT:[/color] Oh, here’s an idea: try setting the desktop to the same resolution as the game and see if that helps at all. You might also drop the refresh rates and color depth, too, and see if any of that helps.

It’s an old game so you probably do have the right version of DX or higher on the machine, right?

The CPU being maxed out is a symptom, not the cause.

Okay, good points, and thanks. She does have DX 8.1, which is higher than what’s required. I tried matching her default resolution with the game. I get a warning message that it’s not an ideal resolution for the laptop monitor, but the game did seem to be running better. We’ll see if it solves the problem.

Something to do with power-saving maybe?

Yeah, just buy her a new desktop. Problem solved. :)

I actually considered that–I’ve got almost enough scratch parts lying around to build a new system.

Power-saving is also a good idea. I’ll check that as well. Gosh, both of my mortal enemies in here helping me troubleshoot a computer problem. We are the world. :D

It’s to lure you into a false sense of security. Then - BAM - higher taxes!

Tricksy liberals. We hates them!

Is it one of the CPUs that turns its own clock down when it gets too hot? My work laptop turns on its cooling fan, and that doesn’t work it underclocks itself.

When I played TCP/IP games I had a similar problem, but it only happened on the host computer. I just assumed it was network related somehow.

Today as I was looking at it again, I noticed that when the game is running, the CPU usage spikes up near the top of the graph–around 85-95% on average. Turn the game off and CPU usage drops down to the 2-5% range. This seems totally wrong to me–it’s a P4 1.4 GHz and shouldn’t be brought to its knees by Diablo 2, right?

Any processor will “be brought to its knees” by a program that just loops. Games are usually implemented in a way that loops as much as possible in order to get the maximum number of frames (or updates) per second. Therefore they will always get ~90% CPU usage unless something else is running. Some games could possibly be “nicer” to the sytem and sleep if looping is not needed (because it is fast enough already), but I think they are the minority.

Yeah, there’s a logic to this. I think most game developers assume you’re not going to be multi-tasking when you’re playing the game (notable exception being MS flight sim and its word optimizations. :)

Dude, only the good guys can have mortal enemies. The bad guys just get their butts kicked by superheros. Excuse me while I go iron my cape.

No offense to all the wonderful advice/tips given by everyone else in this thread, but it really sounds like a defragmented HD problem. I had this a few days ago and found out that one of the freezes actually damaged some OS files, so I had to reinstall Windows after some disk scanning. Everything’s fixed on my laptop now that I’ve run defrag, no more pauses/freezes.