Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today's Top Windows Annoyance: Periodic System Hangs

One of the issues I have been dealing with on my IBM ThinkPad T42 with Windows XP SP2 for months has been system "pauses", or another way to think of it is "soft hangs". I didn't put it together until today, but basically anytime audio was playing, every once and a while, the screen would not paint, e.g. the cursor wouldn't move, and audio would skip. I reached my breaking point on this today and solved the problem. The problem was made worse when multitasking Whenever I encounter one of these problems, I always think to myself What would Mark Russinovich do?. I would definitely say he is one of my Windows Heroes, someone that makes working with Windows manageable, his tools are indispensable. Following his article on exploring Explorer.exe periodic system hangs I fired up Process Explorer. I had seen that System was responsible for the soft hangs numerous times, but I had always forgot about the Threads tab until re-reading the blog post. Lo and behold, kmixer.sys was taking up about 5% of CPU time and doing a lot of context switching whenever the hang occurred. So I Googled around, and it seems a lot of people have had problems with kmixer.sys before. Kmixer.sys is a kernel audio mixer, and one of the suggested fixes was to reinstall your audio drivers. On this ThinkPad, the only audio "hardware" is a Analog Devices SoundMax part. I have always disliked this solution, services and logon time apps get installed in addition to the drivers with the full driver package, and stuff just doesn't work without the full package. The most recent version I could find for the SoundMax drivers from IBM was I uninstalled that and then rebooted. Windows offered to search for a driver, so I decided to accept the invitation, and it automatically installed driver version It would seem that this older revision has done the trick, at least when the CPU is not under high stress, because I just watched an episode of Alias on completely audio skip free under normal work load, which wasn't the case before, and I am a happy camper. Thanks Mark!