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So I had sent my PC to a repair shop for a format, and when I have it back I noticed that some of the games I usually play are running slower than usual. For example, pre-format, my PC was able to handle Left 4 Dead at full detail, and now even at the lowest detail settings it lags and skips like crazy. I've made sure that the drivers are up-to-date (version 275.33), I've got DX 9c installed, I made sure that the anti-virus didn't get in the way by uninstalling it completely before playing, and I even went into the Nvidia Control Panel and set it to emphasize "performance" over "quality", and nothing seems to be working. I'd hate to have to take this back to the shop, is there anything else I can check or do?

Additional specs here

Specs:
Intel Pentium D 2.66ghz
1 GB RAM 
nvidia 9400 GT (1 GB)
250 GB HD

UPDATE: So I took the time to run fraps to get an idea of just how bad things are playing, here are the results, I played HL2 for a good 15 minutes, the "Our Benefactors" chapter @ 1024 x 768 resolution and low detail for everything, and no sound.

Frames   Time (ms)   Min     Max     Avg
13853    1042360     0       45      13.29

Another test run in another section of the game:

Frames   Time (ms)   Min     Max     Avg
6507     898140      0       31      7.245

It's like my video card doesn't even exist

I know my specs are on the low end of things here but I honestly think something's wrong.

UPDATE 2: Reformatted the entire computer again, reinstalled the necessary drivers and tried again, still no change in performance. I'm tempted at this point to think that my GFX card might've failed in some way but it still works as far as the Windows desktop is concerned, I can still surf the web and edit documents, and do other non-gaming related activities.

UPDATE 3: Solved! As per the advice in the answers and comments below I used Speccy and Speedfan to monitor the system temp and saw that it was holding steady at 91 C, so I took it apart and inspected the HSF and saw that the thermal paste was old and cracked and stuff and sure enough when I put it back together and powered up the system wouldn't even stay on, so I replaced the thermal compound and now I'm getting temps of 67-68 C average and Fraps reports the following -

Frames, Time (ms), Min, Max, Avg
8892,    279468,   0,   81,  31.818

And I suspect that the rest of my stuff will work fine now.

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What did they do, exactly? Wipe the drive and reinstall the same OS again? –  slhck Aug 7 '11 at 8:59
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You are on the edge of the requirements as it is... –  soandos Aug 7 '11 at 9:03
    
I'm surprised the game runs at all. –  surfasb Aug 7 '11 at 9:17
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Yeah, they just wiped it and reinstalled the OS + some drivers. Even if I'm on the edge of the requirements, L4D was still infinitely more playable pre-format than it is now. –  cornjuliox Aug 7 '11 at 10:41
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You can always try nHancer. It helps pull a little more juice out of nvidia cards. But I suspect you have not got the same nvidia driver as before. –  Paul Aug 9 '11 at 3:14
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5 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted
+100

You can use Speccy or SpeedFan to show the temperatures of all your computer components. I would pay close attention to the video card temperature (GPU). Both programs have options to graph the temperatures over a period of time. Open the graph, play a game, and then check the graph to see how hot it got. If your video card is overheating... it can do exactly what you are describing.

Make sure your heatsinks are clear of dust and make sure all fans spin.

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Reading the question, heat was the first thing I suspected. Just moving an old system can 'crack' old, dry thermal compound. Pentium D's are particularly subject to this problem. –  David Schwartz Aug 22 '11 at 13:23
    
I did not know that, David. I definitely want to repaste my laptop now. –  TuxRug Aug 24 '11 at 5:18
    
I've got speccy running and it's reporting that my motherboard temperature is a whopping 91 degrees celsius (gfx card 59 degrees C, and HDs @ 30 degrees C)? Would this be the source of the problem? –  cornjuliox Aug 25 '11 at 0:45
    
@cornjuliox It could be the problem. If it is a desktop computer, you can take the side panel off and point a strong fan at it. If the temperature drops, test the games to see if they work better. 91 Celsius is very hot... almost boiling. My motherboard reports at 121 Celsius but Im pretty sure the thermometer is broken. All my other temps are in the 40's and 50's –  James T Aug 25 '11 at 6:52
    
Only the CPU and GPU temperatures can directly affect performance. The RAM temperature can on a very small subset of machines. Other components, if they get too hot they just fail. But the CPU and GPU (and RAM on a very small number of machines) will throttle if they get too hot. Perhaps the dried out thermal compound on the CPU 'cracked' during handling. –  David Schwartz Aug 25 '11 at 21:41
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First things first; try running DXDiag and see what it says in the Disaply tab. Does it say Enabled in each of the three acceleration fields in the DirectX Features section? If you’ve got buttons next to the fields, click them and see what the test results are. Also check the Notes field to see if there are any problems. See screenshots below.

From your description, it sounds like they were only fixing your software, and thus should not have opened the system, but it may be worth a look inside to make sure that everything is as it should be. In fact, you may want to try an inventory app like Speccy to take stock of your system. I don’t know if you have details about your system before it went to the shop, but you should check to see if for example, the RAM is slower than what you used to have.

Check to see if your hardware is what it used to be and that there are no loose connections. Your card does not seem to have a separate power connector, but if it does, make sure that it is connected.


Broken DirectX or hardware-acceleration not available:

enter image description here

DirectX okay, hardware acceleration available, Test buttons avilable: enter image description here

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"Enabled" is available, I clicked the disable button on one of the three and the little box below and it says "Hardware accelerated Direct3D 9+ is not available because the display driver does not support it. You may be able to get a newer driver from the hardware manufacturer." but it doesn't complain when I click the "Enable" button again. –  cornjuliox Aug 24 '11 at 3:36
    
I meant the Test buttons. If there is a button to test DirectX, click it. The first one should display a series of concentric rectangles, while the other two will display a rotating, textured cube. –  Synetech Aug 24 '11 at 4:42
    
Yeah, there are test buttons present. The second picture is what I see on my PC. –  cornjuliox Aug 25 '11 at 0:26
    
And did you click them? What happens? Does it perform the tests? Do they work? –  Synetech Aug 25 '11 at 2:32
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Maybe this is nonsense, but what country / repair shop are we talking about? I'd be hesitant to let some stores in the USA fiddle with my PC, let alone one in the old country. "Swap GTX for GTZ, is good as new, in fact is 2 better!".

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Yes, Z is just as good. In fact, is better. Is two more than X. –  Synetech Aug 23 '11 at 2:23
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Check your BIOS. Are all the settings relating to performance set properly? In particular, is SpeedStep active, or is your processor speed being limited to the lowest denominator?

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And if any have changed, you may want to have a word with the shop since it sounds like they had no business messing with the BIOS (or at least should have asked or notified you about changes they made). –  Synetech Aug 23 '11 at 2:21
    
The BIOS never really had the option to over/underclock the processor, and as far as I can tell nothing has been changed. I can't find any sort of Speedstep option or anything "performance" related. –  cornjuliox Aug 24 '11 at 3:40
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Nvidia has now released the 280 family of drivers.
You might try to update and see if there is any improvement.

EDIT

A hardware note : If the repair shop changed the PSU, they might have changed it to one that is too weak to support the video card running at high speed. Or it might be that the PSU has weakened down because of some other operation badly done at the shop.

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Let’s hope, but then the question remains why it went down in the first place. Ah software, what a mysterious beast she is. –  Synetech Aug 23 '11 at 2:24
    
Just tried 280, didn't change a thing. Maybe a slight improvement in framerates, but its still more or less the same. –  cornjuliox Aug 24 '11 at 3:25
    
Added a hardware possibility. –  harrymc Aug 24 '11 at 7:59
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