I experience frequent crashes and/or lock-ups when running games - what should I do?
This article includes some instructions which are for advanced users - please consult the documentation for your motherboard before making any changes to your system BIOS settings.
If you are overclocking any components on your computer, please revert the memory timing and voltage to the settings recommended by the hardware manufacturer. Crashes and system instability which result from overclocking will not be supported by Steam Support or your hardware's manufacturer.
Please start with these steps when you are ready to troubleshoot the cause of the crashes you are experiencing.
If you have never played the game before on your system, it is crucial to double-check the system requirements to determine if your system can run the game. The minimum system requirements for each game can be found on the game's page in the Steam Storefront.
Check the DirectX and Pixel Shader Requirements for Games on Steam topic to make sure that your system meets the minimum requirements for the game you are attempting to play. Many newer games such as Team Fortress 2 and Portal require greater system resources than Half-Life 2.
Please see the Verifying GCF Cache Files topic for instructions to ensure game cache file corruption is not the source of the crash.
Check the Programs Which Interfere with Steam, and Spyware, Adware, and Viruses Interfering with Steam topics to ensure the crash which you have encountered is not related to malicious software or a specific program which is known to cause issues with Steam.
Certain Anti-Virus applications such as AVG 7.5, Nod32 and Norton have been confirmed to cause instability with Steam and Source Engine games. This software must be fully uninstalled from your system until the Anti-Virus software developers can resolve these issues. If you are not comfortable with using alternative Anti-Virus protection, then we recommend contacting your Anti-Virus developer for more information.
If you have installed a PCI or USB sound card on your system (such as a Creative X-fi or Audigy sound card), please ensure that your motherboard's onboard sound card is disabled in the system BIOS. Having both installed may result in system instability - even if the secondary device is disabled in the Windows device manager. Please consult your motherboard's manual for instructions on editing BIOS settings.
Check the Router and Router Firmware Issues topic to make sure that your router is properly configured and that you are running the best possible firmware version available. If your router is not configured correctly, it can cause crashes both in Steam and in games.
Firewalls can also lead to crashes depending on the way they are configured. Please follow the Using a Firewall with Steam topic to make sure your Firewall is properly configured.
Those custom autoexec.cfg files and graphics tweak guides you followed promised all kinds of improvements, but if all you ended up with are crashes then it is time to restore the original game settings for stability. In order to do this, make sure you are not running any custom autoexec.cfg files when the game starts up and use the -autoconfig launch option. To set this option, follow these steps:
Other PC games may install the Mss32.dll file in your C:\Windows\System32 directory. This can lead to the game crashing because the Mss32.dll file in your Windows folder is conflicting with the file located in the game's directory. Please see the The MSS DLL is incorrectly installed in the Windows System directory topic for instructions on how to remove the file from your System32 directory.
After each of the steps below:
Try launching the game to test - if you continue to experience crashes, proceed to the next set of troubleshooting recommendations.
Run Windows Update. It is imperative that your system is updated to the latest service pack and has all critical updates installed. It is also highly recommended that you install the latest version of the .NET framework.
Download and install the latest version of DirectX from the Microsoft DirectX Download Page. DirectX is updated about once a month by Microsoft and should be checked for new versions (known as "Runtimes") on a regular basis.
See the Updating Drivers topic for instructions to check your current video and sound card driver versions and visit links to hardware manufacturer sites (on-board sound card drivers will be found at your motherboard manufacturer's site).
Remember to remove outdated drivers before updating and check for any known software or driver conflicts which may occur with the updated drivers. We do not recommend running beta or custom drivers (such as Omega drivers) unless they solve a very specific issue for a game you are playing.
Check the Motherboard Information and Drivers topic for motherboard manufacturer links so you may download BIOS updates and driver updates for your motherboard. Chipset drivers for your motherboard are also very important to keep up to date.
Disable your sound card through the Windows Device Manager and try running the game. Please see the Troubleshooting Device Conflicts with Device Manager Microsoft Knowledge base article if you would like instructions to disable the device.
If disabling the sound card resolves the issue, please see the How to manage devices in Windows XP Microsoft Knowledge base article to resolve the device conflict.
Review the Setting Game Launch Options topic for instructions to test the game with these launch options:
-nosound -window -dxlevel 70 +mat_forcehardwaresync 0
For The Orange Box games (Episode Two, Team Fortress 2 and Portal), please use the following launch option:
-nosound -window -dxlevel 81 +mat_forcehardwaresync 0
If these launch options do not resolve the issue, skip the remaining steps in this section and proceed to the next section.
If the game runs without crashing after using the launch options above, remove the -nosound launch option and set the DirectX hardware sound acceleration to "BASIC" by running DXDIAG, selecting the Sound tab, and then moving the Hardware Sound Acceleration Level slider to the second-lowest setting.
If this setting does not resolve the issue, skip the remaining steps in this section and proceed to the next section.
If the game continues to run without crashing, you may remove the -window launch option and review the Reset Video Settings and Force a Video Mode topic for instructions to slowly increase the -dxlevel, resolution, and detail levels until you find a working level.
Go to Start > Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance > Data Execution Prevention.
Select "Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select:"
Select "Add", navigate to C:\Program Files\Steam (or your default Steam directory), and add Steam.exe to the exception list.
Additionally, you will need to add the executable (hl2.exe, for example) for any game you are seeing issues with. These files will either be in Steam\steamapps\common\<Game Title> or in \Steam\steamapps\<Your Steam Account Name>\<Game Title>\
If the issue persists, please download and run the Memtest86 RAM test program and run it to determine whether or not the issue may be caused by a faulty RAM stick.
RAM sticks which fail this test must be replaced.
Verify that your RAM timing setting in the BIOS is correctly set for your RAM. Please review the Updating a Motherboard's BIOS and Chipset Drivers topic for instrutions if you are not familiar with checking your system BIOS.
Note:These recommendations are for advanced users - please do not make changes to your system BIOS until you are familiar with the documentation provided by your motherboard manufacturer.
If the crash continues even after performing all of the troubleshooting steps in this guide, you will need to contact Steam Support for further assistance. To ensure that your incident is handled in the quickest and most efficient manner possible, please follow these steps:
Prepare an MSINFO report by following the process outlined in the MSINFO32 Reports topic.
See the Contacting Steam Billing and Support topic to submit your request. Please include your MSINFO32 report as an attachment to the incident.