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How to Stress Test: Beginners Guide to Verifying Build Stability

post #1 of 10
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When I first started building computers 14+ years ago the first thing I did after installing win95 is launch the command prompt (heh) and start compressing and decompressing files from the floppy while watching a thermo-couple readout I had on the cpu block. I wasn't just doing it because I needed to compile the files to get StarCraft: Brood War going (ah, the good ol' days), but to also to verify that my build was functioning as it should. I learned to do this the hard way; your computer going BSOD at the end of a 3-hour map mission for not having adequate cooling, or a PSU you didn't know was bad just up and fails due to maintaining excessive loads is a very, very frustrating experience. While I can't remember the processor I had at the time (2core pentium II?), or what the clocks were set at, I do remember that stressing the system to verify I didn't do anything stupid was vital.

 

Fast forward to today: We're hitting 3+Ghz on memory, 8Ghz on processors and the ability to combine multiple Ghz-class graphics processors all on one mobo with 2kW+ power consumption. This is the other half to all those pretty OC guides... massive clocks mean nothing if it doesn't work as you intended. It can't be stressed enough to do a verification on your hardware before coding video, rendering heavy graphics, or just kickin back and watchin some YouTube. 

 

When I got back into building after a long hiatus I found I had no idea how to do a proper, modern system verification. I'm still far from an expert. What I do know is that for those getting into builds, or for the veterans out there, having a reference to guide you when you do a stress is hard to come by. Doing a google search will come up with some decent albeit outdated stuff, both here on OC and elsewhere, but since I come to OC first due to the wealth of experience already oriented toward the budding and blackbelt enthusiast, I figured I'd aggregate my searches here. 

 

So with that, I'm sharing what I initially cataloged in bookmarks in my browser. The following is a collection of utilities, guides and tips on running a stress test. This is not a benchmarking guide per-se; the focus is on verifying stability, not measuring performance. You won't enjoy BF4 at 4k ultra if it RSOD's every five minutes. As such, I've attempted to remain configuration independent, so no matter the hardware set-up, any windows computer operator can reference this to some effect. Many builders usually benchmark and stress concurrently, but for those doing it for the first time, have a scratch build, or are stuck troubleshooting a potential hardware issue, I've attempted to combine many guides all in one place to get you started. 

 

Before you click "STRESS" --If anything is of value in this post, it's this. (Click to show)

The goal of stress testing: Why do it at all?

1) Verify that the computer is stable under loads
2) Ensure that heat is properly mitigated throughout the system
3) Mitigate any hardware faults or address issues before investing your time in something unreliable, or issuing a 'false' RMA

 
Make sure you know:
1) THE MAX TEMPS ALLOWED for your hardware!
--- I mean ALL Temps. HDD's ingesting GPU exhaust, for example, can overheat very quickly, and if you don't know what the tolerable temps are, or you don't monitor them, your data could be lost. and lost data = a bad day.
 
2) What to do if you get a fault/error!
--- BSOD/RSOD/black screens happen. But they rarely seldom usually don't mean you have a bricked system. As such, make sure you're logging what you do, both in windows and 3rd party programs, and that you can access the log afterward! Keep note of where you store the files for reference after an error. Keep your preferred search engine ready, and have some awareness to common problems (error codes, etc) before you start.
--- Root cause analysis of a failure can be daunting, and can range from an incorrect registry bit setting to not enough power from your power supply. These forums in particular are your best friend for determining what actually whet wrong.
 
3) When to stop!
--- The point is to appease you, the user, that your hardware works. Don't do a month-long stress test if you only game a few hours a week. If you're confident it works, give it a benchmark and see how your system does! ...or not and just enjoy your COD or whatever.
--- Take breaks, especially if you're getting frustrated. The computer isn't going anywhere, and getting a fresh mind after a break can save you in the long run.
 
These are just a few key points that I try and keep in mind. If you have other "best practices" let me know!
Vital Utilities - The meat and potatoes section with a list of the tools for any builder or overclocker (Click to show)
Here is a list, in no particular order, of the most popular software to use when stress testing. Along with some backup software, I keep these ready on a dedicated USB drive, which I affectionately named my "Geek Army Knife" or GAK. This list is not exhaustive; please let me know if I do not have one listed here!
 
1) Monitoring/control Software - These programs serve to provide positive awareness of hardware functions and utilization.
 
AIDA64 - extremely powerful and feature rich, but not legally free.
OpenHardwareMonitor - My personal favorite for most verification purposes, and free!!! Although sometimes it doesn't support all hardware.
CPU-Z - free. The classic go-to to verify clocks, voltages, and timings for your hardware in real-time. Also good for proof when that 5Ghz actually works!
GPU-Z - free. Same as CPU, but for your video card (assuming you have a discrete card, which I hope you do)
CoreTemp - another free monitoring program to try for CPU work. It's small and simple for those looking for minimalistic.
HWMonitor - very similar to OpenHardwareMonitor to the point where I can't recall what makes them different... 
 
MSI Afterburner - This is a great AMD based GPU tweaking utility, but also includes a fantastic logging software and realtime overlay of system status for benchmarking.
EVGA Precision X - Same as Afterburner, but for the NVIDIA folk. It can be used as an all-inclusive monitor and tweak suite, or any number of individual tasks. Very flexible. 
 
Speedfan - I'm not gonna lie, the learning curve on this powerful program is super high. I've yet to see a genuinely good tutorial on it (let me know if I've missed it) but it can give you a lot of authority over your cooling system when you're generating as much heat as you can.
 
Screenshooting - know how to do it! if you have a program to save a screen directly to a file, even better (suggested software). It can be invaluable after a crash to reference your last known configuration.
Screenpresso - suggested on this thread, I downloaded the program and started using it almost immediately. worth a free look!
 
2) CPU stress tests - These are linear computation programs designed to maximize the instruction sets of your CPU. Simply put: they stress your processor.
 
SuperPi - a great, almost too good stress test on the CPU. no cost.
Prime95 - optimized for the AVX2 intel instruction set, this will beat your CPU up real proper. 'tis free!
x264 FHD - one of my go-to for quick verification on a clock boost for the computer, and also applies to those who deal with video rendering. also no cost.
ROG RealBench - I may put this at the top of my list. It's free, it includes a great balanced test, and is flexible for multiple types of instruction sets. This may be my new go-to!
 
 
 
3) GPU & combined stress test - For those of us who en/de/transcode video, generate large CAD assemblies, or play the games, these parallel-based computing tests are very important.
 
OCCT - As recommended in post 2 here. I haven't used it yet, but at first glance this looks completely awesome!
Furmark, well, anything! - usually considered benchmarking software, these are great go-to tools for testing your GPU, or system as a whole. I purchased 3DMark on Steam, and is my default GPU and full system stress test program. If I'm gonna get an error, this is pretty good at showing that to me.
Unigine Valley - Results have come back varied on this program for me for some reason, but it's free and will provide excellent stress to your graphics card. It is also gorgeous to watch when operating!
 
4) Memory - RAM - for those with the fancy samsung ram who want to see what clocks and timings it can handle!
 
MaxxMEM2this is a pretty standard program for testing your ram
 
 
5) HDD & SSD - Is your SSD breaking down? is your HDD overheating in your home server? it's good to make sure they are working proper before you realize your valuable data isn't really being stored. 
 
CrystalDiskMark - yeah it's more of a benchmark, but it's also a good sanity check to let you know you didn't accidentally plug a SATA III SSD into a SATAII port. It is also good to show what your realized throughput is.
 
 
**For specialized situations, software can have built-in stability and benchmark verification. Solidworks, Games, and image processing suites, among many others, have built-in tools to see if your hardware is reliably supporting your needs. Since these are more advanced stuff, I'm keeping that out of this guide.
How I run a simple stress test: the Steeze method (Click to show)

So I just cranked my processor to a multiplier of 90 (uh, sure). The following procedure is a good initial sanity check to prove if that multiplier is actually going to work, at least for a short term...

 

After applying my desired settings to the BIOS and stuff, I load up windows and get the following programs visible on the desktop:

-OpenHardwareMonitor

-CPU-Z

-x264 FHD

-Speedfan

-The Task Manager

 

I also verify that windows is doing a dump of system files in the case of a death, and that OpenHardwareMonitor is also logging. 

 

I then set x264 FHD to a realtime priority, and give the software a couple back-to-back runs. 

 

Now for a x90 multiplier, I probably wouldn't get this far. If I somehow did, I would most certainly witness the computer give a proverbial fit when running the test.

 

Below is a screen of what I'm watching. Key numbers to be mindful of are the temps of the CPU, fan speeds, and the voltages on the CPU.

 

 

 

As you can see, at 4500MHz, my water loop is doing a great job of keeping the cpu cool; in lengthy stress tests I haven't seen anything over 67C. I'm proud of my ol' 3570k! It's also stable after running the FHD bench a few times, which provides me with enough confidence that it will work for the average jumps in load I see when working. NOTE: This is just a simple verification; the attached discussions below go into a lot more detail on how long a stress test should take.

 
Tutorials from the world! - I will update (Click to show)
SuperPi


More will be coming - promise.
 

 

If you have any input or comments please share! I plan to keep this updated to reflect changes in the status quo.

 

Disclaimer: This can be a long, grueling process if you're going all the way. Tell your significant other you may be out of contact for a while, and plan for hours of troubleshooting. I also must say that stress tests are extremely hard on a system; do it with caution and care! (I'll consult my lawyer on the language of this)


Edited by steezebe - 5/30/15 at 4:22pm
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post #2 of 10
Nice thread. I can't wait to see how it evolves.

Kudos for saying you like Open hardware monitor. Its my fave too, except for that its not up to date enough for my mobo.

For GPU testing i settled on OCCT. Its similar to furmark or kombuster. It has a error check mode that worked amazing for testing my GPU memory overclock. You gotta make sure you set your shaders to max and your FPS to 0 then pick your highest resolution.
post #3 of 10
Why 95 and not XP?
     
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post #4 of 10
@OP: No love for Core Temp and HWMonitor? frown.gif
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post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kl6mk6 View Post

Nice thread. I can't wait to see how it evolves.

Kudos for saying you like Open hardware monitor. Its my fave too, except for that its not up to date enough for my mobo.

For GPU testing i settled on OCCT. Its similar to furmark or kombuster. It has a error check mode that worked amazing for testing my GPU memory overclock. You gotta make sure you set your shaders to max and your FPS to 0 then pick your highest resolution.

 

Oh awesome I'll throw that on the list. I honestly haven't heard of it! Thanks!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chargeit View Post

Why 95 and not XP?

 

This was during that whole 3.x/95/98/2000 release period. Win98 was just barely released at the time, and if I remember correctly I didn't have enough space on my drive... XP wasn't for a couple years.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by grss1982 View Post

@OP: No love for Core Temp and HWMonitor? frown.gif

 

whop I forgot. I'll add them in! Thanks!

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post #6 of 10
For screenshots I'd like to suggest Screenpresso

Nice thread thumb.gif
    
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post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

OH great suggestion. I downloaded that real quick. I'll throw Screenpresso on the list!

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post #8 of 10
I know this is old... But, seems to be related to what I want to do. I want to put my system under a moderate known repeatable amount of stress. So I can compare temps. I have an air cooled box with a 6700K and dual 980ti's and an NVME hard drive. Id like to run the test for 20 minutes and measure temps. Then change the fan arrangement and repeat the process. Any ideas what software would be best?
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post #9 of 10
I think I have a better idea. I am going to put some 100 w light bulbs in the case.. Approximate the web of cables and test it that way.
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post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrokenPC View Post

I think I have a better idea. I am going to put some 100 w light bulbs in the case.. Approximate the web of cables and test it that way.

I'd use the openhardwaremonitor personally, as you can make a desktop applet to monitor, and it also does logging for you.

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