Or not...Oh boy, this one was a humdinger.

Of 12 computers running either Windows 7 or Windows 8, every single one of them was experiencing one of the following problems:

  • Static, stuttering, and variations in playback speed when listening to MP3 or other audio files
  • When typing, there would be a huge delay between when a series of characters was typed, and when they actually appeared on the screen. This happened in numerous applications, including Firefox, Word, and Thunderbird.
  • YouTube videos would either not load at all, or the connection would crap out frequently and just sit there while “buffering”
  • Skype! Oh boy, Skype was a real pain to use, if it worked at all

So how do you solve all these problems? It’s easy! Your turn off real-time web protection in MalwareBytes.

And if that doesn’t work, read on for more useful tips…

Personally, I didn’t have any of the other problems, although I did notice some pokey YouTube problems and I definitely had the static-y/stuttering audio problem. Damn, the audio one was REALLY annoying me.

So I started hunting around. Everyone and their dog claimed that it was a driver issue, because that’s basically the “run home to mama” answer. Unless you work for Microsoft, in which case the response is, “Please reinstall Windows”.

Well, hell’s bells, I just DID reinstall Windows! I ditched Windows 8 and went back to Windows 7. That’s a whole other story.

So anyway, most of the people who replied to the “update your driver” answers simply reported that it didn’t solve their problem – especially with static and stuttering when listening to MP3s. Okay, so what to do?

First, you go and download the DPC Latency Checker. If that link doesn’t work, you can grab it from my server, as well.

Basically, you run this awesome little program (no installation required), and watch it go. A DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call, is basically when a high-priority task says, “Dudes, in addition to my high-priority task, there’s another lower-priority task that needs to be done, but it can wait a bit!”

As my least-favorite but none-the-less still occasionally useful online encyclopedia states:

When working with streaming audio or video that uses interrupts, DPCs are used to process the audio in each buffer as they stream in. If another DPC (from a poorly-written driver) takes too long and another interrupt generates a new buffer of data, before the first one can be processed, a drop-out results.

Well, isn’t that a daisy?

So, when you run this DPC Latency Checker mentioned above, it will show you a nice scrolling bar graph. If you see lots of tall red bars, you have latency problems. The usual advice is to then go into Device Manager, and one by one disable various networking/interface devices (ethernet controller, WiFi, USB controller, etc.) until the Latency Checker drops down to small green bars (which means everything is happy).

And that’s exactly what I did. When I disabled my ethernet controller, VOILA! Short green bars. My audio stopped stuttering, and it was crystal clear! WOO!

When I re-enabled the ethernet controller, bad juju… the static was back. Okay, so at least I know it’s related to networking.

That gave me an idea: All the computers in question run both Microsoft Security Essentials, and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware software.

Thus, I first disabled MSE’s real-time protection. No change. Then, I right-clicked on the MalwareBytes icon in the system tray, and UNchecked “Website blocking”. Sweet Mother of Cheeses, I had green bars and clear audio! I then went and repeated this little experiment on the other computers having problems, and sure enough, every single one of them went from Big Red Bar Hell to Little Green Bar Heaven – and the problems vanished.

Note that in order to make MalwareBytes’ website blocking mechanism stay off, you need to:

  1. Right-click system tray icon, and pick Start Scanner
  2. Click on Protection tab
  3. UNcheck the options “Enable malicious website blocking” and also “Start malicious website blocking when protection module starts

Otherwise, upon reboot, the website blocking mechanism will be re-enabled.

Now, I would like to mention that until several months ago, this problem with MalwareBytes didn’t happen. So, at some point, there was an update (or something) that really hosed things up good. That’s too bad, because MalwareBytes pretty much rules in the Baddie Removal Department.

If you are not running MBAM, be sure to check any other “real-time scanners” you have. Try to disable them, and see what happens. In the case of MBAM, it seems their “website scanner” is actually checking every single packet that leaves or enters your puter, and slowing things down  A LOT.

According to this support forum post from just a few days ago, the MBAM people are aware of the problem and are working on it. Frankly though, this has been going on for months, and people just couldn’t take it anymore – including me:

We’re aware of the issue and have been looking into it. A recent increase in the number of blocked websites in our database has caused this problem to emerge more frequently but the underlying cause (and issue with the WFP APIs) is the real problem and has existed all along, especially on systems with certain hardware configurations and IRQ settings (such as yours where the audio and NIC share IRQ address space). Our developers are currently investigating alternative implementations of our Malicious Website Blocking mechanism in the protection module in order to address this, so stay tuned, hopefully we’ll find an alternate means of implementing it that resolves this issue for all.

Even if the only network traffic related to my puter was a simple check for mail to a remote server, the red bars in the DPC Latency Checker were huge, and thus the lag was also huge. So, it seems there is something seriously wrong with the whole protection mechanism, because the lag does not appear to be proportional to the amount of data that it has to scan.

And, even if you disable real-time web protection, you’re still pretty safe if you leave the real-time file system protection running.

If none of the above works, at least you have a very useful tool in the DPC Latency Checker. Play around, open and close programs, enable and disable stuff, and wait for the those Teeny Green Bars to show up. When they do, you’ve found your problem.

Well, I think I’ll go listen to some static-free tunes. Or maybe I’ll type up a novel…

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