Since my main problem is with gaming performance, I thought this forum would be ideal. If I'm in the wrong place, I apologize.
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit (reinstalled from OEM after last PC died during power surge, 2.5 years ago - rebuilt this one with all new components)
GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P Motherboard
Antec Earthwatts 650 PSU
AMD Phenom X4 970 CPU
Nvidia 970 GPU
8gb of DDR3 RAM from Corsair (two sticks)
WD Blue 1TB SSD
Now, I know that my mobo and cpu are not high-end. I'm sure I could also use a RAM upgrade. But I can't upgrade my cpu without changing the mobo, which in turn would require me to get all-new everything. So for now, that's a last-ditch solution. It also doesn't answer the question: what has changed? The only new component here is the SSD, but my issues existed before this component was installed (I previously had a smaller SSD for the OS, and upgraded to this one when my storage/program HDD died, to reduce clutter). However, I am still considering wiping the drive and coming back at Windows from a clean install since I'm running out of ideas.
In some applications, my cpu does bottleneck the gpu (e.g. Dragon Age III). But the performance drop I'm talking about is relative to previous performance, with the same components. Games that once ran smoothly now crawl. My score on 3DMark's Fire Strike benchmark has fallen from ~8500 to ~6500. My cpu may be old and weak, but it was old and weak when I used to get the higher score as well, and when I played games like Dragon's Dogma and Arkham Knight without issue. Now these games chug, frequently turning into slideshows. I've returned to some old games just for testing, and found poor performance in Mafia II, for example - another game that used to run smoothly for me. It seems heavily related to open worlds, but that's not terribly surprising. Staring at the floor in DD brings frames up from ~12 to ~45. I know this seems obvious, but I was curious if it could be relevant. It seems like I can play a very graphically intensive game with little issues, as long as there isn't a lot of draw distance. In a game with lots of distant views, even if the graphics aren't demanding (as in DD), performance slows to a crawl.
I'm currently running in AHCI mode for better SSD performance. I have run Windows Memory Diagnostic and returned no errors. I have run Furmark for long periods of time, and stress-tested the CPU with Prime95 for hours. None of these seem to give up any errors at all. And under these conditions, my components have no issue hitting the upper range of utilization. But when I boot up a game like Dragon's Dogma, or Mafia II, games that should run smoothly, they run like garbage and my system barely seems to notice they are there. I get low utilization of both cpu and gpu (in the 30-50 range). Temperatures are within normal ranges for my system, which runs hot (cpu: ~60 under load). Neither game uses up much RAM, either.
I was concerned that my SSD may be faulty, so I ran Crystal Disk Mark. I don't really know enough about SSD benchmarks to say if my results were problematic, but this is what I got:
Sequential Read (Q= 32,T= 1) : 251.314 MB/s
Sequential Write (Q= 32,T= 1) : 254.560 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 125.771 MB/s [ 30705.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 125.008 MB/s [ 30519.5 IOPS]
Sequential Read (T= 1) : 266.945 MB/s
Sequential Write (T= 1) : 245.140 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 27.183 MB/s [ 6636.5 IOPS]
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 48.240 MB/s [ 11777.3 IOPS]
Test : 1024 MiB [C: 50.4% (469.1/931.5 GiB)] (x5) [Interval=5 sec]
I know that my random read and write scores are very low for the queue depth of 1, but I think that's somewhat normal (as SSDs shine with more queues, if I understand correctly). If not, are these speeds so bad that I have a faulty drive? I know the speeds aren't great, and I'd love recommendations on improving drive performance, but I'm not sure this is the bottleneck.
If not, then I'm looking at the mobo itself or a failing PSU. Unless, of course, my tests failed to uncover an issue with the other components. But these two are much more difficult to test, and I don't have any backup psus to swap in for quick comparison.
I know it could also be a driver or other software issue, but I've done a clean install of fresh drivers to no avail. And other than Microsoft Security Essentials, I don't know what other programs could be bogging me down like this. I don't run Geforce Experience, and I have tested performance with and without programs like EVGA Precision and seen little or no change. Turning off real-time protection within MSE also did nothing, same as with adding exceptions for the game folders.
Can anyone suggest how I should go about getting to the bottom of this? I'm near my wit's end, and I'm about to just scrap the whole PC and start over again. But that's an expensive solution that I would rather avoid. Thanks.