For quite some time, I've had a problem with Windows Media Center (WMC) stuttering and freezing. Originally, it was happening only occasionally, but seems like it is happening more frequently, at least lately. I have had no hardware changes since, or before this issue began.
What happens (sometimes) is that when watching a TV show/movie on the same PC it was recorded on, playback of the show will begin to "Stutter", and then eventually "Freeze". This will also happen when watching "Live TV" (which is buffered by WMC).
My observations of the behavior are:
In the majority of cases where there are issues, the show will play fine for a while, and then begin to have issues after 30 minutes to an hour into the show, but it can happen at any time... sometimes the issues begin within a few minutes of the start of the show, or the show plays fine up until the last few minutes of a 2 hour show.
Sometimes, while watching a show, I'll begin to hear a slight "click", once every few (6-8) seconds. As time goes on, the "click" will become more pronounced, and usually more frequent, and then the "click" will become a sort of brief (a small fraction of a second) "pause" during playback. As more time goes on, this will develop to the point where the show will "Freeze" entirely.
Sometimes I don't hear the "clicks" and sometimes I also don't see the "pauses"... the "Freeze" can happen with or without the clicks/pauses.
Once the show has "Frozen", the "elapsed time" indication continues to move forward, but no sound or video plays. If I continue the playback, I will sometimes see a brief flash of a frame or so of new video with its sound, every 5-10 seconds. Sometimes it just freezes altogether.
While frozen, if I move the time-pointer by any amount, and in either direction, the show will begin to play normally again for about 6-8 seconds and then freeze again.
While frozen, if I click (once) to play the show at "fast forward" speed (double normal speed in my configuration), the show will ("always") play "normally" (at the faster speed) without any clicks/pauses/freezing for the remainder of the show, as long as I remain in fast (2x) mode. If I manually pause the show and resume at normal speed, it will freeze again after 6-8 seconds of normal play. Almost always, after freezing and while playing at fast (2x) speed, there will be no further playback issues (other than the faster play speed), but sometimes (very very rarely), there will be some occasional, brief distortion, or garbling of the sound (video is probably also affected, but not noticeably).
This can also (similarly) affect watching in "Live TV" mode, probably because playback is buffered (so not actually "Live"). Sometimes, in this case, playing will be fine until I am watching right at the point where the buffering "runs-out"... then I will get the "pauses" every few seconds or even more frequently. If I "rewind" a bit, it will usually play fine, but sometimes I will also have to play in fast (2x) mode to eliminate the pauses/freezes in "Live" play mode.
Then again, sometimes everything just works, and I can record, playback, and watch "Live" TV without any issues.
When this begins to happen, it pretty much happens with every show I record. Sometimes a short (30-minute) show will record fine, while a longer show will have problems later in the show.
I have tried rebooting the PC, and on occasion (rarely), the problem has gone away after rebooting. But usually, rebooting, even 5 or 6 times, has no effect.
At times it has seemed like it is more likely to happen when drive space is low (below 10 GB free), but it also happens many times with 100 GB of free space.
It seems "obvious" that the problem is in the recording of the shows. For a show that was recorded and has this playback issue, it always has this playback issue, even when the record/playback of new shows is working fine. And, playback of a show that was recorded when things were working fine, will playback fine, even when the issue is affecting currently recorded shows. There may have been cases of "counter examples" to this, but none that I have noticed, so I am fairly certain it is something that has affected how the show was recorded (at the file level).
My system is a Gateway DX4300, AMD Phenom II X4 810 (4-core), 2.6 GHz, with 8.00 GB ram, (and factory included TV Tuner card and ATI Radeon HD 3200 Graphics), running Windows 7 Home Premium x64, with all hardware and software patches up to date.