Home > Misc > 12 Ways To Make Second Life™ Run Faster On Your Low Performance Computer

12 Ways To Make Second Life™ Run Faster On Your Low Performance Computer

December 25th, 2009

Joel Foner 2009-12-06
* Added the “How To Make Your Viewer Run Even Faster (when you really need the most you can get!)” section

Joel Foner 2009-12-08
* Added “Stay Plugged In” (thanks t
o Ignatius Onomatopoea for this tip)

Joel Foner 2010-03-25
* Added “Remember to re-check all
of these settings after any viewer updates, uninstall and reinstall or installation of an alternative viewer version!”

Joel Foner 2010-03-26
* Added Understanding the Maximum Bandwidth Option in the Second Life Viewer
* Added “If you’re Not Using Voice, Turn it Off!”

Stock Car RacingIntroduction

Second Life™ provides a 3D visualization of virtual environments, dynamically rendered so that you can make changes and any other avatar within sight sees those changes in almost real time. The technologies underpinning these capabilities are complex and place serious demands on the CPU and 3D graphics accelerator on your local computer.

The good news is that all of this is possible. The bad news is that there are a lot of moving parts and it uses a lot of computing and graphics horsepower to get the job done. The performance you see depends on many things. There are many factors that determine the performance you see, including the speed of your computer’s 3D graphics processor, the main processor (CPU), your hard disk speed, how much RAM (memory) your computer has, network stability, network speed, how many avatars are in view, how many avatars are on the region that your avatar is standing on, other load factors on the region, as well as specific characteristics of how the scene is built.

This article shows how to improve the operating speed of the viewer on low performance computer hardware. These steps will only cover optimization of your computer, and will not include addressing other potential sources of performance problems.

Please note that this article assumes you have some Second Life™ experience, and that you are comfortable with opening menus and making settings changes in the Preferences pages in the viewer.

But I Just Bought A Machine. How Could It Be Low Performance?

You may have bought a computer pretty recently, and assumed “this machine is pretty new, so of course its 3D graphics performance must be good”. You could be in for a surprise. In this age of cheaper, smaller, and providing lowest price options, manufacturers will often limit the 3D graphics capabilities of a machine to keep the price or size down. The traditional assumption of manufacturers has been that 3D graphics are only used by a tiny fraction of machine purchasers. That pattern is changing, but still many low price systems have pretty slow 3D graphics hardware in their designs.

Many computers have an option to install higher performance 3D graphics when you buy them. In some cases, and in particular with notebooks, this option is “manufacture-only” and cannot be added once you have bought the machine. If you’re choosing a machine for 3D graphics performance, make sure to get the best graphics card you can reasonably afford. It will make a noticeable difference, especially on computers with less than stellar main processor (CPU) speeds.

If you own a netbook-class computer, the likelihood is that the 3D graphics processor is pretty limited in performance. Some desktops, especially bargain models, will often have similarly limited performance graphics cards.

The Second Life System Requirements divide hardware options into minimum and recommended categories. If your computer’s graphics card is listed in the minimum column, your system may benefit from these adjustments. Even faster machines will sometimes do even better with these adjustments, but the benefits may be smaller.

Will These Changes Make Everything Faster On Every Machine?

In a word, no, these adjustments will not make everything faster! What these adjustments will do is to improve graphics smoothness and speed if there are no other more serious bottlenecks impacting performance. In most cases this will mean a noticeable improvement in graphics performance and smoother movement when walking around or with direct camera movement.

Basic System Maintenance

A few things that can dramatically slow down your  experience nothing to do with the the Second Life™ viewer, so let’s start with these system-related steps. Please do these system maintenance steps in order:

1) Check Disk Space

The very first thing to check is the amount of free disk space on your computer. As the amount of free disk space goes below about 25%, you will find the performance start to slow down, and it will dramatically slow down when the disk is almost full. If your disk is mostly full or close to full, your first project is to figure out whether you can archive some files to “somewhere else”, perhaps compress some folders of files that you do not use very much, uninstall some unused applications, or in some other way find some more available space. The viewer will run even with the disk quite full, but you may find at times that it will repeatedly slow down as it tries to find cache files on the disk and find empty spots to write new ones.

2) Clear Viewer Cache

To clear the viewer cache:

  1. Start the viewer, but do not log in.
  2. Click the Edit menu and choose Preferences.
  3. Then click the Network tab at the left side of the Preferences menu.
  4. Press the Clear Cache button.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Select Quit from the File menu to exit from the viewer.
  7. Start the viewer again. While starting you should see a message about “clearing cache files”. This may take up to a few minutes depending on how many cache files there were and the speed of your computer.
  8. Once the viewer has started, select Quit from the File menu to exit the viewer again.

3) Defragment Your Hard Disk

If your operating system allows you to defragment your hard disk, do it! Windows has a built-in utility to do this, and while in general Apple says that defragmenting is not necessary, it still can help if you have a utility that will do defragmentation of the drive. In particular, with a disk drive that is 75% or more full, defragmentation can make a noticeable difference, since portions of files may be scattered in many places across the drive. With a disk drive that is almost empty, the improvement may be much less noticeable.

If you have not defragmented your hard disk in a while (or ever!) the process may take a long time, up to an hour or so depending on the machine. Be patient – it will finish eventually, and most applications will behave better afterwards. Defragmenting once in a while will help your applications to start up faster, and by doing it more regularly the time needed to defragment the hard disk will be much lower (often a few minutes.) You will get the best results if you clear the viewer cache before each time you defragment your hard disk.

4) Other Applications

The viewer takes a significant amount of RAM (memory) while it is running. If you have a machine that is marginal on performance, try quitting other applications while running the viewer.

An Important Note About Heat And Crashes

Check your notebook or netbook computer to see if it is lying flat on the table. If it is flat on the table, and there is no air space under the computer it may overheat. Running 3D graphics continuously for a long time draws more power and creates more heat than some notebooks were designed to handle when flat on a surface. Either find something to lift the rear edge of the notebook up by at least 1″, or consider purchasing a notebook stand to get the machine off of the table. Either of these steps will allow some cool air under the notebook and will very likely keep it from overheating.

If you find that your machine crashes or locks up about 15-20 minutes after starting a viewer session, and then crashes more often after the first crash, it is fairly likely that your machine is overheating. Try also blowing out any dust and “crud” by using a compressed air canister pointed into any open vents in the machine if lifting the machine off of the table does not help.

Viewer Performance Adjustments

All of the following adjustments are found on the Preferences panel. To open the Preferences panel either type Ctrl+P, or choose Preferences from the Edit menu. Red dots on the graphics below illustrate a setting that needs to be checked or changed for each step.

A Note About Netbooks: Many netbook computers have a display that is shorter than normal screen height, often 1024 x 600 pixels. On this size screen, the viewer user interface may be too tall to allow you to click some buttons. To accommodate these short screens, click the General tab (on the Preferences pane), and then set the “UI Size” slider to 0.9. This will make buttons and labels slightly smaller, and will allow all of the dialogs to fit in the window size of your display. This adjustment is not needed for most full-sized notebook and desktop computer displays.

1) A Surprise About Nametags

On some computers (not all, but often on lightweight hardware) the drawing of the nametag and group tag above the heads of avatars can reduce performance noticeably. This is only an issue in scenes with lots of avatars – typically 15 or more. If you are routinely around a small number of avatars this change is not needed. In cases where performance is more important than having names floating above avatars, click the General tab on the Preferences pane and set “Show Names” to “Never” instead of “Always”. In some cases this will help, and in others it will not, so this is left as a “try it and see what you think” option. Remember to set this back if you want to see avatar names!

2) Network Settings

Viewer Network Preferences

  1. Click the Network tab on the Preference pane.
  2. If you have anything faster than a basic DSL connection, slide the “Maximum Bandwidth” slider all the way to the right, so that it says 1500 kbps. In some cases, even DSL connections will benefit from allowing the viewer to use more bandwidth. The default of 500 kbps ensures that the viewer will not completely monopolize a slower Internet link, but also prevents it from using all the speed available on a faster one. Understanding the Maximum Bandwidth Option in the Second Life Viewer provides a much deeper view into this setting.
  3. Regularly clear the viewer cache by clicking “Clear Cache” and then logout, exit the viewer and restart it. This is not needed all the time, but if you see performance start to suddenly decline, the first thing to try is to exit, clear your cache and log back in.

3) Graphics Settings

  1. Viewer Graphics SettingsClick the Graphics tab on the Preferences pane.
  2. Make sure that the Quality and Performance slider near the top of the Graphics page is set all the way to the left, above the label “Low” and next to the label “Faster.”
  3. Check the “Custom” checkbox to open up the detailed settings shown in the screen shot to the right.
  4. Set the Draw Distance to the far left, down to 64m. You will not “see” anything far away with this setting, but it will improve performance noticeably in dense scenes. If you want to see far away and don’t care about walking around performance at that moment, open this tab again, set the Draw Distance higher, and enjoy the view. Just remember to turn draw distance down to 64m for general higher speed walking.
  5. The Mesh Detail sliders control how accurately the viewer will draw various parts of a scene. On lightweight hardware I will often turn all of these sliders all the way down to the left. Spheres will not be completely spherical, and some sculpted prims may look a bit odd, but the performance gain from this set of changes is often quite noticeable. I have found on some (but not all) hardware that moving the Objects slider one click up from its lowest setting will improve the accuracy of shapes a good amount without a significant performance reduction.
  6. Make sure that Lighting Detail is set to “Sun and moon only.”
  7. Make sure that “Terrain Detail” is set to “Low.”
  8. Make sure that “Avatar Impostors” is turned on. This reduces accuracy of avatars far away to gain performance and is on by default. You probably will not need to change this setting.
  9. Click “Apply.”

NOTE: If you ever want to reset the entire page back to the default settings, click the “Recommended Settings” button. After you click “Recommended Settings” you will need to check the “Custom” checkbox again to get to the Draw Distance and other detailed settings.

4) Another Surprising Setting, This Time On The Communication Tab

You will need to be logged in to make this change, since Communication settings are not available when offline. Once online, open the Preferences pane and click the Communication tab. Uncheck the Show online Friend notifications, and then click “Apply.”

On slow hardware, and in particular in scenes that stress the machine, it seems that the Friend notification popup can be a noticeable performance drain. When the machine is on the edge, adding the drawing and animation of the popup can make typing more sluggish and create general slowdowns. Not all machines are affected in this way, but a few lightweight machines that I’ve worked with show noticeable improvement with this setting unchecked. Note that it only makes a difference when one of your friends logs in or logs out. If you have a shorter friends list, this may be a non-issue, as you won’t see many logins and logouts. If you have a long friends list, with people popping on and off regularly, this change may be more worthwhile.

Click OK, Exit and Log In Again And You’re Done With Settings Changes!

Click “OK” and exit the viewer, then log back in with your new settings, and you’re off to the races!  Ok, well maybe you won’t have converted your lightweight graphics hardware into a blazing gamer’s speed machine, but it should perform noticeably better in many scenes.

Remember to clear your cache, logout and login if you see performance start to decrease noticeably, and also remember to check for other applications running while you are running the viewer. In particular having a mail program running regularly retrieving mail or a browser with many tabs open can impact viewer performance noticeably.

5) How To Make Your Viewer Run Even Faster (when you really need the most you can get!)

Slow 3D graphics systems are often sensitive to how many pixels they need to “paint” with every screen refresh, so this last performance tweak involves… painting fewer pixels!  How do you do this? Set your viewer to be “Windowed” instead of “Full Screen”, and reduce the size of the window so that it is smaller than full screen – it’s that easy. I’ll often run the viewer at 2/3 or 3/4 of full screen size when extra speed is needed. If you run into a form that won’t fit at this window size, just click the “go to full size” window control button, and click the return to normal size button after dismissing the form. This trick works with most low powered computers, whether netbook, notebook or desktop, and is so simple it’s worth a try.

I can hear the complaints already “but I’m on a netbook, the screen is small already!”  Yes, that is the tradeoff. I find that if I’m in a dense crowd and can deal with less viewable area, this tweak gives a noticeable speed improvement, and so I’ll often run this way when I’m in a meeting on a low performance computer. Once you’re proficient with camera controls, the need for a panoramic view is lessened.

You can decide from minute to minute whether speed or the size of the viewing area is more important. Changing this decision doesn’t even take changing a viewer setting. All it takes is resizing the window, as you would for any other application.

6) Stay Plugged In!

3D graphics processors use a lot of power when they are active, and running Second Life makes them go into always on mode as long as you have the viewer running. In order to extend battery life, many (perhaps most) notebooks will run the 3D graphics processor at a lower speed when you are running from the internal batteries. There will often be a noticeable (sometimes huge) performance boost from keeping your notebook powered from the wall A/C adapter.

In some situations I’ve noticed that plugging the A/C adapter in before starting the operating system is needed to trip the high performance graphics mode. You can also check the settings for “power management” on your computer to make sure it’s running in high speed mode.

You can, on some computers and operating systems, also find a power management setting that instructs the 3D graphics processor to run at higher speed even when running on batteries, however, do not expect the battery to last long when run this way! As an aside, even with the graphics processor running in energy conservation mode, you will find that the battery life is surprisingly short running Second Life (or any other high demand 3D graphics or gaming application.) It’s better to stay plugged in all around if you can, however in a pinch the viewer will work running just from batteries, albeit a little slower.

7) If You are Not Using Voice, Turn it Off!

On low performance computers such as netbooks, the voice system can require enough processing power that it noticeably affects frame rate (FPS), and will intermittently use a significant amount of CPU power. In the scenes I tested, I found that enabling voice caused the frame rate to drop much lower when walking or turning, presumably because the CPU was busy processing voice while trying to handle traffic to the graphics card at the same time. Disabling voice, in the primary scene I tested, caused the typical viewer frame rate to jump from around 6 FPS to well over 7.5 FPS. Yes, I know for those of you on desktops with hot graphics either of these are painfully awful FPS results, however with a low performance computer this difference is quite noticeable in terms of smoothness and overall usability.

Please note that on most desktop or faster computers, there is enough CPU power available that you will not see much impact from this setting. On netbooks it can be significant, so if you are not a voice user, or do not need voice on at the moment, you’ll enjoy faster rezzing and smoother movement if you go to Preferences > Voice Chat and uncheck the “Enable voice chat” checkbox. Just remember to turn it back on when you need voice, and you’ll be all set!

8) Remember to re-check ALL of these settings after any viewer update, uninstall, reinstall or alternative viewer installation!

Depending on how you do updates, uninstalls or reinstalls, these settings may or may not be preserved. Make sure to re-check these important performance settings after any viewer update, and especially if you uninstall or reinstall the viewer, or install an alternative viewer version.

(This one I keep re-learning, after thinking “this is running really slowly,” just to realize that, for instance, the graphics settings have been re-set back to their defaults by an uninstall and reinstall cycle!)

The Caveats

  • Some of these optimizations reduce the smoothness and accuracy of how some shapes and objects are rendered to improve performance. It’s a trade-off, and you may decide to not be so severe in your settings changed. I have decided over time that I would much rather have smooth, fast performance (well, as smooth and fast as a lightweight machine can be) than highly accurate graphics.
  • You may not want to make these tradeoffs on higher performance hardware, and in fact the performance limits on more sophisticated hardware may be in other areas. As they say “your mileage may vary”.
  • These changes have been field tested in my netbook computer, which is an MSI U120 Wnd (I bought it – this is not a sponsored review – just a machine I have that represents lightweight hardware very well), and this machine is now quite useful for a lightweight carry-around machine for business meetings with voice in Second Life. I would not propose using this class of machine for rich graphics environments or trying to move smoothly in highly dense crowds of avatars. I find that for most common business uses it is workable with these changes. At the same time, I’m an experienced user, so I know how to use camera controls to get around when avatar movement is too slow, and am willing to be patient in complex, dense scenes. In sparser scenes, there is often no need for fancy tricks, and “it just works” albeit with a slow frame rate.
  • These optimizations improve the average frame rate (FPS) by 30-40% in many scenes that I have tested compared to the default viewer settings. Your mileage may vary depending on the scene and number of avatars in your field of view.

Best of luck! Hopefully these tweaks will help your low performance hardware to be more usable in typical scenes.

Categories: Misc Tags: ,
  1. December 5th, 2009 at 16:08 | #1

    Re: Network Settings, some users may actually benefit from a *lower* “Maximum Bandwidth” setting than the default, in order not to “choke” the viewer with more data than it can handle.

    I suggest to try different settings (both below, and above the default values as suggested in the article), wait a couple of minutes so that things stabilize, then watch at Statistics Bar and compare results. SL performances depend, as you already explained, on many different factors.

    Awesome, very useful post!

  2. December 5th, 2009 at 16:16 | #2

    Thanks Opensource. Yes, I’ve repeatedly heard that said as well, although I haven’t personally seen an improvement with reducing maximum bandwidth unless:
    * I’m on a slow link (768k DSL or slower, or really loaded down link at some shared public WiFi spot)
    * voice or audio won’t engage (in which case it seems that sometimes limiting viewer bandwidth will then allow enough slack to let the streaming services connect)

    With higher speed connections, even with my little netbook, the performance seems to go up dramatically with the increased bandwidth setting.

    Have you seen this help? I’m interested to hear when this is helpful. I’ve heard the theoretical explanations – just haven’t had it be successful for me. That is not to say it doesn’t help for others in other situations though. Thanks for the idea!

  3. December 5th, 2009 at 17:27 | #3

    Joel, thanks for getting around to writing this post! Feedback: It would be helpful if you’d suggest some defrag utilities for Macintosh, if you know any

  4. December 5th, 2009 at 17:40 | #4

    Here is an article from the Apple web site about fragmentation management in recent builds of OS X: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1375?viewlocale=en_US

    Note that they say it will not help much for disks that are not full, and that defragmenting an OS X disk that doesn’t need it may have a net negative impact. On the other hand, they do mention drives that have lots of large media files on them, and in that case using a defrag utility might help. Usually fragmentation is only a bit hit if the drive is fairly full, as mentioned above. I suggest it for very low power machines just because they also tend to have slow hard drives, which makes the impact more noticeable. I’m not sure I would bother on a Mac if the drive is below 75% full, and would likely try to do something about clearing some space before tinkering with defrag on OS X.

    For audio and video editing systems, rather than defragmenting, we’ve often used a dual drive or dual partition setup, and made sure to leave applications only on the primary partition. That way all manner of data reads, writes, deletes and updates will not fragment the boot partition (where the temp and swap files will likely be), and this also keeps the amount of disk movement for application loading and temp file access lower. This is probably a “very high end solution” though!

    You can also back everything up, wipe the drive, reinstall and restore, but *please* be sure that you are SURE your backup and restore process is solid before trying this! (I actually never trust backups for that, and always duplicate the hard drive with a drive duplicator just in case something happens.)

    I hope this helps!

  5. Further Monday
    December 6th, 2009 at 12:56 | #5

    I would like to add that I have also tested several viewers on my lower-performance macintosh laptop and have discovered that the newest version of Snowglobe gives me much better speed performance than any other I have tried including Emerald, regular SL client, and Merkat. I get some hit to texture clarity, but would gladly suffer a fews blurs in order to be able to walk around!

  6. Richard Brooksby
    December 6th, 2009 at 15:16 | #6

    A hardware engineer once warned me not to blow compressed air over my computer motherboard, as the rubbing of air molecules can create a static discharge that could damage the electronics. I am not sure that blasting compressed air into your laptop’s vents is a good idea. If nothing else, it just might move the “crud” further in.

  7. Kimo
    December 6th, 2009 at 17:06 | #7

    Using a pre-windlight viewer like Boy Lane’s Rainbow Viewer will help. http://my.opera.com/boylane/blog/

  8. December 6th, 2009 at 18:42 | #8

    @Further Monday
    Thanks Further – trying different viewers is another good idea. I’ve been using the Release Candidate viewer for a while now. I was using SnowGlobe prior to that, which seemed to run into some video player problems. The switch to the RC viewer did not seem to drop the viewer frame rate significantly, and both seem to be noticeably faster than the current Release viewer, at least on Windows XP.

  9. December 6th, 2009 at 19:05 | #9

    @Richard Brooksby
    Thanks Richard. I understand your concerns, and the general hardware engineer’s comment. I think in balance this is not something to be overly concerned about. Here is my rationale for why this may not be something to worry about in the large.

    I looked at that part of the recommendations as a “lesser of evils” decision. From a technical perspective, yes, compressed air can generate a static charge, however there are a number of considerations related to that general caution from your hardware engineer friend.

    Building up a static charge on a motherboard, if you then touch the motherboard right afterwards, before the charge can dissipate, may able to damage a part. This is, however, not the case we’re talking about, with the notebook or netbook still fully assembled.

    You need to blow a lot of high velocity air over a part to build up a significant amount of charge, and this isn’t needed to clear heat sinks (more on this below.) I reflexively do not blow air close to components, and that’s maybe something to remember in general. Given the geometry of things in a notebook or netbook, it’s hard to imagine getting the charge levels on the system board up to anything significantly measurable let alone dangerous. Even if it did, you’re not touching the motherboard afterwards, so I’m hard pressed to think of a scenario where it would matter. That charge will dissipate fairly quickly afterwards, and then the issue becomes moot.

    The reasons for my comment above and a thought about your concern about moving the “crud” further in are connected. The trigger for these comments about cleaning out the machine are for one specific reason: If a heat sink gets coated with dust or dirt, its ability to cool the part it is supposed to cool is greatly reduced. If a notebook or netbook is getting enough ventilation below the case and it is still overheating, then it is almost guaranteed that one or more heatsinks in the system are heavily coated with dust or dirt (this “just happens” given the environment that these systems live in.)

    There are a couple of options at this point. The first option, which is the one I use if it’s clear the machine is stuffed with dust bunnies, is to pull the case apart, clean out the system, and put it back together. This is not an option for most people, and if you haven’t worked with notebooks before the thought of this can be pretty intimidating, as it’s pretty easy to break things while doing this kind of surgery.

    Given that for most people, doing a surgical cleanup is not feasible, the best you can do is to blow air through the system, which will usually displace most of the “crud” on the heatsinks. The heatsinks are usually very close to or right at the air exit from the case. Other components will not be affected by a bit more dust floating around, whereas clearing the heat sinks will help a lot in preventing overheating.

    Another thing that comes to mind is that notebook and netbook cases are far from completely sealed environments. Usually I blow air through the intakes first, which will make dust fly out of all sorts of gaps in the case that you didn’t know were there. Then I’ll blow air through the exhaust ports, which again will kick dust out of gaps in the case and the intake ports. A LOT of dust ends up outside the machine and on the LCD at this point. With this all said, I wouldn’t worry too much about everything landing inside the case.

    In the choice between a process that can clear the heat sinks and prevent overheating, even if it gets repeated more often than a thorough internal cleaning, and having a machine whose 3D graphics system fails from running over temperature constantly, I’d say that the cleaning method that is feasible for most people is a win!

    To both concerns, I’ve been custom building and doing internal maintenance on personal computers and notebooks (luggables and laptops at first) for over 20 years, have used compressed air regularly, and never had a system failure due to compressed air and static problems. That is not to say that it’s impossible, just that even when handling the parts directly, it’s not a common occurrence in my experience. I don’t think that blowing air from the outside carries the same risks, and it will get the job of clearing off the heatsinks done pretty easily for most folks.

    If anyone is really concerned about these risks, by all means contract with someone who knows how to pull your notebook apart to clean it out for you. For my machines, I’ll use a dollar or two of compressed air once in a while and move on to the next thing without loosing sleep 🙂

    I hope this helps!

  10. December 8th, 2009 at 08:24 | #10

    Joel, I’m about to give you a thumbs-up in my blog. I don’t think you mentioned something I discovered after a member of the SLED list posted it: run your laptop plugged in. On Macs (and I presume, PCs as well) processor power is diverted when the battery becomes the primary source of power.

    I use wireless to connect a lot, and I find a real bump in performance, with no other changes, if I plug the AC adapter into the wall.

  11. December 8th, 2009 at 11:07 | #11

    Thanks Ignatius! That is a great one – another “reflexive tidbit” I’d forgotten to mention. Thanks for pointing this out.

    Yes, graphics processors on both Macs and PC’s take a lot of power when they are running full-tilt, and many (most?) notebook computers will run the 3D graphics processor at a lower clock rate to conserve battery life when not running on wall power. I’ll add this to the post above. Good catch!

  12. December 10th, 2009 at 19:33 | #12

    All excellent stuff Joel, and right on about all of it.
    Here’s a few tidbits I’ve picked up over the years:
    Because I’m a DJ in SL, I need to run more than just SL… so the follow extra bits will come in handy for anyone that wants to perform music live, record video, take high quality photos, or run “other stuff” while running Second Life:

    Before you log in: Turn bandwidth to 500, turn cache to 500. Disable voice, disable “automatically play streaming media” … turn all graphic settings to the lowest possible (including particles… uncheck all graphic related boxes.

    When you log in, as soon as you log in (as an egg aka Ruth v2.0) press CTRL-P (on PCs)… I’ve noticed the log in is much faster and smoother if you quickly open your preferences directly after logging in. To expedite the load time, drag your bandwidth and cache left and right… press ‘apply’ a few times…. … don’t move anywhere, don’t look at anything, don’t do anything until you see your avatar self take shape, the influx of offline group notices pile in, and the “IMs have been capped” message… after you have those 3 things happen, you’re fully loaded and ready to operate and function well in SL.

    Now that you’re logged in: here’s some extras to cut down on as much load and lag as possible. Keep your graphic settings completely OFF (to the left). Joel left some particles on… however, I don’t… I haven’t seen a particle in ages…. sounds too, turn off sounds, ambience, and all sound bars: slide em to the left.
    sidenote: If you’re going to take high quality photos, aim the shot first, then switch the graphics to high quality and snap. If you’re trying to make video… good luck, but it probably won’t work unless you want to film tableaus and do a lot of editing.

    Here’s a biggie: decrease your inventory!! Delete delete delete! do you really need all that crap? The less inventory you have, the faster you will move inworld.

    Detach as much as possible from yourself: go Buddhist. Anything attached to your avatar (such as hair, shoes, ties, flexi dresses, accessories, etc) It’ll slow you down.

    Groups: Turn off group notices. obviously, you can’t for some, but if you have group notices enabled, it’ll slow you down. Since you have 25 groups, it’ll slow you down alot….
    Group chat, and and IM conferences slow you down as well. X the group chats and IM conferences when you see them. Don’t allow them to sit opened.

    Friends: I’m of the belief that the massive friends list causes lag too… nothing can really be done about it… either you’re a person that has a massive friends list, or you’re a person who doesn’t. It can’t really be helped…. but, you can start removing those friends from your list that have abandoned SL and never log on. Delete their calling card too. On average 85%-90% of your friends list are people that don’t use SL anymore.

    There’s a few of my extras… enjoy and embrace your movement inworld. It’s a precious gift.

  13. December 10th, 2009 at 19:34 | #13

    @Doubledown Tandino

    I want to add one more thing…. some may want to do it, some may not….
    Turn off your real-time virus program protection.
    It’s sketchy and scary to do it… but…. your virus real-time protection hogs your computer’s resources.

  14. December 10th, 2009 at 20:54 | #14

    @Doubledown Tandino

    I thought more things:

    changing your computer’s network and sharing options. Keep “Network Discovery” ON… but turn off: File Sharing, Public Folder Sharing, Printer Sharing, Password Protected Sharing, and Media sharing

    turn off windows special fancy crap which includes: turning off login profiles, search for printers, sounds, extra display stuff, desktop schemes…. ya gotta get your windows down to the bare bones basics. turn off search for microsoft updates automatically, and as a matter of fact, turn off all program’s ‘search for updates automatically’. Also, remove as many taskbar and tray icons as you can. If you can get it down to just your clock, your volume control, and your virus protection program, then you’re doing good. heck… turn off your clock even, we all go by second life time now anyways….

    turn off startup programs: go to start menu, ‘run’ type msconfig… click the startup tab.
    Uncheck everything that isn’t important. Reboot.

  15. December 11th, 2009 at 01:40 | #15

    @Doubledown Tandino

    Thanks Doubledown, lots of useful stuff. The idea to go through and thoroughly take applications out of the Startup folder and make sure that no other applications are running is a good point. Sometimes on low performance machines the issue is that some other large application is running in the background (like Microsoft Outlook, just as a for instance) leaving not enough RAM for the viewer to operate reasonably.

    The one thing I’d take a bit of exception to is dialing down the bandwidth setting. I’ve only seen that be necessary on a limited bandwidth connection if other streaming things are impacted. You might have seen the viewer traffic impact your outbound stream as a DJ, and in that case it would make sense to trim the viewer’s bandwidth use. For “normal users” I’d recommend high settings for network bandwidth as mentioned above, unless they’re seeing an impact on streaming audio or voice because of bandwidth starvation.

    Decreasing inventory is a good one, as is reducing the number of attachments. Lots of attachments can make region crossings much more dicey. It’s sometimes amazing how smooth they are with no attachments (including taking HUDs off)!

    Thanks – this is all great stuff!

  16. December 12th, 2009 at 09:35 | #16


    RE: bandwidth settings in SL: Yes, I agree Joel… for users who are walking, creating, and actively doing things, there’s no need to dial down the bandwidth setting. I say turn it up, cache too. Only for a musician or DJ who is streaming, who is usually positioned on stage, locked into a position, and not doing anything else in SL other than camera angles and chat, sometimes, lowering the bandwidth is good just to ensure the audio stream is solid. In my case, I’ve never had a problem with broadcast streaming at 128kbps and having SL bandwidth set between 500 and 1000.

  17. December 12th, 2009 at 09:46 | #17


    There are a good slew of articles online that will help in the area of fine-tuning your computer… but do a search for articles specific to “gaming computers” and “windows”
    IE: search for:
    How to optimize your computer for game performance
    Windows optimize performance for gaming

    Articles along those lines will help fine-tune your Windows.
    (for example: I noticed when I disabled my Windows profiles, disabled windows messenger, and turned off my “search for network printers” my Second Life has been faster by about 10% since.)

  18. Lynn Ouachita
    December 13th, 2009 at 09:46 | #18

    I have a question…on using the full bandwith…if someone else in the house is on second life as well..If I was to move the slider up as much as it will go..will it take away from them?

  19. December 13th, 2009 at 11:32 | #19

    @Lynn Ouachita

    Regardless of setting, everyone in your house will be sharing the throughput of “the pipe” that connects you to the Internet. You can check your total bandwidth (the reality of it, as opposed to what the marketing materials promise) by going to a site like http://www.speedtest.net/, choosing the closest city to you from the ones suggested, and running a speed test.

    In general, if you have a consumer DSL line you may find that multiple people online will slow each other down, however on cable or faster it’s pretty unlikely. Most cable connections are 6 Mbps or faster these days, so having one person using 1.5 Mbps (which is the same as the 1500 kbps shown on the slider at its max setting, for the released viewer) will not interfere with others at that speed.

    If you have several people downloading movies at the same time you could see some impact between them, or with Second Life and them, but the other thing to realize is that the viewer does not use full bandwidth all the time by any means. It pulls as hard as you’ll let it “while rezzing” a scene, but once you’ve been in a particular scene for a while the amount of bandwidth used goes way down, often to below 100k bps.

  20. December 18th, 2009 at 02:05 | #20

    Yeah, thanks so much for you kind share here. When trying to speed up my computer, I will always uninstall the unnecessary programs / files from the computer. But I found that one point that can not be missed, that is, a simple disk defragmentation which helps to easily make the computer run faster. So I insist on regularly defragmenting my computer. I have found a very wonderful article talking something about this.If you like, you can get more further information here: http://ezinearticles.com/?Disk-Defragmentation—Make-Computers-Run-Faster-Soon&id=3162755. Well done!

  21. March 25th, 2010 at 01:24 | #21

    Fantastic article!

  22. March 25th, 2010 at 01:42 | #22

    One tip when using compressed air to clear out laptop/netbook vents use short blasts and not too close. The magnetic driven motors are designed to move in one direction and a sustained blast of air could damage them.

  23. March 26th, 2010 at 01:49 | #23

    Thank you Joel a well overdue post.

    Here is a tip which is implemented in West Africa where we have bandwidth issues as well, get hold of your last machine if you have not scraped it yet mark it up as your virtual world machine, install Linux and bingo recycling and improved performance.

    Julius Sowu

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