You’ve probably been frustrated by slow rez times in Second Life®. You’ve been at a concert where a light show is ruined by the particles failing to rez quickly, or after teleporting you have to wait what seems forever until you can see the scene and avatars around you.
Buying a new computer or at least a new video card would almost certainly help, of course, but this is not an option for most people. However there are some simple steps you can take that should improve your Second Life experience without spending a penny.
Don’t clear your cache. If you’ve been in Second Life for a while, you’ve been told many times to clear your cache as a solution to many problems. The problem with this advice is that in most cases, it doesn’t solve the problem but it does slow down your computer while your cache refills. Unless you are experiencing a problem that is probably cache-related, you should never clear your cache. Don’t worry about it getting too full. When it fills up, it will clear out older elements itself.
Everything you see in Second Life needs to be downloaded to your computer. Many things, especially textures, will need to be downloaded repeatedly. Some examples are furniture or clothes that contain a common texture, or a particle display. If each texture had to be downloaded every time it’s used, your computer would be too busy downloaded to do anything else in Second Life.
Your cache solves this problem. The first time something is downloaded, it’s stored in your cache. The next time it’s a simple read from the cache instead of being downloaded. This is much, much faster. If you clear your cache unnecessarily, you’ll slow down your computer while all those items are downloaded again to your cache.
Increasing your cache size: Your cache can be set as high as 10GB in size (2GB for the Singularity Viewer). If you have enough hard drive space, set it to the maximum size. This is done slightly differently in each viewer. In the standard Second Life viewer, go to Me / Preferences / Advanced and set Cache size to the highest (probably 9,984MB). In the Firestorm viewer, you’ll find it in Viewer / Preferences / Network & Cache.
Moving your cache: If you are comfortable in working with your computer’s file system and you have more than one hard drive in your computer, you can also move your cache to a different drive to improve performance. This writer has his Second Life cache on a separate solid state drive (SSD).
Adjusting graphics Quality & Speed levels: The other big way you can improve your Second Life performance is by tweaking some basic graphics settings. You’ll find them in Me / Preferences / Graphics in the standard viewer and in Viewer / Preferences / Graphics in Firestorm. The simplest thing to change is the slider that allows you to adjust Quality and Speed to one of four settings: Low, Mid, High, and Ultra. If you’re having performance problems, simply move the slider to a lower setting. It might solve your problem or at least reduce it. The Low setting will give you better speed, the Ultra setting will give you better (but probably much slower) visuals. Unless you have a fairly powerful computer and video card, don’t think about using Ultra.
A future column will discuss ways to use the Advanced graphics settings to get finer control over refining your settings to find the balance between quality and speed that works best for you.