SWTOR and Graphics – Part 3

Well I went through extensively the properties in the 3D control panel for the nVidia card in Part 1.  I then went into more detail than I hoped for in talking about Direct3D 9 and Direct3D 9Ex and to help increase some frame-rate issues that not having a complete installation of DirectX 9 could cause in Part 2.  Now in Part 3, we are going to be looking into some minor Windows settings that can help potentially improve things. 

Like in the previous post about DirectX these settings only affect Windows Vista and Windows 7, and Windows 8 if you are running that.

Services

I am not going to go through each and every Windows service to tell you to shut them down.  But there are some services that are on by default but aren’t used.  I will give some examples of them, but I am not telling you to shut them down as this is for your to decide, but suffice to say that if you don’t need them then it is best.

First, to get to your services,

Click Start | Right Click Computer (My Computer in Windows XP) | Click Manage.

image

This is the Windows 7 version of the computer Management console, the Windows Vista one is almost identical.

image

Windows XP is like this.

Expand the Services and Applications node, by clicking the plus or the arrow.  Then Click Services.  If you are in Windows 7 or Vista you will see a lot more than in Windows XP.

Here are some examples of services that you could shut down to gain some valuable resources.  This is possibly more critical if you are running on memory less than 4GB or are using a 32bit OS on 4GB of RAM.

To stop or change the way a service starts double click the offending service and you will be presented with the following dialog.

image

It is almost identical on all platforms.

Click Start to Start the service.  Click Stop to stop it.

The start up type is one of the key items.  Selecting Disable is recommended only if you know the service isn’t needed.  But, if you aren’t sure set it to Manual.  What this does is, any service that depends on this will start it.  If not it will not be started at all.  If you have a doubt set it to Manual.  So all the services I am going to provide below.  Set them to manual if they aren’t already and stop them if you aren’t using them.

Note.  Some of these services may not exist in all versions of Windows so don’t feel there is a problem if you can’t see it.

  • Windows Image Acquisition – If you have a web cam running or a camera plugged in or scanning something then sure.  But when playing a game these aren’t needed.
  • Windows Font Cache – This is a background process, that looks at your fonts and caches them for you.  But setting it to manual means any applications like Word or the like will fire it up when needed.
  • Windows Firewall.  ONLY touch this if you are knowing what you are doing.  If you have a physical firewall (in the router or other external device) then turn it off.  You will gain much needed improvements over the network.  This doesn’t affect frame-rate or graphics only network.
  • Themes – This is really one of those funny ones.  Running Windows basic, you don’t have this option.  If you are running Windows in the theme, Aero or the like this will be running.  If you turn it off, then it will make your window look like this
    image
    Note that they have lost all curves.  This is one service you can stop before playing and next time you reboot it will start again.
  • Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service – If you have UPnP devices throughout your house and you use your local Media Player’s library of music and videos to stream to those devices then leave this as other people might be want to connect and watch something while you game.  But, if not, or you are wondering what UPnP is, or don’t even use Windows Media Player then, if not running shut this down and set it to manual.
  • Remote Registry – Turn it off.  If it is on.  This is really only used within enterprises who need access to your registry from another machine.  This should not be enabled on a home desktop PC.
  • Print Spooler – If you have a printer installed then, you don’t want to disable it.  But are you planning on printing during game play,  possibly not.  If you have a shared printer hooked up to your PC and you know other people might be using it, then do, keep it running.  But otherwise it might be one, like themes that you can stop while playing and start again on reboot I will get to these soon.
  • Offline Files – If you use them, keep it running if you don’t know what they are, I suggest this can be stopped while playing and restarted on reboot.
  • Media Center Extender Service – If you are using a media extender then this is required.  It is similar to that of the Windows Media Player Network Sharing Service. 
  • Bluetooth Support Service – If you are playing a game then chances are it isn’t required unless you are using Bluetooth devices.

Now like I said this list of services aren’t exhaustive and I certainly only state that these could be stopped if you like, with caveats of course.  Now I also did mention that there could be some that could be hut down before the game is started.  At home I have VMWare, and it has 5 services it uses.  So, I decide that I can shut these services down.

taskkill /F /IM vmware.exe
net stop "VMware Workstation Server"
net stop "VMware Authorization Service"
net stop "VMware DHCP Service"
net stop "VMware NAT Service"
net stop "VMware USB Arbitration Service"

Above is an example of a batch file I run that kills VMWare and all services.  This can be used for any services.  Open Notepad and using the net stop command you can stop any of the services.  See below.

net stop "Bluetooth Support Service"
net stop "Media Center Extender Service"
net stop "Offline Files"
net stop "Print Spooler"
net stop "Remote Registry"
net stop "Windows Image Acquisition (WIA)"

These are an example.  Though when run they will stop those services.  When using the net stop command.  Use the Display name.  When you open the dialog for a service you will see Service name and Display name.  The Display name is the one you see in the service list.  The Service name is the executable that is run.

NOTE:  Windows 7 and Vista will need to run this batch file using the Run As Administrator for it to work.  I do this every time I want to play a game.

Now that I have the services out of the way now comes the other element.

Compatibility

Now, these are just items that are only aide in getting the game running as smoothly as possible.  This is only valid for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

image

This is the Compatibility tab of an application or shortcut.  The ones that interest is are

  • Disable visual themes – This reverts you to Windows Basic theme.  It is similar to turning off the Themes service but, it will revert to normal once the application ends and it does help since there are no Direct3D 9Ex calls needed at all for the Flip3D and using any Aero effects.
  • Disable desktop composition – This turns off the Aero effects transparency. 

These 2 elements are possibly some of the bigger drains on the system and since they use Direct3D 9Ex that can just free up some precious video resources. 

Themes

Just a note on this.  I have mentioned about the Themes service and the Disable Visual Themes.  How do these differ from one another.  There is also another method which can help, but the Themes service is still enabled. 

If you are a gamer who doesn’t care about the way Windows looks.  Your only need is freeing up as many resources as possible and making sure that each and every part of these resources goes to you game.  Stopping the Themes service is a great way to do this.  Since the dwm.exe (Desktop Windows Manager) does take a drain on resources, especially when running Aero.

If you run Windows 7 Basic theme, it helps some.  Run Windows Classic will help more still.  But, if your stop the Themes service, it will maintain the colours and sizes of the various elements.  Take this as an example.

image

Windows 7 Basic Theme

image

Windows Classic Theme

image

Windows 7 Basic theme but the themes service stopped.  Notice the size of the border and the colours.

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Windows Classic with the Theme service stopped.  Notice there is no difference between the themes but with the Windows 7 Basic there is.  And it isn’t attractive.  if you are planning on stopping the themes then it is a personal preference but I would recommend to change to Windows Classic and then stop it.

Virus Scanners

Yes, yes I have gone way past the original scope of this post but it is the last thing I will mention, I promise.  There are heaps out there and some are good others aren’t so good.  I have experienced a number of them from a corporate perspective and also from a personal one.  I have used the following;

  • Norton Anti-Virus
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • AVG
  • Trend Micro
  • F-Prot (Back in the DOS days)
  • McAfee
  • avast

Some are good, others not so good.  I have gotten viruses or malware from using 2 of the products, Trend Micro and AVG.  My wife has gotten one from using Microsoft Security Essentials.  Now but me saying gotten one, means the applications failed to stop me picking up those “infections” thankfully I was able to restore back and not much was lost.  But a scanner is only as good as the timely updates of definitions.  If you happen to visit a site that has a brand new virus or malware then, the virus scanner no matter how good will not stop it.

So why am I mentioning this in here.  Simple, Virus scanners take up a huge amount of resources.  Scanning incoming files, monitoring network traffic, email and SPAM filtering.  Each and everyone of these items need to also then look up the definitions.

Once upon a time Norton Anti-Virus had a gaming edition. When switch into it, it would remove most of the definitions from memory, therefore freeing up things.  Background monitoring was stopped and so were pop-ups informing of updates or scans complete.  It was good, but it isn’t supported by Norton any more.  Also it cost money.

Microsoft Security Essentials is free and was very low usage and memory but it since it could still display pop-ups in your application therefore stealing focus and your attention.

AVG is a hog.  It is a great virus scanner but isn’t very friendly to the gamers machine and resources.

Which brings me to avast.  It is a new one I installed recently.  And the reputation monitor (an Add-on for IE9) had problems in terms of causing IE to crash, I disabled that I have had trouble free operation.  It also has a Silent/Gaming mode.  Which will stop scanning in the background and will not display pop-ups.

Even in normal mode avast is quite frugal on its resources.  But since I have had it about a week.  Time will tell on how it performs.  Since it hasn’t cause a virus to get through and I am still able to game in the way I was used to, it is good.

Granted not having a virus scanner is the best option when it comes to resources.  But not having one opens your up to a world of possible hurt and more.  My recommendation is to go with what you can afford that doesn’t impact your gaming.  I would recommend avast and Microsoft Security Essentials at the moment.  Remember that the more items the product has, Virus Scanner, Malware checker, Reputation monitor etc… firewall, net filter and so on, the more resources is uses.

Note.  Pay isn’t always better.  The thing I found with pay options is they will update their definitions more.  But the items that have a free option (and a pay) do not update their pay customers any quicker than the free ones.  it is just paying for more product.

This brings me to the end of Part 3.  I was sure this was going to be short.  But Part 4 and Part 5 are the final ones.  Part 4 I will talk about the SWTOR settings in the application and Part 5, I will go into the tweaking side to get the most out of the game.

It seems that once I get going I just keep going and going.  Stay tunes for Part 4.

 

References

  1. avast! (There is a free version but also a paid version)
  2. Microsoft Security Essentials (Always free no pay option)
  3. AVG (There is a free one, but the web site does really make it difficult to get)
  4. F.Prot (I was amazed the other day to find they still made anti-virus software after all these years) (Always pay, no free option)
  5. Norton Anti-Virus (always costs money, no free options)
  6. McAffee (Always pay no free options)
  7. Trend Micro (Always pay, no free option)
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Posted on August 24, 2012, in Article, Games, Star Wars, Tips and Tricks and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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