Sunday, May 3, 2009

Low Frame Rate: Overheated Video Card?

Written 3 May, 2009

Low Frame Rate: Overheated Video Card?

About a year ago-- it was just after the return of Windlight as a feature of the main viewer, so perhaps it was a bit longer than that-- my frame rate went to shit.

When I would log onto Second Life with video settings set to the max I would get 10-12 frames per second as the sim rezzed in-- but after a couple of minutes the frame rate would drop to 4-5. Before, it had been 8-10 fps no matter where I was or how high the video settings.

Due to the newness of Windlight I blamed the SL viewer-- but eventually gumblingly ordered a new video card from

When I removed the old card (an nVidia 7600) from my computer, I discovered the fan on board the video card was locked up. Clearly, that was the cause of my video troubles.

The new card (an nvideo GeForce 8600 GT, SSE2 with 512 gb of RAM)  ran great-- until three weeks ago. Suddenly I was once again seeing my frame rate drop from 10-12 fps a few minutes after logging into Second Life, this time to as low at 1.8 or 2. Grrrr!

After a couple of weeks of this (what can I say, I'm a slow learner), I though I would look to see if the fan on my new card was turning (even though I would pretty much have to stand on my head to see it).

To my surprise, as soon as the side was off the case my frame rate returned to normal. I was getting 8 fps or so in crowded environments on the ground and as much as 25 fps in sky builds. Just now, in the House of 1000 Pleasures with video playing, I'm getting 9-12 fps with settings all the way up (and 25 fps when the video is stopped).

I'm not kidding myself-- my card is probably on the way out, but clearly the high video demands of Second Life stress even good video cards, and when they get hot, they slow down. I wonder how many others might find their second lives running faster with the cases opened to the air or by adding a video card cooler.

My case is a standard VAIO desktop case with an opening for a single 80x80 mm case fan (and, of course, a fan on the power supply). A while back I replaced the stock fan with one with pretty LED lights (what can I say, I'm like Sweetie that way. I like to watch pretty lights). I'm going to replace the new fan, this time with a high velocity model, and I'll figure out a way to add a second fan somewehere (maybe by cutting a hole in the side panel.

By the way, do any of my readers know if case fans should blow cold air into the computer, or hot air out?

I happen to be financially embarassed at the moment, but to be on the safe side I looked for an inexpensive replacement-- and found a great deal-- a  GeForce 9400 GT 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express with 1 gb of RAM for just $44.99-- with free shipping! (The deal may be good only for the weekend, so act fast if you need a new card).  See here.


Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Typical fan arrangements have fans at the front or side pulling cool air in and fans at the top or back blowing hot air out.

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

Oops, forgot to mention--yes, you're right. The graphics cards notice their temperature, and take things easier when they get too hot (where you may be able to configure what "too hot" means, but I hesitate to play chicken with that these days is the most expensive part of a computer used for gaming or for SL).

Handbasket to Hell said...

I have front bezel duo fan with USB ports in the front to draw air in and an exhaust case fan, as well as a MassCool exhaust fan in the PCI rear opening directly below the video card. The MassCool is cheap and effective.