Fast Ways to Make Your Video Card Scream
Posted: October 4, 2000
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
So, you've just gotten yourself a new video card (or maybe even a whole new computer) - and you are looking for a few quick ways to speed up your video subsystem without taking the risk of breaking something. Maybe you have integrated video on your motherboard and have no idea how to tune it up, and can't find a guide on tweaking your specific video chipset - or perhaps you've got a brand new board (probably from a company not known by the names 3dfx or NVIDIA) that we just haven't gotten around to (or haven't received a review unit for...) tweaking out yet. No worries! This is the place to look for some general tweaks to help you out.
The Driver Spiel
I know, I know - at this point this is old news to anyone who's read any of my previous articles - I seem to mention this over and over, don't I? Point being though, this is the fastest, easiest, and safest way to optimize the performance of your video card. You think I'm kidding? Take a look at the difference in speed from the Detonator 2 drivers to the Detonator 3 drivers (by NVIDIA). We were so astounded by the 60+% increase of the Detonator 3's over the older Detonator 2's (on the same card, no less!) at high resolutions that we dedicated a decent portion of an article (which you can read here) to it. If you are having trouble finding drivers for your video card, check out the manufacturers web page or take a look at windrivers.com for more information.
To get the optimum performance and stability out of your new drivers, there are a few extra steps you are going to want to go through to install the new drivers beyond what you might normally do when upgrading, say, a driver for a sound card. After you extract the drivers, go into the device manager and delete your video card (which actually deletes the video card drivers) and restart your computer. When the computer searches for the video card, finds it, and asks if you would like to point it towards the best drivers available, just point it at the directory where you extracted the new drivers and let it fly. Just FYI, if the drivers come with other, specific instructions on installing the drivers, they supercede any information I've given you here - hopefully, the manufacturer knows what it's talking about.
Monitors, Resolution, and Refresh Rate
I know, this doesn't have a whole lot to do with speed (well, with the exception of the effect of 3D rendered resolution on a game…), but it is important nonetheless if you want things looking and running as well as they possibly can. The first thing that you need to take into account is the monitor - because the size and quality of the monitor will help determine the other two subjects. If you have a 14" or 15" monitor, you are probably going to want to run your monitor in 800x600, or if you have good eyes and sit close to your monitor, 1024x768. If your monitor is 17" or larger, you should be running in at least 1024x768, if not higher. However, there is another factor you need to take into account when you are determining the resolution you are going to run your monitor at - the refresh rates available to you in that resolution.
Refresh rate, if you are not aware, is the number of times per second that the monitor 'redraws' the screen. The higher the number of times the screen is redrawn a second, the easier it is on your eyes and the lower the chance you have of getting eye strain or a headache from what is commonly referred to as 'flicker.' I would personally never choose a resolution that I couldn't run my monitor at least at 72 Hz, but some people can notice flicker (and it gives them headaches) up to 85 and sometimes even 100 Hz - so this is something that you will personally have to account for. If you are getting headaches, or you can see flicker in your screen and it bugs you, upping the refresh rate (which can be done from within the Display Properties => Settings => Advanced => Adapter menu) is the way to go.
There are a few general windows settings that can contribute to a speedier graphics card. The first of these settings that I'm going to cover is the performance slider that is accessible in two places, the advanced menu in the Display applet and the graphics menu in the System applet. Both are linked so you only have to change this setting in one place. I would recommend moving the slider all the way to the right, signifying "full acceleration" - on most computers this is set by default but it is best to check. Also, in the display applet, set the color depth to 16-bit color. If you are running a game in 16-bit color but have your background desktop set to 32-bit color you can take a big performance hit.
This is probably one of our favorite video card tweaking programs here at Tweak3D - it has a huge number of tweaking features for many of the current video cards available today as well as support for modifying the core and memory clocks on many of today's video cards (gotta love overclocking). If you want more information about this program, or you want to grab a copy of it for yourself, check out Powerstrip's website.
There are a lot more tweaks for video cards (as a general rule, they are one of the most tweakable parts of the computer), but the most of them are driver or chipset specific, making them difficult to cover here. If you are lucky enough to have one of the video cards that we have already written a tweak guide for (such as the Geforce or the Voodoo3), you should check those guides out for more specific information. Read the Tweak Guides Index to see if your chipset is covered by a full length guide.
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