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Tech Tips

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    PlanetQuake | Features | Tech Tips | 7-7-99
   

System Tweaks

Our experience with drivers has been that the reference drivers (drivers distributed by the chip manufacturer, not the board manufacturer) have generally been the best and there is usually a gain in performance by using them. However, performance may vary from card to card. In any case, get the MOST RECENT drivers (http://www.3dfx.com for Voodoo chipset and http://www.nvidia.com for TnT). Drivers are updated usually because of bugs and / or better performance tweaks to the drivers, and even though you may have just bought your video card yesterday, it could've been sitting on the shelves for quite a while and have pretty old drivers.

If you install new drivers, it is STRONGLY recommended you get rid of the old ones first. Old drivers, like ex-lovers, can often linger and cause problems. One way is to get rid of them is to go to Control Panel > System > Device Manager and remove your card. Then go to Add new hardware > choose the type of hardware to install, install it with the new drivers and reboot. When you remove the card from Device Manager, Windows helps remove the old drivers. However, sometimes you may need to seek out the drivers on your own and delete them from the system directory (windows \ system) and the registry. The easiest way to find them is to use regedit.exe, then do a search for the name of the manufacturer of your card and delete those lines. Make sure you READ WHAT YOU ARE DELETING. If you have a Creative Labs video accelerator and a Creative Labs sound card, make sure you’re not deleting information for your sound card. See last week's article on backing up your registry first!

Most cards today come with some control panel software to tweak settings. If you are using the drivers your card came with, it may have a control panel (Diamond, for example usually ships with "InControl Tools")  that helps you setup the rendering options and speed settings for the card.  Please examine this in Control Panel > Display > Settings > Advanced. There are gamma settings and (depending on the card) fog tables and vsync. Make sure to read the help files, learn about your card's abilities and the tools that came with it (we can’t cover every card and its utilities here). However, using the control panel can also have a negative effect. For example, the InControl Tools for Diamond Viper V770 TnT 2 will override your custom config in Quake2. The only way to stop it is to uninstall and use the reference drivers from Nvidia (which seems to increase performance as well), another reason to consider the reference drivers. And remember, if you turn everything up to be all fancy and have the best image quality, you will probably lag your game online. Forget the fog and all that cool stuff... do you want to win or look at pretty pictures?

Overclocking

Weigh the facts. Most cards (especially older ones) will not gain much from overclocking. The risk may be too high to worry about it. Sometimes, only a few fps are gained by it, which is usually unnoticeable to the human eye. Sometimes the best option is to just buy better equipment than overclock (most cards have a bigger gain in FPS by upgrading the amount of RAM in your system, not overclocking the cards). If you don’t know what fps means (not literally - it’s "frames per second") or how to see what your fps is in the game, you’re probably not ready for overclocking.

Voodoo 2:
Using RegEdit, go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWARE, 3Dfx Interactive, then Voodoo 2 in the registry. Now look for D3D / Glide and right click on SSTV2_GRXCLK. You can modify one or both to anything from 85 to 105. It is recommended that you NOT set this above 109 (that is unless you LIKE the smell of burned silicone).  The safest way to do this is use a Freeware program called V2 Overclock. This will handle changing the cumbersome registry for you.

Voodoo 3:
The easiest way to poke around the registry and get this card overclocked is to download Gary Peterson's Voodoo 3 Overclocker utility. It's a freeware program and relatively easy to use. Just make sure you don't overclock too high or you'll lock up your system. Try increasing the memory / clock speeds by 5-7 mHz increments, and once you get a lockup in your favorite FPS, bring it back down 5 mHz. Voodoo 3s, just like TnT 2s, have a nasty tendency to overheat, so overclock at your own risk!

TnT:
The TnT and the registry, we're not even gonna go there. If you have to do it, try either Powerstrip or Powertweak. And we can’t stress enough on this chipset... COOLING! For a good cooling fan, check out The Cardcooler or 3DFXCool (Cozmo's note: I took the fan off of an old Pentium Cooler and bolted it the heatsink of my TnT 2 - she's running cool at 188 by 170 and it didn't cost me a dime).

Be aware that the first sign of a problem when overclocking is usually the system becomes unstable (for example the system locking up, graphics tearing, the blue screen of death, the game shutting down and returning you to Windows, the faint smell of something electrical burning, black smoke pouring out of the case, firemen beating on the door, etc.). These are all signs to put your card back the way you found it. Unless you have a money tree, be very careful with all these overclocking / performance tips.




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