Advanced Tweaks

About RAM...

This article is reprinted from a post on the WW2OL forum by Wmmunny

Comp freezes during gameplay? try this...

In preparation for my buying WWIIOL, I was researching which memory chip to try. A little background, which will tie in here... I built my comp (It was pretty cool - knew nothing about comps, not even proper shutdown procedure, but I wanted a good one but they were too much $$$, so I began researching parts and bought 1 or 2 parts with each paycheck, learned a whole lot in the process) using an EB series P3 processor, whitch uses the pc133 memory. PC133 is more finicky than pc100; it is important that the "nanosecond" rating on each chip match. My first chip was a Corsair 128mb chip rated at 6 nanoseconds. I saw a 256mb pc133 chip for $61 and a generic 7 nanosecond 512mb pc133 chip for $41, so my dilemma was whether to stick with the smaller corsair chip (384mb total) or remove it and put in the cheaper 512mb chip. In the course of my research I found the following quote in an independent review:

"80% of system freeze-ups are caused by low quality or generic memory... the memory chip can have as big an impact on overall system performance as the processor does. After all, you wouldn't use a generic processor or hard drive in your computer, would you?"

The review went on to compare the performance of good name brand chips against generic ones in a series of bench tests, and, without getting into detail, the results were astonishing. I went ahead and ordered the 256mb Corsair chip.

It turns out that Corsair makes some of the finest memory chips in the world. They are regularly used in high-performance servers for their excellent reliability, as well as in test systems for running benchmarks on other high-performance components. There are other good names out there (Viking comes to mind) but from my experience I'd recommend Corsair to anyone. They are more expensive but well worth it. Even if you don't get a Corsair, upgrade to a decent brand if you are using generic chips, and let me know the results here if you try this.

Remember, games like this one are very demanding on a computer. You can load up MS Word and type all day and your comp will not do the computing it does in 60 seconds of WWIIOnline.

A memory chip's job is basically to store information that the processor anticipates needing in the next few seconds, since the memory chip can get the information to the processor much more quickly than a hard drive or cd drive can. The memory chip needs to keep all this information organised so that when the processor asks for it the chip is able to locate it and send it (typically the info requested is on the way to the processor in 2-4 hertz). If the memory chip mislabels or misplaces a piece of information, and then the processor asks for it, when the memory chip cannot locate the information the system will often freeze up. I'm not a computer geek really, this is just how I understand things to work, I may not be 100% totally accurate, but at least close enough to illustrate the importance of using quality memory. Hope this helps, let me know...

RAM Overclocking

RAM overclocking is not terribly difficult nor dangerous for your machine. Overclocking RAM requires no tools, no extra cooling, and no actual getting into the box. Its all done in the BIOS, is very safe to do, and can lead to huge gains in performance. This tip is especially useful if you have added more RAM, or replaced your RAM with better sticks recently.

The first thing to do is determine what RAM is in your machine. You can do this with the Sisoft Sandra program. What you are mainly concerned with here is the frequency and the CAS rating. It should be something like 128PC133CAS2. That would be a 128 meg stick of PC133 speed RAM capable of running at CAS2. If your RAM isn't capable of running at CAS2, I'd consider replacing it with RAM that is.

There are 2 parts to overclocking RAM, the actual frequency, usually PC100, PC133, PC2100, ect...and the CAS speed, either CAS2 or CAS3. First, the CAS numbers. CAS determines how many clock cycles the memory takes to execute instructions. CAS2 takes 2 clock cycles and CAS3 takes 3 clock cycles. Obviously, the faster your memory can process instructions, the faster your system will run...therefore CAS2 is the better choice. In your BIOS settings you should find a few settings for RAM CAS. There should be CAS Latency, RAS Precharge, and RAS-to-CAS Delay. All of these should be set to 2 (or 2T).

Next is frequency. To speed up the frequency, we increase the access time. This may or may not be an option on some systems. In mine (Award BIOS) it is called SDRAM Configuration. In it are several options, from the stock settings, to slow system settings, to fast settings. Mine goes from 100mgh RAM speed up to 143mgh RAM speed. There is a BIG difference between running the same sticks of RAM at 100mgh and 143mgh. If the actual speed increase isn't noted in megahertz, then its probably listed in access speed and will say something like 8ms, 7ms, ect. This is access time in milliseconds. Saving 1ms of time doesn't sound like it would do me, it does. You want the lowest access time available to you.

The last thing we might want to mess with while we are in there is the RAM's MA Wait State. This may be expressed as SDRAM MA Wait State or simply Wait State. There should be 3 or 4 setting, Slow Normal, Fast, and maybe Turbo (for VIA/AMD...dunno much about those yet;). You want the fast or turbo setting. This cuts the time the RAM requires in between accesses, speeding up access time a bit more.

Thats all there is to it. Save the changes in the BIOS and boot up. Run 3DMark as soon as you boot up to test the stability and check your performance increases. If you made changes (not everyone will have to, some machines may be set up as fast as they'll go) then you should score much better. This is the kind of tweak that, in some cases, gains hundreds of points on 3DMark. If your system becomes unstable, its not a problem. This tweak cant hurt your RAM or your system. You simply reboot into the BIOS and reset your RAM to it's original configuration. If you have more than a few settings for frequency, you can try playing with those and setting the Wait State back to normal in order to gain both stability and still get a performance gain. In most cases, speeding up RAM isn't going to cause instability if you keep your system maintained. If you have rogue programs running around, and you are infested with spyware, this might not be for you. But if you run a clean computer, and you've successfully done other tweaks and have things running top notch, this is a tweak that can boost you up to the next level of performance.


AGP Settings

AGP stands for Accelerated Graphics Port, pretty self-explanatory what it does. All of the better graphics cards plug into this port. If you don't have an AGP or don't have a card in your AGP...IE you have a PCI graphics card...then these tips aren't gonna help you. The AGP is meant for supporting intense graphics drawing and there are several useful and not so useful settings in your BIOS for it. Again, the Sisoft Sandra utility is useful here for determining various things about the AGP.

The first thing to do before undertaking any of the tweaks below is to go into Sandra and see if the various components (mobo, AGP, graphics card) support the tweak you are about to attempt. If even one component does not support the tweak, don't bother with it unless you are SURE Sandra is wrong. You wont do any damage, but you'll probably crash.

Probably the biggest tweak for the AGP is the multiplier. AGP's operate at normal speed, 2x, and 4x. If your motherboard and components support it, you should run at the highest speed possible, 4x. If you find you are running at normal or 2x, try changing this setting. Note that if you 'force' a speed faster than a component can handle, you WILL crash, or not boot. Some programs are available that allow you to both change and 'force' these settings, use at your own risk. Generally though, if your BIOS allows it, and you haven't swapped out components for inferior ones, it will work. This can make for big gains in graphics performance.

Next is Side Band and Fast-Writes. Both of these must be available to use them. If your components support Side Band or Fast-Writes or both, enable them. These can gain you a small bit of performance. Fast-Writes can make some systems unstable, and if either of them give you any problems, just disable them. This is one of those 'small tweaks add up' things...if you can get it going, cool, if not, don't worry about it.

Next is AGP Aperture. There really isn't a whole lot to be gained here either, but its worth toying with because it wont hurt anything. Generally, you can leave this alone unless you have upgraded your graphics card and/or RAM. If you have put in more RAM and tossed out that 4 meg graphics card for a new GEForce3, it probably wouldn't hurt to increase the AGP Aperture. There is no real hard and fast rules for this. Many people say that it should be equal to half your RAM + your graphics card memory. I personally find that 128 works best, but experimentation is a good thing here. Your system may become a little unstable at the higher settings (256 and 512)...if so, back off. This particular tweak isn't as useful as it could be because many applications override the AGP Aperture and set it themselves, so again, if this option causes any problems, its probably not worth it.

Thats about it for AGP...all I can think of right now anyways...I need to look around and make sure I didn't miss anything. These are pretty good tips, and if you can do all of them, great! Its going to help. But even if you can only swing one or two, it will still make a difference. These tweaks can be hard to judge, so make sure you benchmark with 3DMark to keep an eye on your progress.


More soon....?