Viewer Settings Newcomers Don’t Know in Second Life

My Screen

I’m not very technically inclined, which just proves you don’t have to be to navigate your way around Second Life. The Viewer isn’t that hard to use but it has a plethora of buttons and menus and finding what you need isn’t obvious.

Even knowing what you need isn’t readily apparent. I’ve had a few conversations recently with new arrivals who were frustrated with rezzing times and lag. Some of their difficulties can be solved by changing settings – but they don’t know that.

So for the benefit of those who are just starting out inworld – here are a few tips and locations for tuning your settings in the main Viewer. Note that I use a PC so I don’t know the differences on a MAC. Sorry!

My screen is pretty basic and empty. I don’t have a lot of huds or tools on there unless I’m taking photos. You’ll see that I have a few buttons on the bottom and right hand side – to set yours up with just the ones you want, right click on a button and you’ll see the Toolbar Buttons option. That will get you this little screen.

Toolbar Buttons

Drag and drop the ones you want to the location you want them. Remove the others. This isn’t fixed in stone so you can always change things as you get more comfortable.

The biggest difficulty, in my mind, for new residents is that they assume the defaults in place are fixed. These defaults often cause the problems they encounter – so I’m going to show you how to change the ones that might be causing you the most problems.

The first thing you should recognize is that the lag/rezzing issues you’re having might not having anything to do with you. It could be that the sim you’re on is the issue.

Advanced Menu

Start by adding the Advanced Menu to your top bar – on a PC use ctl/alt/D. You can do this in preferences as well – I’ll show you that further down.

Under Performance Tools you’ll see an option for Statistics Bar. Choose that and another window will pop-up.

There is a great deal of information in this window but, unless you’re managing land, you really only need to focus on the top bits I’m showing you here. You’ll see your frames per second (FPS), bandwidth used, packet loss and ping time. You’ll also see how the Sim is behaving.

If the Time Dilation is down below 9 and/or the Sim FPS & Physics FPS are below 45 (and often bouncing wildly) then there is an issue with your location. For example, if Physics FPS is really low you won’t be able to move.

Statistics Bar

If the Sim is healthy but your FPS is really low, then you can try tweaking your settings. I don’t have a very new computer and I’m set up primarily for graphics quality. There are a lot of people inworld with much better performance than I experience. I’ll show you what I do to try and keep my numbers acceptable. :)

Most of the settings you’ll care about are found in the preferences menu. Either use the button with the gear icon or find it under Me/Preferences in the top menu.

We’re not going to start with graphics. We’ll begin by changing some of the defaults you have when you first arrive. You can explore these options and do things like turn off notifications. There are 3 you should tackle right away.

Disable Voice

Under Sound & Media, disable Voice Chat. This is turned on by default and it can be a big resource hog. Turn it on when you need it, but otherwise just leave it off.

You’ll notice I have most sounds turned off. I can’t stand the button noises and I got tired of the wind a long time ago. Your preferences might be very different. :)

Now go to Setup.


For some reason the default setting for Bandwidth is very low. Adjust this based on your own connection speed but don’t max it out. There is a theory floating around that if it’s too high the pixels trip over each other running down the pipe (which is a very technical explanation). I’m lucky that I have a fibre hookup so I keep it near the far right.

Now go to Advanced.

Cache Size

Another default setting is the size of your cache. If it’s too small you’ll have trouble rezzing new textures and objects – so increase the number to one your hard-drive can handle.

This is also the page where you can specify the Advanced and Developer Menus without using keyboard shortcuts – you’re going to need both.

OK now we’ll head to the Graphics section. If all you see is a slider, click on the Advanced button at the bottom of the window and something like this should appear.


You will wind up adjusting these settings based on your computer and performance needs. These are my settings when I’m just wandering around or building, etc., but if I’m in a really high lag location and need to move around and/or use voice, I move everything to the lowest setting possible.

There are three controls you should change from the defaults. Even though your computer can handle them, turn off Lighting and Shadows. I use them when I’m taking pictures but otherwise they reduce my fps by half. This will make teleporting around easier as well.

Unless you have a burning need to see bouncing boobs, move that Avatar Physics slider as far left as it will go.

The third one is your view distance. If you’re moving around the grid turn that one down. Once you’ve landed and things have rezzed you can adjust it back up to a number you need. There is no reason to be looking 500m off in the distance if you’re in a club, and waiting for objects that far away to rez won’t make any sense.

The rest of these settings are up to you – I don’t rez particles unless I want to see weather (rain and snow) or I’m in a particle show where they’re necessary. But that’s just me.

You should check one more setting from here. Click on the Hardware button.

Texture Memory

You’ll get another, smaller, window. Ignore my Antialiasing setting – it resets to 2 every time I lower my graphics. What I want you to look at is the the Texture Memory slider. Make sure it’s over to the right.

Now click OK and close this little window. Then click OK to close the rest of the preferences (don’t forget or you’ll have to redo all these changes).

I’ll talk about my other graphics settings in a future post – today we’re worried about performance. There are a couple more things you need to do.

First open the Develop Menu. If you didn’t do it before  you can access it through the Advanced Menu.

Enable Develop Menu

Update: I had talked here about turning off HTTP Textures under the Develop Menu. We have since discovered that there is a debug setting called TextureFetchConcurrency: The default is set to 0 which means “Maximum number of HTTP connections used for texture fetches = 0″. This is silly! So go back to the debug settings in the Advanced window, type in TextureFetchConcurrency and change the number to something like 4. You’ll see an improvement in your texture rezzing speed.

Disable HTTP Textures

I’m going to leave  you with two more suggestions. The first is a little ugly but you’ll only have to do it once (unless the Lab changes things again).

Second Life works a lot faster and smoother if it’s not trying to do all its communications through a single port. This means you have to change your firewall settings↑ (hardware and software) to accomodate the Viewer’s expectations. If I can go online and change my router settings then I’m quite sure anybody can. You will see a difference!

Finally, on a lighter note, because I know this has been long and dry and painful. There are camera controls in the Viewer – I remember trying them years ago and thinking they were awkward and annoying. Anything you use on the viewer, such as those controls, will add to the resource cost.

I saw this video years ago and have been flying my camera around ever since. Ignore the old Viewer screen – pay attention to his explanation of focus and orbit using keyboard shortcuts. Practice this – it will become second nature to you and a lot more fun than clicking those circles. Oh, and you’ll find Disable Camera Contraints under the Advanced Menu. :)

Leave a comment


  1. Inara Pey

     /  March 3, 2013

    Good post :)

    Would ass that Firestorm have an easy-to-follow article on the subject of setting bandwidth, which I use as a rule-of-thumb:

    Worth a look.

    • Thank you :)

    • slutrix

       /  March 3, 2013

      It can be summed up in an even shorter version:

      If you’re on a 24Mbps (nominal) ADSL connection, your true speed is at least 10Mbps and you’re connecting your PC to the router, set your maximum bandwidth to 1500kbps. Same goes for VDSL connections.

      In all other cases, set it to 500.

  2. slutrix

     /  March 3, 2013

    Honour, I must also add here that it’s prudent for users to uncheck the “allow media to auto-play” in the Sound and Media tab of the Preferences, because several spyware scripted objects that pose as “security/ban relay/whatever” systems use media servers to extract information from people’s machines. Personally, I also use Penny Patton’s camera offsets (the default settings just make me cringe).

    • I was really focused on performance not safety but it is a good tip. :) I like my camera offsets though :p

      • slutrix

         /  March 3, 2013

        Camera offsets can always be set according to taste, of course. :)

  3. Inara Pey

     /  March 3, 2013

    Should also state I’ve added this to my tutorials list at:

  4. … or you could just get a SpaceNav.


  5. Great post! Thank you! :-)

  6. Well, I’m going to argue with you on this one. What’s with “newcomers” in the title? I’m going on 4 in SL and I learned something (ow) here. :p

    I guess I’m just a noob at heart.

  1. Viewer Settings Newcomers Don't Know in Second Life | Second Life - Guides - Tutorials |
  2. Viewer Settings Newcomers Don't Know in Second Life | Honour's ... | Second Life and Virtual Worlds |
  3. Viewer Settings Newcomers Don't Know in Second Life | Digital Tutorials |

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