Detailed info about Second Life-compatible systems
We often get asked questions like:
- 'Can you give me more suggested hardware specs than the System Requirements?'
- What's the best system to run Second Life on?
- What computer will give me the most performance for the cheapest price?
Some Residents are also curious about what machines Lindens personally use. While there's no definitive answer and your experiences may vary -- and keeping in mind we develop, test, and otherwise run Second Life on a diverse variety of hardware -- we do have supplementary information you can examine for yourself.
Please keep in mind the following info is intended anecdotally, not as sales advice. Also, remember that "new" technology becomes dated fairly quickly; learn and use your best judgment when upgrading or purchasing a computer to use Second Life with.
Kona Linden shared the following:
Graphic cards recommendations
Because of the technology utilized by Nvidia, their cards manage 3D data more efficiently than ATi cards. That being said, both Nvidia & ATi cards can run Second Life just fine ... so long as they're not the low-end line or old-generation technology. Both manufacturers have their mainstream & performance-line graphics cards. Because of the richness of Second Life's environment, we recommend the performance graphics cards line. Of course, they cost more, but the difference in appearance & quality in their performance can be day & night.
Things to consider when upgrading to a new card
How old is your PC's hardware in terms of processor power?
For example, Pentium III or a Pentium 4 3ghz, etc. If you're running a PIII, you're better off saving up and getting a more current P4 machine with at least 1.6ghz because there is no compensating for power, which you'll need to manage Second Life's 3D environment. Understand that Second Life is a basic 3D modeling environment that's far more content-intensive than any 3d game currently on the market. The more powerful your machine, the more effortlessly you'll be able to run Second Life.
How powerful is the power supply on your PC?
ATi (9000/8500 series Radeon cards) and Nvidia (FX/GeForce4/GeForce3/GeForce2) run on any machine with 250-300 watt power supplies. However, the newer & more powerful cards will need more powerful power supplies, especially if you've got multiple drives (i.e. CD-RW or DVD-R drives, if not both). Since we recommend the performance line of graphics cards over the mainstream line, they usually require a minimum power supply of 250 watts (300 watts recommended).
Which graphics card for my system?
ATi - ATi in general will cost more in comparison to a similar Nvidia card. ATi's 8500/9000 (including the 9200/9250/9600/9800) series Radeon cards are several years old and ATi no longer supports drivers from their site for these cards. Many customers report having endless problems running Second Life with these cards, so we don't recommend them. Also, the latest drivers for these series cards do not support the current 2.0 GL drivers in graphics industry. So stay away from these old cards.
If you must buy ATi, we recommend last year's Radeon X600/X700/X800/X850 Professionals. These cards have run well thus far with very few reported issues with performance in Second Life. The X1600/X1800/X1900 are this years latest and greatest from ATi and we expect no differently from them. The problem with these cards, though, is price. XT models are the higher-performing cards over their Pro series, but in turn they cost more accordingly. I run a X800 Pro on my high-end test machine and I've never had any issues running Second Life. In fact, had it not been for this card, I'd never recommend anything from ATi.
See ATi Chip set comparison: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/131
Nvidia - Nvidia graphic technology manages data more efficiently than ATi's technology, but for most, that's splitting hairs. For performance, Nvidia cards are a better priced than ATi cards. The FX series is a couple of years old, but they run Second Life very well, as well as support the current 2.0 GL drivers in the industry, which the ATi 8500/9000 series can't claim. From the FX series, anything from a FX5600 w/256mgs AGP or higher runs Second Life very well. This is great considering you can get a FX5600 w/256mgs AGP card for as cheap as $76.00.
The Nvidia 6 series is last year's generation cards, so anything from 6600 or up works well. As for this year's latest & greatest from Nvidia, anything from the 7600 and up from the 7 series works well. Keep in mind that with the 6 & 7 series cards, they will require a more robust power supply ... especially if you're running a CD-R or a DVD-R drives, if not both.
See Nvidia Chip set comparison: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/132
Which graphics card manufacturer?
ATi & Nvidia make the graphic chip set technology, which are then utilized by a number of graphics card manufacturers. Some recommended card manufacturers are BFG (see www.BFGtech.com) and ASUS, but the best bet is to go to websites like CNet.com and read the reviews. BFG cards are the gamer's choice because of their solid overclocking methods.
Also, keep in mind that some graphics card require a minimum requirement for PC power supplies...meaning in order to run that particular card, your PC must have a power supply of a certain wattage. Most of the new graphics card require a minimum of 300 watts or more.
NOTE: Though Second Life may run on dual graphic card PC systems, we're not completely optimized for this setup and do not currently support dual graphic systems. From our tests thus far, the is very little benefit when comparing the performance of a single graphics card over a dual graphics card system.
This information last updated: 12.20.06
If you're thinking of running Second Life on a Mac Mini, Brent Linden said:
... a Mac Mini Intel Dual processor should run Second Life a little better [than a single processor one], but I don't have direct experience. As with anything, adding more memory makes the machine happier (and in the case of onboard video, gives the GPU more memory to play with)
On the Official Linden Blog, Lawrence Linden explained:
"How I got Second Life running on a 8800GTX under Windows XP x64"Thursday, November 23rd, 2006 at 12:44 PM PST by Lawrence Linden
I picked up a nVidia 8800GTX at launch and much to my dismay Second Life would refuse to launch. Instead it would only show a small dialog box with an error indicating that it didn't like the video driver. So I've waited patiently for a driver update from nVidia, but still nothing. At some point while scouring the web for more information about this problem I saw a message that indicated that all 32-bit OpenGL apps were failing under Windows XP x64 on the 8800 series boards. So this morning I decided to see if I could find a work-around for the problem. I dug around a bit and it appeared that the part of the video driver that supports 32-bit OpenGL apps was simply not copied correctly by the video driver installer.
I managed to get Second Life running under Windows XP Pro x64 using the 96.89 drivers; here's what I did: - I copied Drivers\\XP64\\nvogl32.dl_ from my evga install cd to a temporary directory - I opened a command window (Start > Run > cmd) - I changed directory to the temporary directory where I copied nvogl32.dl_ - I ran: expand nvogl32.dl_ nvogl32.dll - I copied nvogl32.dll from the temporary directory to C:\\WINDOWS\\SysWOW64
I hope this helps out some other early-adopters.
A word of caution: manipulating files in your Windows directory can be dangerous for the health of your system. If you make a mistake you can render your computer unbootable or worse. Please be careful and only attempt this work-around if you're very proficient at this sort of task. Our support staff won't be able assist you if you damage your system.
If you're in the market for a laptop, Doug Linden mentioned:
Thinkpad Txx laptops are usually good, if you get the high end ones. For Windows, that's what I'd recommend.
A number of Lindens use MacBook Pros. (Note that ATI drivers on Mac are limited and when that applies to high-end Macs, certain options like "Avatar Vertex Program" are disabled.)
As of May 13, 2006, Ben Linden's system looks like this:
Click through to see notes.
Further back, on January 21, 2006, Torley Linden shared his/her/its experiences with buying a computer specifically configured for SL performance. Some of this is deprecated now, but the core principles still apply.