Maximising performance using up to date drivers and basic system tuning

As this is the “Benchmarking Section” of the forum (and I don’t have a Blog), I thought I’d post some helpful hints here on how to add a little extra performance to your systems that some of you may not be using or may simply not be aware of.

So, you don’t get much in this world for free these days. So with this in mind, I wanted to demonstrate the “Free” performance benefits of firstly keeping your drivers up to date and secondly using the tuning options that are built-in to the Nvidia drivers to release a little extra application performance. Now I’m not about to break any tuning records here, so don’t get overly excited, and there’s no “magic tuning” option that will get you unprecedented levels of additional performance. The fact still remains that once you’ve bought your hardware, your options for increasing its performance are limited, so you want to make sure you get the most out of it. But there are a few ways to increase performance in a couple of areas, and it’s free and it’s there, so why not use it.

Drivers -

Attached are 2 screenshots (“369.09 Drivers” & “369.49 Drivers”) I’ve taken from the same system showing the results of a basic benchmark run with the same settings before and after a driver upgrade (Yes, I like Redway at the moment because it’s quick an easy :-) ). Bear in mind this is only a slight revision to the drivers, .09 > .49, it’s not a major release, so the increase in performance may be subtle and other applications may respond differently. Also, if you were upgrading from older drivers to current ones, rather than just a minor upgrade, you may get more of a notable performance boost. When running the benchmark to evaluate any performance differences, you’ll want to do it a few times to ensure the changes are positive. With mine, as you’ll see, some of the numbers are slightly less, but the total score at the bottom is higher. When I ran this a few times, those numbers for each area would always change very slightly, but the total score would always be higher with the newer driver.

Obviously, the “369.09 Drivers” benchmark was run before the upgrade to the “369.49 Drivers”.

Tuning -

Attached are another 2 images ("369.09 Drivers - Tuned" & "369.49 Drivers - Tuned"), but this time I’ve used the built-in tuning options within the driver. These images are tuned before and tuned after the driver upgrade.

To access these Tuning Options in a Windows Desktop OS, simply “Right Click” on the desktop and choose “NVIDIA Control Panel”. Here you are presented with lots of options, some of these will vary depending on your GPU. Select “Manage 3D Settings” on the left and you are presented with a variety of 3D Settings to modify. For less experienced users, to take some of guess work out of it, some of the more common application vendors have built-in profiles you can try (see the attached “NVIDIA Control Panel”). For more experienced users, you can manually configure settings and create your own profiles by either modifying the Base Profile or you can select your application manually and create a profile for it under the “Program Settings” tab.

To access these Tuning Options in a Windows Server OS, you need to connect locally using something like TightVNC. If you can’t see the “NVIDIA Control Panel” when “Right Clicking” on the desktop, then you need to change the way you are connecting. The 3D Settings you change within the Server OS, apply to all users connected to the Server.

What’s interesting is that even the (slightly) older drivers when tuned, can outperform the newer drivers when un-tuned. Although as said earlier, this is not a major release, and you would need to see what Nvidia has updated within the driver to understand any performance differences, but you can see the difference with a strait upgrade between un-tuned versions.

When you compare the older, un-tuned drivers screenshot (369.09 Drivers) to the upgraded and tuned drivers screenshot (369.49 Drivers - Tuned), that’s not a bad little performance boost, especially as it’s free, and I dare say that further Profile tuning could unlock a little more, as all I’ve used is the built-in profile for that application for demonstration purposes.

A little extra tuning outside of the NVIDIA Control Panel that some people seem to leave alone, is the Windows Power Management options. Don’t forget to set these to High Performance, then also go through and modify the settings to suit. After this, you’re on to tuning scripts / GPOs and customization’s which are outside of the scope of this post.

For more advanced users, don’t forget to tune the system BIOS (and Hypervisor if you’re using one) accordingly, as nearly all hardware will ship in Balanced / Economy Mode, not High Performance. This alone can have a large impact on overall system performance and is a whole topic on its own, which I’ll go into in another post :-)

Lastly, also bear in mind that different applications and systems may respond differently to any tuning, depending on how they scale and the type of resources they use to generate performance.

The differences in performance shown in these images may not seem that dramatic, which it isn’t. However, when you look at the length some people go to, to optimize the Windows OS, every little bit counts, especially on multi-user systems. Plus it’s free and there’s a nice GUI, so why not use it :-)

All the usual caveats about testing changes prior to release and testing drivers for application compatibility obviously apply ;-)

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Before anyone posts… I haven’t forgotten to upload the images, the site is taking an eternity to scan the tiny .jpg files at the moment.

Edit: That’s not bad, 20 minutes to upload 5 small .jpg files :-)

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