Tip: If you want to learn about whole systems that run Second Life well, see choosing a computer!
Graphics card basics
Your graphics card (also called a video card) is the hardware that creates the images shown on your monitor. This card does much of the work involved in calculating and drawing the 3D world for applications like the Second Life Viewer. As a result, your graphics card plays a crucial part in your Second Life experience.
Apple integrates hardware and software more closely than Windows. Problems are less likely, but there are fewer revisions and workarounds (provided through Software Update).
The following procedure, called a clean install, will often fix problems related to graphics cards and drivers:
Download the latest graphics driver from the chipset manufacturer (ATI, Nvidia, or Intel), not the maker of your graphics card or computer. Save the file where you can easily find it, but do not install it yet.
Run Windows Update and make sure your system is fully patched.
Reboot your computer and enter Safe Mode by pressing F8 at the Windows logo screen.
Uninstall your old video driver. On Windows XP use Control Panel > System > Hardware > Device Manager (steps will be different on other operating systems). Then open Display Adapters, right-click and choose Uninstall.
Reboot your computer.
If Windows displays a message that it found new hardware, do not let it automatically install drivers. Instead, run the installation program that you downloaded in step 1.
Reboot your computer
You should now have a clean version of your video driver. If this doesn't solve the problem, try searching the Issue Tracker for known issues.
Note: Intel Extreme graphics are not compatible with Second Life. It may be possible for certain configurations of hardware and software to successfully run Second Life while using Intel Extreme graphics; however, these configurations are inherently unstable.
Note about NVIDIA drivers
NVIDIA graphics cards may cause driver-related problems. After installing the latest NVIDIA drivers, the Second Life® Viewer may crash with an error message that states: "Second Life is unable to run because your video card drivers did not install properly, are out of date, or are for unsupported hardware." This appears to be a problem with the NVIDIA drivers' initial installation: the first time the install process is run, something fails silently — a file or set of files doesn't copy properly, but the installer doesn't give you any notice that something went wrong.
There is a solution: ensure that all of your applications are closed, and install the NVIDIA drivers again. For some reason, the drivers almost always install correctly the second time.
Second Life requires that the Windows drivers for the system's graphics card fully support the OpenGL graphics standard. Any graphics card whose installed driver does not support OpenGL detects as a "GDI Generic" instead. This message means that Second Life has detected no hardware with OpenGL support.
It's up to the graphics vendor (Nvidia or ATI) to provide drivers that support both OpenGL and your operating system. As of this writing, we have successfully run Second Life on Vista under several PCs equipped with Nvidia's Geforce graphics cards.
If you receive this message under Vista, are running graphics hardware that meets our Minimum System Requirements, and can't find a driver provided by your graphics vendor that provides OpenGL support, you'll be unable to run Second Life under Windows Vista on that computer.