At one time or another, many of us have suffered a Viewer crash that interrupted our time in Second Life. At Linden Lab, we collect crash data to help us in our ongoing efforts to identify and fix issues in the Viewer that can cause crashes. Thanks to that information, nearly every release we make includes fixes of this sort.
The data we collect also reveals that many users can greatly reduce their risk of Viewer crashes by taking a few steps to update their software outside of Second Life.
The nature of Second Life as a platform for user creativity means that the Viewer faces different challenges than client software for an online game, for example, which would just need to handle the limited and carefully optimized content created by the game’s developer. This can make Second Life a demanding application for your computer and can mean that if your operating system is out of date, your Viewer is more likely to crash.
The good news is you can take steps today to help this! Here are a couple of tips:
Upgrade your Operating System
There is a very clear pattern in our statistics - the more up to date your operating system is, the less likely your Viewer is to crash. This applies on both Windows and Macintosh (Linux is a little harder to judge, since "up to date" has a more fluid meaning there, and the sample sizes are small). Some examples:
Windows 8.1 reports crashes only half as often as Windows 8.0
Those of you who stuck with Windows 7 (roughly 40% of users of our Viewer right now) rather than upgrade to 8.0 made a good choice at the time; version 7 still has a much better crash rate than 8.0, but not quite as good as 8.1 (now about 15% of users), so waiting is no longer the best approach.
Mac OSX 10.9.3 reports crashes a third less than 10.7.5
OSX rates do not have as much variation as Windows versions do, but newer is still better, and there are other non-crash reasons to be on the up to date version, including rendering improvements.
Upgrading will probably also better protect you from security problems, so it's a good idea even aside from allowing you to spend more time in Second Life.
Use the 64 bit version of Windows if you can
For each version of Windows for the last several years, you have had a choice between 32 bit and 64 bit variants; if your system can run the 64 bit variant, then you will probably crash much less frequently by changing to it. While we don't have a fully 64 bit version of the Viewer yet, you can run it on 64 bit Windows, and statistically you'll be much better off if you do.
Generally speaking the 64 bit Windows versions report crashes half as often as the 32 bit versions.
According to the data we collect, a little more than 20% of users are running 32 bit Windows versions; most of you can probably upgrade and would benefit by it.
If you bought your computer any time in the last 5 years, chances are very good that it can run the 64 bit version of Windows (as will some systems that are even older). Microsoft has a FAQ page on this topic; go there and read the answer to the question "How do I tell if my computer can run a 64-bit version of Windows?". That page also explains how to do the upgrade and other useful information.
We'll of course continue working hard to find and fix things that lead to Viewer crashes. Even as we do that, though, you can decrease your chances of crashing today by taking the steps above.