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[QUICKTIP] Get less lag in seconds by increasing your Maximum Bandwidth!

Torley Linden


What if I told you that

you can get less lag in seconds, with a few simple clicks?

No, this ain't a scam, but like some infomercials, it's completely risk-free. Y'see, I love "smart" defaults because they help give us a better experience out of the box, whether we're new to Second Life or doing a fresh install. But I keep coming across Resis who, despite having a fat broadband connection, feel "laggy" because they didn't know they could up their Maximum Bandwidth.


One of the not-so-bright defaults, as I griped about with you guys some time ago (the Internet never forgets), is the default Maximum Bandwidth setting. It defaults to 500 kbps, which makes no sense because HELLO WE'RE NOT ON DIAL-UP ANYMORE.

But srsly, like Geordi La Forge said on Reading Rainbow, you don't have to take my word for it. Try it yourself.

  1. Go to Me menu > Preferences.
  2. In PREFERENCES window, click Setup tab.
  3. Move Maximum bandwidth slider all the way to the right... yeah, crank that baby!

(Supposedly years ago, setting your Max. Bandwidth too high would result in bad packet loss and overall decreased performance, but tell me if you still notice that. It may not even be true anymore.)


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I have to agree.  The amount of Bandwidth that is used and the resulting bill that comes from it is just really pricey sometimes.  I had to switch over to a package deal, so help cut the costs of my bandwidth from SL.

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what if I told you that

you can get more lag in seconds, with a few simple clicks?

just increase your maximum bandwidth to 10000 without understanding what the setting means and which factors it depends on, and you will totally ruin your inworld experience.

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I voted and commented on this, but I do have a question.  I noticed your frames per second didn't change with the slider pushed to the limit.  I DID see the world rez a lot faster, and I DID see your bandwidth climb measureably.  But I always notice with lag, my FPS drops drastically, hovering below 10, and when I'm not lagging much, my FPS is around mid 20's.  If changing the bandwidth isn't affecting the FPS, how is this helping with lag?  Perhaps I need a smack for missing something.  My apologies.  But I am curious.

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Video card and CPU and Ram and Hard Drive access speeds have alot to do with lag too. if your system is older and your only getting 10 fps this little trick will not help much and possibly could actually lag you more because of more information the viewer is having to decode and display. 

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Lance, I'm not sure I understand what you are saying here.  Please educate me (and others), because now I'm totally confused.

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Instead of making a childish comment like this why don't you explain yourself so others can understand what you are trying to say?

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What I'm getting at is this:


would you try to drive 250 miles per hour on a twisty little country road and expect to be able to do so without problems?


If you set the maximum bandwidth too high you get into all kind of trouble as well, this time from loosing packets instead of having to wait for them too long.

Here's what you do to find the right setting:

  • take your webbrowser, go to http://www.speedtest.net
  • slide the little rectangle on the world map over california
  • select a server in San Francisco
  • run the test
  • convert the result to kilobit per second (for example, I get 13.75 MBit/s... that is 13750 kilobit/second). Use that as the maximum, after considering other uses of your bandwidth. for example, If you habitually log in to SL with more than one computer and avatar at the same time, you have to split the bandwidth...
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FPS is not the same as lag, although people often use them interchangably which leads to tons of confusion.

in the past, there were various bugs that caused your client to choke if you set the bandwidth too high.  i believe this also just recently occurred again when the HTTP texture fetching was first added.  what torley is saying is that these issues have all been resolved and there is no reason to cap your bandwidth setting any longer - unless you're sharing your wire with another user or you don't have an unlimited data plan.

lance's "advice" is outdated and telling people to still do this is counter-productive. if you set it to max and experience a problem, a new JIRA needs to be opened for it.

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   Thanks Torley! I knew Maximum Bandwidth was having an effect on my load times but I never knew how far I could push the slider. Right now I am set at 8,000.

   If you do set your Maximum Bandwidth too high one of the things you will notice is you may lose music or voice chat. There is a very, very detailed article that explains how the Maximum Bandwidth Option works in Second Life here: http://joelfoner.com/2010/03/understanding-the-maximum-bandwidth-option-in-the-second-life-viewer/

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I would like to point out to all the people saying this will increase their bill, that this is false. The bill you get is based on bandwidth used, or in simpler terms, how much data you transferred. The Bandwidth setting in the viewer sets how much data per second is transferred. If you have to download 1000 textures, you have to download 1000 textures, regardless of the speed, and the amount of data transferred remains the same.

They are named the same, but are different things altogether.  Bandwidth slider = speed.  Billable Bandwidth = volume of data.

Your bill will be the same, no matter how high or low you set the bandwidth slider, as it affects transfer rate, not transfer volume. The viewer bandwidth setting just throttles how fast the data transfers, in effect how long it will take to transfer these 1000 textures.  It doesn't somehow make these 1000 textures equal more data, which is what you are billed for.

The only possible factor that could affect your bill is that you can now do *more* in the same amount of time, as you're  not standing around waiting for textures to load.

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I'm pretty sure, setting the bandwidth to the maximum has no effect whatsoever on your packet loss or "lag". Unless the viewer does something really stupid the bandwidth setting only throttles when you go lower than your can take. But if you go above it, you will simply be limited by your own connection.  It's like saying that building a 6 lane motorway creates traffic jams with the same amount of cars on it (your connection's max bandwidth) as on a single lane country road.  I fail to see where maximum bandwidth could hurt your connection speed at all. I'd appreciate a technical, well researched explanation.

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@Ewer, what you are missing is that complaining about lag is like going to your doctor and saying you hurt, but being unable to say whether it's your head, stomach or feet that hurt (as I recall, it was Torley who first came up with that analogy). How can your doctor help you? Lag has 3 main components - client (the SL viewer), network and server (the sim you are in).

If the server is lagged out by too many avatars, crashed physical vehicles or scripts, then you will experience server lag; time dilation lower than 1.00 and the walking through jello effect.

If there's something wrong with your network connection (high time to communicate, known as ping time, or high packet loss, meaning some communications don't get through) then you will experience network lag. You hit the keyboard, your avatar does nothing for a while. Also if your network connection is too slow (twisty lane instead of 6 lane highway) then it will take longer for stuff to rez. You will tp somewhere and it will be bare land for a long time, and then the scene will build slowly.

I have to say what I do is exactly the same as Lance Corrimal describes. It works, maybe it's conservative.

Finally, client lag can still strike in a sim that is running fine with a good network connection. Set graphics to ultra, draw distance to max and stand inside a megayacht built out of megaprims and sculpties. If your graphics card is a few years old, your client FPS will plummet.

The easy way to see the cause of the lag is the lag meter, which gives you red yellow and green for each of these 3 factors.

The more detailed way is the stats floater (control shift 1) which will show you what's wrong with the client frame rate, network connection or sim. The sim aims to run at 45 fps, which means it has to be able to draw each frame in a bit over 22ms. If script time or physics time are approaching that figure, then the sim has no choice but to slow down.

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I've noticed the clients (1.23, most TPVs, and my most recent shot at 2.x) all seem to keep your bandwidth setting, as far as the slider goes, but it doesn't actually seem to know it.  Much like a badly installed toilet, you have to "jiggle the handle," so to speak, by opening the preferences, grabbing the slider, and increasing or decreasing it a bit, then applying.  I notice an INSTANT, dramatic increase in loading every time, as if the viewer didn't realize the setting had been changed until then (even if it was showing my chosen setting).

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Thank you so much for the link--helps give me (a SL non-programmer novice) a little more understanding about what goes on "under the hood" of SL.  Many thanks, Keli.

Ahh, but I'm also curious: What graphics card are you using? Who is your ISP?  And is your computer an Apple?

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Here's what you do to find the right setting:

  • take your webbrowser, go to http://www.speedtest.net
  • slide the little rectangle on the world map over california
  • select a server in San Francisco ...

That's actually very helpful advice, thanks Lance. I just wonder if this apply for SL. I just tried as you said and my bandwidth to California is worse. Somewhat about 3-5Mb/s. I did this 10Mb/s thing anyway and figured that's working very well. No performance decrease, no packet loss, steady FPS and surprisingly even more bandwidth as expected (up to 8Mb/s). Well, of course! Most SL content is hosted somewhere else by Amazon S3 and some LL facilities on Mars. Em I wrong? On second thought, why should a limit apply for SL anyway, if it's not an issue with server side bandwidth anymore? Isn't it? I mean, none of my other web applications need speed limits either but what's with all this "STICK AT 500kb/s" talk in earlier days??

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Great discussion, especially with some of you helping each other!

@Keli I hadn't seen that article before but it's a very helpful explanation. Joel Foner was Sidewinder Linden and I used to check with him to fact-check and understand technical "under-the-hood" stuff — and that's what we need a continuation of here, clarifying why this Maximum Bandwidth setting is the way it (still) is.

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Waves at Torley, hoping he'll notice, because after almost three years, and visiting "Here", she still has not ever had a chance to say hello!  SOOOOOO.... Hello Torley!!!

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Thank you so much for the link--helps give me (a SL non-programmer novice) a little more understanding about what goes on "under the hood" of SL.  Many thanks, Keli.

Ahh, but I'm also curious: What graphics card are you using? Who is your ISP?  And is your computer an Apple?

Thank you for your comments. To answer your questions:

ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4250 Graphics 1405MB total graphics memory


Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Bandwidth set at 8,500 now.

PLUS Thank you Torley for your comments. I have a question though. Last night I opened all my performance meters and teleported around to test things out at these settings. Everything worked great, I did not lose any packets, the sky did not fall and nothing terrible happened....but! My frame rate was very low and changing Graphic Settings from Ultra even all the way to Low did not seem to improve this and it seemed to be true for 2 or 3 different locations that I tried. I found a chart for Typical Frame Rate Performance by Graphics Card at http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Typical_Frame_Rate_Performance_by_Graphics_Card/GPU My card was not listed but similar cards showed better frame rates then I was getting. Any ideas of what I might be doing wrong?
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