Windows Vista hotfix improves gaming performance and stability

Posted on Wednesday, Aug 29 2007 @ 15:14 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Microsoft published a new hotfix for Windows Vista which patches a virtual adress space usage problem which affects game performance and stability.
A modern graphics processing unit (GPU) can have 512 MB or more of video memory. Applications that try to take advantage of such large amounts of video memory can use a large proportion of their virtual address space for an in-memory copy of their video resources. On 32-bit systems, such applications may consume all the available virtual address space.

With the introduction of DirectX 10 and Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) in Windows Vista, it is no longer necessary for an application to maintain a copy of its resources in system memory. Instead, the video memory manager makes sure that the content of every video memory allocation is maintained across display transitions. For compatibility reasons, Windows Vista emulates "device lost" for DirectX versions that are earlier than DirectX 10 to make sure that no application-visible API behavior changes.

To virtualize video memory, the video memory manager in Windows Vista assigns a virtual address range to every video memory resource. This range is conceptually similar to the copy that an application might create. However, the video memory manager manages the process more efficiently than the application might. The video memory manager uses the virtual address range to handle transitions or over-commitment of video memory. However, the virtual address range is typically unused on a system that has lots of video memory. As long as this virtual address range remains unused, no physical memory is allocated for it. In contrast, the system memory copy that is maintained in the older driver model is guaranteed to be fully populated with physical memory.

If an application creates its own in-memory copy of its video resources, or the application uses DirectX 9 or an earlier version, the virtual address space contains the WDDM video memory manager's virtualized range and the application's copy. Applications that use graphics APIs that are earlier than DirectX 10 and that target GPUs that have large amounts of video memory can easily exhaust their virtual address space.

To address this problem, Microsoft is changing the way that the video memory manager maintains the content of video memory resources. This change is being made so that a permanent virtual address range does not have to be used for each virtualized allocation. With the new approach, only allocations that are created as "lockable" consume space in the virtual address space of the application. Allocations that are not created as "lockable" do not consume space. This approach significantly reduces the virtual address space that is used. Therefore, the application can run on large video memory configurations without reaching the limits.

Although this approach reduces virtual address consumption, it does not eliminate the 2 GB virtual address space limit that many applications are quickly approaching on their own. Eventually, applications will reach the limit for other reasons.
You can download the hotfix at Microsoft's site.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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