SuperFetch Not So Super For Gaming…
According to Microsoft, SuperFetch is:
Windows SuperFetch enables programs and files to load much faster than they would on Windows XP–based PCs.
When you’re not actively using your computer, background tasks—including automatic backup programs and antivirus scans—run when they will least disturb you. These background tasks can take up system memory space that your programs had been using. On Windows XP–based PCs, this can slow progress to a crawl when you attempt to resume work.
SuperFetch monitors which applications you use the most and preloads these into your system memory so they’ll be ready when you need them. Windows Vista also runs background programs, like disk defragmenting and Windows Defender, at low priority so that they can do their job but your work always comes first.
Cool beans, huh? Pre-caching, in a way, and using your memory to it’s maximum is a GOOD thing—it really is.
However, for those of us who run rather memory intensive applications, it’s not. Point blank.
How I understand SuperFetch is that, similar to the prefetch trace files (.pf) created in Windows XP; however, takes it a step further and completely utilizes 100% (I have 4GB, I had 3MB free) of your memory by preloading/caching your frequently used programs. For Office applications, that’s a GREAT idea. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, maybe the occassional business tool—they load super fast!
Well, for those of us who use their computers for very memory intensive applications, it becomes a bit of a bottleneck. I use my computer for a very select few tasks: Office tools (ala Homework), Visual Studio 2005, Virtual Server (for Orcas and some testing), Paint.NET (for graphic manipulation), and EverQuest 2 (for making stuff go ‘boom’ after the aforementioned applications have frustrated me). That’s it. Unfortunately, those are ALL memory and processing hogs.
Take this for example. EverQuest 2, in Kelethin, takes up about 1.9GB of memory at 2560*1560 and in High Quality. Most of that is textures and such. If you remember back, I CONSTANTLY had out of memory errors (“EverQuest 2 and Vista Memory Issues”, “Dell 710, Vista, memory, NVidia, and more!”). Why? Because these memory intensive textures are constantly being swapped in and out of memory as you wander around and objects render in the game.
How I understand it, if an application needs memory, the system removes whatever it needs out of cache to free up that memory, places what you need in memory, uses it, then swaps it back out. One interesting article on Wikipedia (source) cites that to truly use SuperFetch as it should be, you should be using the ReadyBoost (ala Flash Drives) for memory to prevent the hard disk thrashing. An interesting idea, but for those of us with 4GB of memory—can’t we just USE our memory more efficiently if we do not hop through smaller applications?
You CAN disable SuperFetch’s service, test out your own benchmarks, and make an assumption whether or not it’s a good fit for you. To disable the service, go into the Services Console (Start > Run > services.msc) and Stop/Disable SuperFetch, then reboot the computer.
After reboot, my system went from POST to signin within a couple seconds, rather than thrashing for 10–15 seconds and then, after sign-in, instantly to the desktop without any thrashing. I had 2.8GB of free memory. Visual Studio started almost instantly as did EQ2. In addition, I ran EQ2 and ran through some very intensive zones (flying through Pillars of Flames, running around Kelethin and Qeynos Harbor, and standing at the oceanfront in Butcherblock Mountains) at Extreme Quality without any lag and not a single memory crash.
That’s one night though—I’ll continue testing and update this post as I have more info.