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I currently have the following screen setup:
- 1 central screen, 30", 2560x1600, connected through DVI-Dual Link
- 2 side screens, each 17" 1280x1024, one DVI-Digital, one VGA

I also have 2 identical video cards:
- NVidia GeForce 9500 GT
- One is running the 30" monitor, the other one is running the 2 side monitors. Connecting the main monitor and one of the side ones to the same card was incredibly slow.

The machine is pretty powerful: Quad-Core 2.6GHz, 8Gb RAM, main disk is an SSD. The OS is Windows 2008 Server Standard 64-bit.

However, the system in general runs much slower than it should when it comes to rendering in the screen (for example, opening File Explorer takes a split second, while in my laptop it's instantaneous).
Also, there are a couple of specific things that evidently have to do with the screen that "freeze" the whole system, the mouse stops moving, the audio stutters, and it stays that way for a couple seconds until it comes back to life.
The main things that do this are: Opening videos, opening Photoshop, when someone on the other side of a Skype conversation opens their webcam, and, strangely, opening up and logging in to MSN Messenger (the latest version). The previous one didn't do it.

NOTE: I had to turn off Aero because it was impossibly slow, and also the "Desktop Window Manager Session Manager" service, which I have no idea what it's supposed to do, but also made things much worse.

Now, this is REALLY bad for general day to day use. I've tried updating every single driver to the latest version, but it didn't change anything.
Moreover, what I noticed is that if I unplug the 2 side monitors, and set the main one to 1280x800, it runs ridiculously fast, and the "freezing" things don't freeze almost at all, there's a very minimal stutter. As I start moving the resolution up, things get gradually slower and the stuttering is more noticeable and prolonged, and adding the 2 side monitors make it even worse.

My question is... Is there anything I can do to improve my life here? Whose fault is this?
- Should I downgrade back to Server 2003?
- Should I downgrade to 32-bit?
- Should I get better video cards?
- Should I resign myself to the fact that having too many pixels is just slow, and wait another 5-10 years for it to get better?

If the answer is getting better video cards... Do you have some particular model to recommend. About a decade ago, I remember having a Video Card that was very crappy for 3D, but it was 3-4 times faster than all the others in 2D (Diamond S220, for the nostalgic).
Is there anything like that nowadays? I don't care about games or 3D at all (I have Aero turned off, and I'm more than willing to move back to XP/2003 if necessary), I just want ridiculously fast 2D speeds. And obviously, it should be a card that can handle 2560x1600.

EDIT: Do you guys think 2 of these should be enough? Or would I need something more powerful?


All advice will be greatly appreciated!!!

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Nov 23 '09 at 16:57

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GeForce 9500GT should be more than enough to run Aero, even on a 30" display. Desktop compositing isn't that intensive. Something else might be the problem. –  JeeBee Nov 23 '09 at 16:53
Pretty much any new, decent videocard will do. Many cards today have 1GB+ DDR4 memory. That's at least something you want. Respect for your specs, that's a nice 'natural habitat' for your code to live in ;) –  Ben Fransen Nov 23 '09 at 16:53
Windows 2003 is still my favourite Windows operating system, imho there is nothing better. –  Molly7244 Nov 23 '09 at 17:08
What version of drivers are you on ? Have you tried upgrading/downgrading the drivers? –  Sathya Nov 23 '09 at 18:35
I've tried the latest version of every single driver I could find (especially the video ones). –  Daniel Magliola Nov 23 '09 at 18:39

4 Answers 4

Upgrade your Video Cards. The cards you have are really not very good, especially for that resolution.

Granted, if you're not doing 3D work, the issue will not be 3D capabilities. However, you're getting limited by the fill rate of your graphics card.

If you're using a modern OS like 2008/Vista/W7, you're going to be using the graphics card for your 2D graphics (ie: windowing) as well as 3D graphics, though. The same, highly capable 3D cards will provide much better fill rates (which means better capabilities when pushing lots of pixels).

For example, your cards are 4.4 billion pixels/sec. Many of the newer nVidia GeForce 200 series cards handle 3-5x that fill rate. (See GeForce 200 series vs GeForce 9 Series).

If you're not doing 3D, picking a card that will handle the higher fill rate will be all that's needed.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Found the problem... It was Hyper-V
Uninstalling Hyper-V from my machine solved every single performance problem I had, I honestly can't believe how ridiculous this is.

Thank you everyone for your help!

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accept your answer! –  basszero Nov 25 '09 at 18:43
I know, i was waiting the official i don't know how many hours. –  Daniel Magliola Nov 26 '09 at 19:19
Does that also make Aero run faster? –  Ben Voigt Jul 9 '12 at 16:01

Not really the best place for this question, but...You're graphics cards can't handle running that many screens. I suggest that you upgrade to a cheap, but newer set of graphics cards. I would suggest anything on this page.

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What it could be is that the cards don't have enough memory - how many windows do you have open? In Aero, each window takes up width*height*4*2 bytes of graphics memory. Try a 1GB card, maybe a Radeon HD5770 (a single card can drive all of your displays).

As I said on SO, desktop compositing isn't a major load (Mac OS X has been doing it for years on very weak hardware, a GeForce 9500GT isn't a stellar card, but it's more than enough to push out pixels for desktop compositing itself), but it can use up a lot of memory if you have a lot of windows open - that could cause stuttering as the graphics card ran out of memory as it did texture swaps back to main memory.

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The cards have 1Gb each. Also, the problem is not with the amount of open windows. The FIRST File Explorer window I open (without anything else) takes longer than it should, and any video related stuff is freezing the machine, even if i'm not doing anything else. –  Daniel Magliola Nov 23 '09 at 17:03
I'd say that the problem might not be graphical then, but elsewhere in the system. What could cause such stuttering? I'd try a reinstall, or maybe a Linux LiveCD (or stick it on a spare bit of HD) to see if it stutters there. –  JeeBee Nov 23 '09 at 17:15
Reinstall: I made a fresh install of Windows when I bought this machine/monitor (I bought it all together when upgrading from my old system), and it's worked like this from the beginning. Linux is not really an option for me. And I believe the two OS's are different enough that the comparison will probably not be that useful... I mean, there are specific pieces of software that stutter... –  Daniel Magliola Nov 23 '09 at 17:18
Your 30" desktop, in 32-bit mode, uses 16MB of RAM with Aero turned off. Rest assured that is trivial for such a card to drive - 1GB/s of memory bandwidth from the graphics memory is required (NVIDIA say your card is either 16GB/s (DDR2) or 25GB/s (DDR3)), and you dedicate an entire card to this monitor. –  JeeBee Nov 23 '09 at 17:20
And Aero is the way to get fast 2D speeds these days, it offloads compositing from the CPU and results in a smoother operation - at least on systems that work. –  JeeBee Nov 23 '09 at 17:21

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