Testing the KB940105 Hotfix

Unfortunately the fix is not all roses at this time. Microsoft classifies this as a hotfix which may still be undergoing further testing, which means they aren't recommending that most users install this fix, nor are they even making the fix easy to get. Microsoft's official recommendation is that users not severely affected wait until the fix is delivered as part of a service pack, which would mean that it will not be normally distributed until Vista SP1 in late 2007 or early 2008, and it certainly won't be part of the next "Patch Tuesday".

Right now the only official way to acquire the hotfix is to directly call Microsoft and ask them for the hotfix, which they will supply for free. On August 23rd, Microsoft will publish the fix on the KB article page for anyone who wants to download it ahead SP1's release. For those not wanting to wait until the 23rd, we have seen the hotfix for download on various websites; however, we'd advise an extra level of caution if downloading the hotfix from an unofficial site due to the popularity of fake Microsoft patches loaded with Trojan horses.

The patch is officially supported by Microsoft, so we do not believe there are any serious problems with it, and in our testing we did not encounter any issues. We have however heard from one source that this fix is dependent on some changes that also need to happen at the video driver level. We can't substantiate this, but all the same we would recommend not installing this patch without first installing the most recent drivers for your video card.

To get an idea of how much the hotfix can reduce virtual address space usage, and if this comes with any kind of performance tradeoff, we once again ran our battery of games that have extreme virtual address space usage against Vista with and without the hotfix, and against XP as a baseline.

Software Test Bed
Processor Intel Core 2 Quad QX6850
(3.00GHz/1333MHz)
RAM G.Skill DDR2-800 (2x2GB)
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-P35-DR3R (Intel P35)
System Platform Drivers Intel 8.1.1.1012
Hard Drive Maxtor MaXLine Pro 500GB SATA
Video Cards 1 x GeForce 8800GTX
Video Drivers NV ForceWare 163.11
Power Supply OCZ GameXStream 700W
Desktop Resolution 1600x1200
Operating Systems Windows Vista Ultimate 32-Bit
Windows XP SP2
.

We'll start with Company of Heroes mission 6, which as we saw in part 2 had the biggest difference in virtual address space usage of all the games in comparing Vista and XP.

Whereas Company of Heroes would surpass the 2GB barrier under Vista just loading this mission without the hotfix, the game is safely under the 2GB barrier with the hotfix applied. Under Vista the game is still using an additional 160MB of virtual address space compared to XP, but this is far better than the gap being the entire size of the video memory on our 8800GTX prior to the hotfix.

Both STALKER and Supreme Commander show similar, albeit not as great improvements, shaving off 420MB and 260MB respectively. This shows that not all games benefit from the hotfix to the exact same degree, although from our limited sample we can extrapolate that every game should be reduced to near its optimal situation, as Vista is consistently using around 160-200MB more virtual address space than XP with the hotfix installed.

However, we also need to ask: Does the hotfix incur any performance penalty compared to not using the hotfix?

Overall Vista Game Performance
Company of Heroes
S.T.A.LK.E.R
Supreme Commander
Vista
110.2fps
58.1fps
4:15
Vista(Hotfix)
110.2fps
58.1fps
4:15
.

With performance numbers literally the same with and without the hotfix, we can safely say that there is not a performance penalty for using this hotfix.

Index Final Thoughts
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  • johnsonx - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    While Vista may be worse than XP in regards to how much of the user address space it uses for the same app, isn't it better in that it's safer to increase user address space to 2.6Gb on Vista than it is to use the /3Gb switch in XP? As long as the developers of big game apps make them large memory aware, then won't Vista provide a net benefit? (ie the same app under Vista will allocate a 10-20% larger chunk of the 30% larger address space vs. XP).
    Of course this requires fiddling in the Registry to enable the 2.6Gb allocation; perhaps MS could add something to SP1 to smooth this process, or maybe even make it default if it can be determined to be safe enough for mass use?
    Reply
  • Chadder007 - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    Does anyone know why its hard to get X64 still on PCs from the likes of Dell/HP/Lenovo still? I know that HP offers Ultimate x64 at least on some of their consumer PCs but not basic or premium. Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    simple: support headaches. Too much stuff still isn't 64-bit compatible. They just don't want the hassle of all the extra calls to support, and the angry customers who are told they have no recourse but to purchase a retail copy of 32-bit windows.
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    and I can't blame them either.
    Reply
  • ikjadoon - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    BF2 literally CTD's with this issue.

    I've heard claims that with this you cannot use unsigned drivers with these hotfixes, can Anandtech confirm that for us? Many of us using Vista are using Beta (aka unsigned) drivers because WHQL versions are few and far between. Thank you!

    ~Ibrahim~
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    All of the games we used also can crash due to the issue(and much more frequently than BF2).

    As for this hotfix, it does not stop using unsigned drivers. I have heard however that one of the other subpacks for SP1 does break this under x64.
    Reply
  • MadBoris - Monday, August 13, 2007 - link

    Thanks Ryan for showing the before and after effects of the patch. It is clear Vista still has it's overhead unfortunately. Even if a game avoids hitting the 2GB wall by thorough testing and optimization (in a fixed footprint game unlike SupCom), the problem is all developers are being handicapped by RAM for PC now. We have the GPU and CPU power to render more and handle more, but memory size is a restraint to overall game design now for certain genres. Even though console games won't be very effected by PC ports, but standalone PC games that could really address more memory in a couple years won't be able to. As for now 2GB RAM is the current sweet spot for a gaming rig, but it's a slippery slope as we get close to the ceiling.

    I'm all for the 64 bit solution, as it is the only viable one. It really needs to become more mandatory that applications and games start doing proper x64 versions, some good apps still lack support. I fear the "strong encouragement" from MS isn't enough, maybe new tools they can come down with Visual Studio could make it easier for devs to verify code and do a proper 64 bit build.

    Also, I think Microsoft should do a special promotion where users can buy a 64 bit Vista upgrade if you own 32 bit. 1/4 the price or better will make the transition easier and more inviting to Vista 32 users. I think MS would make plenty of money because more people would take the leap, and at the same time help the market adoption to 64 bit. Without MS making it an easy transition price wise for platform saturation, it also won't happen. As it is, 64 bit support is growing very quickly over the last 6 months by developers, it's promising but we need a 32 bit cutoff by MS I fear, maybe with the next OS would be a good time.
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Thursday, August 16, 2007 - link

    No, 2GB is no longer the sweet spot for a gaming rig. One year ago -- sure.

    Even though your game will at most utilize 2GB memory, there is still a need for the OS to cache stuff, and you might have other applications running in the background. Nothing is sweeter than having BF2 not touch your hard drive after a while... (I've had 4GB memory for two+ years now)

    Given how cheap memory is now, 3GB or 4GB is closer to the sweet spot.
    Reply
  • leexgx - Thursday, August 16, 2007 - link

    vista norm running you should have 2gb at least or pc mite be an little slow with 1gb with just running norm programs like norton and 1 copy of internet explore + msn printer and so on can realy lag the pc out (gameing on 1gb ram can be an drag but if the game settings are low any way mite not matter)

    gamers on vista should aim for 3gb min
    for later on maybe just buying 4x1gb or 2x2gb ram be better so all the ram is the same and you can get 64bit windows later on or Now (seems to be working fine for me but some games perform not so well game is jumping when FPS is high)

    Reply
  • Shawn - Thursday, August 16, 2007 - link

    You can switch from Vista 32bit to Vista 64bit by just using the 64bit installation dvd. You can use your same key. You don't need to re-buy Vista. Reply

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