Performance Issues While Running 3ds Max

Slow or sluggish performance while running 3ds Max can usually be attributed to either a video configuration conflict or a memory allocation problem. The hard thing about performance problems is narrowing down the culprit. Here are some common situations that can hamper operation of 3ds Max and steps to take to rectify them.

Problems and Resolutions

3ds Max Slows Down

3ds Max Doesn't Start Quickly

Files Take a Long Time to Open

Slow Response to Open or Drag Dialogs

3ds Max Slows Down

In an extended session, especially one where you have created renderings or worked extensively with bitmapped materials, 3ds Max can become sluggish because of memory allocations. Before you close and restart the 3ds Max session, you can try a few MAXScript functions that free up memory:

  • gc()

    Runs a garbage-collection routine.

  • freescenebitmaps()

    Frees up the memory allocated to bitmaps.

  • clearundobuffer()

    Clears the Undo/Redo buffer. Be very sure the scene is as you want it before you invoke this function!

Simply enter the MAXScript function call in the MAXScript Mini Listener at the lower left of the 3ds Max window.

Thanks to Tom Isaksen for documenting these functions online.

3ds Max Doesn't Start Quickly

Autodesk Product Support often encounters an increase of this situation around the time a new version or upgrade of the software is released. The question usually posed by the customer is, “Why does the new version take longer to start than the last version?” There are several reasons.

  • The size of the executable that starts 3ds Max and the additional overhead needed to load the new features of a new release can cause a slowdown. Code in a new executable may use the system processors in a different way than the last version so a slowdown may be noticed. The important thing is how 3ds Max performs once it is running.
  • Each version of 3ds Max is programmed and optimized to use newer video technology than what was previously available. If you haven't upgraded your video card in the last year, or at least updated video drivers, there is a very good chance 3ds Max will not start as quickly as in previous versions. You can also try a different 3ds Max video configuration.
  • If you have not defragmented your system recently, 3ds Max could exhibit a slower start time. Defragmenting the system can also streamline the loading of large files that tend to swap to virtual memory.

Files Take a Long Time to Open

The size of a file often defines how quickly it loads into 3ds Max. However, if you notice an increase in load time from one design session to another, it could be an indication that 3ds Max is not finding enough memory to operate efficiently or that the file needs to be optimized.

The first thing to check is your system memory allocation. RAM, swap space, and free hard drive space should be adequate to run 3ds Max: You can find the required amounts at

Here's how to check your memory and swap-file allocations.

To check RAM and swap-file allocation on Windows XP:

  1. Right-click the My Computer icon on your desktop and choose Properties from the menu.

    This opens the System Properties dialog.

    On the General tab, you should see information about your computer. The amount of RAM should be listed on this panel.

  2. Open the Advanced tab and click the Performance Settings button.

    The Performance Options dialog is displayed.

  3. Click the Advanced tab, and turn on the Total Paging File Size For All Drives setting in the Virtual Memory group.

To check RAM and swap-file allocation on Vista or Windows 7:

  1. Right-click the Windows Start button, and choose Control Panel.

    Windows opens the Control Panel explorer.

  2. On the Control Panel Home page, click System And Maintenance.
  3. On the System And Maintenance page, click System View Amount Of RAM And Processor Speed.

    The View Basic Information page shows the amount of RAM.

  4. To see the amount of swap space, and possibly change it, in the Tasks pane at the left, click Advanced System Settings.

    Windows opens the System Properties dialog.

  5. On the System Properties dialog, go to the Advanced panel, then click Performance Settings.

    Windows opens the Performance Options dialog.

  6. On the Performance Options dialog, go to the Advanced panel.

    On the Advanced panel, the Virtual Memory group displays the amount of hard-drive memory allocated to the swap file. If you want to change this, click the Change button and use the Virtual Memory dialog to adjust the swap-file size. Prompts on this dialog show the minimum and maximum amounts you can allocate to the swap file.

If the physical and virtual memory are set appropriately, then you'll have to check the model. If the model does eventually open, do the following:

  • From the Application menu, choose Save Save As, and save the scene under a different name. Then try opening the new file to see if it loads faster.
  • Review some of the objects you know have large modifier stacks. Performance can be improved if you collapse the stacks of objects that you've completed.
  • If the model uses XRefs, make sure the XRefs are locally accessible. If they're located on a network server, the long load time could be due to high network traffic.
TipTurn on Customize Preferences File Preferences File Handling Compress on Save to work with smaller MAX scene files.

Slow Response to Open or Drag Dialogs

This situation is exhibited when you click a command that opens a dialog, like the Material Editor or graph window, like Track View. After you click, you notice an appreciable time lag until the dialog or window opens. If you then attempt to drag it to a new location, the dialog or window does not smoothly follow your cursor.

The usual cause for this is a video driver conflict or display configuration issue because opening or dragging a dialog causes your graphic card to refresh the screen. Try these steps to diagnose the problem.

  1. Start 3ds Max.
  2. Choose Help Diagnose Video Hardware to see the model of graphics card that your system uses.
  3. Verify that the card correctly supports the active driver.
    • Nitrous (the default) requires Direct3D 9.0 on an NVIDIA Quadro FX card, preferably FX4800.
    • Direct3D requires Direct3D 9.0 or 10.0
    • OpenGL requires an OpenGL-capable graphics card
    • The Software driver (3ds Max 32-bit only) does not require a graphics card.
  4. Visit the Web site of your graphic card manufacturer and see if they have any newer video drivers that you can download and install.