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A webcam with poor performance could be caused by computer resources being overloaded. There are a few places to start the diagnosis.

I have Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD web cam. When I use it a message appears saying, "Poor performance. Change resolution." I'm now down to the 320 x 240, but the message still appears. What's wrong? Is it my computer?

In this excerpt from Answercast #73, I look at a webcam that is stalling a computer, even though the webcam is set at a very low resolution.

A webcam with poor performance

Well, it's hard to say exactly what's wrong.

Unfortunately, the error message you've given me is kind of a shorthand of the error message; the full error message may in fact include some more specific details that would have been nice to see.

But in general, when you're making the resolution smaller, you are reducing the amount of data that has to be sent by the webcam to your computer. That could be a function of many, many different things.

Full USB port

It could be that there are too many other devices on the USB port that you're using.

In other words, the USB port has a certain amount of data that it can handle. All of the devices that are connected to USB kind of, sort of share that. That means that the webcam may be competing with other devices which are trying to send in data to your computer.

It's rare. Most people are just using things, like a keyboard and mouse, which actually send very low volumes of data. But it's something to be aware of.

Busy computer

More likely is that your computer is too busy: that your computer is running too much other software to keep up with the data string that's coming in from the LifeCam.

Unfortunately, that's a really difficult one to diagnose.

What I would suggest you do is grab a copy of Process Explorer. I have an article called, "What's hogging all the CPU?" That article will walk you through downloading, installing Process Explorer, and then using it to find out what programs are running on your machine - and which ones are using the most of its resources.

This is typically a "resource intensive" kind of thing. It's possible that it's a disk thing: it could be a "disk activity" kind of thing that's slowing down your machine.

Slow computer

In general, it is possible that your machine is slow; that it is too busy doing other things to keep up with a LifeCam.

I'd expect 320 x 240 to be handled by most current computers without too much of a problem. That is why I actually point the figure at potentially too much other software running on your machine - stealing resources and basically getting in the way of the LifeCam doing it's thing.

The very first thing I would do is start with Process Explorer and see what else is running on that machine and potentially slowing it down.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6067 - November 25, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment

November 29, 2012 6:52 AM

I have the same Camera and I occasionally get that message and I agree with Leo's statement about other programs using your machine's resources while trying to use the Camera. One of the biggest hogs I find is when my machine is doing automatic scheduled backups of my machine.

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