IE9 slow performance (Or "How I learned to remember to keep my drivers updated")

For once this isn't a blog about BizTalk, SQL, PowerShell or the like (though from the tardiness of my blog entries I need to come back to this thing once in awhile and post), but rather about a performance issue I experienced when upgrading to IE9.  In my office lab, in addition to various mobile devices, I have a fairly beefy desktop machine that serves as my workstation and Hyper-V host for setting up various lab scenarios.  Obviously being a Hyper-V machine, it is running Server 2008 R2, but with the Desktop Experience feature installed, makes a great workstation and tolerates any Windows 7 x64 driver.

Having been an early adopter of IE9 on my laptops, when the Windows Update notification popped up with a prompt to upgrade my browser to IE9 I enthusiastically made it so.  However after the reboot, I had absolutely abysmal performance.  It was like trying to swim through caramel:  The tabs took forever to load, you could hear the CPU cry in pain everytime you tried scrolling through a page, in short a very sub-optimal experience.  Was it something specific with Server 2008 R2?  I was considering un-installing IE9, but dangit, I really liked the improvements and I don't give up that easily.

So doing some research I found a lot of articles that suggested disabling add-ons at startup, but the problem with that solution was that I had no add-ons.  Finally I found a few things that made sense with regards to how IE9 utilizes GPU hardware acceleration for HTML5 rendering in that your graphics card needs to support DirectX11 or higher to utilize the hardware acceleration.  If your card does not support this the "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" option in Internet Options->Advanced will be selected.

However in my case I have a pretty nice NVidia GeForce "gaming" card that should be able to handle any hardware acceleration, and the "Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering" wasn't defaulted on, so it thought my card could support it.  Then it dawned on me to check something very, very basic.  Drivers.  Sure enough, I looked at my video card driver and it had a 12/2008 date on it.  Although Dell (my PC manufacturer) hadn't updated past this point, NVidia's site had an update less than one month old.  I installed that and BAM!  All of a sudden IE9 performance is SOLID and very very fast (like it can make the Kessel run in < 12 parsecs fast).

So the takeaways from this lesson:

  1. Keep your drivers updated.  Always.
  2. IE9 Rocks
  3. Star Wars references don't make you cool.
  4. Update the blog more often.