Avatar Render Problems: Ghost Cloud Smoke Ball Ruth

Update: 2013-08-20 – Server Side Appearance rolled out to the main grid today. The avatar bake process described here is no longer in use. It will take some time to see if the problem is completely solved or whether more removed causes prevent avatar rendering in the future. Search this blog for bake fail to find newer articles. This blog uses an enhanced search tool.
Update: 2010-09-30 – added tidbits of information – Update 2010-10-04 – added links

See the date to the right for the latest update. I come back and add new info and update existing information from time to time.

Second Life

Second Life Avatar Ghost

This problem seems to have become a recent epidemic (2010). There are a number of reasons for why now. I suspect people are more interested in how to fix it and get their avatar rendered. Here is the information I have come across.

There are several possible causes for avatar render problems. Basic to all of them are the bugs in the server and viewer software. For the last two years, or longer, many Linden Lab fixes could be classed as band aids to get something working now. Now the policy is; fix it. Band aids are still used, but they are noted in the backlogs and work continues on real fixes. As real fixes roll out some of them cause problems for those using older viewers and those that seldom clear their cache*.

For many individuals things seem worse. Overall things are getting better. The recent server updates are mostly bug fixes.


Often when arriving in a region the reason your avatar does not render is lag. Give it 5 to 10 minutes. After 10 to 30 minutes you can start to worry and begin looking for fixes.

Also, you want to try the following fixes in an empty region. Deserted is good but empty, no buildings and stuff, is better. In the Lost Inventory link (at end of article) is an SLURL to an empty Linden region with several additional empty regions around it.

Also, you may hear advice about finding a region running the newest server software. Now that they plan to update the servers every Tuesday, that is no longer necessary.

By pressing Ctrl-Shift-1 you can check the Time Dilation and Physics FPS to see if the region is lagging. Time Dilation is ideally 1.0. Physics FPS should be in the 40’s. Anything less will may delay your avatar rez.

First Time

If this is the first time your avatar isn’t rendering, tp to another region, preferably an empty one. If that does not help, logout. Then login and see if you render.

Often Linden Lab is having problems and it is not you, its them. Before getting carried away and making lots of changes, stick with the easy fixes. Check the grid status: Second Life Grid Status Reports. Give it a day before you start thinking reinstall of Windows or viewers or buying a new computer.

Edit Appearance

For simple avatar render problems Edit Appearance is the old time easy fix. Try it. If the avatar is not rendering because your viewer thinks some part of the avatar has not yet downloaded, you’ll get a message telling you that you are going to have to wait. You won’t be able to edit appearance. The wait can go on forever, which may be why you are here.

Even with Edit Appearance not working you can try removing all attachments. Also, remember, you can change items you are wearing without going into Edit Appearance. Try changing the bald-base you are wearing. Switch to a different one or just click WEAR on the one you are already wearing. Often this rez’s the avatar. Re-wearing a ‘bald’ is now my first step when my AV does not render.

Either of these steps can allow your avatar to render. Changing everything you are wearing item-by-item may fix the problem too and reveal a problem item. Later I write about reverting to the Ruth/Roth avatar, which essentially changes everything your avatar is wearing or has attached. You may be able to avoid that drastic step by the item-by-item change. It may help to compete the next step before starting a step-by-step appearance changes.

Edit Appearance in SLV2

Now that most viewers are using the new V3 Inventory code and new appearance code, this fix is out of date. But, these changes may still solve the problem.

If you are using a TPV there seems to be a consistent problem that can be fixed by changing bald hair and eyes. There is something about hair and eyes that seems to have changed. For a time eyes simply disappeared, which made for a spooky avatar. Whatever, use the SLV2 to login and change to a new Ruth/Roth’s bald hair and eyes. (In the 2011 V3 viewer use any system avatar parts from the Library in your Inventory.) You can wear these default items without having to edit appearance. Once the change is made you should be able to edit appearance. Try and stay with those eyes and bald hair. It may help avoid future problems. If you need to, edit the eyes while still in SLV2. When you return to your usual viewer you should be OK.

Remember. Most bald’s use exactly the same settings, so they are interchangeable. When you find one that consistently works, use it with most of your do’s.

HTTP Get Texture

In general one wants this on. It makes for faster downloading. If your having problems, turn it off. If you go over to OpenSim worlds, turn it off and on to see which works best on your world.

In SLV2 turn it on. In TPV’s it is a viewer by viewer thing. Ask in your viewer’s forum whether it is implemented and works. I have problems with the Imprudence Experimental scrambling sculpties in OSGrid, but I love those build tools. Note: the sculpty problem has been fixed in current versions.

Also, this setting is in different places in different viewers. In SL 2.1.2 it is in the top menu under Develop (Ctrl-Alt-D) -> HTTP Textures. In most other viewers it is labeled HTTP Get Textures and is somewhere in the Graphics settings. Worst case, try looking in Debug Settings.

This setting is about how your viewer downloads textures. It is (was) also the center of much of the current TPV development and incompatibility with SL and SLV2’s. I suspect this may be at the heart of why all these avatar render problems are hitting now.

If you are trying to fix a problem with how others see your avatar, toggle this setting. If you have it on, turn it off and vice-versa. Then do 3 rebakes about 5 minutes apart.

As time passes it is more and more important that you use HTTP Get Texture. Also in the SL V3 version the setting is hidden in Debug Settings and the default is to use HTTP.

Cache and the Avatar Particle Cloud

This section out of date as of late 2011. Clearing the cache is very much a last resort step. Skip this step and save it for later.

To get your avatar rendering there are a number of things you can do, the easiest of which is clear your cache*. The ideal way to do that is to make sure you have turned on ‘Start Location’ Show at Login. (SLV2: Me->Preferences->General) It should be checked. Then travel to a deserted region. (See Lost Inventory link at end of article if you need an SLURL to an empty Linden island.) Next set your cache to clear (Me->Preferences->Setup and click Reset in cache location). Next logoff, then login at ‘Last Location’, which should now show to the right of your login information. Once things have rez’d open your inventory and enter an item search. Stay in the region and wait for your inventory to reload. Once the cache is fresh, hopefully the avatar will render. Press Ctrl-Alt-R to rebake the avatar. Give it a minute and try again, if that didn’t rez the avatar. Try at least 3 times, preferably more, about a minute apart. If still not rez’n, move on to the other fixes.

There is some confusion as to whether clicking Reset really clears* the cache. You can check the cache location when you restart the viewer but before you login. Look in Preferences->Setup and hover the cursor over the location path to see the full path spelled out. The cache is typically here:


Drill down and make sure the folders are empty. If not, close the viewer and delete them. Everything in the SecondLife folder can be deleted. Yes, you really do need to close the viewer first. Avoid adding to your problems.

Second Life Wiki Page on Cache: Clearing the cache* – They advise making your cache as big as possible.

Connection Stops Avatar Render

While you wait for the inventory to load look for another common cause of problems, a poor quality network connection. You may normally have a good connection, but look to see what is happening today. Press Ctrl-Shift-1 and look for Packet Loss, download speed (Bandwidth), and Ping Sim. Packet Loss is ideally zero percent. One can live with 1 or 2%, but even that can cause problems. Ping Sim should be low. Ideally ping is below 100msec.  One may see problems start with pings over 300msec. When you start your inventory search you should see the bandwidth jump up. Higher is better. Over time inventory download slows, type in a new search term to get it moving again.

Also check out: SL’s Check for Packet Loss

Run a network connection test: http://www.speedtest.net/

UPDATE: See Troubleshoot Your #SL Connection – the article is updated to deal with more of the connections problems as we learn more and things change.

Before running speed tests you may want to shut your computer down and restart your Internet modem and any routers you may use. You can also test against the SL server you plan to use. You can get the URL name and/or the IP address in Help->About Second Life and use that in some tests. Once you have the IP address your can run tracert and pings directly to the SL server.

BTW, wifi connections are generally a problem and only exceptional wifi connections are suitable for use with SL. So, if you are using a wireless connection, that most likely is the root of your problem.

In your Preferences->Setup is a setting for Maximum Bandwidth. Some think this should be as high as possible, others no more than 500kbps, yet others that your setting should match the values your service provider actually provides (match your speed test values), and still others think 1mbps is the max one should use. I’ve been playing with different settings and can’t say I have ever detected a consistent change in performance from any of the settings. I think it depends on so many variables it is impossible to  know. I think 50% of what the test sped test comes up with is safe. Region performance and load, local traffic on your cable connection, and numerous other factors contribute to what setting you should use.  Trial and error seems to be the solution. For fixing avatar render problems, whatever your setting, try changing it.

Also, close programs that use the Internet; email and browsers and IM programs. And shut down Boinc, the SETI/Einstein screen saver and background thingy.

UPDATE: Max Bandwidth (Max B) is a complex setting it affects several things. Currently, July 2012, there is a UDP problem that is solved by having the Max B below 1,900 kbps. In general you want Max B to be 20% less than your connections measured bandwidth and less than 1,900.

Group Change Fixes Avatar Render

Change your active group and rebake. I know the group thing sounds odd, but some people swear by it. Rebake is of course Ctrl-Alt-R. It can take 3 tries. Give it a minute or two between bakes.


This sounds silly, but put on clean underwear… on your avatar. This forces a rebake of your avatar. Some absolutely swear this works when even Ctrl-Alt-R doesn’t work.


In viewer 3 we have tattoo layers. We can stack tattoos. Some say stacked tattoos can cause an avatar to fail to render. Try removing all your tats and alpha layers.

Change SIM

In some cases this is a problem with the SIM. SIM software has its problems and sometimes the problem is with the SIM you are in. Go to another SIM and try the easy fixes again.

Toggle HTTP Get

If you are trying to fix a problem with how others see your avatar, definitely toggle this setting. If you have it on, turn it off and vice-versa. Then do 3 rebakes about 2 minutes apart.

Resort to Ruth/Roth

I consider using the Test Female/Male avatar an absolute last resort. If all the recommended steps above failed, then may be it’s time.

UPDATE: There are now, 2012, default avatars in your Inventory – Library. Try using one of those via Replace Outfit before going for a Ruth. Using the Ruth or a Library avatar are for all practical purposes the same.

A possible future alternative to a total Ruthing is to have a folder with your basic avatar parts, i.e., skin, shape, eyes, bald. All the things that make up a naked avatar. Use it to replace your current outfit. Its almost as good as the Test Female/Male avatar and less work to recover from. At this point, you should only make this folder immediately AFTER you convert to the Test Female/Male avatar and have began rebuilding your look. Hopefully, you can use this folder next time. Plus it comes in handy at other times too.

Be sure you have a fresh inventory download before you try to Ruth/Roth your avatar. To revert to Ruth/Roth click Develop*->Avatar->Character->Test Male/Female — *press Ctrl-Alt-D to make the Develop menu item show (On some viewer you must have the Advanced menu open for that to work – Ctrl-Alt-Q).

This ‘test’ option returns your avatar to it’s default state. Everything is replaced; attachments, clothes, eyes, hair, shape, skin… everything. After using this option you will have to rebuild your avatar. Hopefully you have saved your shape.

Update 2010-10-25: Phoenix (373) users are finding the often have to switch to the SLV2 to get the Default Test Avatar to fully replace a non-rez’ing AV. It seems but is unconfirmed some parts of the avatar do not reset using Phoenix (373).

If your avatar is still not rendering after going Ruth, you have an unusual problem. I have never seen a change to the Ruth/Roth avatar fail. I have heard people saying they can’t edit appearance after switching to a Ruth/Roth default avatar, but it is rare. Once you have tried Test Female/Male and cannot edit appearance it is probably time to file a ticket and/or consider a reinstall.

However, try these steps: Open Preferences (shortcut: Ctrl-P) ->Graphics and set your draw distance to the minimum or 16m, depending on whether your viewer goes to zero meters. Then set your graphics quality to LOW. (You will need to check Custom Settings or click Advanced button, depending on viewer, to see some of these settings.) Set Mesh Details to the minimum. Make sure Avatar Impostures is selected. Turn Hardware Skinning off if it is on. Do some rebakes at the reduced settings, at least 3 about 30 seconds apart. More rebakes have been known to eventually work.

Another graphics setting is Texture Buffer Memory which is in Preferences->Graphics->Hardware Settings. There is a slider for Texture Buffer Memory, set it to the max. Others think you minimize it, ok out and click apply, and then maximize it and click apply and ok.

In the same Preferences dialog is the item Enable OpenGL Vertex Buffer Object. Disable this item. If you set you graphics quality to LOW this should be disabled, but check.

Once you have made a bunch of graphics settings changes, log off, reboot the computer, log in, then try some rebakes.

If it is still a problem, I suggest uninstalling the viewer, rebooting, and reinstalling it. Manually clear the install folder (C:\Program Files\SecondLife) and the cache folder  (C:\Users\[user_name]\AppData\Local\SecondLife) and the settings folder (C:\Users\[user_name]\AppData\Roaming\SecondLife\user_settings\ – warning this folder contains the settings for most of your viewers. You only want the one for the viewer you are reinstalling. For SL the file is settings.xml) before starting your reinstall.

Resort to RenderUnloadedAvatar

In the Developer menu is an item titled Debug Settings. One of the settings within it is: RenderUnloadedAvatar. An option to handle this from within Preferences is appearing in some Third Party Viewers. Set this to true/enabled and your viewer will render your avatar even if the download is incomplete. It will also render other avatars if their download is incomplete too. It won’t be their or your real look, but it will be a default appearance. You may still appear as a cloud to others. You will render somewhat or completely Ruthed/Rothed. You will not render correctly, which may give you a clue to which attachment or clothing item is causing the problem.

Multiple Viewer Use and Avatar Problems

One cause of avatar render/ghost/cloud problems, and many other problems, is the use of multiple viewers and especially TPV’s while using a single cache. Uploaded images are compressed on the server, AFAIK. Downloaded images are decompressed on the client, in the viewer. This means KDU is used to compress the image. But, when using a TPV you are likely using OpenJPEG (OJ) to decompress them. That can fail. You then have an OJ image in your cache, which may work or have a problem as OJ currently fails to properly decode some small percentage of JPEG2000 compressed images. The mix of images decompressed by various programs and placed in the same cache seems to cause problems. This is less of a problem now (July 2011) as more and more TPV’s are using separate caches as the default setup.

The solution is to use separate caches with each viewer. I also use separate caches with different versions of the same viewer. See the Lost Inventory link (at end of article) for setting up separate caches. Apparently there are some similar problems with sound files. Some TPV’s now use separate sound file caches.

Also, SLV2 uses a database for appearance, which the SLV1 does not. If you change appearance in SLV2 and then use an SLV1 you will find you are wearing a previous outfit. And the same when going from SLV1 to 2. Any use of SLV2 features creates problems for when you switch back to SLV1. Separate caches reduce these problems.

There are a number of things that cause or contribute to the problem of avatars failing to rez. The Lab says it is likely TPV’s and the makers of the TPV’s say it is the Lab’s servers. What I do know is people using SLV2 exclusively have the problem too. I also know that I had lots of problems with my avatar failing to rez and clothes messing up and doing odd things when I had a single cache for all my viewers. I am convinced that mixing downloaded images using OpenJPEG and KDU in the same cache is a problem. All current (Jan 2011) TPV’s use OpenJPEG and it is pretty well agreed that 1% of SL images will choke OpenJPEG and fail to decompress correctly or else never show a complete download. All SLV viewers use KDU. SLV2.4 and earlier versions use the old KDU and SLViewer 2.5 and up are using the new version of KDU. Whether KDU handles 100% of the images uploaded with OpenJPEG… I don’t know, but I doubt it.

Firestorm now uses their version of KDU. Kirsten’s uses a custom OpenJPEG as of 6/2011. These seem to do a better job on downloaded images than previous TPV’s.

Change Viewer to Fix Avatar

Some people using the Phoenix Viewer have found switching back to the SL Viewer 2 and fixing the avatar results in the avatar subsequently working in the Phoenix Viewer. In the older viewers there may be attachment point issues. Also, the viewer’s idea of what the avatar is wearing is provided to the server differently in series 1 and 2 viewers. Using a series 2 viewer seems to help clear up that confusion. Use a series 2 viewer to strip. Then get dressed in your preferred viewer.

The new (5/2011) Enhanced Avatar Physics Layer is a problem for older Series 1 viewers. So, if your boy friend is having a problem seeing your avatar and is using a Series 1 viewer, upgrade to a new boy friend.

UPDATE: In July 2012 there are far fewer viewer incompatibilities. Most third party viewers use their own cache, which is setup on install. That is part of the reason clearing cache is much less important now. Viewers are more compatible now and changing between viewers is less of a problem.

Everything Fails

For some nothing seems to work. It is often recommended that one file a trouble ticket at this point. However, once you have exhausted the suggestions above, consider a visit to the Second Life Preview Grid while you wait on your trouble ticket. This is Linden Lab’s open beta grid. Follow the link to learn how to get to the Preview Grid. The advantage in going to the Preview Grid is that a copy of your stuff is drawn from SL into the beta system. Your viewer then draws new information for its cache from the beta system. There is a good chance your avatar will render. Your Ruth/Roth avatar on the Preview Grid should work perfectly. Changing to your normal appearance while on the Preview Grid should help render your avatar when you return to the main grid.

The trip to the Beta/Preview Grid works best using an SL Viewer.

Render Other Avatars

An old trick for getting other avatars to render is to change your group tag. It works, don’t ask why.

Nude Avatars

A related problem is your avatar appearing naked to others, how embarrassing. There seems to be an ongoing problem with this (VWR-14463 – 2009-06 – Now triaged into SH-744). Old 1.22 viewers had the problem. The JIRA is still open and marked severe. LL cannot reproduce the error at the Lab. This means they are dependent on those with the problem to send them viewer logs. At this time the problem seems to be related mostly to network connection. There are instructions in the JIRA for reporting the problem and sending in logs.

When you rebake your avatar you are creating a texture of your avatar using textures you downloaded. Your viewer then sends that composite texture to LL servers and that texture is used to render your avatar in everyone else’s viewer. If there is an upload problem, they never get the texture.

The fix is to visit a deserted region, change HTTP Texture Get the opposite of how you have it set, log off, reset your modem/router and computer, relog to last location, edit appearance, and rebake 3 times or more giving a 5 minutes between bakes. If you have a friend available have them come with you to check your appearance. If this doesn’t work, look hard at your Internet connection.

Why nude? I’m not sure. It seems that until recently each change made in Appearance Edit was quickly baked as soon as a change was made and sent to SL. Now to improve performance, the texture is not sent to LL until you exit Appearance Editing. Whatever, some where in the process your skin texture makes it to the server or some default skin texture does and is used to render your avatar when the composite texture is not available. With commercial skins it is possible the text is popular and often downloaded, so more people have it. I’m totally guessing.

There is a rumor those on satellite Internet connections are more likely to see the problem. You can search your log looking for ‘Baked upload failed’ (no quotes). If the upload fails, others are not going to see you as you are. Information around the error may give you a clue as to what is wrong.

Vote in this JIRA: Avatar clothing change invisible to all inworld, but visible to me.

References on How to Fix Avatar

Avatar will not render – For those that try it all and nothing works, vote and watch the JIRA for a solution.

Also see: VWR-14463VWR-12906 – Be sure and vote on these.

The current (6/2011) hot JIRA item is: SH-744

File a trouble ticket on: Avatar Won’t Render

Fogging, Ghosting, Clouding, Ruthing, Rebaking and Not Rezzing, Not Rendering, oh my

Other possibilities are here:

Quick List of Things People Believe Fix Avatar Render Problem – The only thing I strongly disagree with in this list is the advice to switch between viewers. Unless you have made separate caches for your viewers, this likely compounds the problem. But, as noted above, some have had luck changing from a TPV to the SLV2. (Update: This link changed per comments – TY LeeHere Absent)

Phoenix Viewer Fixes – These fixes work for all viewers but menu labels may vary.

Second Life Lost Inventory and Missing Inventory Fix – Help – There is detailed information on fixing cache problems from using multiple viewers.

Second Life FAQ – Index to a number of fixes for common problems.

*NOTE: The idea of clearing the cache to fix avatar render problems is out of date. Clearing the cache is more of a last resort step now (2012).

19 thoughts on “Avatar Render Problems: Ghost Cloud Smoke Ball Ruth

  1. Pingback: Second Life Viewer 2.1.1 Review « Nalates' Things & Stuff Blog

  2. OMG! Thank you, very informative. I’ll be keeping the link in world for residents who have the cloud issue. We have a very busy sim so sometimes it’s that, but, even more often it seems to be network connection speed.
    This is a great article, thank you so much

  3. Hi. Terrific blog. A great service. Thanks for including our RLetc.com link (Quick List of Things People Believe Fix Avatar Render Problem ). It looks like it might be a broken link, though. Here’s an update:

    GUIDE: Fogging, Ghosting, Clouding, Ruthing, Rebaking and Not Rezzing, Not Rendering, oh my

  4. Some viewers routinely report Time Dilation as 0.99 rather than 1.00

    A common feature of the simple fixes is that they force a reload of textures. Especially if other visible AVs are showing to you as clouded, altering Draw Distance can do this. Some TPVs allow a shorter minimum, and if your camera is far enough away from your AV, you can force your own AV to reload. It needs the change to Draw Distance to do this.

  5. Go to inventory-[any folder with things youre wearing] and click ‘Replace outfit’, that should bring your av back. Have fun

  6. well all i got avie back and stopped appearing nude to all for 2 weeks, then yesterday it started to happen again, i have my skin and shape back that part is easy, but i go to put on clothes i see them fine, but all else see me nude, sooo i am stuck, and no clue what to do, i did change the group name, but can i change back to it, i have to find someone to see if clothes rezz on me, but noone around atm, i am totally at a lost now what to do to fix it, someone said to go from phoenix viewer and back to sl viewer, 2.0, but i don’t believe that will fix it, i also heard neighboring sim alot of people there were having issues with the nude avie like myself….any ideas, for i have tried most of what is spoken here and then some, i would greatly appreciate it….thanks Nalates and all

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  12. This was great! I had to remove all items and use the test female but it worked. This had been a frustrating and on going problem for me. My avatar would not load properly, I could not put on clothing and could not go into appearance. Thank you very much for your help.

  13. My wife is having the same issue where she loads fine with clothes on but cant put on any shoes or has shoes but gets stripped of everything else and is naked and bald headed. can someone explain this as simple as possible so I can wlk her through this?

  14. We’ve been having trouble with the avatar not responding as well as suddenly being pulled away until it reaches the edge of the virtual world. Then, the avatar can be seen by others still walking but not going anywhere and not responding to avatar owner’s commands.

    • When the avatar seems to be magically propelled somewhere or fails to respond to mouse or keystrokes it is almost always a connection issue. See: http://blog.nalates.net/2011/10/26/troubleshoot-your-sl-connection/

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