Reading and following all recommendations in this article is the only guaranteed method of ensuring ShoWorks runs stable for your fair. Our attempt in this article is to provide a comprehensive guide to ensuring stability which can be achieved. By following these guidelines in their entirety, we can guarantee a stable experience when using ShoWorks. In the same sense, exception of any one of these recommendations will almost guarantee instability of ShoWorks.
Best Practices for ShoWorks Usage
The purpose of this article is to provide technical guidelines in regards to the most stable use of ShoWorks – more specifically, program crashes and speed issues. Business applications such as ShoWorks require practices that conform to the design intent and limitations of the software and these should be employed for trouble-free operation. These Best Practices are provided below.
Part A: Requirements
Though ShoWorks will install on almost any Windows machine, we break our requirements down into both minimum and recommended requirements to provide an all-inclusive representation among fairs and their budgets. Please understand that adhering only to the minimum requirements does not guarantee stability, but rather an elimination benchmark for the minimum use of ShoWorks in limited environments.
Basic Hardware Requirements
- 8GB available RAM or higher.
Note that "available" RAM is not the same as "installed" RAM (see here).
Generally, 8GB of installed RAM equates to nearly 5.5GB of available RAM (depending on how many applications are open at any time).
- 2GB of free disk space (the software only needs 200MB to install, however Windows operates smoother with more available disk space).
Networking Hardware Requirements (when using more than one computer at a time)
- Wireless networking is not recommended.
- 100Mbps Ethernet (NIC) card on each computer (1,000Mbps/1Gbps recommended).
- 100 Mbps switch or router (1,000Mbps/1Gbps recommended).
- Only one switch or router between the data file and any client computer (multiple switching is not supported).
- 7200 RPM or faster hard drive speed for the machine hosting the data file.
- SATA 3.0Gb/s or faster hard drive interface for the machine hosting the data file.
- Microsoft Windows 7, 8 or 10 Professional (including Ultimate and Enterprise Editions) 64-bit.
- Home Editions of any version of Windows are not supported.
- (optional) Microsoft Office Professional 32-bit 2010, 2013, or 2016.
Part B: Software Configuration
Version of Windows
ShoWorks is a business application. Microsoft has released different versions of Windows designed to accommodate various market segments, breaking these into two groups: home users and business users.Per Microsoft's own product description, Home editions of Windows are not intended for business application use, regardless whether they are physically used in the home or in a professional environment. Database applications such as ShoWorks require the memory handling of business editions (Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise) of Windows. Running ShoWorks on the Home Edition of Windows will cause instability, most noticeable when creating or editing custom reports. If you have the Home Edition of Windows and plan to upgrade, we recommend re-formatting (wiping) and installing a fresh, full version of Windows Professional since upgrades leave remnants of prior versions. Keep in mind that a machine which originally came with Windows Home Edition installed was probably configured with lesser quality components and intended to remain in the home (see more discussion on quality and components in the next section) so a simple upgrade to Windows Professional still may not resolve stability issues.
Click here for more information on why ShoWorks is supported only on certain versions of Windows.
Version of Microsoft Office, and older versions of ShoWorks
Though Microsoft Office is not required for ShoWorks to operate properly, it does use a Microsoft Office based engine (Microsoft Access) which can conflict with older versions of Office that are currently or have been previously installed on a machine. Therefore, if Microsoft Office is installed on a machine, it must be 32-bit and version 2010, 2013, or 2016. If a machine has (or even at one time, then removed) any different version of Office than these outlined, ShoWorks will become instable, most noticeable when creating or editing custom reports. If you have or had an incompatible version of Office on your machine, it is strongly recommended that you reformat (wipe) the machine and install a fresh, copy of Windows and the new version of Office since upgrades and uninstalls leave remnants of prior versions. This rule also includes having older versions of ShoWorks. For example, if you are installing ShoWorks 2016 onto a machine that has ShoWorks 2012, then you should reformat (wipe), reinstall Windows, then optionally install the proper version of Office, then the correlating version of ShoWorks downloaded from our website. You may omit this lengthy process, however stability cannot be guaranteed until you have done so.
Part C: Networking ShoWorks among multiple computers
In addition to the networking hardware requirements outlined above, one must understand that the inherit definition of networking is a connection of multiple devices. As such, a fault in one component will result in a cascade of errors to all connected computers. Remember the familiar cliché: "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link". ShoWorks uses a file sharing architecture. This means that the entire data file (which can grow quite large) is constantly sent back and forth across the network during the communication where data is processed on each client and then sent back to the main file. Because of this, network traffic demands of ShoWorks is extremely large compared other, non-file sharing applications. In other words, a network may seem to function correctly under regular usage (such as the transfer of files, communicating, etc.) but heavy data demanding applications such as ShoWorks will often draw out any flaws in the devices. The following practices should be considered:
Best Network Practices
- Avoid mixing operating systems (different versions of Windows) and versions of MS Office among the networked computers.
- Do not use wireless networks. If this is not practical, then consider using Remote Desktop (see below).
- Use only one switch if possible between all computers including the host. If this is not practical, then consider using Remote Desktop (see below).
- The startup time of ShoWorks will take up to 4 minutes if other users have data menus open on other machines running ShoWorks. This time may be reduced to under 20 seconds if other users close to the main menu of ShoWorks while subsequent users start ShoWorks on the network. This only affects startup times as once in the program, normal speed should resume.
- Make sure that cables are not near any power outlets or electrical boxes, which cause interference.
- For long distances (300 feet and over), consider using Remote Desktop (see below).
Using ShoWorks over Remote Desktop
Remote Desktop (sometimes referred to as Terminal Services), is a built-in component of Microsoft Windows to allow connecting one or more machines to visually interact with a host (server) computer without having any significant processing brought across the network. In other words, the user "sees" the desktop of the server and opens applications that remain entirely on the server. This reduces network traffic and increases speed tremendously, since only graphics are streamed across the network and the server does all of the processing of ShoWorks, even with multiple users. A Remote Desktop configuration has the advantage of yielding impressive results for even the most underpowered clients and network, as well as connections through the Internet.
Steps on configuring ShoWorks for Remote Desktop can be found in help article 115004 "How to use ShoWorks in a Remote Desktop setting".
Remote Desktop has the following advantages:
- Speed – the feel should be almost as fast as running ShoWorks locally, without a network.
- Accessibility – a connection can be made from virtually anywhere, including wireless and over the Internet.
- Good for low-end machines – almost any machine can be a "thin" client (even Macs, netbooks, tablets, smart phones, and the cheapest computers).
Remote Desktop has the following disadvantages:
- A server is required and must be configured, often requiring technical expertise.
- Creating and editing custom reports requires special configuration of ShoWorks. Contact Gladstone for steps in configuring ShoWorks for use on Remote Desktop.
Part D: Quality of hardware components, bloatware and purchasing a computer
As the number of computers among households have increased over the years, competitive and market forces have driven the price of these units down to often less than the cost of the software which runs them. The age of the "throw away" computer has arrived and unfortunately, these are often disguised and mistaken for their higher quality compliments that are 4 or 5 times the price. Consumers today have been trained to base their purchasing decision on only one or two numbers that supposedly represent quality or how powerful a computer is. Much like the number of megapixels alone does not represent the quality of a digital camera, the amount of RAM (memory) does not represent the quality of a computer. A compromise in quality becomes apparent when using process and memory intensive business applications such as ShoWorks, when components with a lower tolerance are prone to fail and sometimes crash the application. A good example of this was the "e-machine" (later bought out by Gateway). One could buy a complete PC for $400 advertised with great specs that checked email fine, but the end result was a computer that crashed, locked up or bogged down at the nearest hint of demanding application. One should not expect a $10,000 business application to run smoothly on a $400 machine (though there are less costly editions of ShoWorks, they all run on the same engine and the number of entries allowed in each edition is the only distinguishing factor). In reality, ShoWorks does not need a high-end machine to run trouble-free but also one should not expect performance from machines that were intended for the home or light Internet usage.
Aside from the possibility of a faulty hardware component (bad RAM/memory and network switches are notorious causes for otherwise unexplainable behavior); poorly configured or mismanaged computers also play a role in application stability. Most manufacturers subsidize costs by pre-installing various "free" programs onto these machines before they are released to retail sales. Anyone who has purchased a new PC in the past 10 years will be familiar with this concept of "bloatware" (also known as "crapware"). These are typically trial editions with limited functionality in hopes that the consumer will purchase them after the trail period is over. Examples of such are photo editors, anti-virus or malware protection, games, etc. The problem is that even after uninstalling these programs, they may continue to have remnants which consume resources that in turn, affect the overall performance of the machine and thus ShoWorks. A best practice is to always "wipe" (reformat) a new machine with a fresh install of the operating system (Windows) to prevent otherwise pre-installed applications from consuming resources.
Furthermore, since users often install and later uninstall various applications over the lifetime of a given computer, it is common business practice to wipe (reformat) a computer every year or two just to keep it "clean" and free of error causing remnants of these uninstalled programs
Part E: Checklist for Trouble Shooting Problems
ShoWorks will not start
- Run the latest update patch of ShoWorks, available from our website. This solves 99% of inability to start ShoWorks or crashes.
- If this does not work, uninstall and reinstall the full version of ShoWorks, downloadable from our website, DO NOT USE an old CD-ROM of ShoWorks to install. This would indicate that it is an older version, as we no longer manufacture ShoWorks on CD-ROMs.
- If the above do not work, there may be a possibility that you need to update either Windows or Microsoft Office with any minor updates that Microsoft routinely releases to fix these programs. To check for this an other Windows updates, go to Start, then type "Windows Update" and hit the Enter key. Download and run any important updates, then restart Windows. Then check for updates againand repeat this process, restarting Windows and checking for updates until the Windows Update dialog states that there are no more updates.
ShoWorks crashes and is not stable, or runs slow
- See the above section "ShoWorks will not start".
- Check to make sure you are running Windows Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise Editions and not Home Edition. See 7.1 and 7.2 below for a visual guide on how to do this.
- Check to make sure that none of the following conditions are true:
- Make sure Microsoft Office 2007 or older has never been installed on this machine. These versions conflict with ShoWorks 2016. If you have Office, it must be Office 2010, 2013 or 2016.
- Make sure that you do not have more than one "version" of Microsoft Office installed on the machine. For example, if you have both Microsoft Office 2007 AND Microsoft Office 2010 components on the same machine, ShoWorks becomes instable.
- If you have Microsoft Office on the machine, make sure that you are not running the 64-bit version of Microsoft Office. 64-bit Microsoft Windows is fine (and desireable). 64-bit Microsoft Office is not. You must use the 32-bit version of Microsoft Office. To check for the version, see here for Office 2010 users and see here for Office 2013 users.
If any of these cases have occurred, reformat the machine and reinstall Windows Professional (not Home Edition), then the appropriate version of Office (if available), then the full version of ShoWorks downloaded from our website, not the CD-ROM.
- Check computer "Installed memory (RAM)" to ensure 8GB or more is installed. See 7.1 and 7.2 below for a visual guide on how to do this.
- If you have the minimum amount of memory (8GB), you can improve performance of ShoWorks by turnning off the ShoWorks "reminders" by opening ShoWorks and going to Tools>Options>Reminders, then clicking "Turn Off All Reminders".
- Compact your data file (top left File Button>>Utilities>>Compact Data File).
- Disable background programs such as anti-virus, webcams, etc. if you are running near the minimum requirement of RAM (under 8GB of RAM). A few anti-virus programs that are notorious for causing program conflicts are "Sophos Endpoint Security", "ESET NOD32 Antivirus", "Norton Internet Security", "Trend Micro Security", and "Symantec Endpoint Protection". Unless you have at least 8GB or more RAM (free memory), disable these programs if they are installed. For reputable anti-virus protection that does not cause interference, we recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, a free install from Microsoft located here.
- If the above do not resolve the instability, you may need to increase the Page File (Virtual Memory) of Windows. Follow these steps:
- 8.1 Right-click on "Computer" then select "Properties".
- 8.2 Write down the amount of Installed memory (RAM). You will need this value in a later step. Then select "Advanced system settings".
- 8.3 Click the "Advanced" tab, then "Settings" button.
- 8.4 Click the "Advanced" tab, then the "Change" button.
- 8.5 You must uncheck the box "Automatically manage paging file size for all drives", then select "Custom size".
- 8.6 Type in the values for "Initial size" and "Maximum size". To determine these numbers, refer back to step 8.2 and find out how much "Installed memory" (RAM) that you have on this machine. Your "Initial size" should be this times 1,000 plus 300. For example, if you have 8GB, then your Initial size should be (8x1000)+300 = 8,300. Your "Maximum size" should be the amount of RAM times 3,000. For example, if you have 8GB, then your Maxmium size should be 8x3000 = 24,000.
- 8.7 Once you have typed in both the Initial and Maxmium size values, click the "Set" button, then "OK" and "OK" to all previous windows. You must restart Windows for the changes to take effect.
ShoWorks runs slow or crashes when on a network, but runs fine when not using a network
- Check all network components to ensure 100Mbps or faster (wireless is not acceptable).
- Check hard drive speed on server/host (must be 7200 RPM, 3.0Gb/s or faster).
- Compact your data file (in ShoWorks, top left File Button>Utilities>Compact Data File).
- Make sure all machines are running the same version of Windows and same version of Office (if applicable).
- Make sure only one switch/node is between slow computer(s) and computer where data file resides (server/host). More than one switch is not recommended for ShoWorks usage except when using Remote Desktop.
- Check Ethernet cables to ensure they are reasonably away from electrical boxes and outlets.
- Remove computers one-by-one to determine if one computer may be the weakest link (problematic).
- Replace switch/router to test for faulty routers.
Random crashes when Office 2010 SP1 is installed (published by Microsoft)
Crash when Office 2013 is installed (published 'fix' by Microsoft)
Corrupt Microsoft Access Causes - Software
Corrupt Microsoft Access Causes - Hardware