FAQ and Tips for Windows Operating Systems



Which versions of Windows will a SmoothStepper run on?

An ESS (Ethernet SmoothStepper) or USS (USB SmoothStepper) will run on the following Versions of Windows (either 32 bit or 64 bit versions):

  • Windows 11
  • Windows 10   (Pro will allow you to modify group policy settings, like disabling automatic updates)
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 7
  • Windows Vista (we do feel sorry for anyone using this version of Windows)
  • Windows XP (Mach3 only, not Mach4)


32 bit or 64 bit Windows

You may use either 32 bit or 64 bit Windows with a SmoothStepper. 

64 bit Windows allows your computer to use more than 4 GB of RAM, and the ESS (Ethernet SmoothStepper) and USS (USB SmoothStepper) will run with 32 bit AND 64 bit Windows.   The only disadvantage to 64 bit Windows is that Mach cannot control a parallel port, but Mach can control our SmoothSteppers, so you won't need to control a parallel port.

The main disadvantage of 32 bit Windows is that you can only have a maximum of 4 GB of RAM (minus some stolen by video resources and other areas of the OS).  Back with Windows XP, you could run Mach3 with 2 GB to 4 GB of RAM quite acceptably.  However, with Windows 7 or newer, we recommend 6 GB and prefer 8GB of RAM or more to give a better user experience.  Windows 64 bit will support the following maximum amounts of RAM (which is typically much more RAM than your mother board will allow):

 64 bit Windows

While Windows 11 is not in that list, it does work with Mach4 and the ESS.




How Much RAM do I Need?

It depends on which version of Windows you are using and if you are in Mach3 or Mach4.  Mach4 does require more RAM and CPU power than Mach3.

No matter what, I strongly recommend that you adjust your Virtual Memory for better performance.

With Win7 I do recommend 8 GB of RAM  for a no worries experience.  6 GB usually works, but you want to make sure your other programs are closed.  There are some people that do manage to run on 4 GB, but they have almost everything else turned off in Windows 7.  For an individual who knows what they are doing - go for it.  If supporting customers: splurge on the 8 GB and save yourself support hassles.

With Windows 10, there are some people who run fine with 4 GB.  The usage experience is better with 8 GB of RAM for Windows 10 or 11.



Windows 10


When the 64 bit version of Windows 10 is updated to build 1803 or higher, it will no longer allow Mach3 to use its DLLs, which causes Mach3 not to load!

1) Make sure you download and run the newly patched version of Mach3 here.  This fixes the issue and Mach3 will run fine!
2) It appears that this is not an issues with 32 bit Windows 10 (at least for the moment).
3) Windows 7 is immune to this problem.
4) Mach4 is safe from this problem.

Here is a post on the MachSupport forums covering this issue.



Both the Ethernet and USB SmoothSteppers work with Windows 10.  For those who are buying a new computer with hardware and drivers known to work with Windows 10, you should be good to go.

Most people have Windows 10 work just fine for them.  From support experience , I would say you want to have 8 GB of RAM with Mach in Windows 10.  You can get by with 4 GB, but you need to make sure that all your other programs are closed.

We have many optimizations you can make to Windows in this section, but here are three Windows 10 specific optimizations:


  1. “Windows Shell Experience Host” can suck up a lot of CPU and RAM.  To reduce its effect on your system, you can choose a solid background color, disable transparency on the Start Menu, and disabling accent colors.  Here is how you can do that.
  2. Windows Cortana can suck a fair amount of processor power and RAM.  Microsoft is very determined that you should always be running it. Here are two ways to disable Cortana:
    • To disable Cortana via Registry or Group policy, click here.
    • Another description of how to do it by Registry only, click here.
  3. Windows Updates seem to happen at the worst times in Windows 10.  If you are using the Pro version of Windows 10, you can modify the Group Policy settings to turn off automatic updates.
  4. -OR-  We have seen an issue where Windows Update still tries to take control and update (without an internet connection) and it causes a large processor load, and interrupts communications with the ESS, and this can happen during the middle of a job.  To disable this, please turn off the Window 10 Update service with this method.

Turn off W10 updates



Older Versions of Windows

Windows 8 is available in two versions. One version is named Windows RT (not to be confused with Windows Runtime, which is something else). Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 that uses a 32-bit ARM architecture, most commonly found on inexpensive tablet computers.  You will not be able to install or run x86-based applications on Windows RT. They must be compiled specifically for the 32-bit ARM architecture, which means Mach3 and Mach4 will not run on it.

Here is a comparison of Windows 8 editions.

Here is a comparison of Windows 7 editions.

There are many people happily running a SmoothStepper and Mach3 on XP laptops.  Windows 7 is also a very common setup that many people are sticking with.  Windows 10 is what almost everyone is using for new computers. Windows 11 works too with new PCs.



Andy's PC and Suggestions


My current rig is the image right below here, and it has never given me any problems running Mach3 or Mach4, even with lots of other programs open and running at the same time (which you should not do, since you could wind up making scrap).




My thoughts are for a decent system:
* 64 bit Windows 7 or 10
* 8 GB RAM (4 GB minimum is possible with Windows 7/10, but not encouraged)
* i5 or i7 3 GHz dual core
* 7200 RPM Mechanical hard drive, or preferably a SSD (Solid State Drive)

As funds allow, I would upgrade components in this order:
1) Get a solid state hard drive instead of a mechanical drive. Your PC will boot up 5x or 10x faster than before and this will shorten application loading times, and allow your PC to service applications faster. Also the spin up time on a mechanical hard drive can make your computer stall for 5 seconds, which might make Mach lose communications with the ESS.

2)Make sure you are running at least 8GB of RAM.

3) 16 GB of RAM would be awesome (you want at least 8 GB minimum) and this would make it more enjoyable to run your CAM programs on your PC (just not while you are cutting). With 16 GB your programs will almost never run out of RAM (unless you are running tons of stuff in the background).

4) Jump up to a quad core i7, 3+ GHz. This will give you 8 threads of processing power that can handle a lot of different applications at once.



Making Windows more friendly with Classic Shell

Classic Shell is a free program that lets the Start button work the way it did in previous versions of Windows, and allows you to use your Windows 10, 8 or 7 computer almost the same as your Windows 7 or XP computer.   Now that Windows 10 has brought back the Start Menu, it isn't as useful as it used to be.  If you have a Windows 8 computer with the tiles and no Start Menu, you will likely want to install this gem of an application.  But you might want more control over the way the Start Menu works and looks in Windows 7 or 10, so this might still be useful to you. 

Note: As of December 2017, Classic Shell is no longer in active development. More details here
Development has been picked up by volunteers on GitHub under the name Open Shell

After installing Classic Shell, you will find a Start button with the image of a sea shell on it. Here is what it looks like:


You will notice "Programs" and "Apps". Each of these menus expands when you click on them.

"Programs" are the regular programs you have installed on your computer.

"Apps" are the new Metro desktop applications.


Another alternative is Start10 from Stardock, but they charge money for their product.


Running Mach3 at a higher priority level

You can make Mach3 (or any program) run at a higher priority level by making a shortcut and changing its Target as follows:

  • C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe /c start "Mach3" /AboveNormal "C:\Mach3\Mach3.exe"


*** Click on the Advanced tab and UNCHECK the "Run as Administrator" option if your normal profile names are replaced with system xml file names***


If you run Mach3 from that shortcut, and look at it in Task Manager (then right click), you can see that it is now running at Above Normal priority.

Task Manager

We recommend that you only use Normal, AboveNormal, or High priority. You should never use Realtime, since your system will likely become unstable.

Here is our Mach3 shortcut for download.  Just download it and then place it on your desktop or start bar, and it is ready to run.

Here is an article that explains the modifications to the Target line.


Disabling Unused Network Protocols

The ESS only needs UDP protocols contained in the TCP/IPv4 protocol.   All other protocols may be disabled on the Ethernet Adapter interface, and it may increase the performance of your PC.

Open the Network Connections folder, and then right click on your adapter dedicated your SmoothStepper.  Click on Properties.



In the Network Properties window, leave Internet Protocol Version 4(TCP/IPv4) checked.  Then uncheck all of the protocols and services in the window.





Disabling Ethernet Adapter Power Management

This is how to prevent windows from randomly putting your Ethernet Adapter to sleep (and ruining your job).

  1. In Control Panel -> Device Manager, select your Ethernet Adapter and open its properties:


2. UNCHECK Allow the computer to turn off this device:



Adjusting Virtual Memory and Other Improvements

Regardless of how much Physical Memory (RAM) your PC has, windows will use Virtual Memory, which is just empty space on your hard drive.  Normally Windows allocates a small amount of space on your drive, and grows it over time as the operating system needs to transfer more and more program information there from your Physical Memory.  Expanding and contracting the size of Virtual Memory takes time and can cause communication errors between Mach and the SmoothStepper along with other random slowness or non-responsiveness.  To solve this we will modify the Initial and Maximum amount of Virtual Memory available, so they are the same, and much larger than what Windows normally provides.   This procedure is for Windows 7, but the other versions of windows will be very similar.

1. Open the Control Panel and then click on All Control Panel Items -> Performance Information and Tools

VM 1

2. Click on Adjust Visual Effects, and then check Adjust for best performance


3. Then click on the Advanced tab, and select best performance for Programs


4. Now click on Change, and select Custom Size.  I used 29000 on one drive and 5000 on my second drive.  You will typically have just a single drive to chose from. For drives where you don't have much space left, I would recommend 12,000 MB.  If you have plenty of space on the hard drive (or SSD), I would recommend 20,000 MB or 32,000 MB.


5. Press Set, then press OK.  Don't reboot just yet even though you are being prompted to do so.

6. Go back to "Performance Information and Tools", and then click on "Adjust Indexing Options".



7. Now click on Modify, and UNCHECK all to stop indexing from running.



8. Go back to "Performance Information and Tools", and then click on "Adjust Power Settings", and then choose "High Performance". Then click on Change Plan Settings to the right of High Performance:


9.  Set both to Never. Then Click on Change Advanced Power Settings Just below there:


10. Now set as shown in the following picture (you will need to scroll up and down or use the arrow keys to move up and down through the list):



11. Press "Okay" and then restart the computer for all of the settings to take effect.



Optimizing your PC

If you are having issues where you are loosing communications with your SmoothStepper, your PC may be causing the issue. These steps have resolved slow/overburdened PC issues for many SmoothStepper users, and have helped to prevent the creation of scrap:

  1. Make sure your GCode that you are running, is on your PC's hard drive.  It should not be ran from a network location, USB flash drive, external hard drive, or CD/DVD.  These other data sources can have significant lag times or go to sleep, which can cause a job to fail!
  2. Make sure your computer is disconnected from the internet (it prevents programs from updating).
  3. Don't surf the net while running Mach.
  4. Don't play music,videos or games while running Mach.
  5. Close your CAD and CAM software while running Mach.
  6. Close all other software while running Mach.
  7. Don't switch screens in Mach3 while running a job (this can sometimes cause enough lag to drop the connection).
  8. Make sure that you have restarted your PC recently (if it has been a few days, it is probably time to restart).
  9. Make sure your computer is not trying to do a Windows Update (Set it to notify you when an update is available for download).
  10. Make sure your PC is not trying to automatically defrag your hard drives. 
  11. Make sure your PC is not trying to automatically scan for viruses. 
  12. Make sure your network adapter is not allowed to go to sleep.
  13. Make sure your hard drives are not allowed to go to sleep.
  14. Make sure your PC is not allowed to go to sleep.
  15. Make sure your monitors are not allowed to go to sleep. 
  16. In Mach3, Menu -> Config -> General Config -> Lower Right Hand Corner (and then to the left one column) is Screen Control.  Make sure that Hi-Res Screens are NOT checked.

Now here are some actions you should take:

  1. Run your PC's Disk cleanup utility.  It can sometimes remove GBs of useless information from your hard drive.
  2. CCleaner is a free for personal use utility which will clean out temporary files and folders and also clean up your registry (help with startup time (a bit).  This was much more necessary with XP.
  3. Defrag your mechanical hard drive(s) if you have not done that recently.  This is not needed with a solid state drive (SSD).
  4. If your hard drive is almost full, adding in another hard drive for data, or upgrading it to a SSD drive may help.  Regular mechanical hard drives work just fine (as long as they are not full).  However, the SSD makes boot times and load times so much faster, that we only run SSDs on my computers now.
  5. Go into power options and make sure the processor is set to stay at 100%.  A few PCs even have an additional 'Intel SpeedStep' setting in BIOS.
  6. Uninstall the Apple and Adobe update utilities, if they exist.  They can peg out your processor long enough to disrupt the ESS.
  7. For Windows XP:  If you have 2GB of RAM or less, it would help significantly to get that up to 2 or 3 GB GB of RAM.  (With XP 32 bit, you can't use more than about 3.5 GB of RAM no matter how much you have installed.)  For Windows 7 and newer:  If you have 4GB of RAM or less, it would probably help significantly to get that up to 6 or 8 GB of RAM.



  1. Adjust your Virtual Memory, for better performance.
  2. Disable the WiFi Adapter while running Mach.  Do you have a second Ethernet adapter or a WiFi Adapter on this PC? If so, you should disable them or shut them off before you run a program.
  3. Turn off your Antivirus when running Mach.  Are you running any Anti-Virus programs or a Firewall other than Windows Firewall? If so, you should shut them off.
  4. Close all other programs on your PC when running Mach, especially CAD and CAM software.  Are your Running any CAD or CAM programs at the same time as Mach3 or Mach4? If so, you should shut them down before you run Mach, since they can consume a lot of RAM.
  5. Make sure you disable unused network protocols.





Weird Windows Issues

When something weird happens with Windows 10 (I know, I know you would say such a thing could never happen...) here are some things to try:


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