PC Gaming is not Plug & Play
There is an ongoing debate between PC and Console gamers on what platform is the best for gaming. Truth is that both have their advantages and disadvantages which should be taken into consideration before deciding what to buy. A few months back, I wrote a post on the main differences between consoles (Xbox, PS4) and PC.
You can check it out HERE.
As far as computer gaming is concerned, there are many more things that have to be taken into account before going to Steam or Origin and launching your favorite game. Besides the procedure of assembling your gaming PC and installing your operating system, you need to devote a couple of hours to install your programs and make sure that everything is working the way you like it. If you are the type of person who prefers to jump right into your favorite game, you might reconsider your choice to become part of the PC “Master race” as the PC gaming community is being called because computers need tweaking and adjusting.
In this post, I will give you specific guidelines and steps on how to optimize your computer for your gaming sessions so that you will encounter as few problems as possible when playing your favorite games. By optimization, I mean both enhancing performance and optimizing some parameters that you maybe not aware of.
With no further delay, let us start with 10 fundamental steps on how to optimize your Pc for gaming:
1. Update your OS, BIOS, and Drivers
This first step is essential and can improve your gaming experience substantially. Whether you are satisfied with your computer’s gaming performance or not, you should always check if any new Windows updates are available for download and installation. Windows updates contain bug fixes which can lead to fewer crashes and better FPS.
The BIOS is the “brain” of your motherboard responsible for the communication between your different PC parts. A newer BIOS version contains bug fixes like better Memory compatibility or an updated Microcode dealing with security vulnerabilities. If you encounter problems with frequent keyboard or mouse disconnections, consider updating your BIOS, as it might be the answer to your problem.
How to update your BIOS
If you own a custom gaming PC, chances are that you own a motherboard by one of the major motherboard manufacturers like ASUS, MSI, GIGABYTE or ASROCK. Head over to their website, type in your motherboard’s name and look for BIOS updates. Pop in a USB flash drive, download the latest BIOS file and save it to your flash drive. Afterward, restart your PC and get into your BIOS interface. (On my MSI board, I do that by constantly clicking on “Delete” until the BIOS interface pops up) Different motherboards have different keys that grant you access to the BIOS.
Most of the time it is F2, F8, F12 or the “Delete” button. (Google it, if you are not sure how to do that). Once you enter the interface with your flash drive connected you need to tell your computer to boot from the flash drive. MSI has a feature called M-Flash which reboots the PC and lets you access the USB files. The other manufacturers should have a similar feature. The interfaces are similar with a few alterations here and there. Once you have booted into your USB files, select your BIOS version and click “Install”. If for some reason, your file is compressed, you need to uncompress it first. Once selected, let it do its magic.
It is important not to interrupt the BIOS update procedure or you could severely mess up your motherboard.
Once it is done, re-enter your BIOS and check if the latest version has been installed. Log into your operating system and you are good to go.
Driver updates are important for the functionality of your computer. Make sure to regularly check whether new driver updates are available on your motherboard’s website and install them. Apart from the driver updates related to your motherboard, there are additional updates which need to be installed. There are some great free driver update utilities you can use to check if new driver updates are available. I recommend those two:
To be honest, I use both of them as one seems to compliment the other. Instead of manually searching for updates, these programs make your life much easier and let you update drivers and locate missing drivers with a click of a button.
2. Keep your GPU driver up-to-date
The reason why I did not include this step above, is because the GPU driver is what lets your GPU function properly. Without a GPU driver, your Pc does not recognize that you have a GPU installed. The GPU is the most important component when it comes to gaming and keeping your driver up-to-date is essential. A newer driver version is always better optimized than the previous one and can give you, on some occasions, even a 10 fps increase.
You should always use Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) to uninstall your previous driver before installing the new one. What DDU does is ensuring that no traces such as registry files are left behind from the previous driver and that your latest driver is being installed from scratch. In case files are left behind, it could cause problems like driver crashes or performance issues.
DDU is free to use and can be downloaded HERE.
After opening the program it prompts you to get into Safe Mode. Enter safe mode by following these steps (only for Windows 10):
- Right-click on your Windows icon.
- Click on “Run”
- Type in “msconfig”
- Click on “Pc Startup”
- Click on the tab “Safe Mode”
- Click “Apply and “OK”
After entering safe mode, open up DDU and click on “Clean up and Restart”. This deletes all the files from your previous driver and reboots the PC. Next step is to install your latest downloaded driver.
3. Install Windows 10
If you are still on Windows 8.1 or 7, it is time to upgrade. The latest Windows patch rolled out on 30th of April further improves the Windows experience. Windows 10 is the only operating system supporting Direct X 12 which will be the main API for future games. Moreover, support for Windows 7 has been ditched by Microsoft and you should never use an operating system that is not fully supported by Microsoft due to safety issues. Windows 10 is a platform which operates as a service getting continuous fixes and improvements. Consider it only getting better over time. You can even download and install Windows 10 for free.
4. Do NOT use Windows 10 Game Mode
While Windows 10 game mode is good for low-end gaming hardware like casual laptops which lets you prioritize your laptop’s resources to the game you are currently playing, Game Mode for desktop gaming computers is unnecessary and can cause small performance drops and even implications while gaming like unexpected crashes. Turning it off along with features like Game DVR, True play and Xbox support will only be beneficial.
5. Set your power settings to “High Performance”
This is something that many gamers forget to do. Setting your power setting to High Performance will tell your PC to constantly strive for the best performance possible. The pre-selected power setting is “Balanced” which is adjusted to save power wherever possible. Change this by clicking on “Settings”< “Power Settings< “High Performance”.
Also, make sure to completely remove hibernation mode as it can negatively impact your gaming experience and set up your screen to never go black. Hibernation mode and your screen going black to save power are primary reasons which can lead to frustrating game crashes. Both of these can be found under “Power Settings”.
6. Delete your Temporary and Prefetch files
The first thing I do when I open my PC is deleting my Temporary and Prefetch files. To do that right click on the Windows 10 Icon, click on “Run” and type in “prefetch”, “%temp%” and “temp”. Delete the files. Note that your operating system will not allow you to delete all of them. That is perfectly fine. Having too many temporary files can affect your gaming experience and performance and deleting them regularly will have a positive impact. I recommend doing it either daily or once a week at least.
7. Clean up unnecessary files with CCleaner
CCleaner is an excellent free-to-use utility deleting unnecessary files from your computer. It even takes care of registry files left behind by programs you uninstalled. It is the only third-party program I recommend you use to remove junk files from your PC. Besides CCleaner, you should also periodically delete unnecessary files from your hard drive or SSD drive (depends on where you have installed your Windows). Click on “My Computer”, select the drive where your Windows are installed, click on “Properties”< “Clean Disk”. This will delete all junk files. This built-in feature is especially useful after a Windows update, as it allows you to free up space occupied by previous Windows files.
Download CCleaner by clicking on this link.
8. Overclock your computer
In case you are not familiar with overclocking, it basically pushes your hardware beyond factory (stock) settings yielding additional free performance out of your components. The only components worth overclocking are the CPU and GPU. RAM can be overclocked but it is not recommended to be done manually as performances differences are minimal. Only overclock your memory by enabling the XMP profile in the BIOS letting it operate at the rated frequency. XMP stands for “Extreme Memory Profile”, a feature introduced by Intel enabling your memory to run at the tested frequency by the manufacturer.
GPU and CPU overclocking needs to be done manually and requires time and knowledge. It is not dangerous as long as you know what you are doing.
If you want to know how to safely overclock your CPU, click here.
If you want to know how to safely overclock your GPU, click here.
9. Give your Gaming PC a proper cleaning
Cleaning your PC on a regular basis ensures that your PC stays nice and cool even under high room temperatures and heavy gaming. Gaming can raise your computer’s temperature significantly and dust accumulation will only make the situation worse. Make sure to give your PC a proper cleaning at least every 3 months in order to remove dust and improve airflow. Dust is #1 reason that leads to high temperatures which can drastically reduce the lifespan of your hardware. Besides the long-term damage, it can also lead to game crashes due to accumulated heat. Power delivery from your power supply can be affected, too and your GPU might not function properly due to bad airflow. All in all, make sure that dust is being removed from time to time to extend the lifespan of your computer.
10. Upgrading components
If none of the above-mentioned steps do the trick, it probably comes down to insufficient or damaged hardware. In the first scenario, you should either do a damage check yourself if you know your way around a computer or give it to a knowledgeable friend or technician. If there is nothing wrong with your existing components but you still do not see your desired framerates, upgrading your GPU or CPU should be the way to go. If your system is more than 5-7 years old you may even consider building a new PC from scratch. If your system is relatively new, focus on upgrading your graphics card which will give you the best performance increase as your GPU has the biggest impact on gaming performance. In case you have a strong GPU but framerates are not where they should be, maybe your CPU is the bottleneck and you should upgrade it.
In case you want to know what a bottleneck is, how you can measure it and what you can do about it, click on this link.
As you can see, it is not easy to determine the source of the problem with computers. Even activities like gaming require a lot of patience and many things need to be taken into account when trying to get the best gaming performance possible. These 10 steps on how to optimize your computer for gaming are just guidelines and need to be executed individually. I can assure you that you will see an improvement when gaming after implementing 9 out of the 10 steps.
Upgrading your components is obligatory only if none of the above will work. 90% of gamers will see major improvements only by updating their BIOS and GPU driver. If you are already doing all the above steps, kudos to you, as you know a great number of things about computers. These are the steps I use and many times I forget about them, so having a guide like this really helps me and I thought it may be able to help you, too.
I hope that you found my guide useful. Feel free to leave a comment down below, if you want to contribute your ideas on how to optimize a computer’s gaming performance.
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