So, you've just built your gaming computer and you wish to get a head start by doing whatever you can to There are a few little tips and tricks you can use to improve the performance of your PC for both general applications and gaming performance which we’ll look at here. You don’t need to apply all of the following, and some you won’t want to out of personal preference, but they’re all worth considering if you want the fastest PC possible.
1. Clean Your HDDs
When you first use a hard drive, it’s completely clean and access speed will be at their peak. As you grow along with your drive, and start dumping more and more data on there, things start to slow down.
In order to regain the faster access speed your drive had when it was clean and new, there’s a few things you can do. You can perform what’s called a Defragmentation, you can delete older files and data that you don’t need, and you can uninstall any applications you no longer use.
In Windows 10, uninstalling a program you don’t want anymore is as simple as going to the Start menu and right-clicking on the application you want to nuke and click Uninstall. It’s recommended to keep your system as lean and mean as you can.
2. Keep Your Operating System Current
It’s a good idea to always update your operating system whenever there is a new update, as sometimes a new version can give you a little boost in either general or actual gaming performance. Your system should let you know automatically whenever there's a new update to download.
3. Use Windows' High Performance Power Plan
In Windows 10 under Power Options from the Control Panel you’ll see an option to click on “Show Additional Plans”. By default your system is set to the Balanced power option which reduces power to non-essential components when they’re not being utilized.
If you select “High Performance” your computer will use more power, however it’ll run at its peak performance all the time which could make a difference to you especially when you’re on a productivity streak and every little millisecond counts.
This is only recommended for desktops and not laptops for the most part as they will likely produce quite a bit more heat under this setting, unless your laptop has some seriously capable cooling.
Keeping GPU Drivers Current
Now to the good stuff of increasing gaming performance. The first thing you should do when looking to specifically maximize performance in your games is to always stay up to date with the latest drivers for your particular graphics card by downloading them from the manufacturer’s site whenever there is an update.
Updating drivers for your other components isn’t really important at all, and not even recommended in some cases, but graphics card drivers are a different beast.
NVidia and AMD are always striving to better the effectiveness of their GPUs, and when they release new drivers for their cards you should pay attention; they’re not just there to fix little bugs or add small features you’d never need to know about.
New drivers are also developed by manufacturers to specifically increase performance in games.
Linus Tech Tips, the famous YouTuber hardware channel (check them out for solid information), once tested the real-world gaming performance of a certain graphics card against five different driver versions over a four year period.
The results were pretty astounding considering it’s the same graphics card with only different drivers, and even though you won’t get the same significant increases every time you update, it’s proof of the importance of staying current with GPU drivers. Across the various driver updates they found a huge 30% increase in performance in The Witcher 3, and a 10% increase in other games.
To download the latest drivers either go to the NVidia or AMD site and search for your specific card model and operating system. Some cards will automatically notify you with a pop-up whenever a new driver is available.
Don’t go to the actual third-party manufacturer of your card such as EVGA, ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, etc. Restart your PC after they’re installed and depending on the title you may get a few extra frames per seconds here or there. It all adds up!
As well as checking for the latest drivers for your GPU, you may want to check if your actual game has released an update patch, which could also help performance.
Games bought via Steam will be updated automatically (cheers Gabe), otherwise you’ll want to check the website of the game or game developer.
Balancing Gaming Resolution vs Performance
If you’re not happy with the performance you’re getting in a particular game, the biggest difference you could make to significantly bump up your frames per second count and make the game a lot smoother would be to lower the resolution.
This is a trade-off of course, as the game won’t look as crisp and high-quality in lower resolutions, but you might be the type of gamer who doesn’t mind and prefers to have real smooth gameplay over high-quality visuals.
Just remember when doing so to change the resolution in the in-game settings and not on your desktop. Have a play with different resolutions and see what you think. However, you don’t need to lower resolution to crank out some extra performance if you compromise on the in-game visual settings and effects instead.
Tweaking In-Game Settings
Adjusting different in-game settings and effects will have varying degrees of change on your frames per second. The first setting to look for and test is AA (Anti-aliasing). AA is used to smooth out jagged edges and lines and make the graphics smoother and more realistic, however it can take a real toll on your graphics card.
In your game settings there should be a slider you can adjust, or simply a number to select such as 2x, 4x, etc. Test your performance by disabling AA altogether and see how that goes, and then gradually slide up the setting until you find the best balance of graphics quality and performance.
Some gamers who don’t care as much about graphics won’t even notice too much difference between AA on or off, so in that case just turn it off if you want the fastest performance possible for that game.
Of course, if it’s a non-demanding game or you have very good hardware that can handle it, just leave AA on as that game supports it as it does look better.
After playing with the AA, it’s up to you which other settings you test as it’s different for each game, but have a play around and try to strike a nice balance so you can consistently get over 40-50 FPS with 60 being ideal.
Some settings to look out for are lighting and shadow effects which can grind your GPU to a screeching halt in some games. You can use FRAPS or other monitoring software to check your frames per second while gaming.
Gaming Optimization Software
This is another option you have to potentially gain some more of those golden frames per second, but results will vary and you shouldn’t expect a crazy amount of difference.
However it’s worth a shot if you’re addicted to your FPS counter and small increases makes you one happy gamer.
A popular, free option is Razer’s Cortex application, which works by managing and killing processes and apps you have running in the background while you play your favorite game, which could very well help performance.
You could achieve the same or similar results by tinkering around in your system if you know what you’re doing, but a program like this does the work for you and is quite convenient.
Windows also has its own optimization software tools but a program like Cortex would render them unnecessary too.
Overclocking Your Hardware Components
We’ve left this ‘till last because we only suggest it to those who are willing to put in the time to understand what they’re getting into to do it properly.
Overclocking has potential downsides, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing and just aimlessly play around with it. The worst case is you damage or destroy your components.
But done safely and correctly, overclocking your CPU and/or your graphics card can most definitely improve gaming performance to crank out those extra frames per second.
The graphics card would be the first component to look at if you want to increase gaming performance as it has a bigger effect on frames per second than your CPU does.
To overclock your graphics card you can either do so directly in the graphics card driver software itself, or via third-party overclocking software.
As for the CPU, you can overclock your CPU in the BIOS. You could also overclock RAM there too if you really wanted.
Discussing overclocking further is beyond the scope of this guide, but it’s worth considering if you care about getting the absolute most out of your hardware and you’re willing to take on the slight risks involved.
Learn more with all our overclocking guides for beginners, but don't think that you NEED to overclock anything at all just 'cause you can and just 'cause it's simple. I'd only really suggest it if you have patience as it's not really something you just do once in 30 minutes, and set and forget it. It can take a lot of time to do safely and properly, so only look into it if it's genuinely interesting to you.
A hobbyist game programmer turned hardware enthusiast, Julien "cyberjulz" is the founder of BGC and has kept a keen eye on the latest in DIY gaming ever since starting BGC back in '06 as an almost laughably-basic and brief 20 page site with the aim to make building PCs more accessible to the average gamer since most resources weren't too noob friendly. Over countless reinventions and reiterations to the quality, depth and usefulness of the content over many years the site has steadily grown into the expansive, comprehensive and ever-updated first-time PC builder resource that it is today that now reaches and helps thousands of gamers and power users each month to more easily plan optimal setups for their exact needs. You can learn more about the BGC mission and ways to support it here.
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