If your gaming computer's starting to feel a bit sluggish when you're playing your favourite titles, it can be quite distracting. Choppy or intermittent video and gameplay can be frustrating, and spoil everyone’s enjoyment. But what can you do about it?
Upgrading the hardware is always an option, but you might not have the budget available. Fortunately, we're here to help with some tips to help you get the best performance from your gaming rig, without having to spend a penny. Not one.
It might sound obvious, but making sure Windows is completely up to date is the first step to keep your system running smoothly. Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Windows 10 should check for updates and install them automatically. You might have to restart your computer to finish installing them.
If there quite a few updates waiting to be installed, it might be worth checking for updates and restarting a bit more often.
While we're on the subject of updates, it's a good idea to check if your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit, or graphics card) drivers and software are the latest versions. It's the most important component in your gaming rig and works best when its drivers are up to date.
Before you start, you’ll need to know which graphics card you’re using. If you built it yourself, you’d probably know what components are in there, and if you bought it new, you could check the documentation supplied. If you’re still not sure, your computer can tell you.
Go to Start > Settings > System > Display > Display adapter properties. Make a note of the ‘Adapter type’ shown in the panel. To update the drivers, you’ll need to go to the manufacturer’s website:
Run their tool to install the drivers automatically or download them manually. You’ll have to restart your computer after you’ve done the updates.
After making sure you’ve got the latest GPU drivers installed, you can tweak a few settings to help improve your rig’s performance. Framerate is the most significant factor in smooth graphics and tells you how many frames, or images, are shown per second. Higher FPS (frames per second) figures should mean more fluid gameplay.
You’ll need to open the GPU’s software to find the settings. Look in the ‘Gaming’ menu in AMD’s Catalyst software, and NVIDIA GPU users should look in the ‘Manage 3D Settings’ section.
You’ll find several settings that control how much detail is drawn in each frame. Minor changes here can have a major impact on how hard the GPU has to work. Less surface detail to fill in means the image is rendered faster, giving a higher framerate.
Try tweaking with the Antialiasing (which smooths jagged lines on straight edges) and Texture filtering (which sharpens surface textures) settings first. They’re likely to give you the greatest improvement for small changes in the settings, but it’s worth taking your time to find the best balance for you, based on the games you play.
Tweaking the global (system-wide) GPU settings can give good results, but any changes you make apply to every game. Revisiting them each time you want to change game is likely to get repetitive at worst, and annoying at best.
Changing similar options within games themselves has two clear advantages. It’ll help ease the pressure on the graphics card (hooray, more FPS) with the added bonus that you can tweak them individually for each game. They’re often easier to navigate through too.
Just as with the main GPU settings, reducing things like texture quality and antialiasing can give you significant framerate gains, without making too much of a difference to your overall enjoyment. Again, small change-and-test cycles work best.
Gamers know that it’s the graphics card that delivers the immersive visuals, but if you’ve got a lot of other apps open and using resources, you won’t get the best performance from your game. They often load in the background when you start your computer, using processing power and memory that could be put to better use.
There are a couple of ways you can deal with them – prevent them from starting or remove them from your system.
Many apps and programs start when Windows is booted, but do you need them to? Probably not. If you don’t use them every time you use your computer, you’d be better off opening an app when you need it, not having it running “just in case”.
Right-click on the taskbar and click Task Manager.
Choose the Startup tab.
Highlight an enabled item in the list, right-click then pick Disable.
Make any other changes, restart the computer.
Make sure you don’t disable essential things like your antivirus, or programs that you use regularly, and if you change your mind you can re-enable them.
Another way of launching programs when the computer starts is to place a shortcut in the Windows Startup folder. There are folders for each user as well as a common one for all users.
Press Win+R to open a Run box, then type one of these commands and click OK to open the folder:
Delete any shortcuts you see in the folders to prevent the apps from launching – unless they’re useful.
Most new computers come with quite a few apps already installed. Sometimes they’re free to use, sometimes they’ll be limited trial versions of premium apps. Sometimes you won’t want to use them at all, in which case you can uninstall them and move on with your life.
Most software can be uninstalled from the desktop. Open the Start menu and find the app you’d like to remove. Right-click its name, then Uninstall.
Some apps or programs might not show in the Start menu, so you’ll need to look a little deeper. Go to Start > Settings > Apps > Apps & features. Click an app to see information about it, then Uninstall to remove it.
Don’t forget to restart your computer when you’ve finished.
It seems counter-intuitive to make some things worse to make the whole thing better, but when we’re talking about graphics settings, it really comes down to this one factor: By not rendering quite so much detail, the GPU can draw more frames per second, making the graphics smoother. Which is why we’re here.
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