Playing games on a laptop doesn’t have to be an exercise in frustration. In fact, with just a little effort on your part, you can actually create a gaming experience that is second to none and one that any gamer would be proud of. PC gaming is nothing like console gaming, however. Unlike consoles, PC’s can come in a huge range of shapes and sizes all supporting their own custom processor speeds, graphics cards, memory, and operating systems. Because of this, PC games come with many more options for customizing your experience and there are many different tweaks you can perform to your system to improve your gaming experience which is especially important when running a more modest budget gaming laptop.
While this is true on both desktops and laptops, it is even more important on a laptop. Laptops are not as easy to upgrade and, in many cases, some hardware is somewhat less powerful compared to the most recent desktop versions available. So, you won’t take a little extra time to carefully customize your gaming experience so you can play all your games with the best graphic settings possible that at the same time provide the smoothest and most fluid gameplay experiences available.
If you are looking to enhance your laptop gaming experience, just follow these easy steps below that are designed to help you cover all your bases when preparing your laptop for the next big game release that is on the way.
Know Your Hardware
If you are planning to be a gamer, you can no longer afford to just buy whatever laptop you want. You need to choose one specifically for gaming that has all the latest hardware such as high quality video cards, lots of memory and great displays. But beyond just buying the best, you need to learn and understand exactly what is inside your laptop’s sleek case. This will help you as you begin to load games onto your laptop as you can begin to understand exactly what works and doesn’t work with your hardware. You can also tell really quickly if a particular game will even work on your laptop so you don’t waste money on a game that simply won’t run on your setup.
Install the Latest Drivers
One of the easiest ways you can improve the performance of your games, and especially newly released ones, is to update your graphics drivers. To be honest, you should periodically check to see if there is a new driver for your video card if you are serious about gaming, as you should always run the latest drivers that will provide better compatibility and performance for your games.
NVIDIA Geforce Owners
Go to http://www.geforce.com/drivers and then search for your card. Be sure you select the right card to grab the latest drivers specifically for your card. If you want to be cutting edge, you could always try the driver marked beta. This driver isn’t quite finished, but it will be stable and will give you the very latest in tweaks from NVIDIA.
ATI Radeon Owners
Go to http://sites.amd.com/us/game/downloads/Pages/downloads.aspx and then select the appropriate device for your laptop. Then download and install the latest driver for your card. If you want to try the beta drivers, go to http://support.amd.com/en-us/kb-articles/Pages/latest-catalyst-windows-beta.aspx.
Intel HD Graphics Owners
While these cards aren’t the best for gaming, they will play many games. Go to the Intel Graphics Driver download page and pick up the driver for your card.
When installing new drivers, remember that if you have problems you can always roll back to a previous driver so you don’t worry about experimenting with even the beta drivers as you could quickly find that you will have even better performance.
Overclock Your Graphics Card
One of the simplest, and freest ways you can boost your gaming performance is by overclocking your graphics card. This allows you to get a little more power out of your card although it will produce more heat so you want to be sure you are using your laptop in an area where it can properly ventilate, otherwise it could overheat and shutdown.
All you need to overclock your GPU is a free tool that will handle the job for you. I recommend GPU Tweak from ASUS or the EVGA Precision X tool. These tools are free to download and install and make the overclocking process easy for even a graphics newbie. Once you overclock your card, load up your favorite game and give it a try and see what kind of performance boost you get. If you still need more, play with the overclocking settings a little more to find the perfect balance for your system.
Double Check Your Power Settings
When you are using a laptop, Windows has several different power options setup that are designed to provide you with improved performance when you are connected to a power source or using your battery. These settings are designed to switch automatically based on whether or not your plug in the power cable for your laptop. Sometimes, however, this switch never happens. This means that your laptop ends up running on the more power friendly even when you are plugged into the wall. These settings are more power efficient but not quite as fast as it throttles things like your processor in order to make sure it uses less power.
If you find your gaming performance isn’t quite what it usually is, check here first by going to Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Power Options. Once there click on “Change settings that are currently unavailable” to gain access to the full range of Windows power settings and be sure everything is set to full power. This will give you the best performance with your hardware.
Tweak the Settings of Your Game
Every PC game allows you to tweak various settings on it so you can adjust it to perform the very best it can on your system. It is quite staggering how many different options are actually available to you in each game, so it is worth taking a closer look at the custom video settings in each game before you dive in and start playing. Experiment with these settings to see what works best for your system. Ideally, you want to find the perfect balance between how the game looks and how it plays on your system. This balance can be a delicate one, but once you find it, you will find the games often look better on your computer and play much more smoothly as well.
Shutdown Applications Running in the Background
Windows is notorious for allowing applications to run in the background taking up valuable system resources that could better be used by the games you choose to play. While Windows 8 has improved this function, you can still find a wide array of applications running even after you initially boot up your system. Using the task manager, figure out what is running in the background that you are not using and kill it. This will free up those valuable resources for your game to use while you play. Be careful, though. Some processes are needed for Windows to function so before you kill a process make sure it isn’t something that is critical for Windows to operate. If you do accidentally close a process that is needed, Windows could begin acting a little strange or crash altogether. If that happens, just reboot and the problem should fix itself.
Try New Mods
One of the best features that is available on PC games is the ability to mod the game. These mods do a variety of things including adding new elements to the gameplay environment, altering the goals of your gameplay, and even more simple mods that improve the functionality of the game’s menu systems. If there is something about the game you are playing that you don’t like, just do a quick search of the Internet to see if there is a mod to fix it for you.
A word of caution, though. While mods can truly enhance your gameplay experience, you need to be careful when you use them and take the time to learn exactly how to use them with your game. Sometimes, a misbehaving mod can break your game entirely so you need to know how to remove it later if you find that it isn’t helping enhance your experience.
Add Gaming Hardware
When playing games on your laptop, you need to keep in mind that you don’t have to use the keyboard and trackpad. That’s why you have USB ports after all. There are tons of gaming specific keyboards, mice and even controllers that can improve your gameplay experience on your laptop. Some games, for example, just play better using a gamepad. For your PC, we recommend the Xbox 360 controller as it is truly one of the very best controllers ever designed for gaming and it works flawlessly with your PC. Sometimes, all you need are the right tools for the job and picking up a few extra pieces of equipment for when you game can go a long way toward enhancing your gaming experience.
Upgrade Your System
While laptops aren’t nearly as upgradable as their desktop counterparts, there are still upgrade options available to you to improve your gaming performance. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to upgrade laptops video card or processor, where you would see the biggest performance boost, but you can do something about your computers memory and hard drive. One of the easiest upgrades you can perform is adding memory to your system. Look at the specs for your laptop and consider maxing out the amount of RAM in it to give your games more to work with while you are playing.
Another upgrade you should consider is installing an SSD. A solid state drive is much faster than its traditional cousins although unless you are prepared to really spend a lot of money, they are nowhere near the size. For gaming, I recommend installing an SSD Drive that is at least 250 GB. Many games take up quite a bit of space today so you will need one of the larger hard drives. Installing one of these drives can really change your gaming experience making it load much faster than you ever thought possible. If you still need more space for your movies, music, etc., trying taking your old drive and putting it into an external enclosure that will connect with a USB cable so you don’t lose out on that extra space. Just be sure you keep all your games and Windows, of course, installed on the SSD for the best performance.
Creating the perfect laptop gaming experience really isn’t as difficult as it sounds. All it takes is a little knowledge about computers and, more specifically, your computer and the games you plan on playing. If you still aren’t happy with your game experience, there are still options available to you to upgrade and improve your laptop with the goal of enhancing our gameplay experience.
With just a little time and effort on your part, you can tweak your system and then, in turn, each and every game you play to provide the very best gaming experience each time you load it up for an intense gaming session. While these tweaks do take a little time, in the long run I think you will find that they are totally worth it as your games will not only look better on your laptop screen, but they will also play better so you can truly take your gaming experience to an entirely new level using your laptop.