Now that Microsoft’s operating system, Windows 10, has been out for a few years, we don’t have many of the driver and compatibility problems that we once experienced back when it first released. Now, everything is compatible with Windows 10, including both hardware and software. For gamers, Windows 10 is definitely the best option out there, but gaming performance in Windows 10 isn’t always the best, despite Microsoft supposedly doubling down on providing the best experience for gamers.
But have no fear. With just a little work on your part, you can optimize gaming performance in Windows 10 for your gaming laptop so you can get the best frame rates with the highest settings possible on your laptop or desktop, for that matter. Are you ready to up your gaming experience to an entirely new level? If so, then follow the tips below so you can get more out of your games.
1. Check Your Hardware
This is the first step that any computer owner needs to do before you purchase your first game. Unfortunately, not all computer hardware is up to the task of gaming. In some cases, you will find that some games will run on your hardware while others are just too much for it to handle. So, it pays to know what you are dealing with. Onboard graphics are usually out of the question, unless you are looking to only play older titles, in which case these should work just fine. If you want to play modern AAA titles, make sure you have the hardware required to run it, or you won’t have a good experience and no amount of optimization will make a damn bit of difference.
2. Update All Software and Drivers
When gaming, you need to ensure that you have the latest and greatest versions of all the software and drivers on your machine. This includes the drivers for your graphics card, the latest Windows updates, and even DirectX 12. Before you start your first game, run every update you can find from all the different stores and systems you connect to. This could include Windows updates, your Steam Store libraries, and more. Once this is complete, double check your graphics drivers and chipset drivers to make sure you have the latest versions of everything. While this won’t always help, often the latest versions allow you to squeeze just a little more performance out of your existing hardware.
3. Disable Automatic Updates
I know, I know. I almost always recommend keeping automatic updates on, and with good reason. After all, you want your system to have the latest and greatest updates so all the best bug fixes and most recent security patches are available to you as soon as possible. However, by using automatic updates, that means that occasionally it will fire off and run while you are gaming. In fact, chances are it will download at least some of the update while you are playing. By turning off automatic updates, you can eliminate this potential resource hog on your system. But, if you do turn them off, be sure you check for updates regularly and run any that are available, otherwise you could be opening your machine up to potential security threats.
4. Set Your Power Options
By default, there is a good chance that your power settings are configured in a balanced mode. This is especially true if you have a laptop. However, balanced power modes attempt to balance how much power you draw versus how much processing power you have. While that’s great in theory, it doesn’t work out too well for gamers. The first thing you should do when you setup your laptop is change these settings in favor of performance. To do this, type Control Panel into your Cortana search bar and then search for Power options. Once there, change your plan to High performance. From there, you are welcome to tweak it even more if you truly want to get the most out of your system. Just remember this will increase the amount of electricity you use and impact your battery life (sometimes drastically) if you are using a laptop.
5. Disable Nagle’s Algorithm
Nagle’s algorithm is interesting, as it bundles data packets to improve your Internet connection. Now, you may think better connection means better online gaming, right? Wrong! When you are playing games online, Nagle’s algorithm actually can cause latency issues while you are playing. If you’ve ever played online games, you know that latency can mean death. Before you play, disable this algorithm to improve latency. Go to Start > type regedit > Regedit. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters\Interfac. From there, match your IP address to one in the list. You can verify your address by going to WIN KEY + X > Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center > Connections > Details > IPv4 Address. Right-click on the folder and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Then, create two DWORD Values: name one TcpAckFrequency and the other TCPNoDelay. Finally, double-click on each one and set their parameters to 1. You may want to reboot after you make this change although it isn’t always necessary.
6. Reduce Background Apps
So many apps like to keep running in the background these days. It’s almost gotten out of hand. I mean, do you really need every app you own running something in the background just so it’s one or two seconds faster the next time you launch it? I think not. Go through all your applications and disable any settings that allow it to run in the System Tray or run in the background. This will free up some very important CPU processing power as well as give you more room in your RAM to process that high end game you plan on launching.
7. Cleanup Your Hard Drive
While this one may not seem all that important compared to others in this list, I promise you it is. Especially if you are trying to get every single bit of power out of your system for gaming. Begin by removing any files and applications that you don’t need. Once you have cleaned up all your files, run Disk Cleanup to get rid of any trash that may be sitting on your drive. After that, you may want to Defrag your drive just to be sure it’s running in the best shape possible. While it may only improve performance for you in a small way, every little bit helps and it doesn’t hurt to have a hard drive that’s lean, mean, and clean instead of fat, bloated and overloaded.
8. Enable Game Mode
Game Mode is a more recent feature added to Windows 10. While there are countless articles that go into detail about it, essentially what it does is disabled some background apps and processes automatically when you begin to game. The idea is this feature makes it easy to automatically disable what you don’t want running while you game so your games perform better on your PC. Now there have been tons of tests of this new feature, and I admit many of the results are mixed. In many cases, the boost you get is very minimal, but if you are a true gamer every little bit helps. Am I right? So why not make use of the feature. Assuming your computer supports it, all you have to do is press the Windows Key + G and turn on Gaming Mode. In many cases, the mode will turn on automatically for you as Windows detects you are playing a game. But in some cases, it won’t. So I would always double check to make sure it is running the first time you load a new game.
9. Disable Windows 10 Eye Candy
Windows 10 is a pretty operating system. Well, at least I think it is. I know some of you out there will disagree with me on that point. Still, what we can agree on is the fancy effects present in the user interface can take precious video and processor power away from you. But as a gamer, do you really need Windows to be pretty? I don’t think so. If you have a very high powered system, I probably wouldn’t worry about this one, but if you are like most gamers and have a system that’s getting a little dated or a budget system, every little bit helps. By disabling this eye candy, you can get more performance out of your system as these resources are free to process what really counts – your game! To disable these effects, type advanced settings in Cortana and then select advanced settings in the results. Click the Settings button under the Performance section of the Advanced tab. From here, you can let Windows choose for you or you can try the premade best performance option, or make one yourself.
10. Maintain Your Machine
This is one that so many people forget. In fact, many authors even forget it in their lists of computer performance optimization for gaming. But, it’s very important. Following this list isn’t just a one and done sort of thing. While a few of these you only have to do once, in most cases you will need to perform these steps on a regular basis in order to keep your machine in tip top shape. For example, over time, your hard drive will collect more junk and you will install more apps and save more files that you probably don’t need, resulting in a bloated hard drive. By regularly cleaning your system, you can make sure that it stays in the best shape possible for potentially years to come. By properly maintaining your system, you will also be able to more easily identify when you are having other hardware issues or speed bottlenecks, because you won’t have to worry about it simply being the result of a bunch of junk on your disk.
What About OverClocking?
Now you may have realized I didn’t mention anything about overclocking in this list. For the purposes of this list, I decided to include tweaks that anyone can do on their Windows 10 systems. The fact is not all systems are very good at overclocking, and not everyone has a lot of experience overclocking. And, if you do things wrong, you could damage your hardware. So I decided to leave out this option when you are customizing your system. But I do want to mention it as a potential option depending upon your hardware.
It’s easy to get a little more power out of systems today for gaming. While your mileage will vary, I’m willing to bet that following this list will get you at least a small performance improvement out of your system. Will you be able to double your frame rates? No. But in many cases the performance boost will be noticeable, even if it’s only in small ways.
What have you done to optimize the gaming performance in Windows 10 on your laptop or desktop? Did any of these suggestions work for you? Let me know your experience in the comments below.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.