11 Steps to Better Gaming Performance on Your PC
It’s heart breaking when you spend a big wad of money on a new PC upgrade only to realise that it’s out of date and underpowered by the time the following year’s big name games come out. Yes, we’re talking about PC games and how it’s a constant battle to keep up with the times.
Still, you are here because you are a faithful PC gamer, and you would rather fight to get all you can out of your PC rather than throw in the towel and be assimilated by the console market. This guide not only serves to help you get an idea of what you have to do to squeeze out as much performance as your PC allows, but it might even help you get a game that previously didn’t work… to work.
Update your GPU drivers
This is about the first thing you should do. You should first remove older drivers properly and then install new ones. Don’t have two different drivers on the same system as this can cause conflicts, which might give you added trouble.
I remember years ago I couldn’t get past the first section of BioShock, and after I went to Nvidia’s website and downloaded the latest drivers (which were even advertised to work with BioShock), the game worked flawlessly.
Download and install patches
If it isn’t something on your end, then it’s likely something the game developers have to rectify, so make sure to notify them and they will hopefully address the issue in an update, maybe even including an upgrade in performance. Some games can be quite buggy on release, and a drop in framerate can easily be caused by plain bad leaky level design and/or programming.
You can try to overclock your CPU or GPU. There’s often software that comes with your graphics card that you can use to do this, like the ATI CCC, or Catalyst Control Centre. Otherwise there are plenty of free tuners out there, but only ever use one. It’s best to not overdo it. If you are going to pursue this route, at least make sure you have enough cooling, like fans and/or watercooling systems.
Do maintenance on your HDD
I once read that you can have the best rig in the world, and it can all be let down by a hard drive that isn’t functioning at it’s best. Make sure to uninstall programs, defragment your HDD from time to time, and maybe even consider a reformat.
I’ve noticed that games tend to run a lot smoother with a new or at least clean hard drive. Registry cleaning isn’t recommended in most cases. The benefit from doing it is negligible.
Clean out your case
Dust gathers inside your PC case over time, and this causes your PC to overheat, and this can create issues with games. I've experienced CTDs (crash to desktop), black screens, and more.
It's recommended you clean it out every now and again. You can do this with a few cotton buds, an anti-static cloth, and some compressed air in a can. Just make sure to power off, unplug, and leave the PC to cool for a while. Be very careful handling compressed air. It should be done in a well-ventilated area and you should never jack around with the stuff. Also wear a mask and try not to breathe in the fumes.
Close unnecessary applications
Make sure to shut down all programs you don’t plan on using. Playing a game while antivirus software is running in the background is going to have an effect on the game, especially if it’s something like Norton which uses up a lot of resources.
After closing all other programs, you might consider running something like Speeditup! which supposedly frees up memory or reallocates it, similar to defragmentation. More available system memory typically means better performance, especially during load times, and the game will run smoother overall.
Create a RAM disk
I haven't attempted this, but what a RAM disk basically is, is a virtual harddrive that runs from RAM. RAM disks are said to make a system even faster than that of one with a solid state drive.
You shouldn't even attempt it if you have less than 8GB of ram in total, and there are risks such as data loss. Games would have to be installed on the RAM disk to benefit from any performance gain, and doing this with Steam games is no mean feat.
Do a sweep for malware
This should be considered if there has been a rather sudden drop in performance when playing your games. Active malware might cause a lot of resource usage which will result in the game slowing down. So run your antivirus software and if anything potentially malicious is found, deal with it (not a reference to Adam Orth – promise). I meant to say get rid of it.
Lower graphics settings
With a lot of gamers out there, it’s all about graphics nowadays. But if this isn’t the case, you could try and lower a few settings to try and boost your framerate. If you’re here, that’s what you want to do, likely. So you could try and turn down graphical quality, or at least a few other things that are known for hitting your framerate, such as anti-aliasing (should be turned off), and resolution (lowering this will likely help quite a bit). Vertical sync can be turned off too.
Other effects can be lowered or turned off if you feel you can live without them. Hey, everyone had to do it with Crysis years ago, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to play the game. It took a while for hardware to catch up with the game. Don’t be ashamed about it.
This is a term I’ve read a bit about lately. Earlier I referred to hard drives and how they might let down the entire rig, no matter how great it is.
A bottleneck refers to a situation where a rig is let down by a specific component, in this case something other than the harddrive – likely the CPU, GPU, or RAM, or even the motherboard.
I know from experience years ago that I had a motherboard that only supported AGP 4X, whereas I had a graphics card (Nvidia GeForce 5600FX) that was an AGP 8X card. So the motherboard was resulting in a bottleneck that was causing between 1 and 10% performance loss, according to a tech I spoke to.
This is why you should be especially careful when building your own rig, rather than buying a prebuilt one. Prebuilt rigs are (hopefully) assembled by guys who know what they’re doing, and all the parts are compatible with less chance of a bottleneck occurring – you will pay more though.
If all else fails, and you still have trouble running games on even the lowest graphics settings, then you might have to break the bank and upgrade. The things you might want to focus on to get the most out of your existing system is a new graphics card, and more ram. It doesn’t hurt to have a better CPU either, but go with one or both of the former first. As long as these new upgrades are supported by your motherboard, you should be fine.
Of course if it has been years since your last upgrade, it might be difficult and maybe even more expensive to buy older parts than newer ones, particularly in retail outlets. So then you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do you upgrade your PC, which is amazingly expensive nowadays, or rather buy a console? You thought I was going to say something else there, didn’t you? This is a subject I’ll cover in another hub though.
Please note that I do not take any responsibility for problems with your person, PC, hardware, software, or anything else that may result from the above information. If you choose to act out any of these methods, you do so at your own risk.
© 2013 ANDR01D
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