How to optimize your PC for gaming


(Pocket-lint) – So you’ve bought yourself a shiny new gaming PC or built one yourself from scratch and you’re ready to start gaming. But just because you installed a fresh copy of Windows and downloaded your games doesn’t mean your PC is necessarily running at its best.

There are a few more things you can do to optimize your PC for an even better gaming experience. Just a few tweaks to Windows settings can make all the difference.

We’ve written before about how to get more FPS out of your graphics card and gaming machine, but here we’re talking about further optimizing for the gaming edge.

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1. Turn on game mode

Windows is already conveniently built for gaming. Microsoft knows that PC users love to play games. That’s why Game Pass is so popular. While Windows still needs a few tweaks by default to optimize performance, one of them includes the game mode. This is a setting that manages system resources for better performance while playing.

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Follow these steps to enable game mode:

  • Press the Start button on your keyboard and type Game
  • Click Game Mode Settings when it appears at the top of the Start menu
  • Click the button to enable game mode

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2. Disable notifications

Optimizing your PC for gaming is great, you know what else is great? Don’t be disturbed while playing. Windows has a setting to turn off notifications at specific times or when certain things happen. So no more annoying popups ruining your fun.

Follow these steps to access the settings:

  • Press the Windows start button on your PC or keyboard and type Focus Assist
  • In the focus settings, click on notifications – “alerts from apps and system, do not disturb”
  • Find the “turn on do not disturb automatically” setting
  • Check “while playing a game”.

You can also select specific times of the day for do not disturb mode to be enabled. This works if you know that you are always gaming in the evening, for example. Just set the time and enjoy great gaming without notifications.

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3. Enable hardware accelerated GPU scheduling

Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling allows your machine to optimize performance and reduce latency. If you have the right hardware (a recent graphics card) and are running Windows 10 or 11, you can easily enable this setting, just like Game Mode:

  • Press the Start button and search for Graphics Settings
  • Then click to enable hardware accelerated GPU scheduling
  • Scroll down and check out the “graphics performance preference” settings. From there you can choose the app to set your preference. For Nvidia, this is the Nvidia Control Panel. You can select this as a desktop app or Microsoft Store app from the dropdown
  • Click on the app, click on options and select high performance
  • Repeat for every game where you want maximum performance

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4. Adjust for best performance

By default, Windows is set to look as nice as possible. So it looks chic with all the different animations and shiny edges. However, these quality settings can have a negative impact on game performance. So it might be worth disabling them or at least adjusting them for performance rather than looks.

To do this:

  • Press the Windows start button on your PC or keyboard and type appearance and performance
  • Click “Customize Windows performance and appearance” when it appears
  • Look for the setting that says “adjust for best performance”
  • Select that and click apply
  • Click the Advanced tab to verify that the best performance is set for programs and not background tasks

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5. Disable Enhanced Pointer Precision

You may have bought a high-end gaming mouse to give yourself a competitive edge, but that mouse’s performance may be hampered by Windows settings.

Windows has several settings related to mouse pointer speed and one in particular can be a problem so we need to disable it:

  • Press the Windows start button on your PC or keyboard and type mouse pointer
  • Click on “Change the appearance or speed of the mouse pointer”
  • Under the “motion” setting, uncheck the “improve pointer precision” option
  • Click apply

While we’re at it, we also recommend checking your mouse software. Many modern gaming mice have high polling rate options. Click to select the highest – 1,000 Hz, 4,000 Hz or 8,000 Hz – in your software so that your signals arrive at your PC faster and there is less latency.

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6. Update your drivers

If you want the best performance, we think it’s important to not only make sure Windows is updated regularly (preferably outside of your gaming hours), but that your graphics card drivers are also updated.

We’ve written before about updating Nvidia drivers and installing them cleanly for the best results, but it also pays to just stay on top of updates so you have the latest drivers.

The easiest way to do this with Nvidia graphics cards is to use GeForce Experience. Once that’s downloaded and installed, there’s an option to download and install drivers automatically. Click to enable that and install the latest versions when they are released.

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7. Enable Nvidia G-Sync

If you have a compatible monitor and a new graphics card, you can and should enable G-Sync. We’ve written about how to do this before, but essentially G-Sync ensures that your monitor’s refresh rate matches the frames per second your graphics card is putting out for the game you’re playing.

Enable G-Sync on your monitor and within the Windows settings and this will prevent screen tearing and ensure a smooth gaming experience while you are playing. We also recommend that you adjust your game’s display settings to match your monitor’s refresh rate and limit the maximum FPS to the upper end of your refresh rate.

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8. Set the refresh rate of your monitor

Windows does not always default to the maximum refresh rate for your connected display. If you have a nice gaming monitor with a high refresh rate, then you should enable the setting both on the monitor and in Windows.

Otherwise, the monitor defaults to only 60 Hz. So follow these steps to select your maximum refresh rate:

  • Right-click on your desktop and click on display settings
  • Scroll down until you see “advanced display settings”.
  • Next, scroll down to the refresh rate and click the drop-down. From there, select the maximum refresh rate of your monitor.

If you don’t see the setting you expect, chances are you’re using the wrong cable. Some displays may only display the maximum refresh rate with a DisplayPort cable, otherwise HDMI 2.1 might be worth looking into.

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9. Startup Settings

Many of the apps you install automatically force themselves into startup processes. So when you turn on your PC and log into Windows, those apps are waiting for you. Sometimes this is not useful as the apps then become background processes that waste processing power and resources.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to disable these apps and not only make your PC run faster, but also optimize it while you’re gaming. Follow these steps:

  • Press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to launch the Task Manager
  • Look for the Startup tab and click on it
  • Search the list of apps and look for anything you don’t use on a regular basis
  • Right-click on the offending apps and click Disable

Alternatively, in Windows 11 you can access these settings by clicking the start button and searching for Startup apps. Click that system setting and you’ll be able to cycle through and enable and disable apps.

Written by Adrian Willings.

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