Part of the beauty of AAA-rated games is the amount of care taken to detail in-game terrain, character models, shaders, and so on. The issue? Most users can’t embrace that beauty due to low performance gaming rigs. Does that mean you’re stuck in the limbo that is 30 FPS (frames per second) gaming? Of course not!
While more users than ever are gaming on Windows 10 PCs, most of these users are not taking full advantage of their rigs. Certain Windows processes, on by default, can seriously limit the potential of your computer’s performance when playing games.
The Bare Essentials
There are a few bare essential actions that you should take before we venture into the more potent FPS boosting part. Before we can fine tune the relationship between software and hardware, it’s best to get these out of the way so you not only receive an FPS boost, but update your PC to current standards as well.
Download Up-to-Date Drivers
To put it simply, drivers establish the connection between your software and your hardware. Up to date drivers include the latest official innovations in software technology from hardware manufacturers. There are two main drivers you should install: GPU (graphics processing unit) and chipset drivers.
GPU drivers update the output performance of a PC’s GPU. Chipset drivers allow for the optimal communication of different parts of the motherboard to each other. While neither is absolutely necessary for the use of each hardware component, downloading up to date drivers will allow for certain beneficial features not otherwise present.
To do so, locate the make and model of your motherboard and GPU, enter this parameter into a search engine with an added drivers tag, and locate the support tab (if any) wherein drivers are located.
To identify the motherboard make and model, press Win key + R, enter cmd, and hit Enter to open the Command Prompt. Now enter and run the following command to reveal details about your motherboard:
wmic baseboard get product,Manufacturer,version,serialnumber
For the GPU make and model, press Win key + R, enter msinfo32, and hit Enter to open the System Information. From there, expand Components and then Display. You should see your GPU beside the Name parameter.
Defragment Your Hard Drive
Note: If you have a Solid State Drive (SSD), you should never defragment and skip this step!
It has become a staple in Windows optimization, yet it cannot be mentioned enough: defragment your hard drive. You may either use the default the default defragmentation program located in Windows or use a third-party software such as Defraggler.
While defragmenting your hard drive will not lead to a dramatic increase in computer performance, it will allow for faster file accessing. This may affect in-game performance.
Close Background Programs
Most modern hardware can handle both AAA-rated games and a few open background programs at the same time. More dated hardware will be torn between your game and your program. To minimize background interference, close background programs and processes by right-clicking your Taskbar, selecting Task Manager, clicking CPU (central processing unit) to order programs from most to least CPU usage, right-clicking a program, and selecting End task.
Changing Windows Options
The second stage to refining gaming performance is changing a few default parameters. This will free up certain computer resources otherwise not available by default.
Windows power options allow users to decide options relating to brightness, power button options, wireless adapter settings, processor power settings, and the like. They also control how and when CPU performance features like Intel Turbo Boost or AMD Turbo Core activate. This allows the processor to push past default GHz limits to provide extra performance when necessary.
A staple in PC gaming, it’s best to switch this options from the default to High Performance. More than just an appealing name, the high performance option will allow your PC to take full advantage of CPU boost and GPU performance at all times. To enable the High Performance power option, click on the Start Menu, input power options, click on the Power Options selection, and select High Performance.
WARNING: Enabling this options will increase power consumption of your PC. While this is less of a problem for desktop PCs (even though enabling this options does mean a very slight energy bill increase), laptop PCs not directly connected to a charger will experience a shorter battery life.
We all love a beautiful Windows user interface (UI). Yet, default Windows display options — adjusted to give your PC that fresh out the box look — do limit PC performance. This is especially the case with older and lower end PC rigs. To fix this settings, open your Start Menu, input control panel, and click the Control Panel option.
Go through the following: System & Security > System > Advanced system settings > Performance Settings… In the Performance Options window, select Adjust for best performance and OK. That’s it! This option will take some time to enact, and your UI may not look as appealing as it was before, but your PC performance will be notably better.
Some registry tweaks remove variables that might limit gaming performance. While registry tweaks are often safe, and this tweak is thoroughly tested for safety, registry tweaking is a somewhat taboo action for low-end PC users. Use at your own discretion.
Xbox Game DVR records the gameplay of certain games in order to share. For most, however, this isn’t necessary. Especially considering how widespread and easy it is to record gaming footage. To disable Game DVR, open your registry editor by pressing Win key + R and inputting regedit.
Using the drop-down menu, head to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\System\GameConfigStore. Double-click the GameDVR_Enabled parameter on the right-hand menu and enter 0 into the Value data. Click OK.
Afterward, head to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows. Right-click the Windows key and select New and then Key. Name this new key GameDVR. Click on this new key and, on the right-hand window, right-click an empty space and select New, then DWORD (32-bit Value). Name this value AllowgameDVR. Then, double-click this value and set the Value data to 0. The 0 entry works to disable the entry, while 1 would enable it.
You can also turn it off using your Xbox app. Head there by clicking the Start Menu, typing xbox, clicking Xbox, heading to Settings, and then Game DVR. If you commit the first method, this page will read “Game DVR has been turned off by your organization.”
Graphics Card Options
Most don’t bother messing with their graphics card options, instead leaving options like fan speed and core clock on default. These default settings are aimed to ensure that your graphics card does not overstep its bounds in terms of heat and voltage, which may harm the component.
It is perfectly reasonable, however, to change certain graphics card options in order to maximize the performance output of the component.
Power Limit / Target
Using your choice of overclocking software, you’ll note there are two general types of settings. One regards the default limits put in place concerning power and temperature. While these settings do guard against hardware damage, they also limit GPU performance as a byproduct.
Releasing the limits set to these parameters does not affect the stability of your GPU, or damage it, in any capacity. As stated in the video above, freeing your GPU of these limits increase in-game FPS by 5–10. That may not seem like much, but considering 30 FPS is often considered passable and 60 FPS is considered excellent, 5–10 FPS can make a huge difference.
Overclock Your GPU
I was not a fan of GPU overclocking, thinking it would put my GPU at risk without much benefit. That was before I actually overclocked my GPU. GPU overclocking seems complex and unsafe at first, but after having a little experience with GPU overclocking you will find there is very little to no danger in the process.
Best of all, optimal GPU overclocks can reach core clock numbers as high as the following generation GPU. That’s free performance equatable to a new GPU at no cost whatsoever. The process is a bit time-consuming, and explaining the benefits and risks requires an article in itself. If you’re interested, follow the link provided above.
No one wants to sacrifice graphics quality for smooth game play. There are a few in-game settings, however, which do not heavily affect graphics but do heavily affect FPS.
Vertical synchronization is a variable in games which limits the amount of screen tear in games. Screen tear occurs through the interaction between a monitor’s refresh rate and FPS. If a monitor’s refresh rate is 60 Hz but a game is running at 120 FPS, the refresh rate cannot keep up (so to speak) and the screen shows two different frames in the same screen.
V-Sync then limits your FPS to your monitor’s refresh rate, which will lock FPS. To unlock it, simply locate your in-game video of graphics settings and turn off V-Sync. While this may lead to screen-tearing, this is rarely the case.
Excuse me for my non-pro status, but I’ve never used in-game reflection to win a match, conquer an enemy, or cinch a battle. Yet reflection plays a big role in giving games that polished feel.
Most AAA-rated games have some sort of dynamic reflection setting. Turn off this setting. It will not affect your overall graphics quality, but has the potential to increase your FPS by a large amount. This is due to the fact that your GPU no longer has to render the reflection of all available moving objects.
Steam Launch Options
An underused and little known aspect of Steam gaming, Steam allows users to change certain technical aspects of gaming using tools called launch options. Launch options allow users to do everything from changing graphics settings to canceling introductory cinematics.
To access launch options, head to your Steam library. Right-click a game and select Options. Then click on the Set Launch Options button. Enter the following and click OK.
-USEALLAVAILABLECORES -sm4 -d3d10 -nomansky -lowmemory -novsync -high
The following link provides a run down of all the parameters. To put it simply: USEALLAVAILABLECORES uses all available cores to run games, sm4 forces games to run Shader Model 4 not 5 (thereby increasing performance), d3d10 uses DirectX 10 instead of 11 (thereby increasing performance), lowmemory enables low memory mode which decreases RAM usage (also doing away with extraneous in-game aspects), novsync disables vertical synchronization, and high sets the game at high priority which will limit resources used by competing programs.
While these parameters do not work with all games, you will see a significant improvement with Steam games that do allow for these parameters. If for any reason you would like to disable these launch options, simply delete them from your launch option window.