- How To Build An Awesome Gaming PC For $666
- 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit (Part 1)
- 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit (Part 2)
- The Essential Crysis 1 Tuning Guide: Make the Original Faster and More Beautiful Than Ever!
- The Essential Crysis 2 Tuning Guide: Better Graphics, More FPS
- The Essential Skyrim Tuning Guide: 5 Best Steps to Increase Speed and Graphics
- The Essential Max Payne 3 Tuning Guide: Optimizing and Troubleshooting in 5 Steps!
- The Essential Diablo 3 Tuning Guide: Diabolical Tweaking for Best FPS!
- The Essential Grand Theft Auto IV Tuning Guide: Get the Latest Look and Resolve Choppy Performance Issues
Want to get the most out of your gaming PC (and games in general)? Well, read on for the ultimate guide to increase frames per second (FPS) drastically, reducing game lags, improving game quality and more! In part 2 of our “Perfect Gamer” series, you’ll learn to tune your PC to the limit.
In part 1, you learned how to build a kick-ass gaming PC. Next, let’s see what we can do about your gaming rig!
“Perfect Gamer” Series – Overview
• Part 1: How To Build An Awesome Gaming PC For $666
• Part 2: 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit, Part 1
• Part 3: 10 Essential Tweaks: Pushing Your Gaming PC to Its Absolute Limit, Part 2
• Part 4: The Essential Crysis 1 Tuning Guide: Make the Original Faster and Beautiful Than Ever
• Part 5: The Essential Crysis 2 Tuning Guide: Better Graphics. More Frames.
• Part 6: The Essential Skyrim Tuning Guide: 5 Best Steps to Increase Speed and Graphics
• Part 7: The Essential Max Payne 3 Tuning Guide: Optimizing and Troubleshooting in 5 Steps!
• Part 8: The Essential Diablo 3 Tuning Guide: Diabolical Tweaking for Best FPS!
• Part 9: The Essential Grand Theft Auto IV Tuning Guide: Get the Latest Look and Resolve Choppy Performance Issues
PC Games Need a System That’s 100% Optimized—and Nothing Less
Recent blockbuster games push your PC to its limit. They consume gigabytes (GB) of RAM, all of your CPU resources, thrash your hard disk and take a heavy toll on your graphics card. Besides professional designer applications, such as AutoCAD, or video editing tools, games are the most resource-hungry applications.
This is why you need a PC that’s 100% optimized. From your Windows operating system and software to your drivers, hardware and settings, everything needs to be up to par. Otherwise, you risk experiencing choppy gameplay with anything below 30 FPS, long load times and game crashes.
So, how can you boost your gaming PC’s performance? Here are the first five steps I took to turn a mid-level gaming PC, the Alienware X51, into a high-performing one.
Before I dive in, it’s important to share a bit of background information about the system. It caught my attention immediately for striking a good balance between performance and design. It is the size of an Xbox and is living room-friendly while not being loud.
• Core i7 (Sandy Bridge) 2600 with 3.4 GHz
• 8 GB Memory
• NVIDIA GeForce GTX 555
• Seagate ST31000524AS hard disk with 7.200rpm and 6 GBPS.
• HL-DT Blu-ray drive
Although it’s a fast machine, the Alienware system is certainly not the fastest gaming rig available. The small form factor meant it had to deal with an OEM-only GTX555, which is not as strong in terms of performance as the GTX 560. But this is exactly why it was a perfect candidate for our experiment! It should show how much can be achieved with just the right amount of tweaking.
1. Grab The Best Drivers
Updating drivers is—and always should be—one of the first steps you take to tune your gaming PC. Usually, retail PCs (even gaming rigs) come with older drivers that just don’t deliver full performance. For example, our Alienware X51 test rig came with an eight-month-old graphics driver, Forceware 285.66. Time to update your drivers:
• Original WHQL drivers (AMD+NVIDIA):
Just a few weeks ago, NVIDIA released its 300 series of drivers, promising a drastic performance improvement (a 23% boost) in newer games. It would be a shame not to get these, which were Windows Hardware Quality Lab-tested (WHQL). AMD also offers drivers for its HD Radeon on its support website, but it’s always wise to check out the company’s Game blog and look out for beta releases of the AMD Catalyst. For example, 12.6 Beta resolves problems with standby, game performance and HDMI audio.
• Unofficial Beta Drivers (NVIDIA users only)
If you are an NVIDIA user and want to squeeze the latest possible bit of performance out of your system (or if the WHQL drivers give you a headache or don’t work with your game or graphics card), you might want to take a shot at beta versions that are freely available. Version 302.59 is currently available for download and includes more bug fixes and tweaks than its official counterpart, 301.42. However, these drivers require a bit of tinkering. It’s also important to note that these have not gone through WHQL testing, so they might be buggy or cause crashes.
1. Head over to LaptopVideo2Go forums and have a look at the top entry. It will show the latest generation GeForce driver. Currently, this is the 30x series drive
2. Don’t just pick the latest driver version—this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. Listen to the community, read the forum comments and then make your decision.
3. Found one? Hit the download button that corresponds with your operating system.
Right-click on the “INF Modified” link, select “Save as”, and to make things easier, download both files onto your desktop.
4. Double-click on the downloaded driver archive, and hit “Extract”.
Jump into the extracted folder, and move the downloaded INF file into the “Display.Driver” subfolder.
5. Once that’s done, you can install the drivers without any problems.
In general, it’s not just the GPU you should keep up-to-date regularly. Chipset, sound and network drivers tend to have an impact on performance, too. Check out our Ultimate Drivers Guide to make sure that all of your critical hardware is set.
2. Close and Get Rid of Apps
The more applications that are running in the background, the slower your games will run. It’s that simple. Each and every application that is running in the background consumes CPU cycles and RAM and impacts hard disk performance. If you want your games to run smoothly, here are a few tips.
• Close all active applications. Don’t let PhotoShop, your web browser and iTunes run in the background at the same time—you’ll easily lose a GB of memory. Make sure nothing is active in your taskbar!
• Uninstall unnecessary applications. Go through the list of installed programs (“Control Panel\Programs\Programs and Features”) and determine what you do and don’t need.
• Get rid of start-up applications. These programs run in the taskbar tray and offer both critical and non-critical functionality. For gaming purposes, most of these are not needed. There are ways to turn them off using the very rudimentary “msconfig” or more advanced tools such as TuneUp Startup Manager and Autoruns.
For example, we found Alienware application AlienFX that allows you to choose the LED color on the chassis; while this is a greatfeature, it doesn’t need to be running constantly in the background.
3. Turn Off Resource Hogs – Using a Special Stop-Start System!
What if you really like a resource-heavy application and don’t want to uninstall it? That’s where TuneUp Program Deactivator comes in. The tool automatically turns off the load of programs on your system. It’s like the Stop-Start systems in cars: when you stop your car and the engine turns off. You hit the gas pedal, and it instantly revs up again. The same happens to a program that you turned off using TuneUp Program Deactivator; when you don’t use it, it won’t impact your system’s performance. However, when you launch the program, TuneUp immediately turns it on again.
On my Alienware X51 test rig, there were some programs that I needed regularly and loved such as PowerDVD, the Realtek Control Panel and Alienware Command Center. In the “Before” picture above, you can see that several active applications had an impact on start-up time, overall performance and shutdown time. With TuneUp Program Deactivator, I turned most of them off and reduced the impact of their loads to almost zero.
4. Defrag or TRIM Your Disk
As data is written or deleted from the hard disk, files become fragmented, and portions of files will physically spread out all over the disk drive. This will lead to a significant performance hit, especially in games, as the hard disk will first need to collect all of these file portions in order for it to be able to fully process the entire file. As games usually take up several GBs, it is vital that all of these files can be read in a continuous manner.
1. To defrag the disk, fire up the Start menu, and head over to “All Programs”, “Accessories”, “System Tools” and “Disk Defragmenter”.
2. Select your Windows disk, and hit “Defragment disk” (Windows 7) or “Defragment” (Windows XP). Note, if you have an SSD, you shouldn’t defrag; instead, use the TRIM command to optimize them.
3. In Windows 8, Microsoft integrated the TRIM command into the Disk Defragmenter—simply hit “Optimize”. Windows 7 doesn’t offer this but make sure that the TRIM command gets executed regularly. To see if TRIM is enabled, open up a command prompt by clicking on the Start orb and typing “cmd” into the search bar. Right-click on the first result (“cmd”), and click “Run as administrator”. Next, type in the command “Fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify”, and hit Enter. If this returns the result “= 0″, you’re good to go! Otherwise, TRIM isn’t supported and needs to be enabled. Try entering the command “fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0″. If that doesn’t help, a firmware upgrade might be necessary to enable TRIM.
5. Turn Off Non-Essential Windows Background Services
There are several dozen Windows and third-party services running constantly in the background. They often provide very critical functionality to the operating system and your applications. The good news is Windows has gotten to the point where it pauses or delays services until they’re actually needed. Nonetheless, there are some services that you should turn off on dedicated gaming machines since they’re constantly active and only used on business machines.
Hold down the WIN-key and press “R”. Type in “services.msc”, and hit Enter. Now, go through the list of services and make sure to turn off services that you don’t need on your gaming machine. To turn off a service, double-click on it, and select “Disabled” from the Startup type drop-down menu. The following list describes the services that are, in most cases, safe to turn off on dedicated gaming rigs.
Once you’re done with that, use TuneUp Turbo Mode to temporarily switch off 70+ services (including some we just mentioned), scheduled Windows tasks and Windows and third-party program background applications—with one click.
What did you think of these first five tips? Did they help improve your gaming PC’s performance? Let us know, or share your favorite tuning trick in the “Comments” section below.
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