In Part Two of our series on improving gaming performance, we’ll help you get the best possible visual quality and make sure you get a high rate of frames per second. Before you start, check out our first gaming post. We shared some essential tips and tricks on de-cluttering and optimizing Windows XP and Vista for gaming.
Get the latest patches for your game
Like any piece of software, games are never completely finalized. After the game hits the shelves, the developer team is still busy fixing bugs and working to increase the game’s performance. As such, it is a good idea for users to get the latest patches available for games. In the case of the very popular Crysis, the first patch increased the performance noticeably—which was demonstrated by TechArp, who tested the performance of the original Crysis patches 1.0, 1.1, and 1.2 against each other. Depending on the resolution you’re playing your games at and the machine you’re using, you will get a couple of frames per second more out of it. That may not sound like much, but it can mean the difference between a choppy and smooth gaming experience.
Where can gamers get these patches? First, go to the original game Web site, or try the search engine of the very popular FileFront. You can also just “Google” the name of the game and its patch, for example, “Crysis Patch“.
Decide between the 32-bit or 64-bit versions of the game
Because 64-bit computing has been increasingly gaining in popularity, game packages are now being offered in both the 32-bit (x86) and the 64-bit (x64) versions. (Stay tuned for another blog post that will look at the actual benefits of both architectures and include a benchmark test.) The most frequent question with the 32-bit versus 64-bit issue—is the latter really faster, especially when it comes to gaming?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer. If the game is running at a very high resolution, with the maximum texture level activated, then you might notice some hiccups, as the 64-bit version can handle larger data sets compared to the 32-bit version. However, you will only see these gains in performance with more than 2 Gbytes of RAM installed. 64-bit systems also have a larger memory footprint, so on a slower PC with less memory, you might find that games actually run slower.
Our advice at this point—if you don’t play at the highest possible resolution (with all of the details enabled) and don’t own a high-end gaming rig, you are better off with the 32-bit (x86) version of Windows. Otherwise, go for the 64-bit version! (This really is an endless debate; check out ExtremeTech’s in-depth comparison and the Microsoft Exchange team blog for more information.)
Optimize your hard disk for faster read/write speeds
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, 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 Gbytes, it is vital that all of these files can be read in a continuous manner. What’s the obvious solution? Defrag your hard disk! There are several very good solutions out there, including our own enhanced defragmenter from TuneUp Utilities, that perform a better job than the built-in defragmenter from Windows. For more information on the fragmentation phenomenon and how to use TuneUp Drive Defrag, read this TuneUp Blog post. To stick with the basic Windows tool, click through the following steps:
- Open up the Start menu, and go to “All Programs”, “Accessories”, “System Tools”, and “Disk Defragmenter”.
- Click on “Defragment disk” (for Windows 7), “Defragment now” (for Windows Vista), or “Defragment” (for Windows XP).
Note: Windows Vista and 7 both automatically defragment your hard disk. Only defrag your hard disk if the defragmenter shows that your disk is not fully optimized.
Add more RAM
The more memory you have, the more data games can load into it—and that results in less access to your disk drive. If you’re playing the latest games, you should at least consider upgrading your PC or notebook to 4 Gbytes or more. (A kit of two 2 Gbyte memory modules is now available for less than $80.) We previously talked about increasing performance by adding more memory as well.
Disable Windows Search on your system
The search index on Windows Vista and 7 maintains a database of your personal files, e-mails, favorites, and start menu entries. Searching for files that have been indexed by Windows is considerably faster; however, the indexing feature uses up a noticeable amount of processor and memory resources.
If you rarely utilize Windows Search or just use your PC as a gaming platform, then you should disable the Windows Search feature. To do this:
- Open up the Windows Control Panel, and select “Programs”. In the next screen, click on “Turn Windows features on or off”.
- Click “Continue”. In the next window, uncheck “Indexing Service”, and hit “OK”.
- Click “OK”, and wait for the Indexing Service to be uninstalled and disabled.
Note: There are several more Windows features that are not as easy to disable. Our very own TuneUp Utilities – can not only disable the Windows Search feature (mentioned above) but will disable a lot of unnecessary services and software very easily. The “Increase performance” assistant helps you decide which services to disable and will show you additional recommendations to improve performance of your PC.
Ignite the “Turbo Mode”
To squeeze the last bit of performance out of your games, you should try out TuneUp Turbo Mode. This exciting new feature is the result of our research on how to improve performance of Windows even more and is one of the many new features included in the latest version of TuneUp Utilities.
Just by clicking a button, it temporarily disables services and features of Windows that you don’t need while playing a game, for example support for digital cameras and scanners or the ressource-draining Aero user interface of Vista and Windows 7. Your PC can now focus entirely on games.
You should now experience noticeable improvement in the performance of your games! In Parts three and four, we will dig deeper into the control panels of the ATI and nVidia driver—this is where you can significantly change how your games look and perform.
Any other gaming performance issues you’d like addressed? Let us know!
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