Does your favorite game take too long to load? Is Gameplay slow? This new series of posts helps you squeeze every last FPS (frame per second) out of your 3D game. In Part One, we will explore how disabling unnecessary background activity and upgrading to an optimized graphics driver helps.
To get smoother, high-resolution gameplay with all of the bells and whistles—and we’re talking anti-aliasing, ambient occlusion, and high-quality texture filtering—what you usually need is a good graphics card, at least 4 GByte of main memory and a fast 2- or 4-core processor. There’s no magic Windows tip that will boost your gaming performance up 150%, so we’re looking at optimizing games in a very realistic manner. But, don’t be fooled: there are many ways of reducing bottlenecks and making your game run noticeably faster.
How does Windows affect my gaming performance?
The Windows operating system is not meant for one single purpose, compared to a gaming console. It is built to deal with all kinds of tasks, such as surfing the Web, editing photos, running office applications, connecting to social networks, and much, much more. All of these tasks need dozens of background processes and services running at the same time which take up processor and memory resources. So, unlike a console, your hardware is not able to solely focus on gaming. To increase speed for gaming purposes, it is vital that you reduce all of the unnecessary background activity on your system.
Step 1: Perform a clean startup
When you start Windows, there are many applications and services that run automatically at the same time. (Check out our previous blog post on reducing Windows startup time to correct this.) Overall performance will noticeably improve after you’ve unchecked all of the unnecessary programs that bog down your PC. Then, to increase your speed, run Windows without any third-party services—reducing even more background activity:
1. While holding down the “Windows” key on your keyboard, press “R”. Type in “msconfig”, and click on “OK”. If you have Vista, you might be prompted for a confirmation. Just click “Continue” to start the “System Configuration” tool.
2. Select the “Services” tab, check “Hide all Microsoft services” and then, click on “Disable all”. This will prevent all of the services installed by third-party providers such as backup services from running. You don’t need these for gaming! However, if there is a service that you desperately want, just check the box. Once you’re finished, click “OK”.
After restart, you may notice that startup was a bit faster, and the overall responsiveness of Windows increased. Unfortunately, there is no automated way of doing that, so if you need any other services, repeat Step 1, go to “Services” again, and click “Enable all”.
Step 2: Disable all animations and 3D effects
Windows XP offers some nice animations for minimizing and maximizing windows and fading menus. Vista goes further and features a transparent interface called Windows Aero. If you’re a gamer, all of this user interface candy might interfere with your experience, so we recommend tuning Windows to get the best performance. Take the following steps:
For Vista users: Open the start menu, and right-click on “Computer”. Click “Properties”, and open “Advanced system settings”. Then, go to “Settings” under “Performance”.
For XP users: Click “Start”, right-click on the “My Computer” icon, and select “Properties”. Under the “Advanced” tab, select “Settings” under “Performance”.
Both Vista and XP users should then select the “Adjust for best performance” setting. Click “OK”, and watch the entire Windows user interface revert to the classic design from Windows 2000.
Step 3: Use the latest graphics driver.
If you’re a gamer, you either own an nVidia or an ATI graphics card. Both manufacturers update and fine-tune their drivers on a monthly basis to help improve gaming performance. For example, with the release of GeForce Release 186 drivers, nVidia reported an increase of 45% in Mirror’s Edge and 22% in Crysis: Warhead, with anti-aliasing enabled. Even if you don’t use anti-aliasing or own either of these games, updating your driver almost every time results in a slight increase in performance. Depending on the game, it could make the entire experience smoother. To update your drivers, simply check out our Ultimate Drivers Guide.
Running Windows with only the basic, startup programs, services, and user interfaces will help you not only make some games run more smoothly but also reduce load times. We achieved another significant boost after updating the graphics driver. Now go ahead, and play your game!
Keep an eye out for the next post of this gaming series. We will show you how to optimize your disk for faster read/write speeds.
Got your own gaming performance tips? We welcome your thoughts!
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