But optimizing your PC is just part of the equation: Games themselves have tons of hidden settings that can drastically improve the way they look and feel. For that reason, we’ve also looked at some of the biggest games and analyzed how to maximize their gameplay. So be sure to check out our in-depth guides for the following games:
Now let’s take a look at the most important things you need to do to get your desktop PC or laptop in top shape for the latest blockbuster releases.
1. Upgrade your graphics drivers for an immediate FPS boost
Your graphics card is the centerpiece of your gaming experience (more on that below), but you can’t unleash its true performance without the proper software installed on your PC or laptop. Upgrading from the driver that came with your PC or graphics card to the latest version can make a huge performance difference. Updating to Nvidia’s latest graphics drivers can boost computer performance by over 50% in certain games.
Updating your graphics driver can bring huge performance improvements.
Here’s how to update the drivers for the Nvidia GeForce, ATI Radeon, and Intel HD Graphics cards:
Nvidia GeForce owners: Go to the GeForce driver website. Next, select your graphics card and your Windows version from the list and hit the “Start Search” button. My tip: Always go for the driver marked as BETA. This isn’t quite a finished driver, but it should run as stably as the final release and will likely give you even more performance!
ATI Radeon: Go to the AMD software downloads website and select the appropriate device. This will give you access to the latest official driver which you can download and install. You can also install the beta driver with more performance improvements or features.
Intel HD Graphics: Mostly found on ultrabooks or tablets, the Intel graphics chipsets are the weakest of the bunch. I wouldn’t recommend doing any sort of gaming on the older integrated Intel HD chipsets (such as the HD 3000 or earlier) — unless you’re heavily into slideshows instead of smooth gameplay — but their latest graphics chipsets are powerful enough to play even recent titles, albeit not at the highest possible resolution or with all the bells and whistles turned on. To get updated drivers, go to the graphics driver page of the Intel Download Center.
Regardless of what type of GPU you have, updating your driver can immediately optimize your computer for gaming.
Wait, how do I even know which graphics card I own?
Not a problem: To find out the maker and exact serial number of your graphics card, all you need to do is follow these steps. First, go to the Control Panel and head to Hardware and Sound. From here, click Device Manager.
This will bring up a list of all the built-in devices of your system. Head over to where it says Display adapters.
Here, you’ll see an Alienware X51 gaming rig with two graphic chips (the Nvidia is usually always the faster one). At any rate, make sure you’re using the latest drivers!
In these cases, you’ll see an Alienware X51 gaming rig with two graphic chips (the nVidia is usually always the faster one) and a laptop with a GeForce GT 650M. At any rate, make sure you’re using the latest drivers!
2. Supercharge your graphics card: A slight overclock doesn’t hurt!
Your gaming performance is mostly dependent on the power of your graphics chip — even more so than on how much memory you have or how fast your processor is! Your graphics chip is almost always the bottleneck responsible for stuttering or otherwise lackluster gameplay. To improve performance, you may want to look at running the graphics card beyond the factory speed setting — or in other words, overclocking!
Now, five to ten years ago, I wouldn’t have recommended overclocking as it posed a significant threat to your hardware, but nowadays, most systems turn themselves off automatically before they take any damage. Besides, I recommend only a slight overclock by about 10 to 15%. It’s a quick performance tweak that can significantly boost your gaming experience.
On my desktop gaming PC, an Alienware Area 51 R2, I pushed the two GeForce Titan Xp (2017) (SLI) roughly 15 to 20% above their factory clock.
On my main laptop, a MacBook Pro 2016 with a Radeon 460 Pro running Windows 10, I always push the GPU by 100 MHz on the chip and memory by 300 MHz.
Bear in mind that while overclocking speeds up your GPU, it also increases the stress on and temperature of all of your hardware, not just the CPU or GPU, so it should be done with extreme care. In both cases, I ended up with a system that’s 5° Celsius hotter than before, but still well within the limits.
To overclock the GPU, I recommend checking out our article on how to overclock your GPU for better gaming and multimedia performance.
Using 3DMark 11, I determined that overclocking my system as described above yielded a 10% performance boost.
3. Boost your FPS with AVG TuneUp’s Uninstaller and Program Deactivator
Does Windows keep getting slower and slower with each program you install on your PC or laptop — with a direct effect on all of your games? This is because a lot of programs run background activities, even when they’re not being used, and this wastes your computer’s valuable memory. AVG TuneUp helps your computer prioritize its resources by uninstalling programs you don’t use and improving the efficiency of the programs you do need.
Uninstall those old programs you don’t need!
Once you’ve installed AVG TuneUp, go to the Optimize category and click Uninstall Programs. One of the many features that sets AVG TuneUp apart from the built-in Windows uninstaller is the ability to quickly identify programs you haven’t used in ages. Click on Filter list and go to Rarely used programs and Programs not used for a long time.
Found a program you don’t need? Click the Uninstall button.
But what about all those other programs you use on a regular basis that are still reducing your day-to-day performance? AVG Program Deactivator lets you turn these off safely. Just go to Turn off programs and browse through the list of all applications that affect your PC’s performance.
TuneUp Program Deactivator window: All installed programs list.
When you flip the switch to Disabled, our little helper prevents your selected programs from running in the background until you need to use them. Thanks to this performance tweak, when you snooze all your heavy background tasks, your PC will run almost as good as new, and your games will run faster.
4. Upgrade your Graphics Card (desktop only)
After upgrading to a 4K projector, I noticed how my old gaming PC really couldn’t keep up. While The Witcher 3 ran decently in Full HD, my two GeForce 970 (in SLI mode) really struggled with 4K, which is essentially 4 times the resolution — we’re talking 4096 x 2160 pixels versus 1920 x 1080.
Only recently — and with Nvidia’s Pascal GPU generation — did we get the graphical power to truly render 4K games at a buttery-smooth 60 frames per second. Note that only the high-end 1080 TI or Titan Xp GPUs are designed to handle these requirements.
Tests were performed on a 2016 Alienware Area 51 Gaming PC: Core i7 4.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM, 2x 970 SLI and 2x Titan Xp SLI.
As you can see, upgrading from the older GeForce 970 to the Titan Xps brought roughly a fourfold increase. That’s probably still the most effective performance tweak for increasing FPS and getting your games to run more smoothly.
5. Upgrade to an SSD
SSDs are much faster than mechanical hard disks, making them a great way to optimize your computer. Upgrading to an SSD won’t boost your game’s frame rate, but it will definitely reduce loading times while you play.
My recommendation is to go with an SSD with 250 GB of storage space or more, as most games these days take up between 8 to 20 GB. My Steam folder, for example, weighs in at a massive 60 GB, and all I’ve bought is Age of Empires III, The Evil Within 2, Grand Theft Auto V, and the new Tomb Raider. You’ll need to allocate roughly 30 GB for Windows, and after factoring in your personal data and apps, you’ll soon reach 250 GB.
I tried the Samsung 960 Evo, which offers a fantastic value (250 GB for $126). But I went for the SanDisk 480 GB Extreme, which boasts an incredible 540 MB/s of sequential read and 460 MB/s of sequential write, for my Alienware gaming rig that used to have a stock 7200rpm drive. The performance difference is mind-boggling.
As you can see, it has slashed my load times, meaning I spent more time playing and less time waiting! Updating from a hard disk to an SSD can instantly speed up your computer.
6. Disable SuperFetch and Prefetch
Both SuperFetch and Prefetch are Windows features that are supposed to boost computer startup times for both Windows and applications. For games, I noticed that loading times and background activity actually increase when these features are enabled. Turning these off is an easy performance tweak for any avid gamer. Here’s how:
Go to the Control Panel, System and Security, Administrative Tools, and Services. Scroll down until you see the SuperFetch entry, double-click on it, and choose Disabled from the list.
Hit OK and close all windows. Next, open up the registry. Click the Start orb and type in regedit. Hit Enter, and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSession ManagerMemory ManagementPrefetchParameters. Double-click on EnablePrefetcher and enter 0 (default value is 3) to disable the Prefetcher.
Note: Please follow the above instructions precisely, because deleting or changing the wrong values in the registry may cause problems with your PC.
7. Defrag or TRIM your disk
As data is written or deleted from your hard disk, files become fragmented and will physically spread out over the disk drive. This will lead to a significant performance hit, especially with games, as the hard disk will first need to collect all of these portions to fully process the entire file. As both your games and their files usually take up several gigabytes, it is vital that all of these files can be read in a continuous manner. Clean up your drive now to boost your computer for greater overall performance.
To defrag the disk, fire up the Start menu, and go to All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and Disk Defragmenter.
Select your Windows disk, and hit Defragment disk. Note, if you have an SSD, you should not defrag. Instead, use the TRIM command to optimize them.
In Windows 8, Microsoft integrated the TRIM command into the Disk Defragmenter — so, simply hit Optimize. Windows 7 doesn’t offer this, so be sure 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, then 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.
8. Performance tweaks in the Nvidia control panel
All Nvidia drivers come with their own control panels that let you tweak the most essential 3D settings. While you can set many of the following options in-game, some are not available or directly controlled by the driver. Go through the list of all options and tweak them to best balance performance and visual quality.
To get to the Nvidia control panel, right-click on your desktop, select Nvidia Control Panel and head over to the Manage 3D Settings category on the left. These are the some of the lesser known but still important settings to tweak:
Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames: This controls the number of frames that the processor prepares before transferring them to the graphics card. Increasing this value results in smoother gameplay, but you may notice lag when using the mouse and keyboard. To eliminate the lag, try the 1 setting.
Threaded Optimization: This option should always be On, as it allows the support of multi-threaded optimization for modern multi-core processors.
VSync: It synchronizes the frames that your graphics card renders with the refresh rate of your monitor. If you disable it, you might find that games run more smoothly; however, you will notice that some parts of the screen might not be rendered correctly and may appear to lag. Disable it only if your monitor has a higher framerate than your gameplay.
9. Performance tweaks in the AMD/ATI Control Center
The AMD/ATI Control Center is another fantastic way to squeeze out more performance and increase the visual quality of your games. To fire it up, right-click on your desktop, select Radeon Settings and head over to the Gaming Settings.
From here, you can set individual graphic settings for games you have installed. But we recommend going with the Global Settings as our recommendations usually apply to all games.
These are the most important settings:
Anisotropic Filtering Mode: The higher this is set, the sharper distant textures will appear, but it will also increase the processing load on your graphics card. If your GPU is powerful enough, enable it and see if there is a noticeable visual difference. Use this only if your game doesn’t support changing the anisotropic filtering in its own settings menu.
Anti-aliasing mode and method: Anti-aliasing reduces the “jaggies” around edges, and it can have a severe impact on performance. If you’re seeing shimmering or jaggies, try the Override method and select an anti-aliasing level from 2 to 8.
Morphological Filtering (MLAA): AMD introduced its own form of “anti-aliasing” to help remove jaggies around the edges in games, which might work better and faster than other options. Try turning off the in-game anti-aliasing and the settings above and see what happens. If it works, keep it.
Texture Filtering Quality: According to AMD, this changes the quality of textures. We couldn’t discern a difference between High and Performance, yet many of the tested games ran 1 to 5 FPS faster in the latter. We recommend going with Performance here — you will likely not notice a difference.
Surface Format Optimization: This can help older games decrease graphical fidelity in order to gain a few FPS. Today’s games aren’t affected, and even when I tried it on Age of Empires III, I couldn’t detect any performance improvements. Turn it off.
Wait for Vertical Refresh: Vertical Sync (or Vsync) synchronizes the frames rendered by your graphic card with the refresh rate of your monitor. If you disable Vsync, you might find that games run more smoothly, but doing so can also lead to graphics issues. Disable Vsync only if your monitor has a higher framerate (for example 60hz) than your gameplay (for example 40 FPS).
Last but not least, open up your Radeon settings (right-click on your desktop), go to Global Settings, and switch off Power Efficiency.
10. Bonus: Improve gaming performance on your laptop
Laptops are inherently slower than their desktop counterparts, and older machines are almost incapable of running newer 3D games. If you own a laptop with an Intel HD graphics chipset, and none of the above tips has worked, you can turn off all the power-saving options to make sure that even the slower graphics boost as much performance as possible.
Check the results: Enable in-game FPS counter
By now you’ve spent a lot of clicks and time improving the performance of your games. It’s time to check how much you’ve actually achieved. Some games have a built-in counter, like the gaming platform Steam (use Alt + Tab to enable it using the overlay). But our favorite tool is MSI Afterburner, which also installs RivaTuner. Here’s a helpful video to show you how it works:
Keep your PC in top gaming shape with AVG TuneUp
Even the fastest gaming computer can still benefit from further fine-tuning. Whether you’re running the latest beast or gaming on a more conventional machine, AVG TuneUp will help you scrape every last bit of performance and power from your computer.
Enjoy faster loading times, more responsive gameplay, and smoother graphics with a fully efficient gaming PC. Try AVG TuneUp now with a free trial.