How to maximize alienware performance

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How to Optimize Laptop for Gaming [18 Tips to Boost Performance]

When buying a gaming laptop, we always want to achieve the best performance that we can get. After all, the purpose of purchasing a gaming laptop is to cater to our gaming needs. These include a smooth gaming experience, a higher FPS, and of course, fewer to no lags.

Unfortunately, there will always be a time where we face issues such as poor gaming performance, and we wonder how to make games run faster on our laptop. These kinds of things are indeed a burden to all gamers, especially for those who are not familiar with troubleshooting.

Or maybe your laptop is running just fine and you just want to know how to optimize my laptop for gaming?.

Alienware gaming laptop

Luckily, in this article, we will guide you on how to optimize a laptop for gaming to achieve the best performance while playing your favorite games.  I have used these tips myself over the years to optimize my own gaming PCs.

While there are lots of ways to improve your gaming laptop’s performance, this article should give you guidance on how to make your computer faster for gaming depending on which kind of laptop that you play on.


1. Update Graphics Card Driver

Updating graphics card drivers is one of the most common ways to optimize gaming performance on a laptop. A new version of driver updates is released regularly to fix bugs from previous versions and to enhance gaming performance.

Some features are also added during these updates. So it is essential to check for updates regularly.

There are several ways on how to update a GPU driver. In this section, we will guide you on how to update your driver in the most convenient way. You may also have to restart your system after each update.

Things can go wrong when you update your drivers, so before updating anything on your computer, make sure that you backup your system first.

You can follow these steps on how to back up your system using System Restore

There are three ways to update your graphics card drivers, via Windows Update, official websites themselves, or from dedicated GPU software.

1. Windows Update

The first guide we have is through Windows Update. Updating your current version of Windows will update, not only your graphics card drivers but also some fix and add features to your operating system that might be helpful to your overall gaming experience.

To update your Windows, type “updates” in the search box and look for the “check for updates” option.

Windows Update option screen

Your Windows will then show you some important updates. All you have to do is to click “Download” to start downloading. Updates will then be installed automatically after the download has completed.

Windows Update download button

In some cases, your Windows will automatically download these updates, but it is still helpful if you check it regularly.

2. Update Using the Official Website

You can also update your drivers through the official website of your GPU product type.

Nvidia Drivers

If you have an Nvidia card, you can go to and fill in the form based on which type of card you own.

Using this website is very straightforward, but we have attached a screenshot below as a guide. After you have entered your graphics cards info, click “start search.”

Nvidia driver search screen

After hitting the search button, you will see a bunch of drivers that are available for download. We recommend going for the latest game ready driver to ensure stability. Click the “Get Download” button to start the download.

Nvidia driver search results screen

You can now start installing the new driver as soon as your download is finished.

Keep in mind, however, that you should create a system restore point before installing the driver, this is in case there are problems with the latest driver. This option will be available during the installation process.

AMD Drivers

Next, for AMD cards, go to and search for the type of graphics card you have.  Attached below is a screenshot as a guide. You may also use the “search for your product” option using the drop-down list found in the screenshot below. We highly recommend using the list for a faster search.

AMD driver search screen

After searching for your product type and selecting it, click the Submit button. You will then be redirected to the Download Page. Select the current operating system that you have and, finally, click on “Download.”

AMD download driver screen

Note: Just like with the Nvidia card, always create a system restore point before installing new drivers on your laptop. This option will still be available during the installation process.

Intel Drivers

For Intel HD graphics, go to and choose the latest graphics driver available for your current system.

You may also use the Intel® Driver & Support Assistant (Intel® DSA) for hassle-free updates. To do this click the one that is highlighted in a red box.

Intel automatic driver update screen

How to Identify What Kind of Graphics Card You Have

Not sure about which type of GPU you have in your laptop? You can quickly identify this through the device manager.

  • The first thing you’re going to do is to search for Device Manager in the search box and then open it.
    Windows Device Manager button
  • In the Device Manager section, look and click for “Display Adaptors” to expand this option. Under this, you can see which type of graphics card you have installed on your laptop.

    Device Manager section showing what display adapter the laptop is using
    3. Updating Through Graphics Card Software

Another option for updating your cards driver is through the use of GeForce Experience for Nvidia cards and Radeon Software Adrenalin for AMD cards.

Using this software is the easiest and most convenient way of updating your drivers. Plus, you can then be sure that you will be downloading the right files for your type of graphics card. We highly recommend using this software.

For Nvidia Cards:

  • The first step is to locate the Nvidia icon found on your system tray and right-click on it and select GeForce Experience.
  • In the GeForce Experience window, click on the Drivers tab. Here you can see the current version you have installed and also an option for updating the driver. If you have an outdated driver, the update will start as soon as you click the “update” button; otherwise, there will be a pop-up message at the bottom-left of the window saying that your driver is updated just like what is shown in the screenshot below.
    GeForce experience driver screen

For AMD cards:

  • You can open the Radeon Adrenalin Software by right-clicking on your desktop and select AMD Radeon Settings.
  • Inside the Radeon Adrenalin Software, click on Updates.
  • Select Check for Updates to let the software check the Internet if a new version of the driver is available.
  • If a newer version is available, you will be given two options which are the “New Recommended” and the “New Optional.” In this case, I recommend choosing the recommended driver to ensure system stability.
  • Click on it and select Express Upgrade if you want to install the core components of the software and Custom Upgrade if you’re going to install only the specific parts that you need.
  • The download should begin shortly, and installation will start automatically.

2. Overclocking Graphics Card

For those who are afraid to overclock their graphics card, I want to say that doing so is perfectly safe only if you do it right. There is nothing wrong with overclocking your graphics card because, as gamers, all we want is to maximize the full potential of our hardware.

In our previous article on, “is overclocking a laptop GPU worth it?“, we discussed the benefits that you can get in overclocking this.

In addition to that, overclocking a graphics card is relatively easy compared to overclocking a CPU as there is lots of third-party software available right now for this job.

The one that we recommend the most is with the use of the MSI Afterburner software. You can get a copy of this software by visiting this link:

Aside from overclocking your GPU, MSI Afterburner also has other built-in functions, such as temperature monitoring and adjusting fan curves. You can also monitor your FPS using this program.

If you don’t know what is classed as a good FPS for gaming follow the link as we will explain our opinions on the matter.

All in all, MSI Afterburner is the best tool you can use for overclocking your GPU as it already has all the features that you need.

MSI Afterburner user interface

The screenshot above shows the basic controls of MSI Afterburner software. You don’t need to have a deep understanding of computers to understand these terms, but it will take some time and experience to achieve the perfect blend of a stable overclock.

If you don’t fancy overclocking and would prefer to just buy something that already has a powerful GPU that doesn’t really need tinkering with, read this report on the best laptops for less than $2000.

3. Uninstall Programs You No Longer Need

Uninstalling programs is one way of optimizing your laptop, not only for gaming, but for the overall laptop performance as well, as some of these programs are taking up your laptop’s resources.

You can uninstall these programs manually by using the programs’ built-in uninstall package. Firstly, search for Control Panel in the Windows search box and then take the following path,  Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall a Program.

the Control Panel option screen with the Uninstall a Program option highlighted

From here, you can select any programs that you want to uninstall, and the uninstallation process should be easy enough to guide you through the steps to delete these programs.

Uninstall or change a program option screen

However, uninstalling a program on your laptop through Control Panel will not wipe all the leftovers and registry items from your hard drive.

This means that uninstalling through Control Panel will not completely remove all the files associated with the program that you want to uninstall.

A way of solving this problem is through the use of third-party apps such as IOBit Uninstaller.

The advantage of having third-party apps in uninstalling files is that these programs will dig deeper to clear all leftover files and registry items.

In addition to this, uninstalling an application will also become more convenient as a shortcut in the context menu will be added. This means that you can uninstall a program just by right-clicking on it and selecting the appropriate option (see screenshot below).

IOBit Uninstaller powerful uninstall option showing on a program that has been right clicked on

4. Tweaking Nvidia Control Panel

For Nvidia cards, the Nvidia control panel offers built-in features that let you adjust your in-game graphics. You can do this by changing different settings according to your needs. This feature allows you to have a smoother and better gaming experience.

To do this, all you have to do is open the Nvidia Control Panel, by right-clicking in the Nvidia Settings icon found on your system tray, then choose Nvidia Control Panel.

Nvidia option in the Windows System Tray

If you want to tweak your settings using the Nvidia control panel, first, you must go to the “Adjust image settings with preview” section and check the “Use the advanced 3D image settings” option as it will give you full control of your 3D image settings.

Nvidia control panel - adjust image settings options

Next you need to go to the “Manage 3D settings” section.

Nvidia Manage 3D Settings option screen

Inside this section, there are different settings that you can change. Each item in the settings contains a brief description that can be seen by hovering your mouse pointer over the selected item. The purpose of this is to give you an idea about the effects of each setting.

For example, take a look at the screenshot above. The selected item is the “Image Sharpening” setting, which can be changed to either on or off.

A brief description is provided just below the settings menu that tells us what this setting does.

Also, if you have noticed, there are two tabs located inside the Manage 3D Settings section. These are the Global Settings and Program Settings.

  • Inside the Global Settings tab, you can adjust the setting for each feature according to your preferences. All the changes you’ve made in the Global Settings will be applied to all programs that utilize 3D unless specified in the Program Settings tab.
  • The Program Settings tab is just similar to the Global Settings tab, except that here, you can specify the settings for each program, which by default, follows the Global Settings. So you can have different 3D settings for each application using the Program Settings tab.

5. Tweaking the GeForce Experience Settings

GeForce Experience settings screen showing many different games

The best part about using GeForce Experience is that it will automatically optimize each game for you. It will analyze your system and will provide recommended settings for each game based on your system’s specifications.

This feature is available when you are opening the GeForce Experience app for the first time. You can also access this setting by going into the GeForce Experience home tab, and then choose your desired game and click “OPTIMIZE” (see the screenshot below)

GeForce Experience options for the game Cities: Skylines

6. Upgrade to SSD

There is nothing wrong with using a traditional mechanical hard drive as storage for your files, such as photos, videos, documents, and even some applications.

But when it comes to the operating system and your most commonly used programs and games, you might want to consider upgrading to an SSD.

It is a known fact that SSDs are significantly faster than mechanical hard drives. Although installing your games in an SSD will not boost your FPS, it will optimize the game’s performance, especially the loading times.

Also, your games will continue to read and write data throughout the game, so it will be a good idea to install them on an SSD.

Investing in an SSD is a wise choice right now since their prices have dropped lots since they were first introduced onto to market.

You will have vast options when choosing an SSD, from different brands with different models.

Most SSDs today are in the form of 2.5″ SATA SSD and M.2 SSD. I would highly recommend purchasing at least 240GB SSD, as a 64GB or 120GB SSD would be too small.

The best gaming laptops under 800 dollars tend to have SSD drives. If you would prefer just to replace your current machine instead of upgrading to SSD then these reviews will help you make the right choice.

7. Activate Windows 10 Game Mode Settings

Game Mode Settings is a new feature in Windows 10. This feature will prioritize your games by preventing Windows Update from installing new drivers and sending notifications to provide the best gaming experience.

It will also help you achieve stable frame rates depending on the type of games that you play.

Game Mode settings in Windows 10 is turned on by default. However, you can switch this on by following these steps:

  1. Type “game mode” in the Windows search box and look for the “Game Mode settings” option.
    Windows Game Mode button
  2. Inside the Game Mode settings, you can see the slider in which you can switch Game Mode on or off.
    Windows Game Mode on/off slider button

However, there are cases that some users have a better gaming experience when the Windows 10 Game Mode is off.

So it is recommended for you to experiment and observe which setting suits your gaming experience best.

8. Install the Latest Version of DirectX

DirectX plays an essential role in gaming for Windows operating system. As of now, the latest version is DirectX 12, which comes pre-installed in Windows 10.

Current games, that support DirectX 12, are said to have better frame rates compared to the previous DirectX 11. When downloading games on Steam, a version of DirectX is also part of the package.

However, for older operating systems such as Windows 7, the latest DirectX 12 will not work.

To check which DirectX version your computer has, type dxdisg into the Windows search box and click on its icon. These steps will open up the DirectX Diagnostic Tool.

DxDiag option button

In the DirectX Diagnostic Tool window, select System tab and look for the information labeled as DirectX Version. From there, you should be able to see which version of DirectX you have. In this instance you will see that version 12 is installed.

DirectX Diagnostic Tool showing which version is installed

9. Optimize Power Settings

To ensure that you utilize the maximum performance of your gaming laptop, the easiest way to do this is by adjusting the power mode slider to the Best performance. You can do this by clicking on the battery icon located on the system tray.

Battery settings on a laptop

10. Close Background Apps

If you don’t have a huge amount of RAM installed, closing background apps while playing games might be necessary. Most of the latest games today need at least 8GB of  RAM, not to mention those memory-hog browsers like Google Chrome.

Closing all background apps is crucial, especially when playing AAA titles, as these games would quickly fill up your system memory without even realizing it.

You can check your current memory usage through Task Manager. You can also use third-party apps such as MSI Afterburner.

To check your current system memory usage, type Task Manager into the Windows search bar and click on the tool or you can press Alt + Ctrl + Del then click on Task Manager tool.

Inside the Task Manager is the list of programs that are currently running as well as the resources they are taking up. A list of background processes is also included in the Task Manager.

Shut down any applications that are not needed to be running whilst you game. To do this, simply highlight the app in question and click End Task.

Task Manager screen showing the current apps running

11. Check the Network Speed for Online Gaming

Good Internet speed is vital for online gaming in order to achieve a smooth gaming experience.

Having poor Internet speeds will result in high pings, delays, and lags. Generally, when playing online games, a lower ping is much better than a higher download speed.

To check your network speed, you can go to sites like This website will not only check for your Download and Upload speed but will also check your Ping.

Internet speed test interface and results

12. Disable Automatic Updates for Games and Operating System

Another common problem that a computer user might encounter is system instability. This is due to several reasons, one of which is new updates that still have lots of bugs.

Unfortunately, there is no way you can disable automatic updates in Windows 10. But you can prevent the installation of new updates and automatic restarts by activating Windows 10 Game Mode settings.

When it comes to automatic updates for games, most gaming clients, such as Steam, have a feature in which you can choose which time would you want to install updates.

You can also disable downloading updates whilst playing games. This will prevent ping spikes and packet loss while playing online games.

Follow these steps to schedule updates on Steam. This process might require you to log into your Steam account.

  1. Open your Steam client
  2. Choose Steam found in the toolbar and click on Settings
  3. In the Settings menu, choose Downloads
  4. In the Download Restrictions section, you can set the schedule on which time of the day would you want to install updates. You can also uncheck the Allow downloads during gameplay option to prevent your games from updating while playing.
    Steam download settings option screen

13. Clean Your Laptop to Keep Good Airflow and Cooling

Keeping your laptop free from dust is a good option for maintenance.  Since your computer will gather dust from time to time, this might block the vents, which will restrict the airflow. Always remember that poor airflow can cause overheating issues, which might result in thermal throttling, as explained in our previous articles.

14. Use Cleaning Apps

After many months or years of usage, it is possible that your drive will contain unnecessary files or leftover files from previous uninstallations.  This might also include temporary files and some entries in the registry that your computer doesn’t need anymore.

To remove these files, you can use third-party apps like CCleaner. This program is designed to clean your drives and speed up your computer.

You can get a free copy of this software from its official website, This software also has a paid for professional edition in which some advanced features are added.

CCleaner interface

15. Use Antivirus Software to Clean Your System

A slow system can be caused by malware that is currently on your computer. Malware mostly comes from downloading files from unsolicited websites as well as illegal downloading from pirate websites.

There are also some cases where malware is sent through email spam.

To prevent your system from being infected from malware, always check whether the website you visit is trusted or not. Also, never open some links from suspicious emails. And lastly, always use a genuine copy of your software.

But despite being cautious, some malware can still find its way into our computer. To avoid this from happening, always install an antivirus program.

Simply installing this software will not protect you forever as it will need to be updated to the newest version regularly.

If you are using Windows 10, I would highly recommend using the Windows Security program. This program is Microsoft’s built-in antivirus program that comes pre-installed in Windows 10.

I find this very effective in blocking potential threats, and it will not slow down your computer as it only uses a minimal amount of resources. And the good thing about Windows Security is that it has built-in ransomware protection that is being updated regularly through Windows Update.

Windows Security options screen

However, if you want to use a third-party antivirus program, there are many free ones to choose from. You can also use the paid premium option which will have more features. I personally have always have used the free editions and they have always served me well.

Here is a good article on the top 10 free antivirus software currently.

16. Upgrade Hardware

Upgrading your system is also a go-to option if you want to optimize your laptop’s performance. There are a few upgrade options for laptop users. The most common is RAM and storage. Although this might be costly, the increase in performance is worth it.

Upgrading RAM

Upgrading the system memory will be beneficial not only for gaming but also for the overall performance of your machine. After your RAM upgrade, you will immediately notice improvement, especially to system stability.

But when adding additional RAM, always keep in mind that it should match the current RAM installed. It’s not a good idea to use different brands or models in the same system.

If you are planning to replace all of the current RAM, you should check the new RAMs compatibility with your motherboard, specifically the memory’s frequency. This is because motherboards are designed to cater to specific frequencies, so going beyond that will be a waste of money.

Upgrading Hard Drive

You can never go wrong when upgrading a hard drive. Whether it is for additional storage or an increase in terms of read/write speed, upgrading the hard drive is always a good choice.

Some laptops come with a slow 5400 RPM HDD, so upgrading to a much faster drive will give you a significant increase in terms of performance.

Also, consider upgrading to an SSD instead of a traditional mechanical HDD.

17. Disable Programs from Running on Bootup to Stop them Eating Memory

Some programs are designed to start automatically when you turn on your system. The reason is that some of these programs are considered essential to your PC. An example of this program is your antivirus program.

By default, antivirus programs are always set to run on startup (and should always be kept that way) so that it will start right away in blocking threats as soon as you start using your PC.

Malware will not wait on when to attack, so it is vital to have antivirus programs running at all times.

However, some programs are set to run on startup by default but are not that essential.

In my case, these programs are composed of game clients, entertainment software, and chat applications. Turning these off is helpful, especially to those with a slower system.

This is how to disable these programs from running on bootup:

  1. Open your Task Manager
  2. Click on Startup tab
  3. Under the Startup tab is the list of programs that are automatically set to run on bootup. You can disable them by choosing your desired program and then click Disable

Task Manager showing how to disable apps from running at startup

18. Stop Unnecessary Windows Services

You can also stop unnecessary Windows Services to save system resources. These may include Maps, Mail, and Location apps. You can do this by searching Background Apps in the Windows search bar and select on which apps you want to stop or disable.

Background apps that are running on my Windows 10 system

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does RAM increase FPS?

Usually, upgrading your RAM should increase your FPS. But other factors will come into play whether this upgrade will optimize your FPS or not.

For example, if you are playing on a system with low system memory, like 4GB, adding another 4GB stick would surely increase your FPS as the majority of games right now requires 8GB for smoother performance.

Another example is that if you are already playing on a system that already has a massive amount of RAM, adding more RAM might not increase FPS.

You can read a more in-depth discussion about RAM and how it affects FPS here.

Does an SSD increase FPS?

No. Upgrading to SSD or installing your games in an SSD will not increase FPS. It will, however, make games load faster on your PC, since SSDs can read data much faster than traditional HDDs.

How can I improve graphics on my laptop?

You can optimize the graphics on your laptop by adjusting the necessary graphics settings such as texture details and resolution.

But if you notice some stuttering and performance issues after changing the graphics settings, I’m afraid you are limited as to what your laptop can offer. If you want to maintain stable frame rates, you may want to consider keeping low to medium graphics settings.

I hope that you have found this article useful and are now able to optimize your laptop for gaming easily.

Whilst discussing laptops and graphics here are reviews of the top gaming laptops under $1200 that you may find useful if you are considering a new gaming device.

James Cosgrove standing and holding James Jnr his young son

James Cosgrove

James Cosgrove has been the lead writer at GizmoFusion since 2019. He has a huge passion for the latest technology and gadgets. He loves to talk and write about this interest. He hopes that visitors to the website will find his reports informative and helpful when it comes to making the best choices for their needs.


Many of us hold the view that once we’ve purchased a new Alienware laptop/ PC we don’t have to perform any system maintenance and optimization.

Sadly, this doesn’t hold true at all! After the expiration of service warranty, the Alienware laptop/ computer becomes sluggish and lags during gameplay, applications become unresponsive. The manuals contain very little or no information about dealing with such performance issues. In this article, we will be explaining various simple yet highly effective methods ranging from tinkering with startup items to optimizing the machine for best performance. For a quick optimization of Alienware machine, use the performance optimization features of ST Cleaner. It comes with powerful features such as System Cache which can speed up the computer in no time. You can download and try its functionality here:

alienware pc

ST Cleaner is a harbinger of strong security principles


Use Minimal Set of Startups

A Longer startup list makes your computer become painfully slow. Using the System Configuration tool in Windows, change the way your computer boots up.

  1. Type TaskMgr in the Search Box, and open it from the Search Results.
  2. Expand the user interface (More details icon).
  3. Use the Startup tab to organize the startup items.
  4. Select an unwanted startup item, choose Disable.

Uninstall Space Consuming Apps

Review the list of installed applications and look for programs that occupy larger disk space. Uninstall any unnecessary applications with larger disk usage.

  1. Open the Settings pagefrom the Start Screen.
  2. Click System > Apps & Features tab.
  3. Sort the apps list by size. Select Sort by size option from the drop down box.
  4. The apps will be listed in the descending order of disk usage. Uninstall the ones you don’t need.

Upgrade BIOS Firmware

An update of your BIOS Firmware can sort out this issue. Before you install the upgrade, make sure you close all other programs including your Antivirus and review the support documentation, in case something goes wrong during the installation stage.

For Dell users:

  1. Go to the Dell Drivers & Downloads pagehere.
  2. Do you know your Service Tag or Express Service Code? If yes, enter it and click Submit. Else click Detect Product button and download their utility software that automatically detects it.
  3. Download the BIOS Firmware Update.

Turn Off PCIe Gen3 Feature

PCIe Gen3 feature adversely affects your computer performance. Disable it using the BIOS Setup.

  1. Restart your computer and go to the BIOS Setup. (Press F2 repeatedly)
  2. Once the Alienware company logo is displayed, use the keyboard arrow keys to highlight the Advanced menu, and press Enter.
  3. Move down to PCIe Gen 3 setting and press Enter.
  4. Select Disable option, press Enter.
  5. Go to the Exit menu > Save changes and exit. Alienware computer will automatically restart.

Use the Pre-Boot System Diagnostic

Alienware computers contain a pre-boot system diagnostic utility that scans for hardware problems and possible system issues. Based on the diagnostic findings you’ll be able to determine whether any hardware needs to be replaced or there is any issue with a particular software.

  1. Reboot your PC and then press F2 key until Alienware logo appears.
  2. Select the Diagnostics option and press Enter.
  3. The tests will begin automatically. Be patient and let the all the tests finish by themselves.

Update Graphics Card

When you’re running an outdated graphics driver, the games and programs run much slower. A video card update will likely give a much needed boost to your system performance.

  1. Open the Run dialog. To do so, press Windows Key + R simultaneously.
  2. Now type mmc devmgmt.msc and press Enter.
  3. Expand the top node, and then expand Display Adapters.
  4. Right-click your video card, choose Update driver software option.

Adjust your PC Settings

Windows often sets different visual effects that eat up higher amount of RAM. Customize Windows for best performance on sluggish Alienware PCs.

  1. Right-click This PC > Properties.
  2. Click Advanced system settings > Advanced (tab) > Settings (Performance).
  3. Click Visual Effects > Adjust for best performance.
  4. Click OK | OK.

Raza Ali Kazmi

Raza Ali Kazmi works as an editor and technology content writer at Sorcim Technologies (Pvt) Ltd. He loves to pen down articles on a wide array of technology related topics and has also been diligently testing software solutions on Windows & Mac platforms.

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Nine tweaks to supercharge your gaming PC

When it comes to PC gaming, better FPS and user experience matter—even the best titles will suffer if their beautifully rendered virtual worlds slow to a crawl. But no matter your particular PC gaming setup on Windows, you’ll find numerous tweaks that can ensure a smooth, frustration-free ride, and maybe that extra bit of responsiveness you need to succeed.

1. Update your graphics drivers

You won’t want to go into battle, hit the racetrack, or launch into space without having the latest Nvidia graphics drivers or AMD graphics drivers installed on your GPU. It’s one of the most important pre-game checks you can do, and it’s straightforward, too.

You may already have an Nvidia or AMD auto-update tool on your system, and you can check by searching for it from the taskbar. If not, you can download utilities from both Nvidia and AMD that will analyze the hardware on your system and get the right drivers from the web. You can also look for these drivers manually on the Nvidia or AMD websites.

If you’re not sure what graphics card you have installed, search for “device manager” from the taskbar and run the program that appears as the best match. Open the Display adapters list to see your GPU—you can even right-click on the entry and choose Update driver from here if you prefer.

Drivers handle the communications between your graphics hardware and the software on your system (including installed games). The newer and more up-to-date your drivers are, the faster and smoother that communication will be. That applies to OS-level software updates, too—make sure to check if you have any pending via Update & Security in Windows Settings.

Related: Best gaming computer: Five things to consider

2. Check the in-game options

Every game has its own set of configuration options, and it’s worth spending time to familiarize yourself with them, as tempting as it might be to just launch into the action as quickly as possible. These settings can make a significant difference, and it’s worth losing a few pixels overall if it means that the ones left on screen are moving more smoothly.

Obviously we can’t give you instructions for every single game out there, but these settings shouldn’t be too difficult to find—they’re often available on a game’s opening splash screen. On Grand Theft Auto V for PC, for example, choose Settings, then Graphics and Advanced Graphics to configure the screen resolution, maximum refresh rate, shadow quality, and how far into the distance the game renders scenery (all of which will affect how fast or slow the game runs).

3. Check for pre-installed software

If you’ve bought a prebuilt gaming PC or laptop from a recognized gaming brand—such as Razer, Alienware, Gigabyte, and many others—it may have come with a utility or two for optimizing your gaming experience. We can’t tell you about every software option for every gaming brand, but if you have a look through the installed programs on the Start menu, you should be able to spot any obvious candidates.

To give one example, Gigabyte gaming laptops come with the Aorus Control Center, which provides feedback on current GPU, CPU, and memory load. It also lets you boost the processor and graphics card speed, in return for a higher power draw and louder fan whirring, if you want to squeeze out some extra performance from your system.

If you can’t find any such utility but think one should be there, it’s always worth checking with the manufacturer directly (which usually means reading through the relevant support forums on the web). You may need to manually download the utility if it wasn’t installed when the computer was put together (or if you’ve inadvertently removed the application without realizing what it is).

Related: Best gaming mouse: What to look for when buying this accessory

4. Find your own optimization software

Adrus control Center

You don’t have to settle for the optimization software package that came with your PC (if there is one), because there are plenty of alternatives available. Razer Cortex is free and one of the best, and you don’t need a Razer machine to use it. It’ll intelligently allocate system resources to your games when they need them, limit non-gaming apps, and generally squeeze as high a frame rate as possible from your hardware setup.

Game Fire is another option that offers a similar array of tweaks and optimizations—shutting down unnecessary background processes, making sure your rig is using RAM efficiently, and watching out for potential slowdowns on your internet connection. It will set you back $18, but there’s a free version with basic functions included so you can decide if you like it (and see if it actually makes a difference) first.

5. Free up some disk space

Games handle huge amounts of data as you roam around the virtual worlds they create, so the more free disk space you can offer them, the better. If storage space is at a premium on your system, you might have already noticed games starting to struggle and slow down as a result.

Making sure there’s plenty of empty space on your hard drive is a boring but effective way of maximizing your chances of having a smooth gaming session. Get rid of games, applications, and files that you’re no longer using and reap the benefits—you can transfer files to the cloud if you need to, and uninstall programs from the Apps section of Windows Settings.

6. Overclock your computer

Overclocking—pushing your system components beyond manufacturer-approved limits—used to be the exclusive domain of gaming enthusiasts, but now just about anyone can give it a try. The software applications are easier to use than ever, though we’d recommend doing some reading around the topic first just to give yourself a grounding. It’s also important to note that overclocking is done at your own risk (you’ll almost certainly void your hardware warranties).

Overclocked components mean faster gameplay, but you’ll need a CPU and/or GPU that’s been built with overclocking in mind. Many now are, but it’s worth double-checking your system specs. If you’ve bought a prebuilt gaming rig designed to be overclocked, you may find it comes with a utility for that very task.

It’s not an exact science, but you basically nudge up the speed of your CPU and/or GPU until you notice bugs and crashes, then dial it back down to a safe level. Apps like Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, AMD Ryzen Master, MSI Afterburner, and Asus GPU Tweak are good ones to start with to see what’s possible on your system.

7. Rely on plug-in power

Gamers gaming

In an effort to maximize battery life, Windows tends to dial down the performance settings when you’re away from a power socket, so you should always be gaming while plugged in if at all possible. (This only applies to gaming on a laptop, of course.)

To check up on this and other battery and power configuration options and override them if necessary, open the Windows Settings dialog, then choose System > Power & sleep > Additional power settings > Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings. You’ll finally reach a dialog box where you’ll be able to make adjustments to how the system processor and graphics run on battery power.

8. Shut down background processes

When you’re busy gaming, you’ll want as little as possible running in the background, sucking up precious CPU, GPU, and RAM resources, as well as internet bandwidth. Close down non-essential, non-gaming programs from the taskbar by right-clicking on them and choosing Close window from the menu that pops up (if you’ve got any files open and unsaved, you should see a prompt asking if you want to save them).

Plenty of Windows programs like to run in the background just in case you need them—you’ll usually see these down in the notification area or system tray in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. To check what’s running in the background, right-click on a blank area of the taskbar and choose Task Manager, then Processes (if you can’t see the Processes tab, click More details).

Shut down anything on the list that you’re not actually using by selecting it and choosing End task. If you’re not sure what is a specific process, run a quick web search on it—some of them might be necessary for your games and Windows itself. A little bit of trial and error may be required here.

9. Turn off notifications

Getting an email notification halfway through a particularly grueling capture the flag level might not make a huge difference in terms of performance, but it definitely isn’t going to help your concentration. It may also mean the difference between victory and defeat for you or your team.

Manage notifications from the System and Notifications & actions section of Windows Settings, or choose System, then Focus assist to set particular times of the day when notifications aren’t active. You can also mute notifications through the Xbox Game Bar app built into Windows—hit Win+G to bring it up.

David Nield
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