So you’ve bought yourself a shiny new gaming PC or built one from scratch, and you’re ready to start playing. But just because you have a new version of Windows installed and your games downloaded doesn’t mean your PC is necessarily running at its best.
There are still a few things you can do to optimize your PC for an even better gaming experience. Just a few tweaks to your Windows settings can make all the difference.
We have previously written about how to get more FPS out of the graphics card and gaming machine, but here we are talking about further optimizing it for the gaming edge.
1. Turn on game mode
Windows is already practically built for gaming. Microsoft knows that PC users love to play games. This is why Game Pass is so popular. By default, although Windows still needs some tweaks to optimize performance, one of these includes Game Mode. This is a setting that manages system resources for better performance when playing.
Follow these steps to turn on game mode:
- Press the Start button on your keyboard and type Game
- Click Game Mode Settings when it appears at the top of the Start menu
- Click the button to turn on game mode
2. Disable notifications
Optimizing your PC for gaming is great, you know what else is great? Not interrupted while playing. Windows has a setting to disable notifications at certain times or when certain things happen. So no more annoying pop-ups to spoil the fun.
Follow these steps to access the settings:
- Press the Windows start button on your PC or keyboard and type Focus Assist
- In the focus settings, click on notifications – “notifications from apps and system, do not disturb”
- Find the “turn on do not disturb automatically” setting
- Tick ”when playing a game”
Alternatively, you can choose specific times of the day for Do Not Disturb mode to turn on. This works, for example, if you know you always play in the evening. Just set the time and enjoy blissful notification-free gaming.
3. Turn on hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling
Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling allows your machine to optimize performance and reduce latency. If you have the right hardware (a recent graphics card) and are running Windows 10 or 11, you can easily turn on this setting, much like game mode:
- Press the Start button and search for graphics settings
- Then click to turn on hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling
- Scroll down and see the “graphics performance preference” settings from there you can select the app to set your preferences. For Nvidia, this is the Nvidia Control Panel. You can choose this as a desktop app or Microsoft Store app via the drop-down menu
- Click on the app, click on options and select high performance
- Repeat for any game where you want maximum performance
4. Adjust for best performance
By default, Windows is set to focus on the best possible appearance. So it looks stylish with all the different animations and shiny edges. However, these quality settings can have a negative impact on game performance. So it might pay to turn them off or at least adjust for performance rather than appearance.
To do this:
- Press the Windows start button on your PC or keyboard and type appearance and performance
- Click “Adjust the performance and appearance of Windows” when it appears
- Look for the setting that says “adjust for best performance”
- Select it and click apply
- On the advanced tab, click to check that best performance is set for applications and not background tasks
5. Turn off enhanced pointer precision
You may well have bought a high-end gaming mouse to give yourself an edge over the competition, but that mouse may have its performance hindered by Windows settings.
Windows has various settings related to mouse pointer speed, and one in particular can be a problem, so we need to turn it off:
- Press the Windows start button on your PC or keyboard and type the mouse pointer
- Click on “change mouse pointer display or speed”
- Under the setting labeled “motion” uncheck the option to “enhance pointer precision”
- Click on use
While we’re at it, we’d also recommend checking your mouse software. Many modern gaming mice have high polling rate options. Click to select the highest – 1000Hz, 4000Hz or 8000Hz – in the software, so your signals get to your PC faster and there’s less latency.
6. Update the drivers
If you want the best performance, we think it’s important to not only keep Windows updated regularly (preferably outside of gaming hours), but also keep your graphics card drivers up to date.
We’ve previously written about how to update Nvidia drivers and install them cleanly for the best results, but it also pays to just keep up to date with updates so you have the latest drivers.
The easiest way to do this with Nvidia graphics cards is to use GeForce Experience. Once downloaded and installed, there is an option there to automatically download and install drivers. Click to turn it on and install the latest ones as they are released.
7. Turn on Nvidia G-Sync
If you have a compatible monitor and a new graphics card, you can and should turn on G-Sync. We’ve written about how to do this before, but essentially G-Sync ensures that your screen’s refresh rate matches the frames per second your graphics card is putting out for the game you’re playing.
Turn on G-Sync on your monitor and in Windows settings and this will prevent screen tearing and ensure a smooth gaming experience while gaming. We also recommend adjusting your game’s monitor settings to match your monitor’s refresh rate and limit the maximum FPS to the high end of the refresh rate.
8. Set the screen refresh rate
Windows will not always default to the maximum refresh rate of the connected display. If you have a fancy gaming monitor with a high refresh rate, you’ll need to turn the setting on both on-screen and in Windows.
Otherwise, the screen will only have 60Hz by default. So follow these steps to choose your maximum refresh rate:
- Right-click on the desktop and click on display settings
- Scroll down until you see “advanced display settings”
- Then scroll down to refresh rate and click the drop-down menu. From there, select your screen’s maximum refresh rate.
If you don’t see the setting you expect, chances are you’re using the wrong cable. Some monitors may only output the maximum refresh rate with a DisplayPort cable, otherwise HDMI 2.1 may be worth looking at.
9. Startup settings
Many of the apps you install will automatically force themselves into startup processes. So when you turn on your PC and log into Windows, these apps will be waiting for you. Sometimes this is not useful as the apps then become background processes that waste processing power and resources.
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to disable these apps and not only make your PC turn on faster, but also optimize it when gaming. Follow these instructions:
- Press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to launch Task Manager
- Look for the Startup tab and click on it
- Search through the list of apps and look for anything you don’t use regularly
- Right click on the offending apps and click disable
Alternatively, in Windows 11 you can access these settings by clicking the start button and searching for startup apps. Click on that system setting and you can then go through and turn apps on and off.
10. Use Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi speeds are getting faster and faster and connections are also more reliable with Wi-Fi 6E and beyond too. But there’s still something to be said for using a high-quality Ethernet cable directly from your router to your gaming PC.
If you have ultra-fast home broadband, it may pay to invest in a capable cable as well. CAT-8 Ethernet cables, for example, can transfer data faster and get the most out of your speeds, while offering a solid connection that won’t drop out.
If you’ve tried all of these things and want even more performance, you might want to consider these: