5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For Gaming

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728751 lan party   5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For GamingIt’s a sad fact that gaming hardware is quickly outdated. Turn your back for a few days, and the previous minimum specs have already been left behind.

Of course, there’s a good chance your computer isn’t even running at its optimum performance. A cluttered hard disk or outdated graphics card can go a long way to slowing down your gaming system.

Below are a number of tips to optimize your computer for gaming, and allow you to play more games with your current set up. Have a slightly outdated computer? There might still be some hope for you!

1. Regular (Preventive) Maintenance

Although this seems rather obvious, a lot of people still neglect to maintain their hardware. Like with a car, if you don’t take care of it, it’ll slowly start to deteriorate. There are a few things we need to optimize your computer and to take care of it keep it up and running.

Hard Drive Space

First and foremost, make sure you still have some space left on your hard drive. I know a lot of people who operate at, or even above 95% of maximum storage capacity. Not only does this give you little breathing room, your computer will also run slower because of it. Admit it, you don’t need half of what’s stored on your hard drive right now. So get rid of it.

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Defragmenting

When using a hard drive, space is used wherever available. As such, some files are fragmented all over the disk. The defragment utility analyzes your hard drive, and attempts to consolidate those fragmented files, in an attempt to optimize your computer and speed up your system.

defrag   5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For Gaming

You can find the Disk Defragmenter under Start -> Accessories -> System Tools. Optimally, you can also set a defragmenting schedule. This is done by default on a number of computers, but double checking doesn’t hurt.

Installed Applications

The same story of the hard drive is true for applications. More installed applications results in a slower running computer. Go to Control Panel -> Uninstall a program and get rid of all those applications you once installed, but in fact rarely use.

Updates Updates Updates

Contrary to popular belief, not all Windows’ updates are intended for your displeasure, discomfort, or to keep a tab on your every digital move. Some of them actually improve your system’s performance by fixing known bugs. Imagine that! It’s often best to let the update utility do its thing. If you’ve got your Windows updates turned off, at least check them manually once in a while.

2. Efficient Use Of Processing Power

A computer, although an amazing piece of engineering, can only run so many tasks. Modern games can already be incredibly complicated, so there’s little sense in straining your system. Use common sense in determining what is possible.

Unless you’re on a very slow system, Notepad probably won’t hurt, but at least shut down Photoshop and MS Word before firing up that MMORPG.

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Look in your system notification bar at the downright corner of the screen to view programs that are running in the background. Although they aren’t visibly performing any tasks, they’re still leeching off your processing power. Close down as many of those as you can, but leave sound and graphics controllers alone.

A final tip. Do shut down your instant messaging program. Even on stronger systems, an aggressive message notification can minimize your game at critical moments, exponentially increase your ping (the response time between computer and server, ‘lagging’ is caused by this), or even outright crash your game.

If necessary, there are special in-game messaging alternatives like XFire, Ventrilo and Steam.

3. (Custom) Graphics Card Drivers

Your graphics card is an essential part of your gaming system. It does the heavy lifting when 3D graphics are rendered. As such, it’s an absolute must to keep your graphics drivers updated as well.

ATI Nvidia   5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For Gaming

Although the chip sets are predominantly made by ATI or NVIDIA, the graphics cards themselves are sometimes built by secondary companies. Check your box, or on the graphics card to get the necessary details and go to your manufacturer’s website to look for the latest drivers.

omegadrivers   5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For Gaming

In case your graphics card has trouble keeping up, you can always use custom gaming drivers. Omega Drivers have added customizability, and a number of optimizations and internal tweaks to give them that extra edge over normal drivers, which “are often tailored for synthetic benchmarks”, according to the Omega Drivers headsman.

4. Put Your PC In ‘Gaming Mode’ With Vista Services

Vista Services (don’t be fooled, the application works like a charm on Windows 7 as well) is a nifty little freeware system optimizer. Alas, we’re only going to use it for one specific feature; Gaming Mode.

gamingmode   5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For Gaming

As expected, gaming mode temporarily optimizes your computer for playing games. This is done by shutting down a number of trivial and unnecessary Windows services. This will give your computer that extra boost for playing games. Other features of the Gaming Mode will help you close unnecessary programs and tune down Windows visual effects.

5. Tinker With Your Computer’s Hardware

Are you still stammering on the lowest possible graphics configuration, and do none of these software solutions seal the deal for you? Perhaps it’s time to upgrade your PC’s hardware. A great place to start out is our free PDF guide on How To Build A Gaming PC, even if you’re just looking to replace a part or two.

gamingsnippet   5 Solid Tweaks to Optimize Your Computer For Gaming

Don’t feel like you’re up to tinkering with your own PC? You can nearly always find help in your local hardware store, or one of the bigger ‘offline’ franchises. It’s a sad fact that gaming hardware gets outdated quickly.

Do you have any other tips for our fellow gamers? Let us know in the comments section below!

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25 Comments -

Jim Hubbard

I’d add the freeware “Game Booster” (from IOBit – the makers of other col freeware like SmartDefrag – at http://www.iobit.com/gamebooster.html).

It closes unneeded services while you play and will re-enable them when you need to get back to work.

I actually use it for heavy Photoshop usage as well as gaming to give PS more RAM and power and to hack through those design tasks much quicker.

It works on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7.

And, did I mention, it’s free?

Jim Hubbard

I’d add the freeware “Game Booster” (from IOBit – the makers of other col freeware like SmartDefrag – at http://www.iobit.com/gameboost

It closes unneeded services while you play and will re-enable them when you need to get back to work.

I actually use it for heavy Photoshop usage as well as gaming to give PS more RAM and power and to hack through those design tasks much quicker.

It works on Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7.

And, did I mention, it’s free?

Simon Slangen

Great tip, Jim!

It kind of sounds like Vista Services’ Game Mode (tip 4), but has support for a bunch of other Windows versions as well.

Simon Slangen

Great tip, Jim!

It kind of sounds like Vista Services’ Game Mode (tip 4), but has support for a bunch of other Windows versions as well.

ænon1mus

Interesting tips, Simon!

Corey

try this program called GameBooster, it’s really good (although it kind of does what you said).

http://www.iobit.com/gamebooster.html

Corey

try this program called GameBooster, it’s really good (although it kind of does what you said).

http://www.iobit.com/gameboost

mr. chopper

Eek. This is a real blind leading the newbies article.

Firstly, only the other day did your friends at Lifehacker outline the defragmenting quandary: http://lifehacker.com/5520447/windows-maintenance-tips-the-good-bad-and-useless

Secondly, the Omega Drivers website hasn’t been updated in an age (at least for the ATI side). A lot of drivers that get released by manufacturers are for games that have just come out – often you have the problem of certain drivers only working for certain games (e.g. GTA4, PES 2010 and DiRT 2 work with the latest Catalyst driver, but PES2009 and DiRT now have issues). But this problem would be multiplied if you were using the Omega drivers, as they haven’t supported any of the more recent cards or games.

Thirdly, there are a number of discussions about whether apps like Vista Services do more harm than good. Surely the best option is close down all unnecessary running processes and programs before you start your game? It doesn’t take an admin, or app that acts like an admin to know that.

The best way to get your machine running games smoothly is to cover the hardware basics, including up-to-date or known working drivers for everything. The tip of closing stuff down is one that a lot of people don’t seem to get, but having a ten year old graphics card and trying to run anything modern just isn’t going to work.

Simon Slangen

Sure, but not everyone is a dedicated enough gamer to jump on i7 processors and 300$ graphics cards. With the speed of graphics development, PC gaming threatens to become an elite club for people with big pockets. It should not be.

Fact is, your computer just doesn’t reach its full potential. You’re carrying a lot of unnecessary bagage that’s keeping you down: Windows UI eye-candy, and a heap of unused programs running in the background. A casual gamer can temporarily rid himself of some of that bagage, and enjoy a good game without taking a second mortgage. That’s what this guide is for.

(PS. looks like a splendid article from LifeHacker. A good follow-up to #2. Although probably not your primary intention, thanks for bringing it up.)

jujdred

Regardless of what those ‘theorists’ try to get you to believe, simple little tips such as this as well as certain programs running to help boost system performance where it counts like Memory free space utilization, cpu cache settings, HDD InOut settings and others have allowed me to successfully continue playing even modern day games that call for multiple cores with 2+ gigs of RAM and super uber VGA’s with my trusty old socket 939 single core with 2 gigs and a 9800gtx, with no problems.
And yes, defragmenting DOES help if you do it right. It’s a fact that the outside of a drive is faster than the rest of it, and the less your head moves the less weartear on your drivesystem and improved throughput in general.
So these tips are not newbie only, I’ve been doing this for 12 years and still holds water to this day. So don’t knock it for the little guy just because you can afford an uber buff rig. Hell, all my stuff is hand me downs anyway.

mr. chopper

Eek. This is a real blind leading the newbies article.

Firstly, only the other day did your friends at Lifehacker outline the defragmenting quandary: http://lifehacker.com/5520447/

Secondly, the Omega Drivers website hasn’t been updated in an age (at least for the ATI side). A lot of drivers that get released by manufacturers are for games that have just come out – often you have the problem of certain drivers only working for certain games (e.g. GTA4, PES 2010 and DiRT 2 work with the latest Catalyst driver, but PES2009 and DiRT now have issues). But this problem would be multiplied if you were using the Omega drivers, as they haven’t supported any of the more recent cards or games.

Thirdly, there are a number of discussions about whether apps like Vista Services do more harm than good. Surely the best option is close down all unnecessary running processes and programs before you start your game? It doesn’t take an admin, or app that acts like an admin to know that.

The best way to get your machine running games smoothly is to cover the hardware basics, including up-to-date or known working drivers for everything. The tip of closing stuff down is one that a lot of people don’t seem to get, but having a ten year old graphics card and trying to run anything modern just isn’t going to work.

Tim

Thanks for introducing Vista Services and for providing the Gaming PC guide. Good to see someone is still talking about computer maintenance. Almost everyone I know neglects this. Don’t forget to dump those temp files and Flash Player cache.

Simon Slangen

Sure, but not everyone is a dedicated enough gamer to jump on i7 processors and 300$ graphics cards. With the speed of graphics development, PC gaming threatens to become an elite club for people with big pockets. It should not be.

Fact is, your computer just doesn’t reach its full potential. You’re carrying a lot of unnecessary bagage that’s keeping you down: Windows UI eye-candy, and a heap of unused programs running in the background. A casual gamer can temporarily rid himself of some of that bagage, and enjoy a good game without taking a second mortgage. That’s what this guide is for.

(PS. looks like a splendid article from LifeHacker. A good follow-up to #2. Although probably not your primary intention, thanks for bringing it up.)

Anonymous

Here’s my recommendation, and it has to do with defragmentation and load times. I use a wonderful defrag tool called O&O Defrag, that does some pretty neat tricks. First off, I’d recommend getting yourself a separate hard drive for gaming, and not using the same HD your OS is on. Then use a partitioning tool to create ‘zones’. For example, I have a 1TB HD that I use.

I run Flight Simulator X, which is a beast of an application, and with it’s many mods can take up to 80GB or more of space. I gave that it’s own 150GB partition. Most of my games are managed by Steam, so I gave Steam a 250GB dedicated partition. Once you get Steam on there, you run O&O Defrag in “COMPLETE/NAME” defrag mode, which will put all the files contiguously in that partition, in alphabetical order, making for the highest possible efficiency.

if you’re mixing these tens of thousands of files together with your OS, you could easily be doubling or even tripling your games load times unnecessarily. By keeping them in their own partition, you avoid fragmentation with other apps and system files.

With FSX, I saw my load times drop from 90 seconds to 35 seconds when doing this.

Aibek

wow, giving games their own partition sounds like an excellent idea.
Thanks for the tip!

jeff66

Here’s my recommendation, and it has to do with defragmentation and load times. I use a wonderful defrag tool called O&O Defrag, that does some pretty neat tricks. First off, I’d recommend getting yourself a separate hard drive for gaming, and not using the same HD your OS is on. Then use a partitioning tool to create ‘zones’. For example, I have a 1TB HD that I use.

I run Flight Simulator X, which is a beast of an application, and with it’s many mods can take up to 80GB or more of space. I gave that it’s own 150GB partition. Most of my games are managed by Steam, so I gave Steam a 250GB dedicated partition. Once you get Steam on there, you run O&O Defrag in “COMPLETE/NAME” defrag mode, which will put all the files contiguously in that partition, in alphabetical order, making for the highest possible efficiency.

if you’re mixing these tens of thousands of files together with your OS, you could easily be doubling or even tripling your games load times unnecessarily. By keeping them in their own partition, you avoid fragmentation with other apps and system files.

With FSX, I saw my load times drop from 90 seconds to 35 seconds when doing this.

Aibek

wow, giving games their own partition sounds like an excellent idea.
Thanks for the tip!

Anonymous

I usually keep the whole Programs folder in separate partition. I think it works!
And for the defragmenting Tuneup is the best, as for any software for that you have to do it regularly.
Turn off or set to manual , the useless services in widows like printer spooling if you dont have a printer!
Good luck.

xartz

I usually keep the whole Programs folder in separate partition. I think it works!
And for the defragmenting Tuneup is the best, as for any software for that you have to do it regularly.
Turn off or set to manual , the useless services in widows like printer spooling if you dont have a printer!
Good luck.

hardikjakharia

Vista services seems like a nice app.. will try it later at home PC..

- Hardik Jakharia

Nibir Farhan

@jeff66

I didn’t understand the idea of “giving games their own partitions”. u mean creating separate partitions for every single game?

I have a software “3d analyzer”. it’s a kinda virtual graphics card. It uses some RAM as graphics memory and creates a virtual graphics card. U can have the test of 4 graphics card with this soft – NVIDIA GeForce Ti4600, NVIDIA GeForceFX 5900 Ultra, ATi Raedon 8500, ATi Raedon 9800 Pro. There are many tweaking options inside. This soft already supports vast amount of games without hassle. it may not support all the games in the world but if u are a tech savy and have good knowledge of graphics card features, u might be able to make it work with this soft. This software doesn’t modify the main graphics card files. If u don’t have a high level graphics card to play certain games, u can have a try on this.

If anybody needs this software and muo allows me, i can give mediafire link.

Nibir Farhan

@jeff66

I didn’t understand the idea of “giving games their own partitions”. u mean creating separate partitions for every single game?

I have a software “3d analyzer”. it’s a kinda virtual graphics card. It uses some RAM as graphics memory and creates a virtual graphics card. U can have the test of 4 graphics card with this soft – NVIDIA GeForce Ti4600, NVIDIA GeForceFX 5900 Ultra, ATi Raedon 8500, ATi Raedon 9800 Pro. There are many tweaking options inside. This soft already supports vast amount of games without hassle. it may not support all the games in the world but if u are a tech savy and have good knowledge of graphics card features, u might be able to make it work with this soft. This software doesn’t modify the main graphics card files. If u don’t have a high level graphics card to play certain games, u can have a try on this.

If anybody needs this software and muo allows me, i can give mediafire link.

jujdred

Regardless of what those ‘theorists’ try to get you to believe, simple little tips such as this as well as certain programs running to help boost system performance where it counts like Memory free space utilization, cpu cache settings, HDD In\Out settings and others have allowed me to successfully continue playing even modern day games that call for multiple cores with 2+ gigs of RAM and super uber VGA’s with my trusty old socket 939 single core with 2 gigs and a 9800gtx, with no problems.
And yes, defragmenting DOES help if you do it right. It’s a fact that the outside of a drive is faster than the rest of it, and the less your head moves the less wear\tear on your drive\system and improved throughput in general.
So these tips are not newbie only, I’ve been doing this for 12 years and still holds water to this day. So don’t knock it for the little guy just because you can afford an uber buff rig. Hell, all my stuff is hand me downs anyway.