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Part of the beauty of PC gaming is enjoying the best graphics the industry has to offer. But when you’re suffering from a low frame rate, it’s hard to enjoy a game at all.
Whether your latest purchase isn’t running smoothly on your PC, or you suddenly find games struggling to perform, we’re here to help. Here’s how to fix low FPS issues in Windows and get back to high-quality gaming.
How to Fix Low Frame Rate: The Basics
First, let’s look at a few fundamental fixes you should perform. In many cases, when you wonder why your FPS is so low, these tweaks will make a big improvement.
1. Update Your Drivers
Drivers are special pieces of software that handle the interface between your software and hardware. Normal PC users don’t often need to worry about updating them but running out-of-date drivers can hamper gaming performance.
Follow our guide to finding and replacing outdated drivers to make sure everything on your system is current. In particular, you should make sure the chipset and graphics drivers are up to date.
To update your GPU driver, visit Nvidia’s driver page or AMD’s driver page, depending on what graphics card you have. If you play on integrated graphics, run Intel’s driver update tool (though remember that integrated graphics will severely limited gaming performance).
Instead of downloading manually, Nvidia and Intel both offer software utilities that make downloading the latest drivers easy. You can download these on the driver pages above, which we recommend doing. In addition to letting you know when a new update is available, they give you access to more tweaks and features.
2. Close Unnecessary Background Programs
When you’re playing a game, especially demanding modern titles, it’s a good idea to close other processes that you don’t need. This frees up resources that your computer can dedicate to the game.
You can do this quickly by closing anything that’s open on your Taskbar. It’s worth checking the System Tray at the right side of the Taskbar for background processes, too.
To dive a little deeper and see what’s using up resources, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager. Click More details if needed to expand it, then you can see what’s using resources on the Processes tab. Anything using a significant amount of the CPU, memory, or your GPU will likely harm game performance. Close those before you start your game.
3. Defragment Your HDD
Most gamers have likely upgraded to a solid-state drive (SSD) by now. But in case you’re still using an HDD, you should make sure the disk is defragmented. If you use an SSD, you should not defragment, as doing so can shorten the life of your drive.
To do this, type defrag into the Start Menu and click the Defragment and Optimize Drives entry. If it’s been a while since the drive was last defragged, you should do so.
Windows 10 does this automatically, so you shouldn’t need to defrag manually. You can adjust the schedule if you like, though.
How to Fix FPS With Windows Tweaks
Now that you’ve performed the basics, let’s take a look at some Windows settings you can adjust to enhance gaming performance.
4. Adjust Power Options
The power options in Windows let you change settings related to energy consumption with your machine. On the default plan, Windows tries to balance power consumption with performance. Sometimes, especially on laptops, this can lead to decreased performance in games.
It’s a good idea to switch to the High performance plan. To do this, visit Settings > System > Power and click Additional power settings on the right side. This will lead you to the Power Options section of the Control Panel. Choose Show additional plans if necessary, then select the High performance option.
Note that this will increase the power consumption of your computer. On a desktop, this isn’t really a problem besides perhaps a slightly higher energy bill. But laptops will see worse battery life.
5. Turn Off Windows’ Visual Effects
By default, Windows uses a lot of fancy visual effects around the OS. These make menus and other common elements look smother but use up a small bit of the resources.
Since every little bit of performance helps, you can disable these effects. You likely won’t see much benefit from this unless you’re on a low-end PC, but it’s still worth a try.
To disable visual effects in Windows, type performance into the Start menu and select Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows. On the resulting menu’s Visual Effects tab, you’ll see a list of graphical features you can enable or disable.
Click the Adjust for best performance button to disable all these effects, followed by OK. It will take a moment as Windows disables them. When it’s done, the interface won’t look as slick, but you won’t notice that when you’re playing a game anyway.
6. Disable the Game Bar and Background Recording
Windows 10 includes a Game bar feature that allows you to record game clips, take screenshots, and even stream your gameplay. While it’s handy in certain situations, it can also negatively impact game performance.
Unless you specifically want to use it for something, you should disable it to avoid potential interference. Head to Settings > Gaming > Game bar and disable the slider at the top to prevent the Game bar from running.
Next, you should switch to the Captures tab and ensure the Record in the background while I’m playing a game is turned off. This is another Windows 10 gaming feature that makes it easy to capture big moments but uses up system resources.
Finally, switch to the Game Mode tab and confirm that you have it turned on. Microsoft’s vague explanation about this says that while in Game Mode, Windows “prioritizes your gaming experience” as it “helps achieve a more stable frame rate depending on the specific game and system.” It also prevents Windows Update from bothering you while you play.
Fix FPS With Game Options
Next, we turn to settings you can change in most games that can fix your low FPS problem.
7. Change the Game’s Graphical Settings
Most PC games allow you to change a variety of graphical options; the exact choices will depend on the game. As a general fix, you can try lowering the Graphics Quality slider, as less-intense graphics will help the game run better.
You can also turn off individual fancy effects, such as reflections and fog. While these can make the game look pretty, they put a strain on your GPU. To improve the frame rate, you should disable these options.
Also, keep an eye out for options that let you limit FPS. These can be useful if your GPU sends more frames than your screen can keep up with, but obviously limiting your FPS may result in a sub-par frame rate.
If you’re really struggling to run a game smoothly, consider lowering the resolution. Dropping it from 1920×1080 to 1080×720, for instance, will have a positive effect on FPS.
8. Use Fullscreen Mode
Most games allow you to play in fullscreen, windowed, or borderless windowed modes. For maximum performance, you should choose fullscreen.
This is because apps and games running in this mode have full control over the screen output. While borderless windowed might be more convenient, the game doesn’t have that display exclusivity in this mode and may thus dip in performance slightly.
9. Repair or Reinstall the Game
If you only experience FPS issues with one game, it might have some corrupted files causing the problem.
Certain games may have a Repair option (on Steam, you’ll find this by right-clicking, choosing Properties, and selecting Verify Integrity of Game Files on the Local Files tab) that can fix this. Else, try uninstalling and reinstalling the game to see if that improves performance.
10. Consider Overclocking Your Components
If you’ve tried all the above and still can’t get the FPS you desire, you might consider overclocking your hardware. This allows you to squeeze a little more power out of what you already have at essentially no cost.
Overclocking might sound dangerous but it’s safe if you do it properly. See our guide to overclocking your GPU to give it a try.
11. Upgrade Your Hardware
While the above tweaks are quite helpful, they have their limits. If you have outdated hardware in your PC, you might suffer from low FPS no matter what software changes you make.
In that case, it’s probably time to upgrade your hardware. You may need a more powerful video card that can handle higher-quality games, more RAM to keep the game running smoothly, or a stronger CPU.
Don’t forget that heat can affect your hardware too. If you experience FPS problems after your game has been running for some time, your system might be getting too hot. Open up your system and remove any dust inside. You should also make sure your computer has sufficient airflow.
See which computer component upgrades will improve your performance the most to see what you should replace.
The Difference Between Low FPS and Network Lag
Before we conclude, it’s important to know the difference between low FPS and online lag.
When you experience low FPS, something with your computer is at fault, as we’ve discussed above. You’ll know you have an FPS problem if games stutter like you’re watching a slideshow, even when playing an offline game.
Lag, on the other hand, lies with an issue in the network. You can have a super-high FPS count but experience terrible lag. This occurs when players in an online game freeze up, warp around suddenly, and otherwise don’t behave properly.
If you’re experiencing online lag, make sure you’re wired into your router with an Ethernet cable if possible. You should also close network-hungry apps running on your computer, and check for common issues that slow down your network.
How to Fix Your FPS, Made Easy
We’ve looked at a number of tips to fix low FPS on your PC. Hopefully, some combination of these helps boost your frame rate back to an acceptable level.
In the end, FPS issues come down to system resources. This is the case whether your computer is wasting resources on other processes or unnecessary features, or doesn’t have enough power in the first place.
For more troubleshooting, see how to fix common PC gaming problems.