When playing games on PC, you can generally choose between windowed and fullscreen display modes. Some games offer a third option of borderless windowed (if not, you can try faking it). What do these three different options mean, and which one is best? Let’s find out.
Fullscreen mode is exactly what it sounds like: the game’s display takes up your entire screen. Behind the scenes, a fullscreen application has full control over the screen output, meaning that what it’s showing has the highest priority.
Generally, in fullscreen mode you’re playing a game at your desktop resolution. If you have a 1920×1080 (1080p) monitor, when you open a fullscreen game it’s playing at 1080p.
If you have multiple monitors, you won’t be able to move between them in fullscreen mode. Your mouse cursor stays locked to the monitor showing the game. You’ll have to use Alt + Tab to jump out of a game.
- Pros: Computer dedicates most resources to the game, potentially higher frame rate than other options, can’t accidentally mouse to another monitor.
- Cons: Mouse locked to one monitor, alt-tabbing out of a game takes a few seconds.
Windowed mode is also pretty self-explanatory: the game runs in a window instead of taking up the whole screen. This allows you to resize it to run in a smaller box. Because the game isn’t utilizing the whole screen, your computer continues to run other processes in the background normally.
In most cases, you probably want your game to use as much of the screen as possible. Thus, unless you’re multitasking while playing or only want your game to use a bit of the screen, one of the other two options is preferable.
- Pros: Lets you run the game at whatever size you like, easy to switch to other windows.
- Cons: Greater chance of input lag, game looks worse at smaller sizes, frame rate drops.
Borderless Windowed Mode
This mode is a compromise between the other two. Borderless windowed mode looks like fullscreen mode, but it’s really windowed mode running at full-screen size with no borders. It combines the benefit of having your game take up the whole screen with the convenience of being able to mouse to another monitor instantly.
However, since it’s windowed mode, Windows still runs other processes in the background. This can result in performance hits.
- Pros: Lets you enjoy full-screen display while still switching monitors easily.
- Cons: Background processes can introduce input lag and frame rate drops.
Which Mode Is Best to Use?
Use fullscreen mode if you want to dedicate all your computer’s power to running the game and don’t need to switch out of the game quickly.
Use borderless windowed mode if your computer is powerful enough to compensate for background processes and you multitask on other monitors while playing.
Only use windowed mode if you want to play at less than full-screen size for some reason.
No matter which you use, you should close other apps before you start playing a game and tweak your computer for a better gaming experience.