We all know that gaming often requires the best hardware, and while it’s easy enough to shop around for the best laptop within your budget, simply buying the laptop isn’t the end of the story. In fact, regardless of the amount you’ve spent, there are always additional steps you can take to improve the gaming performance of any laptop.
Fine-Tune Your Operating System and Software
Let’s start with your operating system and any software you might have running.
1. Activate Windows 10 Game Mode – This is one of the easiest things you can do to enhance the performance of your Windows laptop or PC. Game Mode ensures your game will be allocated more CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) resources, and will also boost your screen’s framerate per second (FPS). To activate it, click on Start and then Settings (or press the Windows and I button). Next, click on Gaming, then select Game Mode in the left panel and switch the toggle to On. You’re all set!1
2. Disable automatic downloads and updates – It’s not uncommon for apps and software to automatically download and install updates by default, but if you’re gaming when this happens, it can cause some serious performance issues. This can be especially true of the Windows operating system itself! Make sure that all automatic downloads and updates are disabled and then download and update when you’re not gaming.
3. Uninstall any unnecessary programs – Is your laptop new? Have you deleted all the bloatware that came with it? Do you really need that free 30-day trial copy of McAfee? Delete anything you either don’t intend to use or haven’t used in some time. As for everything else, check the program’s Settings and Preferences and make sure they’re not set to automatically download and install updates.
4. Disable apps that run at startup – One of the reasons your Windows laptop might take a while to start up may be due to the apps that automatically start at the same time. To review and disable those apps, right-click on the taskbar and then select Task Manager. Click on the Startup tab to see a list of the apps that are able to start each time you log into your PC. You can disable any app by selecting it and then clicking the Disable button in the bottom right corner of the window.2
5. Disable apps running in the background – It might surprise you to learn that everything from your pre-installed Windows calculator and Solitaire game to the Microsoft Store and Office software can run in the background. Fortunately, these are easily disabled by searching for Background Apps and then either choosing which ones to allow or disabling them all by clicking on the toggle at the top. Similarly, be sure to shut down any other open programs before you start gaming.
6. Make sure your DirectX is up to date – DirectX is a suite of application interfaces designed to handle multimedia tasks, and as such, it’s a required component for many Windows games. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to check if you have the latest version. Firstly, find out what the latest version is by either Googling “what’s the latest version of DirectX” or visiting the Microsoft DirectX help page. 3
To check which version your laptop has, type dxdiag into the Windows Search box and then click on the blue icon. Your version will appear at the bottom of the System information tab. Not up to date? Make sure to install any pending Windows updates, as the most recent version will be included with it.
Optimize Your Hardware
Of course, tweaking your software is only half the work, as you can also make changes to your hardware to improve performance.
7. Upgrade your hardware – This one is a little tricky because although most manufacturers allow you to upgrade your laptop, you might not feel comfortable performing the work yourself. The laptop’s memory (the RAM) can be upgraded easily enough, while swapping out your standard hard drive for a Solid State Drive (SSD) can increase speed. Lastly, upgrading your graphics card can make for a smoother, faster gaming experience.
8. Optimize the power settings – Here’s an easy fix that anyone can do. First, click on the battery icon in the bottom right corner of the screen, and then drag the slider all the way over to Best Performance on the right. This prioritizes performance over power, so your battery will drain faster as a result. Also, be aware that this option is not available if your laptop is equipped with an ARM64 processor.
9. Reduce the GPU workload – As its name implies, the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) does all the heavy lifting when it comes to displaying and updating the images on your laptop’s screen. Lightening its workload will allow it to work faster and more efficiently. Start by adjusting the game’s video settings, such as textures and frame rates. You can also switch off the Windows visual effects by pressing the Windows and R key at the same time, typing the command sysdm.cpl and then clicking the OK button. Click the Advanced tab at the top and then click on Settings. Choose Adjust for best performance and then click the Apply and OK buttons.
10. Update your drivers – Every piece of hardware requires a driver. This is a program that tells Windows how that particular hardware works, and without it, your hardware might not work at all. Windows can install some generic drivers, but since they’re not specifically designed for your hardware’s make and model, they may not work too well. Start by right-clicking the Windows button in the bottom left corner of the screen, and then selecting Device Manager. Click the small + icon next to Display Adapters and then right-click on the driver that appears below it. Select Update driver from the list and then Search automatically for updated driver software. If any new drivers are available, Windows can then install them for you.
11. Overclock the laptop graphics card – if you’re a beginner, or you’re not sure what you’re doing, you might want to sit this one out, but it’s safe and effective if you do it right. The best (and safest) way is to use a third-party software, such as MSI Afterburner. Although it’s produced by MSI, it works with all kinds of graphics cards – and is completely free! Alternatively, try EVGA Precision X 16 or, if you have an NVIDIA GPU, the NVIDIA Profile Inspector.
Regularly Maintain Your Laptop
12. Fix your WiFi – you may be paying for the fastest speed your ISP offers, but how much are you really getting? There are a number of issues that can affect the speed of your game, including the number of players on the server, the number of people using your WiFi (not to mention what they’re using it for) plus interference from other people’s WiFi and reinforced walls in your own home.
You can test your internet speed by searching for “internet speed test” in Google and then clicking the Run Speed Test button. You can also check to see if your WiFi channels conflict with a neighbor’s. Apple devices have a built-in WiFi diagnostic tool, and if you have an Android device, the free Wifi Analyser app can help you choose a clearer channel. Alternatively, consider a WiFi extender, such as the Linksys RE9000 AC3000 Max-Stream Tri-Band WiFi Range Extender or upgrading your speed with your service provider. How long has it been since you upgraded? There might be a faster speed available now.
13. Keep your laptop cool – this is one simple trick that you might have overlooked, but it’s an important one, especially when your laptop gets older. You’ll need to keep your vents clear of any obstruction, and that includes any dust or dirt that might be blocking them. Blocked vents will cause the internal components to overheat, which in turn forces your fan to work harder and for your laptop as a whole to run more slowly. If the internal temperature gets too high, your laptop will immediately shut off as a safety precaution.
Cleaning your laptop will always help, but if your laptop is older the fan might need a little assistance. A USB-powered cooling pad can help to keep your laptop cool.
14. Tune-up your system – while it’s possible for you to optimize some system settings yourself, there’s some routine maintenance that’s not so easily done. For example, uninstalled apps can often leave unwanted files behind, or there may be duplicate files and unnecessary entries in your registry. A good tune-up program, such as the Magix PC Check and Tuning, can not only help to optimize your hardware, but also locate and permanently remove any unnecessary files and folders, leaving your laptop litter-free.
15. Defrag your hard drive – hard drive fragmentation is another side-effect of removing an app from your system. As the app is removed, sectors are freed up on your hard drive. When you next install an app, Windows will try to install the app in a single group of sectors large enough to hold it. But if it can’t, it’ll split the app and store it in several different sectors, and that’s when fragmentation happens. Your system runs slower because it has to access many more sectors than usual in order to run the apps.
If you have a solid state drive (SSD) you don’t need to worry about fragmentation, and Windows does a decent job of automatically defragging your drive, but it doesn’t hurt to defrag it manually from time to time. Type defrag into the Windows search bar and then select Defragment and Optimize Drives. Select the drive you want to defrag, click the Optimize button and then settle down to watch a long movie or go to bed – it could take a while!
There are, of course, other tweaks you may be able to apply, and some of those might depend on your laptop’s make and model. If nothing else, these 15 tips are a good starting place and should help to improve your system performance in no time, leaving you to focus on your performance in the game!
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- Microsoft. Use Game Mode while gaming on your Windows 10 device. Microsoft.com. Accessed October 6, 2021.
- GCF Global. Disable applications from running on startup. Gcfglobal.org. Accessed October 6, 2021.
- Microsoft. How to install the latest version of DirectX. Microsoft.com. Accessed October 6, 2021.