There's nothing more frustrating than trying to play a game that is stuttering, freezing, or crashing, especially if you currently can't really update your current hardware or aren't sure exactly where the problem is.
We know that eradicating game performance issues can sometimes be like playing a punch in the mouth with your settings, but there are effective methods everyone should try to improve the performance of their favorite games. Let's go over what works.
Note: If you don't have any performance monitoring tools yet, we highly recommend choosing one for your PC so that you can check its performance while you play.
Update platforms and drivers
Daniel Martin / screenshot
It's amazing how many problems can be solved by making sure everything is updated! If you haven't tried this in a while, check Windows 10 for updates by typing "updates" in the search bar and selecting "check for updates". Also, make sure your game is updated if necessary.
You also want to check if your GPU needs an updated driver. GPUs are updated regularly to improve power consumption, fix bugs, and optimize performance for a variety of gaming conditions. These updates can improve FPS issues and fix incompatibility issues between your game and your graphics card.
However, GPU drivers are not updated automatically. To check for the latest version of your GPU's driver, we recommend installing and enabling Nvidia Update or GeForce Experience for Nvidia's GeForce GPUs. For AMD's Radeon GPUs, use the automatic driver detection tool.
There are cases when updating a driver can cause problems instead of solving them. This could be due to bugs or issues with new driver features that are incompatible with the design of the game. In this case, you can either roll back the GPU driver to an earlier version or download the original driver again. Just don't update it for now.
Activate Windows Game Mode
A few years ago Microsoft updated Windows 10 with a setting for Game Mode. Previously, you could tweak processor behavior, battery power allocation, and GPU handling to see if any of these things helped your game.
The game mode "essentially prioritizes processor and graphics card resources" for the game running in the foreground. In other words, background services that Windows 10 doesn't currently need are temporarily suspended so your CPU (and GPU) has less non-gaming work in the queue. This system management aims to provide a stable average frame rate, which is more advantageous for systems in the lower price range.
To enable game mode, type "games" in the Windows search bar and select "game mode settings," which are listed under "Best Match". After opening the Settings app, make sure that Game Mode is on. You will have to restart your computer if you activate this feature.
Note that the power consumption of a laptop while in game mode may increase. So keep it connected. You should probably leave your laptop plugged in while gaming anyway, as power management will throttle its performance to save battery life.
Optimize your game's settings
This can be a complex step as the game's settings and preferences vary. However, you should always visit the in-game settings menu and see what's there, especially if the game is having problems. Look for options that do the following:
- Optimize performance.
- Switch to high performance settings.
- Here you can turn off (or set to low) special effects and post-processing.
- Here you can adjust the render distance and texture quality.
- Turn off anti-aliasing.
Adjust your GPU settings
This is another step that will require additional work. However, you should become familiar with the internal settings of your GPU and how changing them can affect your gaming performance.
One of the best examples is changing Nvidia's settings to maximize performance. Try this by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Nvidia Control Panel from the pop-up menu. After opening the application, select Manage 3D Settings under 3D Settings on the left, then click the Global Settings tab on the right.
Next, scroll through the list until you find Power Management Mode. Make sure this feature is toggled from Adaptive to Prefer maximum performance, and then click the Apply button. See if this fixes any slowdowns or FPS issues.
We're also going to ask AMD for a really excellent guide on all of the different graphics features you can customize in their settings, what they do, and why you might want to turn them on or off depending on your goals. Learn about tessellation, your shader cache, surface format optimization, and many more settings that may be exactly what you're looking for. Sure, this may involve some trial and error, but you will end up being a pro at performance.
Choose a lower screen resolution
This is a blunt force correction. However, if your game is barely running, you should try changing your Windows screen resolution settings.
First, right click on the desktop and choose Display Settings from the pop-up menu. With the settings window open, scroll down to Display resolution and choose a resolution lower than the recommended setting. For example, if you switch from UHD to Full HD, your game may run better.
Likewise, you may want to lower the resolution in the game to increase the frame rate. Playing in full screen or borderless mode and turning off any secondary displays connected to your PC may also improve performance.
Use the recommended game API
Current graphics APIs offer direct communication between the game engine and the driver of your GPU. These include OpenGL, DirectX, and Vulkan, which each serve the same purpose but have different approaches and functions. These APIs can be updated or toggled.
Upgrading an API – for example, from DirectX 11 to DirectX 12 – is often a great way to reduce power consumption while improving performance.
A change to another API is also possible. Some APIs seem to work better with different graphics cards. AMD, for example, tends to prefer Vulkan for performance. Some game engines also prefer certain APIs and perform much better when used on top of each other. Game engines can also add support for APIs over time. In some cases, they may recommend a specific API change to improve the game's performance.
However, get ready to put on your research glasses. Changing your API can also change the performance of your GPU. This can create additional problems that you will need to resolve over time. However, if you're having major performance issues right now, switching APIs can be worthwhile. However, we encourage you to see what your gaming community recommends for the best results.
Get a Game Booster
Don't cut down on a good game booster app. As with Windows 10 Game Mode, the main goal of these apps is to reduce background activity and improve game functionality so that you don't experience FPS issues. If you want to try this out, we recommend Razer's Cortex Game Booster software. The package works automatically to make slight improvements and also includes excellent FPS tracking.
These types of apps are very efficient at micro-managing your Windows operating system. On the surface, they prioritize the game you're playing and kill any non-essential apps running in the background. You would be surprised to find what is actually consuming resources when your system is limited and your game is stepping up the resources available. Many of these apps also disable CPU sleep mode to increase resources for the game in question.
Playing PC games at excruciating freeze frame speeds may be less common these days. However, most gamers have not yet figured out how to completely fix the problem. If a hardware upgrade isn't on your budget, the good news is that these fixes might make your game a little smoother. In most cases, diagnosing doesn't take up hours that otherwise could have been spent on gameplay.