It's a sad fact that gaming hardware is quickly outdated.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 A cluttered hard disk or outdated graphics card can go a long way to slowing down your gaming system.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 Have a slightly outdated computer?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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Although thechip setsare predominantly made byATI
, 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.
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.
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.
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! Do you like MakeUseOf articles? Do share our articles with others! It's really important to us.
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