You’ve put all the components of your rig together with help from our best gaming PC build guide, you’ve installed your OS, and you’re ready to start playing – but there’s a few steps you’ll want to go through before you jump into your favourite game. Here’s our guide on PC optimisation, with a few steps you’ll want to go through for the best PC experience, helping you boost fps in games, and generally make your rig that much snappier.
This might be the least exciting part of the build, but it’s essential in getting the most out of the expensive components you’ve lovingly built into your brand new gaming PC. But don’t worry, it won’t take long to get you up and gaming.
New PCs don’t stay running smoothly forever, and they’ll slow down over time without a bit of maintenance. On the other side of the same coin, you might be looking to improve the performance of your PC that’s getting on a bit. Whichever camp you’re in, following these steps should bring a lease of life to your older gaming PC too.
Let’s start with something easy.
1. Update your graphics card drivers
Updating your graphics card driver is one of the simplest ways to take full advantage of the best graphics cards and boost fps. They are released regularly, bringing new features, performance updates, and optimisations for the latest games.
Whether you have an AMD or Nvidia graphics card, all you’ll need to do is head over to their sites to download Radeon Adrenalin or GeForce Experience respectively. There’s even a possibility you’ll already have this installed, which you can check in the Windows tray if you’re running Microsoft’s OS. Once installed, you’ll be able to auto-detect when the latest driver for your graphics card is released, replacing the old one.
2. optimise your settings in game
If you’ve tried all possible optimisation and you’re still not getting the frames you want, you’ll want to look at reducing the graphical settings in your games to boost fps. Some particularly demanding general settings in games include Render Distance and Texture Quality. Lowering the screen resolution is an option as well – go for resolution scaling if the game has that as an option, letting you run games at a lower resolution, while keeping the HUD and menus at their native resolutions, which can look pretty unsightly if not kept at native resolution.
If you’ve got an SSD and HDD combo, you’ll always want Windows installed on the SSD, then any other games that benefit from the increased speeds of solid state if there’s any room – special mention to Cyberpunk 2077, which recommend an SSD for the intended experience.
3. Defragment your hard drive
We’d always recommend running the best SSD for gaming if you want your games to run speedy, but if you’re still running things from a mechanical hard drive, then you will need to defragment it whenever possible. If you are solely using a high capacity SSD though, defragmentation isn’t necessary – data spread across different sectors of a solid state drive doesn’t slow down access speeds because there’s no physical drive head, like in a hard disk drive.
You should defrag your hard drive once per month, which you can set up automatically
As data is added and removed on a conventional hard drive, the empty spaces on the disc become separated. If a new file is then added, it’s data may be fragmented over multiple sectors of the drive, increasing movement of the disk head, lowering access speeds which leads to longer loading times in games, or when loading any file in general on your PC.
Defragmentation should be done once a month, ideally – it moves all the pieces of your system files into one sector, and groups together all the empty space on the drive. This reduces the distance that the disk head has to travel to open a file as it’s all in one place, speeding up access time. It’s really simple on Windows 10 – simply type ‘defrag’ and press enter on the start menu, select the drive you want to defrag, then click optimize. You can set Windows to automatically carry out defragmentation, too.
4. Check your background applications and startup processes
You’ll want to shut any unnecessary background applications before running games, especially if you have a limited amount of RAM. Web browsers like Chrome and Firefox use a surprisingly large amount – if you have a dozen tabs open, you could be looking at over 2GB of RAM used. You might want to consider increasing the RAM capacity in your PC if you’re really struggling.
Also have a look at what applications are opening when you startup which can hinder boot times – Press ‘Ctrl+Shift+Esc’ to enter task manager, navigate to the ‘Startup’ tab and disable any programs you don’t want opening when you boot your PC. Task manager will also show you how much of your RAM you’re using at any given time.
5. Overclock your RAM
Alongside watching out for how much memory capacity you’re using, you should also check the speed of your RAM. As you might’ve guessed, the bigger the megahertz, the faster your memory will run, but it’s not as simple as buying 3,200MHz DDR4 sticks and just slotting them in. In order to account for different motherboards, RAM often defaults to a lower speed, such as 2,133MHz, requiring you to overclock it to its intended speed.
RAM usually defaults to a lower speed until you manually overclock it, which is easier than ever
If your motherboard can support faster RAM, then you can set up your memory profiles in the BIOS, which you can access when booting up your gaming PC by tapping one of the Fn or Delete keys – it should tell you what key to hit for your system. Once exclaiming you’re in, much like a hacker in a 90s movie, navigate to the overclocking tab in your BIOS and enable ‘XMP’ to match the MHz to what your RAM supports.
While you’re in the BIOS, you may as well get your fan speeds set up, too, as keeping things cool does allow your components to work harder and your games to run smoother. Many BIOSes have performance/quiet mode fan curve profiles, with the former keeping temperatures low and preventing throttling at the expense of the louder whirr of each fan. Or, if you’re looking to overclock your CPU, you could go ahead and manually set your CPU fan higher.
6. Perform a BIOS update
Speaking of the BIOS, when should you consider updating it? This is one of those things where ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Updating your BIOS for no reason isn’t going to net you any performance, and if during a BIOS update your power was to go out, there’s always the risk your motherboard could be bricked – so only update if you’re experiencing documented bugs, or to enable support of new hardware – like AMD adding Zen 3 CPU support on 400 series motherboards.
Although interfaces can differ per motherboard, it’s a pretty similar procedure across the board. BIOS USB flash utilities, which allow you to update without even a CPU or keyboard/mouse plugged in, used to be reserved only the highest-end motherboards, but most motherboards in recent years support this now – still, it doesn’t take the risk out of a BIOS update, but it’s perfect if you need to update your BIOS to support newer processors and don’t have a compatible spare lying around.
If you need to, it’s a pretty simple process – go to your motherboard manufacturer’s website, find your motherboard then download the latest update onto an empty USB drive. You’ll then want to start up your PC and go into the BIOS, look for available devices, select the USB drive with the update, then let it do its job.
Sometimes, no amount of optimisation is going to let you run the latest titles well. It’s important to make sure you’re meeting the minimum system requirements and upgrading components if you’re lacking in any department. If you don’t want to sink the money into a CPU upgrade, however, you can just learn how to overclock your CPU and GPU to squeeze some extra performance out of your gaming PC – although this works better when your processor is paired with the best CPU cooler.
But hopefully, once you’ve gone through all the steps above, you should have a well tuned gaming PC sat in front of you, ready to go and play the latest titles on Steam, Uplay, GOG, Origin, or whichever platform you prefer. Just don’t forget to bag yourself the best gaming monitor with a high refresh rate so you can see the increase in frames. The only thing that’s left to say is good luck, have fun!