Playing games on an underpowered PC is about as much fun as listening to a scratched record. Boot up the latest release on a computer that’s not up to the task and, instead of playing the latest blockbuster, you’ll be left with a stuttering, flickering mess. If that sounds like your own PC gaming experience, then what you need is a speed boost. Try the following tips to wring the maximum from your system.
1. Power up
PC games will generally have two sets of system requirements, the ‘minimum’ and the ‘recommended’. Those minimum requirements will enable you to install and boot up a game, but having started it, don’t be surprised if it’s virtually unplayable. To properly get going, you’ll want your system to at least meet the recommended system requirements. That’s likely to mean a starting point of a quad-core processor , 4GB of memory and a decent graphics card with 1GB of its own memory for today’s high-powered games.
2. Get the right upgrade
If your system doesn’t meet those requirements, look first at your graphics card. Though you can spend a fortune on this kind of upgrade, you really don’t have to. The most expensive cards cater for true enthusiasts – those who demand their games run with all the settings switched to maximum. But something like the Nvidia Geforce GT 640 (£99.99) is affordable and will deal with pretty much anything you throw at it.
3. Update graphics drivers
A simple way to get more from your existing graphics card is to check its manufacturer’s website for any more recent drivers. Graphics card companies such as Nvidia and AMD will often release updates that will squeeze some additional performance from their hardware.
4. Maximise gaming power
It’s no surprise that your system won’t be on top form if it’s bogged down with extra jobs at the same time as it’s trying to run your games. Gamebooster 3 is a neat, free application that will shut down any non-essential programs and processes when you’re gaming.
Gamebooster 3 ensures your games aren’t forced to share resources with other programs
5. Anti-virus scans
It’s never good news to have any kind of virus or spyware on your computer, and it’s something that’s certain to impact on your system’s performance. Ensure your anti-virus software is running and up-to-date, and follow our tips to ensure your PC is as safe as it can possibly be.
Make sure you’re adequately protected against threats with a good, strong security program
6. Check the game’s settings
If your game’s graphics are skipping around and a low frame-rate is affecting your gameplay, then head to the Settings screen. Look to turn down settings such as Texture and Shadows. Reducing these won’t materially affect your gameplay, but it dramatically lessens the workload you’re asking your system to take on.
Make sure your drive is defragged regularly – a fragmented drive with files scattered in pieces all over it will cripple your gameplay. The Windows® 7 Defragmenter is adequate, but if you want to push the envelope further, try a third-party tool such as Auslogics Disk Defrag Free or O&O Defrag Free Edition.
8. Switch to a SSD drive
Another great way to speed up your PC’s overall performance – including its gaming capabilities – is to upgrade to a SSD drive. Compared to your existing hard drive, these are lightning fast, and can make your games fly. Prices are falling too – you can now get a 120GB SSD drive for well under £80. Check out PC World for a great selection of drives.
9. Upgrade your mouse and keyboard
The quality of your gaming performance isn’t just about what’s inside your computer. Upgrading your mouse and keyboard can yield some serious gameplay improvements, by offering customisable settings and quicker speeds, for instance. Check out PC World’s range of gaming keyboards, mice and controllers.
Make gaming more enjoyable by investing in a specialist keyboard and mouse
10. Get a wired connection
If you’re into online gaming, a wired internet connection can be far more reliable than wireless. Powerline adapters like Advent’s APWL-2012 200Mbps kit offer a neat and tidy solution. These use your home’s mains electricity cables to pipe your broadband signal between rooms. If you’re confident with computers, also try software such as the free TCP Optimizer, which can help you get the best out of your internet connection.
Boost the performance of your online gaming by switching from wireless to Powerline