by: Mike Piero
; edited by: Bill Fulks
; updated: 4/17/2012
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If your gaming experience is choppy and lagging while running some of the newest games, try making the adjustments below to get a better gameplay. This article provides ten tweaks on improving PC gaming performance.
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When trying to improve gaming performance, it’s important to optimize the graphics card settings, the overall system performance, and the in-game graphics settings. Before trying any of these tips, you should first check the system requirements for any game you’re trying to play. If your system doesn’t meet the processor, graphics card, or memory minimum requirements, then you have an issue that these tips won’t fix and you’ll need to look into upgrading your computer.
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INCREASE VIRTUAL MEMORY
Virtual memory is hard drive space that is set aside for use when Windows runs out of physical memory. By increasing the virtual memory, you can ensure that your games have access to all of the memory that it needs. Most newer computers have 2-3 GB of disk space set aside for this, but some slightly older systems (with smaller hard drive) only have 512MB-1GB. As a general rule, I usually put it around 3GB. To change this, go to the Control Panel > System > Advanced > Performance Settings > Advanced > Virtual Memory Change. Then, change the amount and click Set.
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UPDATE VIDEO CARD DRIVER
Updating the video card driver can not only improve gaming performance, but it can also fix issues that are known with certain games. To update the graphics card driver, I usually find the manufacturer’s website and search for drivers directly through them. That way, I know that I’m getting the best, most current release of the driver.
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SET VISUAL EFFECTS TO BEST PERFORMANCE
Graphics settings are governed by both the graphics card driver as well as the Windows operating system. You can adjust the Windows settings to display effects only when it won’t have a significant effect upon performance. To make this change, right click on My Computer > Properties > Advanced Tab > Performance Settings > Visual Effects Tab > Click on Adjust for Best Performance. You’ll notice that this is the same area that you go to adjust the virtual memory.
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ADJUST SHADOW DETAILS
Adjusting the amount of shadow detail in games can significantly improve performance. This can be done in each game, but first you can make some general shadowing changes through the graphics card properties panel. This will vary between graphics cards. Generally, you can access them by right-clicking on the Desktop and choosing Graphics Properties. This can make a huge difference in gameplay, but you will be sacrificing some of the visual appeal of the game.
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CLOSING OTHER PROGRAMS
This may seem like a no brainer, but it helps to have all other applications closed when playing PC games. Any program that you can close will free up resources for your gaming. Every little bit helps. So, close those browsers and torrent applications before launching your game.
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Use some sort of disk defragmentation tool to clean up and organize the files on your computer on a regular basis. I prefer using Diskeeper 2008 instead of the free Windows one, but either one is better than nothing. Defragmentation occurs most commonly in files that are accessed frequently. You can imagine how fragmented game files can get, and over time, that will affect the performance of the game.
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This feature can be turned down or disabled altogether to increase performance as you are essentially decreasing the visual effects of the game.
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ADJUST EACH GAME’S SETTINGS
Each game will have it’s own list of graphics settings and options. You want to try lowering these settings as little as possible, but in some cases, you may need to lower them all the way to get a playable performance. In this way, you are adjusting each game to run better on your system. Optimize your system settings first, and then adjust the game’s video options as you must.
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Some games may have issues with certain video cards, so the game manufacturer’s oftentimes release free patches to improve stability and performance on top of in-game features. Some games will do major updates automatically, but in many cases, you will need to navigate to the manufacturer’s website and download the patches manually.
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UPGRADE GRAPHICS CARD
One of the most obvious solutions to poor gaming performance would be to upgrade the graphics card. This, of course, costs money, and some older systems may not be able to be upgraded to the latest and greatest cards. I would say that if your PC has a PCI-express slot, then any upgrade you do has the potential to be very worthwhile. I would recommend buying from online computer retailers such as NewEgg and Tiger Direct, as they offer much cheaper prices than physical retail stores.