Generally speaking, laptops are not the best tools for gaming. However, we are aware that many (if not most) of our readers use laptops for “daily driving”, hence today’s article is about how to improve gaming performance on a laptop.
When we say that laptops should not be your weapon of choice if you’re a “ride or die” gamer, we refer to the fact that heat is pretty difficult to dissipate from such a clumped chassis, and that makes a laptop inherently unstable from a temperature point of view.
Heat is the main killer of internal components (as in heat reduces lifespan), not to mention that an overheated CPU or GPU doesn’t perform at 100 percent capacity, hence you should consider getting one of these ASAP.
Here’s our take on how to improve laptop gaming performance:
Keep Your Laptop Clean
We already covered this issue in a previous article, and if you’re a regular reader of our website, you already know that dirt and dust are the mortal enemies of your laptop.
Basically, dust and dirt reduce airflow, which means that the internal components will overheat, the laptop gets hot as a stove and performance drops dramatically due to throttling issues. Go check out your hardware specs and see how much performance drops as temperature increases, you’ll be shocked.
So, keep your laptop as clean as a whistle, and always make sure there’s no dust, food or other debris interfering with your “work”.
Keep Your Drivers Up to Date
Physical cleanliness is one thing, but gaming laptops are usually built around GPUs first and foremost, and here driver updates come into play. If you want to squeeze the last ounce of performance out of your CPU/GPU combo, it is vital to keep the drivers up to date. For faster gaming, this is vital, but fortunately for you, there are people out there who already mitigated the issue.
Even if you’re not tech-savvy, updating your laptop’s drivers is easy as pie nowadays. All you have to do is to install software like Driver Booster from Iobit (just an example), and you’ll be set up and ready to go in a jiffy. By the way, Driver Booster is absolutely free of charge and works like a dream.
Moreover, most gaming/big-brand laptops arrive with in-house made software update utilities, so check that out while you’re at it. The best thing about utilities like Driver Booster is that it will keep your entire system up to date, including your controller and audio drivers.
Install the Latest DirectX Version
If you’re running on Windows 10 or 7, and chances are that you’re a Windows guy if you’re into gaming, having the latest DirectX version is essential. DirectX is software designed to facilitate the graphics in video games, and various versions have been released over the years.
If memory serves, the latest version is DirectX 12, launched back in 2015, and most probably you’ll have that preinstalled if you’re running Windows 10 on your machine. If you want to check out if your gaming hardware is up to date, the easiest way is via DXdiag, i.e. press WIN + R to open the Run menu and enter dxdiag, press enter and you’ll be served with all sorts of intel about your GPU, CPU, DirectX version, sound drivers etc.
Turn-On Gaming Mode in Windows 10
Windows 10 comes with a cool built-in feature that allows you to fine-tune your laptop’s performance. The feature is called Xbox app, and if you activate its game mode, your laptop will run with optimum settings for gaming.
To display the Xbox app press Win+G, and the Game Mode option is at the right end. To enable game mode, just click on it.
Overclock the GPU for Optimized Gaming
For the ultimate gaming experience, provided you’re not a total n00b, you should overclock the GPU. Keep in mind that an overclocked GPU is prone to overheating, as it consumes more power. However, the extra-performance delivered by an overclocked GPU will make you gain a few FPS, which is all that matters.
How to do it? The most popular tool for OC enthusiasts is MSI Afterburner, which works for both AMD and Nvidia GPUS; just take it for a ride and thank us later. However, proceed with care and RTFM first, okay?
Close Background Running Apps
If you have a ton of software/bloatware installed on your machine, they can negatively impact performance, hence closing background running apps is highly recommended before playing games.
The “boomer-tech” way to do so is by opening the task manager and looking for power-hungry apps that are eating away processing power. The smart thing to do is to install special software like Glary or Advanced SystemCare Ultimate and clean up your act! The best thing about the Iobit utility is that it has a gaming mode that noticeably speeds up your laptop.
Adjust Your Laptop’s Power Settings
Windows 10 has a nasty habit of tinkering with your laptop’s performance due to its power management feature. For the best gaming experience, make sure your laptop’s power setting is set to high performance.
You can verify the status at: Settings > System > Power and sleep > Additional power settings – check the High performance option. It’s also worth clicking Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings.
Turn-Off Windows 10 visual effects
Windows 10 has a ton of “eye candy” features compared to previous versions, like the beloved Windows 7, yet these features are making your laptop to pay a heavy toll in terms of performance.
Also, these eye-candy visual effects are turned on by default, and if you want to avoid frame drops and needless slowdown you must switch them off. To do so, type advanced settings in the search bar and click ‘View advanced system settings’, then select ‘Performance options‘ > ‘Visual effects’ and ‘Custom’. If you want to do the job nice and proper, check this out.
Turn-Off Windows Automatic Updates
This may seem strange, but Windows Updates are incredibly power-hungry, and automatic updates are prone to ruin your day, as they work in the background and will dramatically impact gaming performance. The thing about Windows Updates is that they tend to go on at the worst moment possible, and they are a pain in the ass to say the least.
If you want to squeeze the latest drop of performance out of your laptop (or desktop), including turning off automatic updates, go download and run this piece of software. O&O ShutUp10 is entirely free and does not have to be installed – it can be simply run directly and immediately on your PC.
Scan for Malware
Windows 10 comes with a built-in anti-malware tool, dubbed Windows Defender. However, if you’re a reckless user, you may end up with various types of malware bypassing Windows 10’s defenses, so we would advise you to do a full system scan from time to time using the best antivirus money can buy.
Hardware upgrades are relatively difficult on a laptop, but there’s a “but”. If your laptop was shipped with a classic HDD, switching to an SSD will dramatically increase gaming performance.
The same goes for a RAM upgrade, i.e. if your machine has only 4-6 GB of RAM installed from the factory, upgrading to 8-16 GB of RAM (or more) will make all the difference in the world gaming-wise.
Fortunately, both RAM and SSD upgrades are perfectly doable at home for most laptop models. And if you’re not tech-savvy, just ask for help at a computer store.