You’ve added extra memory, purchased a new graphics card and still can’t get your games running as fast as you’d like them to. Read on to discover all the free tweaks and tips to optimising your PC for gaming. Part one of two
Click here for part two
ou don’t need to spend large sums of money eking better gaming performance from your PC. Of course there’s no substitute for a fast processor, powerful graphics card and oodles of memory, but there are plenty of tips and tricks you can follow to ensure your PC is optimised for playing games.
Most games are patched quite quickly after release to fix bugs, but many updates also include performance enhancements, so make sure you’re running the latest version of the game to get the best out of it.
The same is true for your graphics card, particularly if it has an ATI or NVIDIA chipset. Start your search at your graphics card manufacturer’s web site, or visit the main NVIDIA (click here
) or ATI (click here
) sites. Simply downloading and installing the latest driver will improve performance, but if you want to push things further, read on.
Both NVIDIA and ATI drivers come with utilities (accessible from the Notification area of the Taskbar) for optimising your system. ATI users should start by opening the ATI Catalyst Control Center. Choose Basic, click Next, make sure 3D Quality and Performance Settings are selected and click Go. You’ll find a slider that enables you to improve performance at the expense of quality. NVIDIA users will find a similar slider in the 3D Settings of the NVIDIA Control Panel.
You can also push your card further by overclocking it. This basically pushes the card past its recommended limits – you’ll enjoy better performance, but the extra heat generated may introduce problems with stability, shorten the life of the card or even damage it irreparably, so use caution and remember you overclock entirely at your own risk. The step-by-step guide below reveals what to do if you’re an ATI user; NVIDIA users should visit here
for a similar guide.
Other pre-game tweaks
If you have a UPS system to protect your data from power cuts or shortages, or you’re happy to risk data loss should such an event occur, you can tweak your hard drive settings for better performance in Vista: press [Windows] + [R] together, type devmgmt.msc and click OK followed by Continue if prompted, then expand the Disk Drives section and double-click your internal hard drive(s). Switch to the Policies tab and tick Enable advanced performance before clicking OK.
While both XP and Vista are more efficient at multi-tasking than previous versions of Windows, having applications running in the background can still interfere with your games, so close as many as possible before launching into your frag fest. Don’t, however, disable your security program unless you’re playing offline and disconnected from the Internet.
If you’ve just installed a new game or major update, it’s also worth manually defragmenting your disk drive to immediately feel the benefit – type Defragmenter into the Start menu’s Search box to do so (Vista) or click Start > Run, type dfrg.msc and press [Enter] (XP). You might also want to temporarily switch off search indexing – type services.msc into a Start > Run box (press [Windows] + [R] in Vista) and click OK followed by Continue if prompted to launch the Services console. Scroll down until you find Windows Search Indexing – right-click this and choose Stop to switch it off. It’ll start again the next time you restart Windows (or you can restart it from here later if you wish).
Optimise memory settings
The step-by-step guide below is designed for those with a second internal hard drive, or an external eSATA hard drive (not USB or Firewire). Basically, it enables Windows to use both drives for memory paging operations, which can give performance a real fillip.
If you really want to give Windows Vista a speed boost, check out part two of our guide, but note that it's for advanced users only.
Click here for part two