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How to optimize Windows for better gaming performance

Whether you have a brand new gaming PC (opens in new tab) or an existing one, consider tweaking Windows for better gaming performance with a few simple tweaks. Windows isn’t perfect for gaming by default, but with a few tweaks to the settings, you can rest assured that nothing will stand in the way of you and your games.

To kick off all of this, however, you should understand that the biggest performance hit is weak hardware. An old graphics card will lose your frames per second much more than a simple setting in Windows. A gaming PC with just four to eight gigabytes of RAM will handle your fps just as well in many modern games. Before you change anything, consider an upgrade first and set your expectations for how much Windows settings will affect your gaming experience. It’s not a lot, but it can add up.

How to disable Windows game mode

Windows Game Mode causes a lot of trouble because it has been severely affecting your gaming performance for a long time. Game mode was used to play using your system’s CPU resources to channel everything into your game. Now it’s essentially like turning on a Do Not Disturb mode for your PC, with the nebulous promise of improving the performance of some games.

Game mode for Windows 10 and 11 prevents Windows Update from performing driver installations and sending reboot notifications. According to Microsoft’s website, “It also helps achieve a more stable frame rate depending on the game and system.” (opens in new tab). It’s unclear what games and systems are supported, but in our testing (opens in new tab)game performance is the same whether it is on or off.

To disable it, right-click the Windows Start menu icon and select Settings. From there, select Gaming and then Game Mode. If you turn off the slider, you don’t have to worry about that.

How to turn off Record What Happened

Windows now has a built-in feature that allows you to capture footage of your games. It’s a bit buried in your system settings, but if you have separate software for it, like Nvidia Shadowplay, you can turn it off to save some system resources.

To do this, press your Windows key, type capture and click Capture settings, or alternatively, right-click the start button icon, click Settings, select Gaming, and then click Captures. If you’re using Windows 10, turn off Record in the background while I’m playing a game. Windows 11 users must turn off “Record what happened”.

Windows 10 game bar

(Image credit: Microsoft)

How to disable Xbox Game Bar

Like Windows Game Mode, Xbox Game Bar doesn’t really affect your performance, at least no more than other overlays like Nvidia’s Shadowplay. “Record What Happened” will do a lot more to your games than Game Bar, but if you want to turn it off. Go to your settings by right-clicking on the start button icon and selecting Settings. Click on Gaming and then select Xbox Game Bar. Toggle the switch to Off and you will no longer have an overlay on your games and you may see a few FPS boost depending on the game.

How to enable high performance mode in Windows

You can switch to the high-performance power plan in Windows to improve your gaming experience a little or a lot when you’re on a gaming laptop. Actual effects vary greatly with different games. The default balanced mode is perfectly fine for most applications, but if you want to change it to see if your PC is keeping your CPU at a consistently high clock speed, then make this simple change.

Right-click your Windows start button and click Settings. Select Power & Sleep, and then select Additional power settings further down the page. In this window, select High Performance.

Windows 10 Power Options screen

(Image credit: Future)

How to Clean Windows Services for Better Performance

Your gaming PC could be struggling simply because of the many applications you are running in the background. Chances are, many programs run automatically when you start your PC. You can always strip this list down to the essentials to save some RAM and CPU usage.

It’s easy to do. Press your Windows key and type Run or right-click Windows and select Run. In the new text box, type msconfig. Go to the Services tab, enable Hide all Microsoft services and look through the list to see what’s going on. Uncheck the services you don’t want to run and click Apply. However, be careful. Some services are required for certain programs to work on your PC, so it’s helpful to look them up before disabling them.

You can also prevent these services from starting in the first place by going to Task Manager. Right-click the Windows start button and click Task Manager. Then select Startup and go through the list and uncheck what has the most impact.