Are you being constantly let down by your computer's poor performance? Is your PC struggling to load textures or reach competitive frame rates? Is your CPU under immense stress and you don't know why?
In this article I will be discussing ways to improve PC performance without spending a penny. Some of them are totally harmless and others require some more advanced adjustments to your computer. All of the following methods have been tried and tested by myself.
I write this article with regular gamers in mind, making constant reference to improving gaming quality. However, if you are a video editor or music producer, all of these techniques will apply to you too.
Disclaimer: All of the following tips have been done with success on my own personal computer (specifications stated at the bottom of the article) using the methods stated. Nothing here is dangerous and any normal person can do the same, however Tekify is not liable should anything go wrong. These steps may not work for everyone and we do not take responsibility should things not go to plan.
Closing Unnecessary Background Apps
The first thing to do when trying to improve performance is to close out background programs. This seems rather obvious, but a lot of people can overlook some of these aspects. Having things like Chrome open will use a lot of RAM which your game might require to run properly. Closing out these unnecessary apps will take the stress off the CPU and improve performance drastically.
Some applications may run in the background, even if no windows are open. Skype, Discord and the Epic Games Launcher are common culprits. To exit out of them, click the upwards arrow on the left-hand side of the taskbar to display the active apps' icons. From there, right-click on each icon and select "Close" or "Exit".
On a similar note, if you're talking to friends/colleagues while using your computer, using a communication software that demands less processing power will also improve performance. For example, use TeamSpeak instead of Discord as the latter is more demanding on the CPU.
Turning Your Settings Down
When trying to improve performance, I’d say start by making simple but effective adjustments before moving on to the more serious stuff.
As a general rule-of-thumb, lower in-game settings will lead to a higher FPS. In games with a large map or lots of structures, lowering the render distance can drastically improve performance as your computer will have less to process. The further-away regions of the map will not be loaded until you get closer.
You can also try disabling shadows, lowering effects, or decreasing textures. Turning down 3D resolution can drastically affect quality if done too much, but small decreases can make a significant difference to performance. Also, decreasing display resolution can help as well - a 1080p resolution will load faster than a 1440p one.
Some games may have more options than this, some games might have less. Just remember that generally, lower graphics will improve performance.
Turning Your Settings Up
Now here’s a piece of advice that I can’t fully understand, though I do have good reason to believe it works.
I was playing Fortnite with my friends for the first time in a while and I noticed that my computer was having a lot of trouble loading textures. Buildings appeared blurry, I constantly clipped through the ground, and small objects like fences and furniture would not load-in. It wasn’t a connection problem as my ping sat at a reasonable 20ms. I concluded that it must be an issue with my game fetching textures. I analysed the performance of my computer and found that my processor was struggling because it was simply not powerful enough.
Naturally, I turned all my graphical settings down to improve performance. Nothing changed. I tried literally everything in this article (hence why I’m writing it) and still nothing was working.
My friend suggested “perhaps your settings are so low that your computer doesn’t feel the need to load stuff in at all.” I was a bit sceptical as I couldn’t quite understand his logic, but I went along with it. I hopped into Fortnite settings and clicked “Auto-Set Quality” and after a restart, everything was working perfectly. Multiple people I know have had the same issue and this adjustment has drastically improved their game too.
So maybe it’s worth changing your settings to what your computer thinks is best.
Update your drivers
Your graphics card is a key player in making your games run as best as possible, so it’s worth checking that you’re using it to its full potential. Updating your graphics card drivers ensures it is working at the best of its ability.
The way in which you'd go about doing this will vary dependent on your graphics card, but generally:
Enter your graphics card's dedicated software (for me that's NVIDIA GeForce Experience)
Find the "Drivers" section and check for updates
Download any updates
You may be asked whether you'd like a custom installation or an express installation. Generally, an express installation will be fine.
You can also check for processor driver updates. These are usually kept up-to-date with regular Windows updates, but you can also manually check. Simply:
Open the search bar in the bottom left of your screen
Search for "Device Manager" and open the program
Find "Processors" (usually about 3/4 of the way down) and expand the category
Right-click and select "Update Driver"
Select the "Search automatically for updated driver software" and your computer will find the best option available, or it will tell you that everything's up-to-date
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It's good to get into the habit of checking these every now and again as you're not always prompted to update the drivers.
Uninstalling Old Drivers
If you have recently got a new graphics card, it may help to uninstall the drivers for the old one. I switched from a basic AMD graphics card (which my computer came with) to a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960, however my computer still held onto the old AMD drivers after I had installed my new NVIDIA ones.
Here's how I uninstalled my old drivers:
Download a free software called Display Driver Uninstaller (linked at the bottom of the article)
Choose a download appropriate for your region
Extract the zip file
Open the software and allow it to make changes to your device
Select the option for GPU in the left-hand drop-down menu
Select the appropriate device in the menu immediately below that. Make sure you are uninstalling drivers for the correct device. Your desired driver may be different from mine
Select clean and restart in the top right
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Your computer will restart, so don't be surprised if your screen suddenly turns off. This won't likely make a massive difference, but it's worth a shot if nothing else so far has worked.
Make Sure Your CPU or GPU isn't Overheating
If your CPU or GPU is overheating, their performance may be limited to prevent physical damage. Make sure all fans are working and that there is good airflow. Sometimes fans may become clogged with dust and grime, so removing these will improve cooling even more.
Checking Internet Connection
Multiplayer games which involve a significant number of players (such as Fortnite or Minecraft) usually rely on a high quality, reliable internet connection. If you're experiencing lag spikes, persistent freezing and issues with generating new, unloaded areas, then internet connection might be something to look at.
In some games, there will be an option for displaying connection information as an overlay. Here you can observe values for ping and packet loss. If you are experiencing a lot of packet loss and a high ping, then you should consider improving internet quality.
You can also check your internet speed using either Task Manager or a simple Google search.
To use Task Manager:
Open Task Manager and select the Performance tab at the top
Select the WiFi/Internet graph
Values for send/receive speeds can be seen below the graph to the left
To use Google:
Search "internet speed test"
Use Google's own speed test service to receive values for upload/download speeds
The solution to an unreliable internet connection is a difficult one as the cause could be multiple different factors. If your computer is wirelessly connecting to your router, consider using a wired connection to decrease ping and improve reliability. If your router isn't immediately accessible by your computer, consider using a powerline adapter (an adapter which allows you to use your wired plug sockets as a wired internet connector). If issues persist, then your problem could be a poor connection to the internet out from the router. Unfortunately you can't do much about this, however it doesn't harm to contact your internet provider and query whether your speeds are within the accepted range.
Downloading onto an SSD
SSDs have faster read/write speeds than hard drives. If your program is having trouble loading in assets/textures/files then it may be because the read speed of their storage location isn't fast enough. To fix this, consider downloading your program/files that need to be fetched to an SSD. If you're playing a video game and your textures and items aren't loading quickly, or if you're a video editor and your raw footage is taking a while to import, then it might be worth investigating this.
Be aware that generally SSDs have a lower capacity than hard drives in the same price bracket, so if you're planning on moving over to an SSD, make sure you have the space.
Defragging/Cleaning/Optimising Your Drives
Optimising your drives is a good way to make sure the read/write speeds are as fast as they can be. This is rather simple to do and certainly very safe.
Search "Defragment and Optimise Drives" in the Windows search bar
Select the drive you'd like to optimise from the list at the top
Click Optimise on the left-hand side. It should have a little shield next to it
The process will begin automatically
Optimising your drives is a good habit to get into. This will help your computer run more efficiently and improve performance in the long run.
Checking Your Monitor's Capabilities
If you're aiming for an incredibly smooth gaming experience but you just can't break the 60 FPS barrier, make sure that your monitor is built to facilitate higher frame rates. There's no point aiming for 120 FPS if your monitor can only handle 60. You can find out your monitor's refresh rate with a quick Google search or by looking at the material it came with (the manual, the box, etc.).
Similarly, make sure V-Sync is turned off in your game settings. V-Sync matches your game FPS to your monitor's refresh rate, so applying V-Sync can in some cases can hinder performance.
Making Applications a Priority
This solution is relatively effective and fairly easy to do. Setting a program to a higher priority means the processor will dedicate more of its attention to that application. The processor will see it as more important and try its hardest to make that one application run better.
To change a program's priority level, simply
Open Task Manager
Enter the "Details" tab at the top
Find the application you wish to change the priority of and right-click
Find the "Set Priority" option and set to either High or Above Normal
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Note: the priority level will be set back to Normal by default after you close the program. Also background apps may suffer and Windows itself might develop some issues. For example, when I set one of my games to High priority, the Windows taskbar became extremely laggy and the search bar lost it's functionality. If everything freezes, a good old PC restart should fix it.
Overclocking is a big, scary and professional-sounding word, but it's a fairly simple concept. By overclocking, you're just pushing your PC's components harder and faster than the manufacturer intended them to go. I won't go into great depth on how to go go about this as the process will vary from computer to computer and will also depend on what you want out of your system. Plenty of tutorials are available.
It is worth noting that overclocking may hinder your computer's performance in the long term and will generally decrease the lifespan of your components. The safe bet is to always avoid overclocking and deal with a little bit of slowness as this process doesn't work miracles. All you'll get is a little boost in speed. Nothing absolutely incredible is going to happen.
Here's how I do it on my setup. I use MSI Afterburner to overclock my graphics card. After allowing it to make changes to my computer, I input some values for power limit, core clock and memory clock (this will vary from person to person, depending on how much you want to push your computer). Personally, I have my power limit at 108%, my core clock at +157Mhz and my memory clock at +180Mhz.
It is always best to ask an experienced user first before doing any of this. Consult an expert and be sure that you really need the added speed.
Display Driver Uninstaller download link:
My computer specification:
AMD A10-8750 Radeon R7
8GB DDR3 RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
1.8 TB Hard Drive and a 199GB SSD
Corsair VS550 Power Supply