How to speed up your PC for gaming, as cheaply as possible: A guide

If you want to use your PC for gaming, you need to get the best performance you can out of it. Initially, this will mean taking some simple, and free, steps to speed up your current system. From there you can decide whether there is a necessity to upgrade any individual components, which can get costly. Follow this article through and you should see some improvements in your system. If not, a physical upgrade may be required.

Begin with the basics

If you notice your PC is running slower than it did when you first purchased it, there are probably issues with it that have built up.

A good idea is to run through a basic checklist to ensure the primary factors are covered. The first thing to consider is whether the case needs cleaning. If dust has accumulated, it will hinder airflow and cause the internal temperature to rise. The CPU will then naturally slow down to compensate. Removing the case cover and carefully vacuuming should sort this problem out.

Next, consider whether there are any files on your PC which are slowing it down. Run a scan for malware as viruses can stop you dead in your tracks, delete any programs you no longer use, and finally clear out temporary files.

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If the speed is still below par, defrag and clean your hard drive. Alternatively, opt for a larger hard drive if you are out of space. It might be a good idea to choose a solid state drive as these are much faster for gaming. They access the data almost immediately and have no moving parts to slow them down. Finally, if memory is the problem purchase more RAM.

Speeding things up without buying new hardware

Gaming is reliant on the speed of your graphics card but with new iterations released regularly, it can prove expensive to keep updating to the newest model. However, the good news is tweaks can be made to your existing hardware to help it perform better and to make it viable for as long as possible, even as ever more graphic-hungry game titles are released.

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  • Upgrade you graphics drivers: Always ensure you are using the latest drivers for your graphic card as new ones are released regularly; don’t just rely on the drivers the card came with or ones which update through Windows. Instead, go to the manufacturer’s site, probably either NVIDIA or AMD, and check you have the current version. The latest drivers will help to improve performance and ensure better game compatibility. You should also remove remnants of any previous drivers and a Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) will allow you to do this easily
  • Tweak the driver settings: Once you have the latest drivers installed, you can tweak the settings to enhance performance further. The ones to consider changing are texture filtering, tessellation, antialiasing, Vertical Sync and ambient occlusion. However, it should be noted that sometimes performance comes at the expense of image quality, so you will need to weigh up what is more important to you.
  • Disable unnecessary start-ups: To free up as much of your CPU and memory resources as possible for gaming, it is best to disable unnecessary start-up programs and you can do this through the Windows inbuilt tool. If you are unsure of the role of any program, always research it before disabling it, just in case it is vital to your system’s operation.
  • Adjust in-game settings: Don’t forget to tweak the in-game settings. Naturally, reducing some of these will affect image quality but this may well be worth the boost you get in performance.

How to make your GPU run like new

Maybe the graphics card itself is causing issues and running slow. If that is the problem, there are steps you can take to get it performing like new again.

Gather the tools you will need including a screwdriver, thermal paste, canned air, small brush, alcohol and cotton swabs. Once you have disassembled the card you can carefully clean it and add a new thin layer of thermal paste. Reinstall with up-to-date drivers and you are good to go, with any luck with the card running much cooler than it did previously.

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Speed up by overclocking

If you are not satisfied with performance after you have tried all the options above, the next step is to consider overclocking. It’s possible to overclock the processor and even the system memory, but you will get the biggest boost to gaming through overclocking your graphics card.

A word of warning

When you overclock, several things may happen. It’s best, therefore, to take some steps to combat them, or at the very least be aware they are possibilities.

By its very definition, overclocking means you are running the card above its standard operating conditions. This might mean it will draw additional power or generate higher than usual temperatures, for which more cooling will be required. Airflow will be important as you start to overclock so ensure there are sufficient fans in the case and enough room, with cables tied back neatly, for a good flow of air to occur. In addition, GPU overclock tools also allow you to raise the fan speed on the GPU itself to bring down the temperature.

If you don’t see sufficient returns for the additional heat and power being drawn, you will have to weigh up whether the process is worth it, although usually there is some bandwidth to push your card a little harder within the existing limits of heat and power. It’s necessary to add that overclocking your card could shorten its lifespan and will probably invalidate your warranty.
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Overclocking tools

If you decide the potential gains are worth pursuing, there are tools available which make overclocking easier. These tools allow you to experiment with changing power targets and the GPU and memory frequencies to see what works best for your system. Always take a baseline before you start so you can get an accurate measure of increased performance.

Speeding up your PC for gaming is a detailed process. If you are unsure at any stage of the best approach to take, there is a great deal of helpful advice online. If you tread carefully, you can usually get a great deal more performance out of your existing hardware, often without having to spend much money. However, to preserve the longevity of your system, always consider whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks and find the best balance between performance and stability.

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