How to Improve Game Performance

How to Improve Game Performance

Fragging buddies in Team Fortress 2 is a taxing operation, not just for you but also for your PC over time. While Windows and Mac OS both have built-in features to optimize and defragment if you want the competitive advantage you should work to improve game performance on your system. Luckily, tweaking and optimizing game performance is a simple maintenance task that can be done on a semi-regular basis and here’s how.

Difficulty: Basic

Tools:

  • Steam (Mac or PC)
  • Installed Steam Game
  • System Optimization Tools (DiskSpaceFan, CCleaner)

Time to Install: 15-30 minutes

Table of Contents

Official Disclaimer:
Not all the steps listed below will improve game performance on all systems. It’s important to understand that there are often other factors that impact game performance other than fragmentation like running processes or lack of disk space.

Following these steps will lead to possible questions of deleting files on your system or disabling startup processes that your system may actually need so proceed with caution. Remember, computing and gaming are not always compatible uses for a computer and the key, unless you have a dedicated gaming system, is to find a balance.

Step 1: Preparations
Before you can begin enhancing game performance you need to acquire some free tools from the Internet. Download and install these recommended tools:
DiskSpaceFan – This program shows you where all your hard drive space has gone in a nice visual way.
CCleaner – A nice utility for Windows that scans for unneeded files, allows modification of startup programs and even lets you uninstall old software.

Step 2: Steam Optimization
Valve’s Steam has a nice built-in ability to defragment the extremely large game files it uses to run your purchased games. While Windows 7 handles defragmentation far better than Windows XP or Windows Vista, using Steam to verify that your Left 4 Dead lag is not because the game is copied all over your hard drive is a good first step.

To optimize the Steam game files:

  1. Launch Steam and log in.
  2. Go to your game library and click on “Details”.
  3. Right Click and choose “Properties”.
  4. Click on the “Local Files” Tab.
  5. If the game shows any fragmentation, click on “Defragment Cache Files”

Repeat this process for all your installed Steam games to improve game performance.

Step 3: Hard Drive Optimization
Over time our gaming systems get pretty cluttered. Constant installs of patches, new games, add-on content and mods along with just daily Internet use can cause a system to get pretty messy pretty quickly. Windows and Mac OS both feature automated tools to help with this problem that we’ll discuss a little later. One of the big areas that gamers overlook when it comes to system performance however is lack of disk space.

It seems you never have enough space and if you’re a gamer who also likes music and movies on your hard drive, and thanks to Internet Explorer and other web browsers every email attachment or file we download gets squirreled away and often forgotten in our download folders. You could spend time searching around looking for these forgotten files or you could use a few tools that make this whole process easier like Disk Space Fan or CCleaner.

Disk Space Fan is a nice tool for rooting out large hidden files and it lets you “drill down” and “up” the hard drive by showing the size of your directories. Finding large directories then lets you dig deeper to find large or forgotten files.

CCleaner is a bit of a Windows multi-tool. Built to find and remove old system, internet browser and application files it also has some extra tricks that will help you free up space and optimize your system by removing startup programs.

Step 4: Video Driver Optimization
Game performance is particularly vulnerable to out of date or bad video drivers. Those of us who are constantly installing the latest games need to be especially wary of video driver issues on our systems. Nvidia and AMD both offer tools on their website to help detect the version of the driver you’re running.

Having the most recent video card driver is a good first step to improving game performance but it doesn’t come without some risk. First, not all universal driver updates work equally well, incompatibility and performance problems often appear in new drivers. If you are not patching or adding new games and your system is running very well already consider not updating your video drivers.

The second reason video drivers cause problems for gamers is improper installation. Both major video chipset makers recommends cleaning out old drivers when you plan to upgrade to a new version. Because off how integrated the video driver is into the basic operation of your system it is possible old files and support libraries may not be replaced during a complete driver upgrade and this will likely cause problems while playing games.

I recommend using a tool called Guru 3D – Driver Sweeper to clean out old video drivers before you install the new ones.

To use Guru 3D – Driver Sweeper:

  1. Download the latest official video driver for your video card ( Nvidia or AMD)
  2. Download Driver Sweeper and install it.
  3. Uninstall your current video drivers using the manufacturer supplied uninstaller
  4. Boot into Windows Safe mode.
  5. Run Guru3D – Driver Sweeper and select your video drivers

One that clean out is done, reboot into Windows normally and install the new official driver you downloaded earlier.

Step 5: Set Up Automated Maintenance

Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 all offer users the ability to automate routine system tasks that will help with game performance.

The recommended maintenance schedule is as follows:

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4 Comments on How to Improve Game Performance

UtopiaV1

On October 10, 2010 at 3:44 am

Not bad, good tips for a layman to understand how to speed up his computer. Shame there was nothing new in there for me :(

RT

On October 10, 2010 at 5:15 am

DO NOT DOWNLOAD. DRIVER SWEEPER or DRIVER DETECTIVE. same as usual YOU NEED TO PAY.

DISCSPACE FAN OK

Shawn Sines

On October 10, 2010 at 5:46 am

Utopia: This was aimed squarely at lay readers.. is there something you think I could expand to help add to your body of Knowledge?

RT: Sometimes software is worth paying for. But you can use uninstall from Windows control panel as well, it just isn not as reliable a method in my experience.

T

On February 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm

To RT you dont know nothing ive downloaded steam 10 time