How to tweak your PC settings to increase frames per second (FPS)

Now that the fall gaming season is bringing us gorgeous new PC games like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Project Cars 3, making sure your PC can properly run such games has become more important than ever. Since not everyone can just run out and splurge on a fancy new gaming PC or expensive components, it’s important to know how you can squeeze the most performance out of the PC you’ve got.

We have some basic tips for upping the FPS (frames per second) of your PC games, making them look and play smoother as a result. Obviously the best advice we can offer is to ensure your machine meets the minimum spec requirements of the game you’re attempting to run, but you’d be surprised how much you can “fudge” those requirements with the right tweaks.

Update Your Operating System and GPU Drivers

This first tip may seem a little obvious, but it bears repeating nonetheless. If it’s been a while since you last updated your computer’s operating system or GPU driver, go ahead and check both before attempting to boot up your intended game.

In Windows 10, you can manually check for and download updates by following these steps:

  • Make sure your computer is connected to the internet
  • Click on the Windows icon in the bottom left corner of your desktop
  • Click on the Settings icon (it looks like a gear)
  • In the Settings menu, look for the ‘Update & Security’ button and click on it
  • Click on the ‘Check for updates’ button and your computer will automatically search for and download any updates that are available
  • Once the updates are downloaded, restart your computer (even if you’re not prompted to)

To update your GPU driver, first, you should figure out whether you have an Nvidia or AMD GPU. If you don’t know, you can find out in Windows 10 by clicking on the search field in the bottom left corner (right next to the Windows icon) and typing in the ‘dxdiag’ command (without the quotes). This will bring up the DirectX Diagnostics Tool which displays relevant system information for your PC. Underneath the ‘Display 1’ tab you’ll find your currently installed GPU listed.

Depending on which GPU type you have, you should also have an associated GPU management application (such applications are usually included with the GPU itself). If not, you can download either Nvidia GeForce Experience (for Nvidia GPU’s) or AMD’s driver auto-detect tool (for AMD GPU’s). Using these applications, you can find out if you have the latest driver for your GPU installed and, if necessary, download the latest drivers.

Adjust Windows Settings

Once you have the latest Windows updates and GPU drivers installed, there are a few additional steps you can take to increase FPS performance before you even boot up the game you’re hoping to play.

First, if you’re using Windows 10, make sure that Windows Game Mode is enabled. While active, Windows Game Mode suspends certain non-essential background processes and reroutes your computer’s GPU and CPU resources to ensure as stable a gaming experience as possible.

The benefits of Windows Game Mode are most keenly felt on lower-end PC’s, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try regardless of your machine’s individual components. You can find the Windows Game Mode option by going to the Windows 10 Settings menu and clicking on the ‘Gaming’ button.

Another thing you can try is adjusting your PC’s screen resolution. Your PC does have a ‘recommended’ resolution which it’s likely already on, but lowering the resolution can help when it comes to running more demanding games. We recommend only tweaking your screen resolution if the game you’re attempting to play is running very poorly.

Lastly, you can also look into third-party game boosting apps. Such apps offer similar functionality as Windows Game Mode (i.e. suspending certain processes and diverting graphical resources), but depending on your computer’s specific hardware they might work better in the long run. Again, we only recommend trying out such apps if your PC is struggling to run a specific game at a stable FPS level.

Research Your Game’s Ideal Graphics API

This is a bit more of an advanced solution, but it’s still worth looking into if there’s a specific game you really want to play. Along with the GPU, your PC also utilizes a specific graphics application programming interface (or API) to facilitate communication between your GPU drivers and specific game engines.

One of the most common graphics API’s is DirectX, and if you’re using DirectX it might be worth investigating whether you need to upgrade to a newer version. In some cases, certain API’s work better with certain GPU types (rather than DirectX, AMD GPU’s usually favor the Vulkan API) or even certain game engines.

If you’re desperate to get a resource-intensive game running on your lower-end PC, it might be worth looking into whether the game responds better to a specific graphics API and making the switch if needed. Just be warned that switching API’s is no small undertaking, and it can drastically alter how your GPU functions. Make sure to do your research beforehand and to have a backup plan for reverting to your old API just in case.

Tweak Individual In-Game Settings

If your computer can at least start the game up, you can always adjust in-game graphical and video settings to lower the strain it’s putting on your PC. Every PC game has slightly different options for tweaking video settings, but in most cases, there should at least be a blanket option for adjusting the overall video quality. You can bump this option down to medium or low to see how it changes things, but of course, that can also compromise how the game looks while you play.

Adjusting individual graphical settings can help you find a happy medium between performance and visuals, again assuming your PC can at least run the game in question. Some specific settings you can lower or even disable without sacrificing visual fidelity include the following:

  • Shadows
  • Particle Effects
  • Render/Draw Distance
  • Texture Quality
  • Anti-Aliasing (disable)
  • V-Sync (disable)

Finding the right balance of in-game settings might take a little trial and error, but if you want the game to run smoothly and actually enjoy what you’re looking at while you play, it’s certainly worth the effort.

The above solutions obviously won’t guarantee that a graphics-intensive game like Microsoft Flight Simulator will run on your old potato PC, but they should at least help in stabilizing FPS across the board. At the very least, they can also help you identify weak spots in your computer’s hardware profile so that if and when you decide to perform some physical upgrades, you’ll know which part swaps will make the biggest performance impacts.