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How to optimize Windows 11 for gaming
While Windows 11 is already pretty rock-solid for gaming, there are things you can (and probably should) do to squeeze every last frame out of your PC, as well as enhance your overall play experience. In this guide we’ll explore a range of Windows settings, some of which you may not have even been aware of.
How to optimize Windows 11 for gaming
Before we get started, it’s worth saying that you don’t necessarily have to use every tweak on this list to improve Windows gaming. In fact we’ve included a pair of options you should likely skip if you’re not dealing with any performance issues. For some people, however, they could make a critical difference.
This is perhaps the most obvious change to make, and may already be in place. Game Mode halts some background functions when it detects a game running, for instance blocking Windows Update from installing drivers or asking you to restart your PC. More significantly the mode can (potentially) produce better framerates, since your PC isn’t diverting as many resources.
To turn on Game Mode:
- In the Windows search bar, type in Game Mode.
- Select Game Mode settings from the results.
- Flip the Game Mode toggle to On.
Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling & variable refresh rate
With modern 3D games, it’s the GPU (graphics card/chip) that’s pulling the hardest workload on your PC, not the CPU. Enabling hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling minimizes rendering latency.
Variable refresh rate, meanwhile, prevents screen tearing in games while offering better framerates than a static refresh rate. Some games already have their own VRR support, but when they don’t, you can fall back on Windows 11’s option if your GPU is compatible.
- In the Windows search bar, type in Graphics.
- Select Graphics settings from the results.
- Click Change default graphics settings.
- Toggle on Hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling and/or Variable refresh rate. The second won’t be visible if your PC setup isn’t compatible.
While many PC monitors still don’t support it, when they do, HDR (high dynamic range) can produce much better detail in highlights and shadows while expanding color depth. Auto HDR enhances all games to take advantage of this, regardless of whether they have native hooks for the feature.
- In the Windows search bar, type in Display.
- Select Display settings from the results.
- If you have multiple displays, make sure the one you want is selected up top.
- Click Use HDR. If your display isn’t compatible with Windows HDR technology, you won’t see this button.
- Click the arrow icon next to Use HDR.
- Toggle on Auto HDR.
Disabling Memory Integrity & Virtual Machine Platform
These are the options we mentioned that can enhance performance, but might not be worth the cost, depending on your circumstances.
Memory Integrity is a Windows Security function that blocks malware from being injected into key processes. It’s enabled by default, but because it relies on virtualization, there’s a slight performance hit involved. This is a part of the broader Virtual Machine Platform, which also supports things like running Android and Linux apps.
We’d only try disabling Memory Integrity if you have other security measures in place (including firewalls and real-time protection) and you’re confident you can avoid things like phishing scams. Likewise, you shouldn’t turn off Virtual Machine Platform if you depend on one or more of its features.
To shut off Memory Integrity:
- In the Windows search bar, type in core isolation and select the top result.
- Turn off the Memory integrity toggle. You’ll be warned that your PC is more vulnerable to attack.
- You may be prompted to reboot for settings to take effect.
To shut off Virtual Machine Platform:
- In the Windows search bar, type in Windows features.
- Select Turn Windows features on or off from the results.
- Find the checkbox next to Virtual Machine Platform and deselect it.
- Click OK. You may be prompted to reboot.
Disabling Enhanced Pointer Precision
You can be perfectly happy without this tweak, but if your mouse control doesn’t feel as smooth as it could be, Enhanced Pointer Precision could be the culprit. The feature sometimes conflicts with in-game mouse options, actually making mouse input worse. It’s mainly going to be problematic in first-person shooters, where slow or missed input can mean the difference between scoring a headshot or dying.
- In the Windows search bar, type in mouse settings and select the top result.
- Under Related settings, click Additional mouse settings.
- In the Mouse Properties pop-up, select the Pointer Options tab.
- Uncheck Enhance pointer precision.
- Click Apply, then OK.