One of the joys – and frustrations – of being a PC gamer is the ability to tweak and configure our systems. It’s why many of us are so passionate about the PC, and the joy of getting a system zinging is akin to tuning a performance vehicle. The only problem is that there are myriad different ways to tweak your PC, so we’re going to cover some of the basics. Note that this article won’t cover overclocking; you can find that guide elsewhere in this issue. Let’s start with the simple stuff – maintaining the health of your PC.
Bloatware be gone
It’s amazing how much junk software your PC accumulates over time. It’s easy to spot as well – do a clean install of Windows and your PC and applications will boot within seconds. Six months later and you can go make a cup of tea while you’re waiting for the Windows loading icon to stop moving. The best solution to this problem is to do a systematic wipe of your Operating System as regularly as possible – at least every year. However, we realise that not everybody has the time to spend a day or two each year backing up all their games and reinstalling Windows, so there are other ways to get rid of that rubbish.
For starters, head to your PC’s System Configuration Startup tab. The easiest way to find this is to type msconfig into the search bar of windows. Windows 10 users will see this screen:
From here it’s a simple matter of seeing which applications are run when your PC boots up, and changing their Status to Disabled. However, even this doesn’t always show all of the applications that are loading in the background. For that we recommend a free application called Process Explorer, which is available from: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/processexplorer.aspx
When you load this up, you’ll see every single process that is running on your PC, like so:
Yep, it’s incredible just how much junk is loaded after a few months of installing programs. Go through this list and identify programs that you no longer need, then hit the control panel to uninstall them all. You’ll save more CPU cycles than you thought possible. Another option is to install a process manager such as Razer’s Cortex Boost. This will automatically close down any unnecessary processes and Windows services before you fire your game up, and can be downloaded for free from www.razerzone.com/au-en/cortex. Just be careful about manually choosing which services to close, as some of them are crucial for Windows to operate. Sticking with the automatic mode is a much safer bet.
Virus and Malware scanning
This might sound blindingly obvious, but it’s amazing how many people rely on the rather average virus scanning that is included by default with Windows. It’s not too bad, but it doesn’t handle Malware very well. This author personally recommends the free version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to take care of this threat, which is downloadable at www.malwarebytes.org. Ensure you update and run this at least once a week, especially if you’re a prolific downloader. As for virus scanning, we reckon Avast! Free Antivirus is pretty damn good, and it seems to top a lot of the freeware virus tests. Grab it from www.avast.com and ensure it too is updated and run weekly.
Give your PC a blowjob
Most of the hot bits inside your PC are cooled by little spinning blades otherwise known as fans. There’s usually one on your CPU, your graphics card, inside your PSU, on the front and rear of your case, and possibly even on your motherboard. The problem is that these make damn fine dust-collectors, and as they clog up they stop working well. When they’re not working, heat becomes a problem and your hardware could automatically slow down to stop it burning out. This is especially a problem if you’ve got fur-covered friends in the house or you smoke whilst gaming. The solution is to buy a can of compressed air and to give all of your fans a good blow every six months or so. A can will set you back around five bucks, though you can also buy a high-speed air blower specifically designed for electronics cleaning for $100 or so. One thing to remember if you’re using the canned variety is to always keep the can perfectly upright, otherwise moisture can be sprayed from the can. Not only will removing the dust ensure your PC remains cool and fast, you’ll be amazed at how much quieter it runs.
Driving Miss Lazy
It continually boggles us how often friends and family can’t get games to run, simply because they’re too lazy to update their graphics drivers. It’s crucial to keep your GPU’s drivers up to date, so always check for new drivers on a weekly or fortnightly basis – you’ll find Nvidia and AMD usually release a major new set whenever a big game is released. It’s not uncommon to see a 20% performance boost in a game simply from new GPU drivers. Your motherboard also uses chipset drivers, though they tend not to be updated anywhere near as regularly. Still, it’s worth hitting your mobo maker’s site every six months or so to grab new drivers for the motherboard chipset, onboard LAN and audio, and any storage devices. Finally, all of your other peripherals such as mice and sound cards usually need drivers too, so it’s worth checking for new ones every few months.
Now that we’ve shown you a few basic maintenance tips to keep your PC running sprightly, let’s look at the control panels of both AMD and Nvidia to see what options are there for improving game performance. This is especially timely given that AMD has recently overhauled its entire graphics control panel with the release of the Radeon Software Crimson Edition.