What is Windows Game Mode (& Should You Keep it On or Off)

How to Activate Windows Game Mode

Game Mode is a feature of Windows that’s supposed to improve your gaming experience by turning off some background notifications and processes.

It can be activated through the following steps:

  1. Click on the Windows Start button.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Select the Gaming Tab.
  4. Select Gaming Mode.
  5. Activate Gaming Mode.

Here is a GIF of the steps above.

What does Windows Game mode do?

Windows Game Mode is a feature that was introduced back in 2018 as a way to increase a computer’s gaming performance, as measured in FPS (frames per second).

Unfortunately, the feature didn’t work as intended and actually decreased performance in many games because of how Game Mode handled CPU loads.

Microsoft then “fixed” Game Mode by pretty much removing almost all of its functionality.

Ever since 2021, Game Mode has mostly done three things:

  • It prevents nearly every Windows Update from installing and silences update notifications.
  • Changes priorities of certain Windows processes in favor of the game you are playing.
  • Stops some background activities while you are gaming.

On paper, these all sound pretty nice and should offer some performance increases. 

However, benchmarks show that Game Mode offers either no performance increase or a performance increase that is so small it is practically negligible. 

Credit to Tropical Tech

However, even if Game Mode doesn’t increase FPS, it does decrease the GPU and CPU temperatures by 2-4 degrees Celsius. 

This may not sound like a lot, but every CPU and GPU automatically throttles its gaming performance if its running temperature is too hot. It’s basically a safety mechanism so the component doesn’t burn itself out.

Most PC gamers don’t really have to worry all that much about the temperature of their components.

However, gamers who overclock their hardware, or those with PCs that have bad cooling, will certainly appreciate if their hardware can run 2-4 degrees Celsius cooler at no performance cost.

Finally, turning Game Mode on or off is very simple to do and doesn’t even require a computer restart. This makes it very easy to test if Game Mode improves the performance of your game or not.

Simply turn Game Mode on (or off), start your game, and see if you notice any performance improvements.

Overall, it’s best if you keep Game Mode on. It will neither improve nor decrease your PC’s gaming performance, but it will help your computer run a few degrees cooler and prevent annoying updates and notifications while you’re playing, which should make your gaming experience more peaceful.

Software methods to increase FPS

Unfortunately, Windows Gaming Mode won’t help you get more performance out of your PC. In fact, there aren’t that many software-only solutions available that can noticeably improve a PC’s gaming capabilities.

This is because modern PCs are generally pretty good at automatically squeezing the most performance out of their hardware. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this.

In general, it’s the game developer’s job to make sure their game runs well on the widest variety of hardware. Alas, some devs are better than others in this regard.

With that being said, there are a few software methods you can try and see if they help improve your gaming experience:

  1. Turn on Hardware-Accelerated GPU Scheduling

This feature is called HAGS for short and works by shifting some of the frame generation away from the processor and onto your graphics card.

In theory, this should improve the performance of computers that have a weaker CPU but a more powerful GPU. In this case, the CPU bottlenecks the performance of the GPU, so activating HAGS should allow the GPU to pick up some of the slack.

This feature is relatively recent, having launched only in 2020. This means older games published before this date aren’t optimized for this feature and might actually run worse with HAGS activated.

Likewise, if your CPU is better than your GPU, you might run into similar issues.

In any case, here’s how to activate HAGS if you want to try it out:

  1. In the Windows Search Bar type “Graphics Settings”.
  2. Turn on Hardware Accelerated GPU Scheduling.
  1. Overclock your GPU or CPU

Overclocking means running your hardware at higher speed limits than the safe ones imposed by the manufacturer. Overclocking will improve the performance of your hardware, sometimes by quite a lot.

The downside to overclocking is that you risk damaging the hardware if you aren’t careful, or at the very least making your system unstable (meaning crashes, freezes, etc.).

If you want to overclock your computer, the best way to go about it is to research how to overclock your specific components, usually the GPU and CPU, and do it slowly.

This is because every model of GPU and CPU reacts differently to overclocking. There is no one size fits all.

  1. Tinker with Nvidia Control Panel settings

If you have an Nvidia GPU, you’re probably familiar with GeForce Experience. 

However, Nvidia GPUs also have another software control system called Nvidia Control Panel, which offers even more tinkering and optimization possibilities compared to GeForce Experience.

If you have the time and willingness to tinker with your GPU settings, it’s worth diving into this program and seeing what it has to offer. 

This video guide should help you a lot by teaching you how to optimize the Nvidia Control Panel for maximum performance

  1. Close unnecessary background programs 

Every program you currently have running consumes important resources such as CPU, RAM, or internet bandwidth. 

Ideally, you should close these programs so that their resources are instead diverted to the game you are playing.

This usually means closing apps such as Chrome, Dropbox, VPNs, etc.

If you want to see what programs are consuming your resources, then open the Task Manager with the Ctrl + Shift + Esc shortcut. Close any non-essential programs by right-clicking on them and hitting “End Task”.

Just be sure not to close important Windows processes, or else the computer will freeze and crash. 

As a rule, though, if you know exactly what the program does and (such as Chrome, Steam, Dropbox etc.) you can safely close it.

Paul Bonea
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