What is a low FPS and what causes it?
Low FPS, or frames per second, is when your game slows down because your computer doesn’t have enough power or memory to run it properly. Common causes of low FPS are a weak graphics card, old graphics drivers, an outdated CPU, or insufficient RAM.
Like movies, games are displayed on your monitor in a rapid-fire series of frames. The number of frames shown on your monitor each second is known as your frame rate and is measured in FPS — frames per second.
Most games run between 30 and 60 FPS. At rates like these, things will look pretty smooth (though many gamers will swear that nothing short of a steady 60 FPS is acceptable). For competitive gameplay and a super-smooth experience, most gaming monitors and new gaming laptops operate at speeds of 144 to 360 Hz, which allow for extremely smooth gameplay and lower latency.
If your computer isn’t powerful enough to keep generating all these frames, the frame rate will fall. This results in the game looking and feeling as though it were running in slow motion.
Viewed as a console gaming vs. PC gaming issue, boosting FPS is a win for the PC gamers — you can’t modify a console once it’s in your hands. The FPS booster tips in this article are all about showing you how to increase FPS and speed up your computer for gaming.
How to boost FPS: easy techniques
Some of the most effective FPS boosters are also the easiest. Here are the best tricks you can do to increase FPS on your Windows 10 gaming machine:
Enable Game Mode in Windows 10
Game Mode is a built-in tool designed to optimize Windows 10 for gaming — whether you’re gaming on a prehistoric museum antique or a custom-built, bleeding-edge powerhouse. Game Mode deactivates background activities like Windows updates and app notifications to help your computer boost FPS in your games.
Since mid-2019, Windows 10 has Game Mode enabled by default. Your computer should be able to detect when you’re gaming and prioritize its resources accordingly.
Here’s how to activate the dedicated Windows 10 gaming mode on your PC to get more FPS:
- Open your Settings by clicking the cog icon in the Start menu.
- Select the Gaming category.
- Select Game Mode from the menu on the left and confirm that the Game Mode switch is toggled On.
Now the gaming mode will help boost FPS and improve performance any time you play a game in Windows 10.
Lower your resolution
Unless you have a super-high-end gaming PC, you may need to make some sacrifices in the graphics department for higher FPS. An average computer simply can’t run modern games at ultra-high resolutions while also putting out a constant 60 FPS.
As resolution increases, the number of pixels on your screen goes up — and so does the strain on your GPU. Lowering your game’s resolution can improve FPS by making your GPU’s job easier, since it won’t have to support as many pixels with each frame. The graphics won’t look as clear, but the game should run more smoothly with tweaked display settings.
Changing the resolution of your game can help boost FPS.
Decreasing your resolution from 1080p (1080 x 1920) to 900p (900 x 1600) will reduce the total number of pixels by just over 30%. Lowering the resolution even more to 720p will give you roughly half as many pixels as your original 1080p setting, making this tip an effective, if inelegant, FPS booster.
Find the resolution settings within your game’s options menu. Experiment to see what your machine can handle and find the optimal balance of clear graphics and better FPS for your Windows 10 gaming.
Changing your display settings can increase FPS.
Change the game’s video settings
While you’re fiddling with your game’s resolution, tweak the other video settings as well for an additional FPS boost. Some games will have simple settings that you can adjust by level: ultra, high, medium, low, and so on. Other games will have sliders, numerical settings, or more nuanced controls.
Explore some of the following settings to try and get more FPS from your game.
- Graphical details: Reduce the quality of things like shadows, lighting, textures, and reflections. Your game will look a bit less lifelike, but it should run more smoothly in return.
- Anti-aliasing: Anti-aliasing smoothes out the edges of the various objects in your game. Turn it off, then slowly increase it to the point where it’s making a difference in your graphics but not negatively impacting FPS. If the game offers different types of anti-aliasing, try each one and see what happens.
- Draw distance: If you can, reduce draw distance to prevent the game from rendering far-off objects. With fewer things to render at once, your GPU can focus its available resources on your immediate environment.
- Graphical effects: Tone down or get rid of motion blur, lens flares, and other types of graphical flare. It’s one less thing for your GPU to worry about.
- VSync: Designed to prevent screen tearing — when your monitor shows portions of multiple frames at the same time — VSync synchronizes the game’s frame rate with the refresh rate of your monitor. It sounds helpful, and often is, but it can sometimes bring down FPS. Turn it off and see what happens. If you notice screen tearing, turn it back on.
Here’s a quick look at some of your options in Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition. Reducing some or all of these can give you a considerably better FPS in your next Windows 10 gaming session.
Reducing video settings to boost FPS.
Update your graphics card drivers
Your graphics card is the centerpiece of your gaming experience, but you can’t unleash its true performance without the right graphics driver. Updating your graphics card driver can be a huge FPS booster. Take a look at this recent chart from GPU manufacturer Nvidia, which shows how gaming performance improves with updated drivers.
Updating to the latest driver boosted performance by up to 23%. Source: Nvidia
Here’s how to update the drivers for the Nvidia GeForce, ATI Radeon, and Intel HD graphics cards:
- Nvidia GeForce: Go to the GeForce driver website, select your graphics card and Windows version from the list, and hit the Start Search button. Drivers marked as beta aren’t quite finished, but they should all run as smoothly as the final release — and they’ll likely increase FPS even more. If you have the GeForce Experience tool installed, you’ll get an automatic notification whenever Nvidia releases a new driver.
- ATI Radeon: Go to the AMD software downloads website and select the appropriate device. This will give you access to the latest official driver that you can download and install. You can also install the beta driver to get more performance improvements or features.
- Intel HD Graphics: Mostly found on ultrabooks or tablets, the Intel graphics chipsets are the weakest of the bunch. We don’t recommend doing any sort of gaming on the HD 3000 or earlier, but Intel’s latest graphics chipsets can handle current games — though not at the highest possible resolution or with all the bells and whistles turned on. To get updated drivers, go to the Intel Download Center’s graphics page.
A 2021 driver update lowered the latency for games such as Overwatch. Source: Nvidia
Regardless of which GPU you have, updating your driver can give you an immediate FPS boost and optimize Windows 10 for gaming. When you don’t need to worry about updating your drivers, you’re free to focus on more important things — like actually playing, and dominating, your games.
Wait, how do I even know what graphics card I own?
To find out the manufacturer and exact serial number of your graphics card, all you need to do is follow these steps:
- Go to the Control Panel and head to Hardware and Sound.
- Click Device Manager to bring up a list of all the built-in devices your system has.
- Open the Display adapters drop-down category.This Alienware X51 gaming rig has two Nvidia Titan Xp graphics cards.
Once you’ve identified your graphics card, make sure you’re using the latest drivers for optimal Windows 10 gaming performance.
Remove unused programs and bloatware
Does Windows get increasingly slower with each program you install on your PC or laptop — directly impacting all your games? This is because a lot of programs run background activities even when they’re not being used, which waste your computer’s valuable memory.
After installing AVG TuneUp, the Unnecessary programs screen will show you all the programs you haven’t used in a while. These may range from useless bloatware to apps you installed ages ago and forgot about. Click Move to Trash next to any program to get rid of it.Found a program you don’t need? Click Move to Trash to dump it. AVG TuneUp will remove the bloatware along with its corresponding files and caches.
But what about all those other programs you use on a regular basis that are still limiting your day-to-day performance? Our handy tool will also help you adjust your power settings. AVG TuneUp can safely put these to sleep, then wake them up when you need them. Here’s how to put unused programs to sleep with AVG TuneUp.
- Open AVG TuneUp and click Speed up to get started.
- Click Background & startup programs.
- AVG TuneUp will show you all the programs running in the background and sucking up your computer’s resources. Click Put all to sleep to snooze them all at once, or click Sleep next to each program to snooze them one by one.
Our patented Sleep Mode technology prevents your selected programs from running in the background until you need to use them. Thanks to this performance tweak of snoozing all your heavy background tasks, your PC will run like new — meaning your games will run faster.
Boost your Wi-Fi
A slow internet connection can cause extra lag in games. So though it won’t increase your FPS, boosting your Wi-Fi signal can help to reduce lag and increase gaming performance.
How to boost FPS: advanced techniques
From overclocking your GPU to learning all the advanced settings tweaks, there are some powerful changes you can make to raise FPS to elite levels on your gaming PC:
Overclock your graphics card
More than insufficient RAM or a struggling CPU, your graphics chip is almost always the bottleneck that causes stuttering or lackluster gameplay. To improve performance and increase FPS, push your graphics card beyond its default speed setting via overclocking.
Five to ten years ago, overclocking could potentially harm your hardware. But now, most current systems will shut themselves down before taking any damage. Besides, we’re looking at a slight GPU overclock of no more than 15% for a quick performance tweak that can significantly boost your gaming experience.
On my custom-built gaming PC, I pushed an Nvidia RTX GeForce 3090 roughly 15% above its factory clock:
Overclocking an Nvidia RTX GeForce 3090 GPU on a custom-built gaming PC.
On my main laptop, a MacBook Pro 2016 with Windows 10 and a Radeon 460 Pro GPU, I’ve pushed the GPU by 100 MHz and overclocked the RAM 300 MHz.
Overclocking speeds up your GPU but also increases the stress on all of your hardware, not just the CPU or GPU — which raises your computer’s internal temperature. My desktop and laptop overclocks both increased temps by 5° Celsius — significant, but well within safe limits. Always follow safe GPU overclocking practices when trying this yourself. The same goes for overclocking your CPU — slow and steady wins the race.
Using 3DMark TimeSpy to run benchmarking tests, I determined that overclocking my system as described above yielded a 10% performance boost, from 17,018 points before the overclock to 18,591 after.
Upgrade your graphics card
After upgrading to a 4K projector, I noticed how my old gaming PC really couldn’t keep up with the higher resolution. While The Witcher 3 ran decently in Full HD, my two GeForce 970 graphics cards (in SLI mode) struggled with 4K, which essentially quadruples the resolution from 1080p.
Only with Nvidia’s Pascal GPU from the 2016/2017 generation did we get the graphical power to render 4K games at a buttery-smooth 60 FPS and above. But even in 2022 and beyond, you’ll need high-end GPUs like the GeForce RTX 3090 or Titan RTX to support this type of performance and optimize your PC for gaming at this level.
If 1440p or 1080p is enough for your gaming needs, you’ll see a significant FPS boost with a much more affordable GPU. And if you’re currently building your own Windows 10 gaming PC, you can choose the perfect GPU for the way you game.
According to Nvidia’s tests, upgrading from a GeForce RTX 2080 to a GeForce RTX 3080 significantly boosts FPS. Source: Nvidia
Upgrade to an SSD
SSDs are much faster than mechanical hard disks, making them a great way to optimize your Windows 10 computer for gaming. Upgrading to an SSD (solid state drive) won’t boost your game’s frame rate, but it will speed up your computer and reduce loading times while you play.
Choose an SSD with at least 250 GB of storage, though this is more like an absolute minimum than an effective starting point. Many modern games can exceed 50 GB, and you’ll also need to allocate roughly 30 GB for Windows. And that doesn’t even include all your other files. In reality, you’ll likely want 500 GB or more.
I went for the 480 GB SanDisk Extreme ($395), which boasts an incredible 540 MB/s of sequential read and 460 MB/s of sequential write. The performance difference between this and my Alienware gaming rig’s stock drive is mind-blowing:
Upgrading to an SSD can significantly reduce loading times.
Upgrade your computer’s RAM
RAM (random access memory) is your computer’s resource pool for all current tasks. The more RAM you have, the more your computer can do at once. Upgrading your PC’s RAM will not only optimize your computer for gaming, but make it more powerful in general.
If you’re adding RAM, make sure your new RAM modules match whatever you currently have. You don’t want to mix and match RAM types. If you’re upgrading all your RAM modules to new ones, confirm which types of RAM your motherboard can support. Then, buy one or more of the same RAM module.
Adding RAM can give you a significant FPS boost, though not as much as upgrading your GPU or CPU. Still, if you can afford the new RAM, it won’t hurt.
Disable SuperFetch (SysMain) and Prefetch
SuperFetch (referred to as SysMain in Windows 10) and Prefetch are built-in Windows features intended to boost startup times for apps on your computer and for Windows itself. But with games, we noticed that loading times and background activity actually increase when these features are enabled. Turning them off is an easy Windows 10 gaming hack. Here’s how to get better FPS this way:
Note: Please read the following instructions carefully, because deleting or changing the wrong values in the registry may cause problems with your PC.
- Type services into the Windows search box, then select Services from the results.
- Scroll down until you see SysMain and double-click it.
- Choose Disabled from the Startup type options, then click Apply and OK. Close this window and the Services window when you’re finished.
- Now, press Windows + R to bring up the Run box, type regedit, and press Enter. Press Yes to confirm.
- Paste the following path into the address bar and press Enter:Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\PrefetchParameters
- Double-click EnablePrefetcher and enter 0 (the default value is 3) to disable the Prefetcher, then click OK.
Defrag or optimize your disk
As data is written to or deleted from your hard disk, files become fragmented and will physically spread out all over the disk. Disk fragmentation will lead to a significant performance hit — especially with games — as the hard disk will need to collect all of the fragmented portions before it can process the entire file.
SSDs also benefit from regular cleanup. The TRIM function tells your SSD to erase any data blocks that aren’t being used, which speeds up read and write speeds with more efficient data management.
Games and related files take up a ton of space, especially AAA games — Doom Eternal and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla both recommend at least 50 GB of available storage, and Red Dead Redemption 2 calls for a whopping 150 GB. It’s vital that Windows can continually access all this data without having to jump around through your drive.
Whether you’re using a hard disk drive or an SSD, clean up your drive now to boost your computer and optimize Windows 10 for gaming.
- Open the Start menu and begin typing the word defragment. Choose Defragment and Optimize Drives from the search results.
- Select your Windows disk and hit Optimize. This will either defragment your HDD or optimize your SSD via TRIM.
TRIM should be enabled by default for your SSD. But it can accidentally get switched off, which means your SSD won’t benefit from regular optimization. Here’s how to enable TRIM on your computer if necessary:
- Open Command Prompt: click the Start menu and type cmd into the search bar. Choose Run as administrator from the Command Prompt options and click Yes when prompted.
- Type in the command Fsutil behavior query disabledeletenotify, and hit Enter.
- If this returns the result = 0, as shown above, you’re good to go! Otherwise, TRIM isn’t supported and needs to be enabled. Try entering the command fsutil behavior set DisableDeleteNotify 0. If that doesn’t help, you might need to upgrade your firmware to enable TRIM.
Tweak the Nvidia Control Panel
All Nvidia drivers come with their own control panels that give you more power over your graphics settings and performance to optimize your PC for gaming. Go through the list of options and tweak them to increase FPS and find the right balance between performance and visual quality for your PC.To get to the Nvidia Control Panel, right-click on your desktop, select Nvidia Control Panel, and choose the Manage 3D Settings category on the left. These are some of the lesser-known but still important settings to tweak:
- Maximum Pre-Rendered Frames: This controls the number of frames that the processor prepares before transferring them to the graphics card. Increasing this value results in smoother gameplay, but you may notice lag when using the mouse and keyboard. To eliminate lag, try the 1 setting.
- Threaded Optimization: This option should always be On, because it allows the support of multi-threaded optimization for modern multi-core processors.
- VSync: This synchronizes the frames that your graphics card renders with the refresh rate of your monitor. If you disable it, you might find that games run more smoothly, but some parts of the screen may not render correctly. Disable VSync only if your monitor has a higher frame rate than your gameplay.
Tweak the AMD/ATI Control Center
The AMD/ATI Control Center is another fantastic way to squeeze out more performance and increase the visual quality of your games. To fire it up, right-click on your desktop, select Radeon Settings, and head over to the Gaming Settings.From here, you can set individual graphic settings for games you have installed. But we suggest going with the Global Settings as our recommendations usually apply to all games.
These are the most important settings:
- Anisotropic Filtering Mode: The higher this is set, the sharper distant textures will appear — but this will also increase the processing load on your graphics card. If your GPU is powerful enough, enable it and see if it makes a difference. Use this only if your game doesn’t support changing the anisotropic filtering in its settings menu.
- Anti-aliasing mode and method: Anti-aliasing reduces the “jaggies” around the edges of the objects in your game, and it can have a severe impact on performance. If you’re seeing shimmering or jaggies, try the Override method and select an anti-aliasing level from 2 to 8.
- Morphological Filtering (MLAA): AMD introduced its own form of anti-aliasing which might work better and faster than other options. Try turning off the in-game anti-aliasing as well as the standard AMD anti-aliasing, and use this instead. If it works, keep it.
- Texture Filtering Quality: According to AMD, this feature changes texture quality. When looking up close, we couldn’t detect a difference between High and Performance, but many of the games we tested ran 1 to 5 FPS faster in Performance mode. Try it out for a small FPS boost.
- Surface Format Optimization: This trades graphical fidelity in older games for a minor FPS increase. It won’t affect modern games, and even when I tried it on 2005’s Age of Empires III, I couldn’t detect any performance improvements. Turn it off.
- Wait for Vertical Refresh: Vertical Sync (or VSync) synchronizes the frames rendered by your graphic card with the refresh rate of your monitor. If you disable Vsync, you might find that games run more smoothly, but doing so can also lead to graphics issues. Disable Vsync only if your monitor has a higher refresh rate than the FPS of your game.
Bonus: improve gaming performance on your laptop
Here’s the good news — if you’re a laptop gamer, you can use most of the tips above to boost FPS and optimize your laptop for gaming. While many laptops aren’t able to handle aftermarket GPU upgrades, you can enable the Windows 10 gaming mode, update your graphics drivers, and in most cases, upgrade your RAM and swap out your HDD for a blazing-fast SSD instead.
Here are a few more tips and FPS boosters to improve the gaming performance of your laptop:
Optimize your power settings for performance
Maximize your laptop’s gaming performance by giving it all the power it needs to increase FPS. Optimize your power options by clicking the battery icon in the system tray and dragging the slider all the way over to Best performance. This will shorten battery life if your laptop isn’t plugged into an external power supply, but as long as you’re using one, you’ll be fine.
Keep your laptop cool
The hotter your laptop gets, the worse its performance becomes: a hot laptop will try to self-regulate its temperatures by slowing things down. Here’s how to keep your laptop cool for more consistent high performance and less stress on sensitive internal components:
- Clean your laptop’s fans and vents. As dust builds up, your laptop can’t vent hot air as efficiently. Physically clean your laptop regularly, and tidy the vents so it can keep itself cool. If you’re feeling brave (and don’t mind likely voiding your manufacturer’s warranty), you can open up your laptop and clean its fans directly.
- Don’t put it on your lap. The word “laptop” is misleading. Place your laptop on a smooth, flat surface so that air can circulate underneath it. If it’s on your lap, or on a carpet or blanket, you’ll smother it.
- Plug it in. When your laptop runs on battery power, things can get hot — especially if you’ve optimized its power settings for performance. Whenever you can, keep your laptop plugged into an external power supply.
- Use a cooling platform: An external cooling stand blows cool air against the underside of your laptop to improve airflow. You can pick one up for a relatively low price, and it’ll plug right into your laptop via USB.
Use a performance-boosting app
There’s a whole world of software out there that’ll automatically optimize your laptop computer for top performance. AVG TuneUp lets you easily perform a number of effective performance tweaks, including snoozing background programs to free up RAM and uninstalling unnecessary software that clogs up space. Give it a spin with a 30-day free trial to boost FPS on your gaming laptop.
Turn off background Windows services
Every little bit helps when it comes to increasing FPS on your gaming laptop. You can prevent apps, including Windows services, from running in the background to conserve valuable system resources and optimize your PC for gaming.
- Open the Start menu and type the phrase background apps. Select Background apps from the results.
- Toggle the top switch to Off to prevent all apps from running in the background. Otherwise, toggle individual apps as you see fit.
Check the results: enable an in-game FPS counter
By now, you’ve spent a lot of time on all these performance tweaks to optimize your computer for gaming. It’s time to check how much you’ve actually achieved.
Find your current FPS
Some games have a built-in FPS counter. If you use Steam, press Alt + Tab to enable it using the overlay. But our favorite tool for finding your current FPS is MSI Afterburner, which also installs RivaTuner.
What is the optimum FPS?
Many gamers would tell you that for most games to look smooth, the minimum FPS is 60. But the optimum FPS also depends on your monitor. The refresh rate for monitors is measured in Hertz. A 60Hz monitor can display 60 images per second, meaning it can display a game at 60 FPS. Your monitor is the limiting factor here: if you optimize your game to 90 FPS, but your monitor’s refresh rate is only 60Hz, it will still show the game at only 60 FPS.
When shopping for a new gaming rig (or building your own), make sure you choose a monitor or laptop with higher refresh rates like 120Hz or 144Hz. You’ll get the best gaming experience with a fast refresh rate and increased FPS.