Your premium gaming laptop will never reach the performance of a similarly-priced gaming desktop. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t play the latest games. Instead, it puts extra pressure on you to ensure that your laptop is optimized for gaming.
With desktop computers, you can upgrade the hardware. Laptop users have limited upgrade options. So, what can you do to improve laptop performance? How can you make your laptop faster for gaming?
Here are 20 ways to optimize your laptop gaming setup on Windows. We’ve arranged these from the first and easiest thing you should do to the most complicated and expensive step, so be sure to read until the end!
1. Game With the Charger Plugged in
The easiest answer to “How to increase laptop performance for gaming?” is by plugging it in. Some laptops tend to throttle performance or refuse to activate the discrete GPU without the charger plugged in, so make sure to keep an eye out.
The difference in performance is massive when playing on battery power vs. playing with the charger plugged in. Your laptop fans will run at maximum speed unless set otherwise, and your laptop’s hardware will perform at its peak, giving you the best frame rates and lag-free gameplay.
2. Play Games on a Suitable Surface
After a long day, you may feel like enjoying your favorite RPG or MMO game while chilling on your sofa or bed. However comfortable it may be, playing games while keeping your laptop on a cushiony surface like a bed or couch can harm your device.
When you place your laptop on a soft surface like a bed, your computer’s vents may get blocked, leading to heat build-up within your device as the heat produced by the hardware cannot escape.
This affects the output your device produces, and more importantly, playing games on an irregular, soft surface can significantly hamper the health of your device in the long run. You should always play games on a hard surface like a table.
3. Adjust Your Gaming Laptop’s Power Settings
Few devices can enjoy improved operation without effective power management. When it comes to laptops—devices intended for use away from a permanent power source—power management is important.
Check your Windows power settings in Windows:
- Click Start > Settings (or WIN + I)
- Go to System > Power and sleep > Additional power settings
- Select High performance
- Click Change plan settings > Change advanced power settings
- Confirm the power settings are set to the optimum levels
Note that with some gaming laptops, battery settings are automatically managed. Whatever your system, avoid less-than-optimum power settings when squeezing gaming performance from your computer.
4. Speed Up Laptop Fans to Avoid Heat Throttling
Heating is a significant issue that has troubled laptop gamers for ages. Although modern-day laptops come equipped with multiple fans, heat sinks, and other cooling technologies, when not configured correctly, your computer can still touch higher temps, which reflects in the gaming performance it produces.
A simple yet effective trick to getting lower to moderate temperatures when gaming is to keep your fan running at maximum speed or turn on turbo boost if it’s allowed. This ensures that your laptop’s fans hit their maximum rotations per minute (RPM) and actively cool down your device.
5. Close Background Apps for Increased Laptop FPS
We assume you’re running Windows 10 or 11 for many of these tips. If not, you can make a manual change to your laptop before you launch a game—ensure all other apps are closed before you launch a game.
Once you’ve done that, look at the System Tray. This part of the Windows taskbar lists apps running in the background. Right-click each icon and close it unless it is relevant to your game experience. For example, keep your graphics card management app open.
6. Check Your Network Speed If You’re Playing Online Games
Gaming performance for your laptop is mostly determined by your hardware, drivers, and how your computer is configured. But if you’re playing online games, your internet connection speed is another element to consider.
Lag is the usual cause of trouble with online gaming, whether caused by internet connectivity or a slow connection between the laptop and wireless router. In most cases, your wireless network card will have the most up-to-date drivers, thanks to Windows Update or whatever system updates your OS has downloaded.
If there’s no change after applying updates, consider a wired Ethernet connection to the router. You should also consider getting one of the best routers for gaming, allowing your network to prioritize gaming data over other traffic. This will help you get the best performance for your online games, even if others use your network while you’re playing.
Using a gaming laptop? If your system has a Killer network device, the Intel Killer Control Center can be installed to optimize online gaming.
7. Choose the Right Power Settings for Your GPU
Unlike gaming desktop setups, laptops are shipped with a few different power modes for the discrete GPU. These power modes affect the performance your GPU can deliver and the power usage by your machine.
Improper power settings for your GPU can massively affect the FPS output, thus hampering your gaming experience. While the power modes available on laptops differ from one make and model to another, every computer offers two basic modes: Power Saving mode and Standard mode.
When gaming or doing anything that requires your PC to perform at its peak, make sure to switch the power mode of your GPU to the maximum setting available on your laptop. Similarly, turn the power mode to Power Saving to preserve battery life when watching YouTube or surfing the web.
8. Change NVIDIA Settings for Maximum Performance
If your laptop has an NVIDIA GPU, you should change its power management settings in the NVIDIA control panel. Sometimes it may be set to power-saving mode. Open the NVIDIA control panel and switch it to Prefer maximum performance to get the best FPS output from your NVIDIA graphics card.
Note that if you are playing on battery power (not recommended), you should tone down this setting to power-saving mode. Otherwise, there’s no reason to play on power-saving mode with the charger plugged in.
9. Tweak Texture Settings to Optimize Your Laptop Graphics Card
If you have tried everything so far and still want to know how to optimize your laptop faster for gaming, it’s worth looking at your graphics card driver settings. This is particularly true if you need to run a certain game.
In the graphics card driver settings, you’ll find master controls for texture and shader details, which will determine how your games look.
The memory available to your laptop’s GPU limits the options available, so select a configuration that offers performance over looks. In short, high-resolution textures will consume RAM, impacting frame rate. You can also give individual games their own texture and shader preferences here.
Wondering how to increase gaming performance on older or low-spec laptops? It’s easy: just lower textures and frame rates. It can take a while to find the optimum video settings for games. Once you’ve established that performance-quality trade-off, however, you’ll see that it was worth the effort. If you’re unsatisfied with how the game looks and feels on the low settings, maybe it’s time to upgrade your laptop.
10. Turn Off Vsync in Games
Vsync is a useful feature that can reduce and fix screen tearing. However, if you don’t face screen tearing, keeping Vsync turned on could massively limit the maximum frames per second (FPS) you get while gaming.
The core functionality of Vsync is to lock a game’s frame rate to match your display’s refresh rate. If your display is 60 hertz, with Vsync turned on, you will never be able to cross 60 FPS while gaming, even if your hardware can produce over 100 FPS.
This often leads to gameplay and input lag, which could be detrimental if you’re into competitive gaming. So, as a rule of thumb, always keep Vsync off unless you absolutely need to use it.
11. Keep Your Laptop Clean and Dust-Free to Improve Gaming Performance
Want to know how to improve gaming performance on your laptop but have no technical skills? Just clean it.
You’ll only enjoy improved performance on your laptop with a proactive attitude to physical maintenance. Dust and dirt are the enemies of performance—that’s because they reduce airflow, resulting in a computer that gets too hot. Once the heat builds, the processor, GPU, and most other components will slow down. This doesn’t make for an effective gaming machine.
The best way to deal with this is to remove the dust. Obviously, this isn’t easy. Your laptop is probably sealed, and if it isn’t, opening it will almost certainly invalidate the warranty. The solution is to use some particular cleaning techniques.
But it isn’t just the vents on your laptop that you need to keep clear. If you’re using the keyboard regularly (a staple of PC gaming), it’s crucial to ensure there is no dust, food, or other matter, as they tend to cause sticky keys. For that matter, you don’t want a mucky screen, either.
You can check out these cleaning tricks that’ll help your laptop look new if you’re unsure how to clean it.
12. Turn On Windows Game Mode
This is a tip that anyone can use. Windows 10 and later Windows versions are equipped with an Xbox app that includes features such as screen recording, streaming, and Game Mode. Optimizing your laptop for gaming can be as simple as activating the Game Bar and Game Mode.
- Click Start > Settings (or WIN+I)
- Click Gaming > Xbox Game Bar
- Switch to On IMAGE
- Select Game Mode in the left-hand pane
- Switch to On
- Close to finish
At any point, you can now press WIN + G to display the Xbox panel. If prompted, check the Yes, this is a game box.
With Game Mode enabled, Windows will run games with optimum settings. To do this, Windows may close or suspend some background tasks.
13. Manage Your Gaming Laptop’s Automatic Updates
Want to know how to make your laptop faster for gaming all the time? Then manage your automatic updates.
Automatic updates can be a big pain. For example, Windows Update can download updates in the background before reminding you periodically that the update needs installing. Not only can downloading the update and keeping it uninstalled impact performance, but so can the reminders.
Unfortunately, you can’t disable Windows Updates permanently, so you have the following options:
- Keep your computer offline.
- Install updates as soon as prompted (when you’re not playing games).
- From the May 2019 update (version 1903), you can block updates for 35 days.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to completely disconnect from the internet if you’re using a gaming laptop, so installing those updates as soon as possible is the best answer.
14. Make Your Games Run Better by Updating Steam
Are you still having trouble playing games on your laptop? Do you still want to know how to make your games run better on your computer? Then you should update Steam.
Digital delivery systems such as Steam also push updates out. There’s also a chance that a second game will download updates in the background while you’re already playing something.
To avoid this:
- Open Steam
- Head to Steam > Settings
- In the Downloads tab, clear the Allow downloads during gameplay check box
- Click OK to confirm.
You can also manage the update rules for individual games.
- Right-click the game in your Steam library
- Select Properties > Updates
- Set your preferred options for Automatic updates and Background downloads
For Automatic updates, you can choose between Always keep this game updated, Only update this game when I launch it, and High Priority.
You can select between three Background download settings: Pause background downloads while I’m playing, Always allow background downloads, and Never allow background downloads.
Further tips on managing Steam downloads can potentially improve your laptop gaming performance too.
15. Optimize Your Laptop for Gaming With Updated Drivers
Want to really know how to make games run better on a laptop? It’s all about the drivers.
If you’re unsure how to optimize your gaming laptop, one of the first things you should do is keep your device drivers updated. Fortunately, this is usually a straightforward process, usually occurring automatically during standard OS updates. But if your hardware drivers don’t automatically update, check out these free driver updaters for Windows to keep your gaming laptop optimized.
However, when it comes to graphic drivers, you might need a more hands-on approach. While Intel graphics—largely unsuitable for hardcore gaming—will enjoy updated drivers via a Windows update, your third-party graphics provider doesn’t offer that option.
Instead, ensure the GPU management software (such as Nvidia GeForce Experience or AMD Gaming Evolved) is set to update automatically. If you don’t use any GPU management software, you should manually update your GPU drivers to get maximum performance. Be sure to keep your controller and audio drivers up-to-date, too.
16. Optimize Your Laptop for Gaming by Updating DirectX
DirectX is a collection of software tools that facilitate the graphics in a video game. In fact, various iterations of DirectX have been released over the years, allowing games to utilize the power of the latest hardware.
Launched in 2020, DirectX 12 Ultimate is the latest version, which you’ll find pre-installed on your Windows laptop. It provides a common library for Windows and Xbox Series X|S systems.
To check your current DirectX version:
- Press WIN + R to open the Run dialog
- Enter dxdiag
- Wait for the DirectX Diagnostic Tool (DXDiag) to load
- On the System tab, look for the DirectX Version at the bottom of the list
To update DirectX:
- Go to Start > Settings (or WIN + I)
- Click Update & Security > Windows Update
- Click Check for updates
As well as having your graphic drivers up to date, it is worth ensuring that your audio drivers are fit for gaming. In DxDiag, you can check your audio driver status in the Sound tab. You should also note that Input device drivers are summarized here.
17. Set Process Affinity to Utilize all CPU Cores
Sometimes, due to bugs, a video game or an application may not be able to utilize all the cores of your CPU. So, even with 8 cores and 16 threads, you might still get dual-core performance on a game or CPU-intensive application. There’s an easy way to fix this.
First, start the game you suspect to be a victim of this issue, then fire up Windows Task Manager. In Windows Task Manager, find your game’s process and right-click to select Go to details > Set Affinity > Select all the cores available. This will set your videogame or any other application to utilize all your CPU’s cores.
You can also check out our guide on how to use Windows Task Manager so you can make the most out of it.
18. Get a Laptop Pad for Maximum Cooling and Heat Dissipation
Laptop cooling pads are probably the best accessory you can buy as a laptop gamer. They are cheap and effective in their job, i.e., to cool down your laptop.
Moreover, the extra fans, angled elevation, and perforated flooring help with ventilation and heat dissipation of your laptop much more than you think. You should definitely consider getting one if your device is touching high temperatures when gaming or doing resource-heavy tasks.
19. Overclock the Laptop Graphics Card for Optimized Gaming
Want to know how to increase graphics performance on your laptop? The best way is overclocking.
While risky for the beginner, overclocking can force additional performance out of the graphics card. Tools are available for both AMD and Nvidia GPUs, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something suitable.
The main problems are with power and heat. Overclocking uses more electricity, so you’ll need to adjust your computer’s power settings appropriately (see below). But overclocking also increases the temperature of the GPU.
Usually, this is handled by the laptop’s built-in cooling system. You should regularly clean the heatsinks and fans, as outlined in #2. If not, your computer will automatically shut down—as a safety precaution—when it gets too hot.
Looking for an overclocking tool for your GPU? The most popular at present is MSI Afterburner, which is suitable for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards.
You can enjoy good results with overclocking, but it is something you must do with care. Our guide to overclocking your GPU safely should help here.
20. Upgrade Your Laptop for Increased Gaming Performance
Installing new hardware is the key way to speed up your laptop for gaming. But what can you upgrade?
Laptops are famously non-upgradeable. Nevertheless, there are three components that you can upgrade on most gaming laptops.
- RAM: increasing the memory amount and speed can have a massive impact
- Storage: switching to a fast SATA or NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) will improve game performance considerably
- Battery: batteries are unable to keep games running for any duration with the full settings enabled
Furthermore, if you want a cheap upgrade, why not improve your personal game performance with an external keyboard and mouse designed for optimum gaming? And if your laptop’s built-in monitor is too small, you can connect multiple monitors to your laptop for the ultimate gaming experience.
If you’re unsure how to upgrade your laptop RAM for gaming, you should check out our step-by-step laptop RAM upgrade guide to get started.
Now You Know How to Improve Laptop Performance for Gaming
Who’d have thought that you could do so much to improve gaming performance on a laptop computer? While most apply purely to Windows laptops, some tips can also be used on macOS and Linux systems.
For desktop computers, upgrading your hardware can have a massive impact on gaming; as a laptop user, you’re limited. You can’t upgrade the graphics card or processor in most laptop computers. That’s why these 20 tips are so vital to improving gaming performance.
If this isn’t enough, see our dedicated Windows gaming performance tips guide for more. And if that’s still not cutting it, try streaming games from a cloud-based game server instead.