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Optimize Windows 11 for Gaming

Microsoft’s latest operating system has been released to the world. We have been impressed by its new design, sounds, and stability. Despite this, I stand by my asenna windows 11 review. You shouldn’t upgrade today. It is missing key features and there are no real reasons to upgrade your main OS. We consider it a fun tool, but not essential.

If you are an early adopter, you will want to find out if there is any gaming performance hit and how to optimize your system to maximize Windows 11. This is where PC Gamer’s best friends come in.

To show how Windows 11 performs when playing a variety of games, we benchmarked our three-tiered MSI-powered test rigs. This included a range of games from our GPU testing suite, on a budget machine, a high-end machine, and a mid-range system. To see if the Ryzen gaming problem is real, we also compared performance between an AMD-powered machine and an Intel-powered one.

Optimize Windows 11 for gaming

  • Uncheck “Enhance pointer precision”
  • Enable the ‘Game Mode”
  • Disable “Record what happened”
  • Disable unneeded apps in Startup
  • Check GPU Priorities on Games
  • Review ‘Power Plan’

Windows 11 vs Windows 10 – Gaming performance

To test the performance differences between the two operating systems, we tested the PC Gamer test rigs with the most recent Windows 10 build (Build 19043.1266) as well as the release version (Build 22000.194).

This budget system features an Intel Core i5 10400F processor, 8GB DDR4-2400 RAM, and an MSI GTX 1650Super Gaming X. Every frame counts at this level of gaming, so you don’t have the space to worry about an OS slowing down your system because of early drivers.

Budget gaming performance

At 1080p, you can see the performance drop from Windows 10 to Windows 11 in terms of speed. Although the difference is not significant (just 6% in the worst Far Cry New Dawn case), it seems to be more than variance in benchmarks.

It’s not always the same across all operating systems. Gaming demands that are utterly GPU-dependent, reaching up to 1440p or 4K, will make it impossible to switch between them.

The same is true for the mid-range machine with its AMD Ryzen5 5600X, 16GB of DDR4-3200, and the MSI RTX3060 Ti Ventus 2. x. There is less frame rate delta with Windows 11, which offers the same gaming performance and the most recent Windows 10 build.

Gaming performance

Our high-end system fared better than all three rigs. We were able to see consistent improvement in gaming frame rates across all games that we tested with an AMD Ryzen9 5900X, 32GB DDR4-3600, and an MSI RTX3080 Gaming X Trio.

High-end gaming performance

MSI was our partner in these performance analyses and provided us with the hardware needed to test Windows 11 on various PC gaming hardware.

Windows 11 may be making high-performance RAM, high core-count processors, and gaming-friendly processors are more affordable. It is certainly fascinating that the lowest-spec machine appears to be getting constrained, while the highest-spec rig seems to be allowed to expand its performance.

Compared with the more balanced Windows 10 build, it seems like an entry-level gaming PC would be better off not upgrading to Windows 11.

If your gaming computer is a beast, you probably have more reasons to upgrade it. However, you could lose more if your computer is damaged by an unanticipated bug. This is unlikely but you may get a higher level of performance from your rig.

Nothing seems to be changing for mid-range PC gamers. My recommendation is to keep your gaming performance the same, even though it seems that Windows 11’s effectiveness has not changed. You won’t lose out on features or frame rates if Windows 11 is not released until Spring 2022.

Stick with the devil that you know.

AMD or Intel?

Windows 11 vs Windows 10 – AMD or Intel?

AMD admits that it has seen some performance variation in Windows 11 so far with Ryzen CPUs. L3 latency can sometimes increase in memory-sensitive applications, and this seems to be the problem with any Zen-powered chip. The report also mentions that the ‘preferred Core’ functionality might not always work, which could impact performance.

However, it does mention that performance is not affected by more than 3 to 5% if any games are affected. There may be exceptions in certain games. It originally noted a 15% drop in certain esports titles. However, this has been omitted from the support notes at AMD.com.

We have tested our systems using the mid-range rig and compared it to an Intel-based machine sporting that GPU. This gives us a better idea of the gaming performance between Windows 10 with AMD processors and Windows 11 with Intel processors.

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We have seen a drop in gaming performance when using the Ryzen 5 5600X, compared to an Intel Core i7 10700K, which often returns percentage gains in average frame rates. We have also noticed some AMD gains in general CPU benchmarks.

We have seen drops of 2% for AMD. However, Intel has experienced frame rate gains of up to 9% in some games which only makes the discrepancy even more severe. However, there are exceptions. Far Cry New Dawn performed better in Windows 11 than AMD and Intel’s cores failed to perform at the tune of nearly 4%.

Optimize Windows 11

How to optimize Windows 11 for gaming

Uncheck “Enhance pointer precision”
Windows may add some acceleration to your gaming mouse’s bundled software, regardless of whether you have it disabled. It’s handy to enable the ‘Enhancement pointer precision’ feature on a laptop to keep your trackpad functional, but it’s worth turning it off on a desktop gaming setup to ensure there’s no acceleration.

Click the Winkey and type mouse. This will open the appropriate screen from Settings. Click on the Additional mouse setting to open one of those old Windows dialog boxes that haven’t been updated in a while. Click on the Pointer Options tab. Uncheck the Allow pointer precision box.

It is worth noting, however, that many games will use raw input. This will ignore any software acceleration Windows may add.

Enable ‘Game Mode’
Yes, you read that right. You should enable Game Mode. Microsoft has worked hard on the feature over the last six months or so to ensure any of the previous stuttering or input lag that has plagued it in the past is a fading memory. Now you can enable it without impacting performance, and avoid Windows trying to pop up with notifications, or driver updates, or deciding to restart on a whim.

Click the Winkey and type Gaming Mode. Then, make sure that the feature is activated. Although it is likely to be enabled by default, I know that some people will disable the feature almost due to muscle memory.

Check GPU priorities on games
A feature that Windows 11 now surfaces is the ability to assign GPU priorities on a per-application basis. On a desktop rig, with a single graphics card that’s maybe not such a big deal, as the High performance and Power saving modes only have one GPU option anyway. But, for a gaming laptop, which will have both, ensuring you’re using the right graphics silicon for the job is useful.

You can make sure that you are using the discrete GPU to play high-performance gaming. If you’re on the go, it will also save you battery by allowing a specific game to launch only with integrated graphics. This is something I do on my laptop with Football Manager to conserve battery. However, it will save me the time of digging around in the Nvidia Control Panel.

Click the Winkey, and then type Graphics. You can then either browse your computer to add an app to your system or go through the entire list. Click on the app that you wish to prioritize, hit Options, and then select the GPU option you want the app to use, and click save.

Future Windows 11 updates will include a checkbox option to Do not use Auto HDR with any games that aren’t compatible with the new feature.

Disable ‘Record what happened’
If you’re into your game capture shenanigans then chances are that you’ve already got a favorite app for that. Whether you’re a die-hard OBS fan, or happy to go with AMD or Nvidia’s driver-based capture settings, you can probably ignore the one baked into Windows.

Click the Winkey and type Capture. This will take you to the Gaming> Captures dialog in settings. You should make sure Record What Happened is disabled. This will ensure Windows doesn’t record things in the background with Nvidia and AMD.

Disable unnecessary apps in Startup
A classic part of getting Windows running nicely, whether you’re talking about gaming or just general system performance, is ensuring the bloatware is managed. On a fresh install you probably won’t have a huge number of apps running on startup, but a few months down the line, after different drivers and peripheral apps are added to your system, it starts to fill up.

Right-click on the Windows Start button and then hit Task manager. Click the Startup tab to disable any software you don’t wish to launch when you log in to Windows. Simply highlight the app you want to disable (or ignore) and then click the big Disable button.

Check ‘Power Plan’
Finally, altering your Power Plan settings might help. Though, honestly, I’m not convinced on a desktop gaming PC that it’s that use a setting to toy with. It’s another one of those old menus, but if you hit the Win key, type Power plan, and click Choose a power plan, it’ll allow you to pick which plan you want.

Although it can release a little more power into your system, it could also cause it to reach a thermal limit faster and throttle performance sooner.

My testing showed that switching between High Performance and Balanced mode resulted in little performance improvement, even though it was using a Core I9 10900K. This could not be explained by variance in testing. It makes sense to leave this setting at Balanced.