It is safe to say that PC gaming is vastly different to console gaming. Players on PC have a much greater ability to customize and refine their experience, and the most powerful PCs put consoles to shame in terms of the quality of the experience that they offer.
However, with the almost infinite number of potential hardware and software combinations for PC gamers, there are pitfalls to be avoided.
Developers can’t account for every possibility when they are testing their games for bugs. Developers also can’t optimize their brand new games to run on computer parts from many years ago. Similarly, internet connections sometimes don’t live up to the standards promised. And finally, certain games may end up being restricted to certain areas of the world for various reasons.
Whether your problem is related to your graphics processing power, the quality of your internet connection, or something else entirely—there are a number of ways you can try to fix these issues. We’re going to go through some of the most important ways in this article.
Checking Hardware and Game Requirements in Offline and Online Games
If you’re gaming online, you need your game to run as smoothly and responsively as possible. Slowdowns, in the form of lag or stuttering, put you at a disadvantage against your opponents. In the environment of online games, every slight advantage or disadvantage counts for a lot. Similarly, if you are playing a single-player game offline, you need to ensure that you have up-to-the-task hardware. An underpowered system will struggle on certain games and with certain choices for settings, and your experience will greatly suffer.
So, if the game you are having trouble with is a single-player game, or if you have ruled out your internet connection as a potential cause of a slowdown, the next thing to check is whether your system meets the minimum requirements for the game you are trying to play.
It is easy to find system requirements for your games online with a simple google search. Also, if you are purchasing your games through Steam, you will find the system requirements for every game at the bottom of their store page. On the main portion of our site, we maintain guides for judging your PC hardware selections against the needs of certain popular games, including Fortnite, Dota 2, WoW, Minecraft, Overwatch, LoL, The Witcher 3, CS:GO, and many more.
Of course, knowing system requirements (or even looking through one of those guides) without knowing your system hardware would be useless. So—if you don’t already know it precisely—you can find detailed information about your system and your hardware by running a DirectX diagnostic test, dxdiag. To do this on any Windows-based computer, open the Start menu, and type “dxdiag” (without the quotes) into the search box. Allow the test to run (it doesn’t take long), and afterwards you will be able to save the results to a text file. If that sounds overly complex to you, you could instead choose to download Speccy, which is a free program that displays all kinds of information about your computer hardware.
The exact hardware in your computer is also very useful if you need tech support for any program from its developer, or want to ask us directly about any possible bottlenecks or upgrades in your build.
Now, if you have determined that your computer is to blame, then don’t panic! There are still a few ways to improve your FPS without changing your hardware which might help—including settings tweaks, software/driver updates, and external optimization programs. You’ll find a description of the most promising methods in this previous blog post.
Connection Lag and Latency Issues in Online Games
But what if you are having trouble with online lag, or high ping? There are a couple of things you can do. Since we don’t have many pre-existing resources in our blog about dealing with connection issues (other than a guide for selecting a router and my own recent article on avoiding bandwidth throttling), I’ll now mention a couple more things to check that could help with an underperforming internet connection speed.
Reducing Concurrent Users and/or Downloads
Firstly, if there are numerous other devices in your home, or if you keep a lot of applications open while gaming—try to minimize the amount of data they use.
Let’s say you’re trying to stream 4K Netflix movies or have media files downloading in the background at the same time as you’re gaming; your internet bandwidth will obviously be quickly depleted!
Connection Type (Wi-Fi vs. Wired)
Ok, so if you still continue to experience lag when gaming online, in spite of having your internet connection dedicated to the game, do not worry. There are still a few tricks you can use to potentially fix the issue.
First of all, try switching over from using Wi-Fi to using a wired connection if you can. Even the best wireless router can’t match the speed and reliability of an ethernet-based connection.
Router Troubleshooting (Rebooting and Updating Firmware)
“Did you try turning it off and back on again?” This sage question should always be answered in the affirmative!
So, if you’re having inconsistent connection behavior or not getting a connection at all, you should try restarting the router. Even if your router lacks any function buttons at all, you can perform a hard restart by physically removing the power cable or switching the device off at the mains.
Still experiencing issues and worried your router may be to blame? Okay, perhaps your router firmware is out of date. The easiest way to update your router firmware is to log in to the router itself and see if it supports auto-updating. To do this, open your web browser and type “192.168.0.1” (without quotes). If that doesn’t bring up the router login screen, try “192.168.1.1” or “192.168.1.254”. The login details are usually written on the router itself, near the Wi-Fi password.
From within the router menu, there will be an option for advanced settings, and most routers will have the option to update the router firmware from here. Some routers will require you to download the update files yourself. These will be available from the manufacturer’s website.
By updating your router’s firmware, your internet speed should improve as it will patch any hardware conflicts between the router and your wireless card. Updating your router is a good idea not only to make your gaming experience better, but also to ensure that it has all the latest security patches applied. Better safe than sorry.
So last but not least (other than seeking outside help, detailed just below)—you can try the TCP Optimizer. It is a useful tool to have, which will fine-tune your internet connection settings to ensure that you have the optimal settings for the connection type you are using.
Usually, when setting up an internet connection, the more advanced settings available go largely unnoticed. Only advanced users tend to understand or alter these settings. This is where TCP Optimizer comes in. It is designed to allow any user to take advantage of any available faster connection speeds with a properly configured internet connection.
The thing is, you don’t need an exceptionally fast internet connection to play most online games. So, if you continue having issues with lag, and you already have an adequate internet package, contact your ISP to see if they have any advice.
If you don’t already have an adequate internet package, well . . . paying more money to an ISP for a faster connection speed is never a preferable option, but it can in theory be a viable last resort.
Game-specific and Country-specific Workarounds
This last section is a bit of an aside, but could be useful to some users:
For some people, the desired gaming experience is being ruined by none of the above-mentioned issues—but instead by developers not having the time, contractual freedom, or infrastructure to make their game available in every region. Let’s say you really want to play Pokémon Go, but you live somewhere in Asia. So, simply because of your location, you cannot enjoy the game everyone else seems to have fun with; why?
Some companies geo-block their content. Why would they do that? Well, most companies segment the world into different regions. This way, it is easier for them to release their product in each of them, one at a time—and it is also easier for them to create content catered to the specific region’s audience. Furthermore, some regions prohibit the release of certain games for one reason or another.
That does not sound fair to end users, does it? So what can you do? Well, to be able to enjoy a game, some blogs suggest creating a fake Google Play or App Store ID; but that requires a jailbroken phone and risking your privacy. To go through all of that to enjoy a game seems painful . . . but there is one easy way out: proxies. It is simply true that using residential proxies can allow you to unlock geo-blocked content while saving your privacy (and nerves).
There you have it. We know that there’s nothing more frustrating than shelling out on a new gaming rig, only to run into problems with the quality of the experience. So, hopefully, if you find yourself in a laggy or slowed position like this, our suggestions will be of some help.
If none of the above tips have improved your situation, you should also check out our older (in some ways more fundamental) blog post on tips to increase your FPS.
If none of the advice in either article is able to provide you with your desired level of performance in the games you want to play, then it may be time to consider upgrading your hardware. In that case, we would recommend you check out the general build recommendation guide on LI’s homepage.