How To Improve Gaming Performance On Laptop (In 7 Quick Steps)

By: Lorenzo  |  Updated: April 15, 2021

We've all been there, gaming on an old laptop that lags when too much is happening in on-screen.

For me, it was as simple as looking in the direction of a smoke grenade when playing Counter-Strike 1.6.

Great memories.

This lead me to google "how to improve gaming performance on laptop?".

Trust me when I say that I have tried every trick in the book to get that slight increase in performance.

When it comes to improving gaming performance, we are mainly talking about boosting your FPS (frames per second).

Low FPS results in a laggy, unplayable game that will cause you to rage.

FPS is affected mainly by the Graphics Card (AKA GPU).

There are many other factors to take into consideration as to why your laptop is performing at a sub-par level, and in this article, we will be discussing how you can solve these issues, and increase your overall performance.

We have created a 7 step guide on how to improve gaming performance on your laptop.

Many of these tips go hand-in-hand with keeping your gaming laptop cool too. If you have issues where your laptop is running at a hot temperature or is overheating, this is the perfect guide for you.

This is a simple step-by-step guide that we listed here, and anyone can do it in a matter of minutes.

This article is perfect for those who want to increase their computer's frame rate without having to spend money on new hardware.

Let's dive in.

TL;DR: How To Improve Gaming Performance On Laptop

  1. Play With Your Laptop Charger On
  2. Maintain A Clean, Dust Free Laptop
  3. Update Your Graphics Card Drivers
  4. Tweak Your In-Game Settings
  5. Get Rid Of Bloat-Ware (Programs That Slow Your Laptop Down)
  6. Free Up Your RAM Space By Closing Unnecessary Apps
  7. Last Resort: Buy A New Laptop Or Upgrade Your Laptop Components

1. Play With Your Laptop Charger Plugged In

Picture of laptop charger plugged into laptop. How to improve gaming performance on laptop.

This is such a simple trick but it can work wonders for many gamers who have issues with gaming performance.

It is recommended to have your laptop's charger plugged in when gaming.

All laptops have a mechanism that swaps out your laptop battery and utilizes your AC's power, only trickling in a little bit of power from your laptop battery.

Depending on what laptop you have, another common problem is having your GPU be bottlenecked.

Usually, this occurs if your laptop is on low battery, or at any point when it goes into "power saving mode".

Not only that, having your laptop charged will save you from having to scram to charge it before it dies in the future.

You won't have any problems gaming with your laptop charger plugged in.

2. Maintain A Clean, Dust Free Laptop

One of the most common problems with gaming laptops is overheating, and more often than not it's because there's dust that needs to be cleaned.

Dust in your laptop can clog up vents which leads to an increase in internal temperature, and slow performance.

Not only that, but your gaming performance becomes less efficient when you're trying to cool it down.

You should be checking out your fans every month or so for any signs of debris or dust build-up.

The best way to clean out dust from your laptop internals is by using compressed air to blow off the excess dust from vents and crevices where dirt builds up over time.

Having a compressed air blower can do wonders, not just for an increase in gaming performance, but also to maintain a clean desk setup.

Ensure Your CPU & GPU Internal Temperature Is Optimal

One of the most important things you can do to increase your gaming performance is to make sure that both your CPU and GPU are running at an optimal temperature.

This ensures that they're not overheating, which reduces their performance as a result.

To check on this information, go into Task Manager (if you use Windows) or System Properties > Performance > General Info tab (Mac OS).

Here you'll find all sorts of information about what's going on with your computer in real-time!

If these numbers get too high then it might be best just to close out of any games for now until they return them back down to a reasonable number - typically 60°-70° celsius/140°-160° Fahrenheit should be plenty safe.

The CPU and GPU are two of the most important components in your laptop and both need proper care to ensure maximum performance.

3. Update Your Graphics Card Drivers

Graphics card drivers are what allow your laptop to display images from the games you're playing.

When new updates come out for these, they can offer performance improvements that help with load times and lag throughout gameplay.

There are 2 main graphics card providers, NVIDIA and Radeon.

If you don't know what you have, download CPUID's HWMonitor - this program can detect exactly which internal components your laptop is running

To upgrade your drivers, follow the instructions below:

NVIDIA Graphics Drivers

You most likely have an NVIDIA graphics card if your card starts with GTX or RTX. If that's the case

  1. Download GeForce Experience
  2. Open up GeForce Experience and click on "Drivers"
  3. The top will always include the latest drivers. Click Express Installation and your upgrade will start automatically
    • Don't be alarmed if your monitor turns off and on, that's just a part of the process.

RADEON Graphics Drivers

For RADEON, you can find their official documentation and step-by-step guide here.

Remember - this won't fix everything, but it will definitely help, and it's recommended to keep your drivers up to date.

This is especially true when new games come out as NVIDIA and Radeon tend to bring out updates tailored for these games.

4. Tweak Your In-Game Settings

When you're playing your favorite game, it can be helpful to make adjustments in the settings.

You may want to try tweaking the graphics or switching to a lower resolution for better performance.

This is usually the first thing I do when I start playing a new game. Usually, the default options don't maximize my laptop's hardware, so it's good practice to do this.

The exception to this rule is if a game has really high hardware requirements.

If the game has really high requirements and you're playing from your laptop's integrated graphics card then there isn't anything that can be done to help.

You will have to game at the lowest settings possible.

For some games, it will make the game look pixelated it will lose its immersion.

For other games, it's definitely playable. Many pro-counter-strike gamers play on the lowest settings (to maximize performance) and on a 4:3 resolution.

If you want to make sure every last drop of performance is squeezed out, try lowering the settings like resolution and texture quality (which will greatly improve FPS).

It doesn’t matter how nice something looks on a screen when we only see up close-up images anyway so why not give yourself as many frames per second as possible?

If you are lazy and don't want to study every aspect of your graphic settings, simply go to YouTube and put in the search bar; "name of your game" and "best graphics settings".

Example: "Cyberpunk 2077 best graphics settings"

Look at the results:

Here you can try and copy someone else's graphics settings and see if you have any improvement in terms of FPS.

I first did this when Cyberpunk 2077 came out.

Despite upgrading to a 2070S, I was still having issues (the problem was the game, not my computer) but following someone else's settings improved my average FPS by 10-20.

5. Get Rid Of Bloatware (Programs That Slow Your Laptop Down)

If you have a shiny new laptop, it will most likely come with bloatware such as system cleaners and antivirus programs.

The problem is that they run in the background and slow down your gaming performance by using up CPU cycles (which are limited on laptops).

Getting rid of these apps to free up some resources to go towards improvements in your gaming performance on your laptop.

Here's an example:

Skype eats up 50% of my FPS when I'm playing CSGO. Sure it doesn't seem like much but if we're only shooting at 300 FPS then that means 150 frames per second wasted just trying to talk over video chat! And this is just one app, many others can be doing similar things without you even realizing it...

Skype is now considered bloatware, and there are better alternatives out there for video conference calling, like Zoom.

Here you can find a definitive list of bloatware that you may have come across, or have pre-installed on your Operating System.

Oh and pro-tip: If you're using Skype for voice chat you're doing it completely wrong. Get Discord, a much better, lightweight solution that specifically integrates into most games.

The best way to remove bloatware is to go into your Control Panel and delete apps that I have never heard of.

Warning: Some applications and games reliant on other apps to work. If you're unsure, the best way to find out if it's attached to another application is to Google it.

Control Panel is free and comes pre-installed on any Windows device. It allows you to uninstall apps easily, but sometimes it won't install remnants of a particular application.

I recently tried the IObit Uninstaller as an alternative (also free).

It not only uninstalls apps but deletes all remnants of the applications, and can detect other software that Control Panel can't see.

6. Free Up Your RAM Space By Closing Unnecessary Apps In Task Manager

When attempting to improve your laptop's performance, it is recommended that a user free up the RAM space in order to prevent any unnecessary lag or potential crashes.

Memory can be freed by closing unwanted apps that are running in the background.

To do so, closeout of any of your open apps you don't need and end all processes not related to what you're doing at the moment.

When your RAM is close to reaching its potential, your system will inevitably get slower, trying to accommodate all of your programs at once.

Anti-virus software nowadays has a "Turbo" mode, or something similar for you to turn on when gaming.

7.Last Resort: Buy A New Laptop Or Upgrade Your Laptop Components

If all else has failed, then it may be time for an upgrade.

The reality is, you can only improve your gaming performance on your laptop so much.

You will always be limited by the power your hardware generates, so upgrading your CPU, GPU, RAM, and Hard Drive will all help with performance.

The problem with laptops is that many builds don't allow you for an easy swap of the CPU and GPU, you may be stuck with what you have unless you buy a new laptop.

Gaming laptops tend to have extra slots or room for upgrades for RAM and Hard Drives specifically, so you can look into that.

On the upside, gaming laptops are starting to get cheaper whilst the internal components are getting stronger.

Some laptops are more affordable than others, so you'll have to decide if the price is worth it.

The one trade-off will be that your laptop might get hotter or louder.

This is due to the increase in power, often resulting in fans being maximized, and your laptop components working overtime.

Not a big deal, but something to be wary of.

Otherwise, there's nothing else left but time: wait until technology advances enough to provide faster hardware at an affordable cost, and stick to what you have.

You can have a look at our guide on finding the best gaming laptops under $1,500 if an upgrade is what you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my gaming laptop so slow?

Could be many factors, but the most common ones being:

  • Your laptop is outdated, and you need to upgrade
  • Your laptop has been used for a long time and your components are starting to slow down
  • Your laptop can't handle the amount of load you're putting on it
  • You have a lot of bloatware which is taking up valuable resources and need to be uninstalled
  • You have a virus - in which case you will need to do a full anti-virus sweep or take it to a professional
  • Your laptop is dirty, causing overheating. You will need to clean it with compressed air.

If you have had your laptop for a long time, and have maintained it well, it's most likely due to old age and outdated parts - which means it's time for a long-awaited upgrade.

In which case, I would recommend upgrading your laptop entirely. You deserve it.

How do I maximize my laptop's performance?

To maximize your laptops performance, do the following:

  • Ensure you have in-game graphic settings that your laptop can handle
  • Close all background programs but the game you're going to play (and other necessary programs to run)
  • Ensure that you are on a flat surface and not on a bed or couch
  • Plug-in your laptop charger
  • Turn your anti-virus on to "gaming" mode or a mode similar it

The rest will be up to your laptop's hardware.

How Do I Upgrade A Gaming Laptop?

There are many limitations to upgrading your laptop, in most cases, you will need to find parts that actually fit inside your laptop, or have extra slots to install your new parts.

In this case, you will need to follow the instructions for installing that specific part or consider taking it to a professional - that way you won't break anything.

Before upgrading, consider how much it will cost to get new parts and if it's even worth it - or if you should just buy a new laptop overall.

Upgrading should be your last resort, as stated above.

If you have exhausted all of your options and need to upgrade, consider checking out our guide on the best gaming laptops under $1,500. You are bound to find one that suits situation!

Conclusion

By now you should have some tricks up your sleeve to increase your gaming performance on your laptop.

Just remember, if you go through steps 1 - 6 and still don't see an improvement, most likely it's time to upgrade.

Take good care of your laptop, clean it often and care for it like you do your phone.

Your laptop will be able to last longer, and you will have a pleasant gaming experience for years to come.

Since the age of 6, Lorenzo has enjoyed gaming on computers. Having grown up in the digital age, the technology revolves around him. He enjoyed growing up gaming throughout his high school years and is now a young adult who does most of his work on his computer. Lorenzo's mission is to make buying products and building PC's an easy and fun experience for all.
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