All Windows 10 PCs have â€œGame Modeâ€� enabled by default. Microsoft once touted this feature, but itâ€™s now faded into the background. Bizarrely, some people report that disabling Game Mode boosts the performance of certain PC games!
What Does â€œGame Modeâ€� Do on Windows 10?
Hereâ€™s the official description: Microsoft says that Game Mode â€œhelps achieve a more stable frame rate depending on the specific game and system.â€�
Technically, it works by detecting games and giving them priority access to your computerâ€™s resources. The game youâ€™re focused on playing gets more CPU and GPU resources, while other applications and background processes get fewer resources.Â This only works if Windows 10 detects that youâ€™re playing a game.
Microsoftâ€™s limited explanation of Game Mode also says that, in Game Mode, Windows Update wonâ€™t automatically install hardware drivers or notify you to restart your PC while youâ€™re playing a game. This will reduce interruptions.
Does Game Mode Boost Performance?
Game Mode might boost your PCâ€™s gaming performance, or it might not. Depending on the game, your PCâ€™s hardware, and what you have running in the background, you may not see any difference.
Youâ€™ll see the greatest increase in gaming performance when a game is competing for resources with other running programs on your PC. If your PC has plenty of CPU and GPU resources to go around, Game Mode likely wonâ€™t do much.
A 2017 test from PC Gamer found that Game Mode boosted game performance a bit on low-end hardware. However, that came at the expense of background tasksâ€”with Game Mode enabled, it wasnâ€™t possible to play a YouTube video in the background while gaming without the video playback stuttering. Itâ€™s a trade-offâ€”while gaming, resources are taken from background tasks and given to the game.
Why Is It on By Default?
Game Mode attempts to automatically detect when youâ€™re playing a game, and it only takes action if Windows thinks you are. So, if you use web browsers and office software all day, Game Mode doesnâ€™t do anything at all.
When you launch a game, however, Windows 10â€™s Game Mode takes effect and prioritizes that game over everything else on your PC. So why wouldnâ€™t Game Mode be enabled by default? It doesnâ€™t do anything unless Windows thinks youâ€™re running a game.
Game Mode Can Sometimes Cause Problems
Some Windows users have reported that some games actually perform more slowly with Game Mode enabled. It sounds strange, and it certainly shouldnâ€™t work this wayâ€”but it sometimes does.
For example, in May 2020, Guru 3D wrote about reports of Game Mode leading to stutters and frozen screens with both NVIDIA and AMD graphics hardware.
Why could this happen? Well, all we have is speculation. However, in allocating more hardware resources to a PC game and deprioritizing background tasks, Game Mode could theoretically take resources away from important background tasks, causing system stutters or slowing the game itself down. Or perhaps there are just strange bugs in Game Mode with specific games or graphics drivers. Windows is very complicated.
Either way, if you encounter strange problemsâ€”stutters, freezes, crashes, or all-around low FPSâ€”while playing a PC game, you might want to disable Game Mode and see if that solves your problem. Itâ€™s a useful troubleshooting step.
How to Enable and Disable Windows 10â€™s Game Mode
To control Game Mode, open the Settings window from the Start menu or by pressing Windows+i. Head to Settings > Gaming > Game Mode.
Here, youâ€™ll find just a single setting: Game Mode, which you can turn on or off. By default, itâ€™s on. If youâ€™d like to disable Game Mode, just click the switch and set it to â€œOff.â€�
Thatâ€™s it. In modern versions of Windows 10, thereâ€™s no way to manually enable or disable Game Mode for an individual game. In 2017â€™s Creators Update, you could toggle Game Mode on or off for specific games in the Xbox Game Bar interface, but this option is now gone. As of Windows 10â€™s October 2020 Update, you wonâ€™t find it anywhere in the modern Xbox Game Bar.
All you can do is toggle Game Mode on or off system-wide. If Windows thinks that youâ€™re playing a game, Windows will activate Game Modeâ€™s tweaks. If Windows doesnâ€™t detect that youâ€™re playing a game, thereâ€™s no way to manually enable it.
Donâ€™t worry, though: Even if Windows doesnâ€™t notice that youâ€™re playing a game and doesnâ€™t activate Game Mode, youâ€™re probably not missing out on much.
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