If you are in the process of putting together your dream build or you’ve already built it and want everything to work as it should performance-wise then you’re in the right place. Much of the content below is common knowledge for some people but for those who are building for the first time or have been out of the cycle for a while, we believe having a compiled list of quality-of-life tips is very helpful; and this is exactly what PremiumBuilds is here for.
The following list will cover both hardware and software aspects in a relevant order. Here we go.
*Most Important* Tips to Optimise PC Performance
1. Checking if you are getting the advertised performance out of your new build; the easy way for everyone: UserBenchmark
- Many people will dismiss this tool because of its way of ranking together all the stock and overclocked components. In reality, UserBenchmark is really a great way to start diagnosing if something’s not working right.
- When running this tool make sure that your system is as idle as possible (close background apps) to reduce margins of errors (bad results for CPU/storage/etc).
- To download and run the tool, go to https://www.userbenchmark.com/
- Once the testing is done (usually takes 1-2 minutes max), you’ll be taken to a webpage where you can see a report of each of your components. If there are any blatant performance issues with your PC, you should be able to identify them by looking at the report.
- Don’t be bummed out if your component says “performs below expectations”. In many cases that is reported because you’re running stock components (CPU/GPU/RAM) versus an average on the website that may be overclocked.
- After identifying potential issues, its time to dedicate some time and start tweaking your machine to your liking.
2. Having the memory running at rated speeds. Or above.
- We’ve seen many cases of builders that assume their RAM will run fine as it is. In reality, lets take DDR4 RAM for example; its base speed is 2133MHz and everything above that is technically an overclock. Don’t make the mistake of getting superior RAM (like 3000MHz) and letting it run at inferior speeds; go into your BIOS and set XMP in your memory profiles. It usually takes 1 minute and 2 clicks to save you from sluggish performance and getting your money’s worth of performance out of your RAM modules.
- If you want to go further than running your RAM at stock speeds then there are tools out there like the Ryzen DRAM Calculator which help with calculating all the timings and frequencies needed for pushing your memory sticks to the edge. PremiumBuilds will soon feature an article on RAM tweaking so stay tuned!
3. Making sure your RAM sticks run in Dual Channel.
- If you have more than 2 sticks, mainstream motherboards from both Intel and AMD allow you to run them in “Dual Channel” where not only you’ll have the full capacity of the sticks but also double the bandwidth. This helps lots of tasks such as gaming (especially low 1% & 0.1% FPS) and latency-sensitive workloads. UserBenchmark and CPU-Z can instantly tell you if your sticks do run in Dual Channel.
- Most boards’ RAM channels are A1, A2, B1, B2 in this order and their manufacturer’s manual recommend putting one RAM stick in A2 and the other in B2 but this might differ for your motherboard so we highly suggest reading the manual section on Dual Channel memory when slotting the RAM modules. Dual Channel performance is free and it shouldn’t be neglected.
4. Keeping your motherboard updated.
- Motherboard updates come with a variety of microcode tweaks and optimizations that boost the mobo’s capability of regulating voltage, supporting memory and enhancing overclocking potential. Motherboards should be kept up to date but not necessarily every time a BIOS update appears. A good recommendation would be to read the changelog from the manufacturer’s website to see what’s changed and try to avoid Beta BIOSes. Don’t break it if it works and while you have the necessary features.
- When a socket is new and not yet optimized, its recommended that you keep getting the updates as religiously as possible because the few months after a CPU architecture release will be the most fruitful when it comes to microcode optimizations. Ryzen is a good example here.
- Important. Don’t be discouraged when doing a BIOS update; they are much easier and safer to do than they were in the past. There’s an abundant amount of failproof measures that make sure you can’t brick your motherboard even if you’re doing something stupid. These range from BIOS filechecking before updating and rollbacking to USB Flashback and Dual-BIOS features. We feature a great section about USB Flashbacking in this motherboard ecosystem article.
- The most common BIOS update way is to get your BIOS file from the manufacturer’s website and copy it to a FAT32-formatted USB drive before going into the BIOS and doing the actual flashing.
5. Keeping your OS updated.
- We get it, many of you hate when Windows starts doing its thing and interferes with your session but OS Updates are really the best way of ensuring the best security and performance of your system. For example, the Windows scheduler has been greatly upgraded to benefit multicore systems much better than before.
- Schedule your Windows updates at night or when you’re off to work and they’ll never bother you while making your system a better place. An alternative is to read changelogs and update manually when you feel like its needed.
- Though we do not recommend it, Windows Update can be disabled by pressing Ctrl + R and typing services.msc; you can use this to disable the “Windows Update” service down in the list. If you disable Windows Update, you’ll have to re-activate the service in the future if you want to bring back the updates.
6. Undervolting/overclocking/tweaking the CPU.
- Certain CPUs have the ability to overclock their cores (eg. Intel K cpus, Ryzen*) because its simply free performance that’s otherwise left on the table. We are not going to go into detail here because we are preparing a resourceful article on this matter that will paint the whole picture and make the overclocking process a breeze.
- We’ve put a star next to the Ryzen because there’s something important to note here. Ryzen 2000 and 3000 CPUs benefit from a feature called PBO (Precision Boost Overdrive). This feature allows the CPU to have a dynamic multiplier which does more than just boost a few cores to advertised speeds. It takes your motherboard’s VRM capacity and your cooler’s thermal capabilities and smartly adjusts the clockspeeds and voltages to provide the maximum performance needed in your workload (be it gaming/rendering/idle browsing); It essentially works very similar to Nvidia’s GPU Boost 3.0 but for CPUs.
- Having this feature is a lifesaver for people who are not so knowledgeable with overclocking because it guarantees that your CPU has the best possible computing ant thermal performance out of the box. It almost eliminates the need to all-core overclock (or using P-states) and like some people claim, including myself, the fun in tweaking your CPU. The feature is clearly a highlight of the Ryzen CPUs.
- Overlooked tip. Ryzen 3000 series BIOSes let you tweak the Infinity Fabric speed of the CPU. Being decoupled from memory speed (unlike it was in previous generations), it can be tweaked to your liking for more performance ( LINK ).
- Fan curves will be addressed later.
7. Undervolting/overclocking the GPU.
- Similar to how you can get free performance out of the CPU, the GPUs can also be overclocked for increased graphical power/framerates. Guides are everywhere as well and we are preparing a know-how article on this matter as well. Stay tuned!
- We will mention though that in many cases, GPUs come overvolted from the factory and even though it sounds weird, many GPUs benefit a lot from decreasing their voltage and then overclocking them. This is because GPUs hold their clockspeeds in relation to thermals and having a lower voltage definitely helps keeping the temperatures down, thus letting the GPU boost higher.
- I would love to go in detail for this section but I want to remain concise with this post. Rambling is for discussion.
- Similar as in the CPU section, fan curves will be addressed later.
8. Setting Power Plans in Windows.
- You can go into detail and make a custom power plan for your needs but sometimes its sufficient to set High Performance inside your Power Plan settings to enjoy a boost in performance.
- The benefits occur due to you telling Windows how to manage resources inside your systems; good examples are CPU boosting states and how your PC understands if your PC is idle or in need of a burst in performance.
- On Ryzen systems, you will likely benefit more from setting the “Ryzen Balanced” power plan.
9. Setting the right refresh rate of your monitor.
- There are many (horror) stories out there with builders getting a really nice high-refreshrate monitor (eg. 100/120/144/165/240/etc), forgetting to adjust the Display settings and essentially not noticing any gain in smoothness because the monitor still runs at a default 60Hz. Some have been sitting on that for well over one year not realizing there’s something wrong.
- To make sure you’re running your monitor as its been supposed to, go to Desktop > Right-Click > scroll down & Advanced display settings > Display adapter properties > Monitor tab > Set a global system refresh rate there.
- Another additional point here, related to the monitor is to make sure you’re using the right cable and the right port to connect your monitor. If you have a dedicated GPU, connect your monitor to it. If you want to use the CPU’s iGPU (if it does have one), plug your monitor in your motherboard. Please note that some systems will need to enable the iGPU option inside the BIOS before it will work. The majority of the monitors will come with an included cable that’s suitable for the monitor’s specs.
10. Keeping your GPU drivers updated.
- We believe this needs no introduction. Rendering performance consists of how well the GPU hardware communicates with your system and this happens through software.
- Keeping drivers up to date is an easy way of having access to the latest features/optimizations and it can also resolve a lot of bugs and issues. This should be higher in the list based on importance buy we feel like the upper items are more frequently neglected than this one.
*Do-it-if-you-want-to* PC Optimisation Tips
1. Testing your components right before building a PC.
- This is not usually stressed enough. It doesn’t usually happen but one can be unlucky enough to get a part that is factory broken; a DoA part.
- Testing a motherboard debug’s response by connecting the 24pin ATX cable and shorting the power pins may save you many painful hours of having to take apart a build that you put hard work in.
2. Cable management.
- We can’t stress enough how this impacts your build both in the short run and the long run.
- A messy case interior will be bad for case airflow, component updates, cleaning, overall looks and the list can go on. Bad cable managing can be harmful for the components (eg. loose cable interfering with a fanblade).
- A tidy case that is logical to understand will be a pleasure to work on during the life of the build. So take 30 minutes to make sure cables are where they’re supposed to be (cases nowadays have an abundance of options for cable management). Once you do this several times you’ll get better at it and do it on the naturally, on the run, as it will become a common best practice.
3. Airflow, fan curves and dust filters.
- Well built cases are optimized to cool the interior components by providing a way for the cool air from one side of the case (intake) to go to the other side of the case (outtake) and cooling the internals in this process. This is called airflow ( LINK ).
- Airflow can be adjusted in many ways but a simple rule of thumb is making sure your intake fan(s) capacity matches the outtake fan(s) capacity thus creating an equal case pressure (eg. 2x120mm intake fans, 2x120mm outtake fans).
- Having more intake capacity will cause a positive pressure inside the case and essentially an ineffective way to provide good air circulation for the exhaust. Having more outtake fans (or in some cases no intake fans at all) will cause negative pressure inside the case. No cool air coming from outside the case will severely limit the performance of your components and in many cases, it can favor dust gathering on your components.
- Fan curves are closely tied to cooling and they can be individually set for the case, CPU cooler and GPU cooler from the BIOS and software like MSI Afterburner. These help optimize your cooling and noises in a graph where fan speed depends on temperature.
- Cases with front mesh tend to be better in airflow than cases with a closed front so do research before getting the X case “because it’s pretty”.
- Last but not the least, dust filters are there for a reason. Nobody wants a dusty case that can electrically damage components or provide sub-par cooling performance. This is why, though its recommended that you do a general clean-up of your case once a year, you just need to do a dust filter maintenance from time to time. Powering off your machine, taking out and cleaning the dust filters is simple and very effective.
4. Take control of how your multicore system manages tasks with ProcessLasso.
- An extraordinary tool for power users that can set CPU core affinities per app (similar to how Task Manager can but permanent), adjust SMT/HT settings and squeeze performance out of the CPU when its supposed to. Its essentially a tool that helps users who know their workloads well and know how to split the CPU resources to benefit the most out of them.
*Nice-to-care-about* PC Optimisation Tips
- Cases with tempered glass panels are fragile. Be careful when handling it or you’ll need to cleanup the little glass shards in no time. I surely did regret it on my first tempered glass build.
- On most motherboards, the top PCIe slot is the best place to connect your GPU. Bandwidth and performance may be hampered if you connect your GPU to the other slots.
- If you’re using PCIe storage like M2/NVME drives, note that at least two SATA ports will be disabled on most motherboards; usually the last two ones. Manuals will tell you about this but its a pain to get your build setup just to notice your storage devices are not recognized fully.
- Don’t put too much pressure when screwing down the CPU cooler. Most CPU coolers are millimetrically adapted to the socket so that they create a small space between the CPU IHS and the cooler surface for the thermal paste. Screw them down with the force of three fingers or based on manual instructions.
- Rather small build detail but present on a lot of case types: If you’ll want to cable manage the case and bring the CPU cable to the upper-left port of the motherboard, many times this cable’s head won’t fit through the narrow gap between the motherboard and the case metal. It is recommended that you pull this cable through there before screwing down the motherboard so you avoid having to do this after other components have been mounted.
- A great and up-to-date system monitoring tool is HWInfo64
- Get information about the CPU, memory and perform brief stress testing with this well supported tool: CPU-Z
- The same as CPU-Z but for GPU information, GPU-Z handles every piece of information about your GPU from BIOS and driver versions to clockspeeds and memory manufacturers.
- Macrium Reflect is a great tool for cloning disks. Its especially helpful when upgrading to faster storage; eg. when switching your bootdrive from an old HDD to a fast SSD.
- Ninite grants easy essential software installation on a fresh Windows copy.