You’ve just picked up all of the parts for your new build and assembled it, or maybe you just plugged in and booted up a new premium prebuilt PC. You’ve logged in, double-checked your connections, and everything is running smoothly. Untold adventures await. The temptation is there to go and install Steam or your other favorite gaming platform and install a bunch of modern games to push your system to its limits.
But, trust me, it’s in your best interest to hold off just a little longer and make sure that your system is in tip-top shape before you start gaming. This guide is going to go over a few lesser-known settings, steps, and precautions that you should take when you first build a PC or receive a pre-built option. Following these steps will help ensure that you’re getting the best possible performance out of your new machine.
1. Ensure Your Hardware Is Running as Advertised
Even buying directly from manufacturers and through first-party retailers can come with its fair share of scams or mistakes. Components can get mixed up during shipping. A worker in a warehouse could swap your component with a seemingly identical model that underperforms. It’s best to make sure that your CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage solutions are all running at their advertised speeds. It may sound like something that you can put off, but you don’t want to be stuck with an incorrect piece of hardware outside of its warranty return date.
It’s easy to check that your components are correct. Simply navigate to your task manager and click over to the “performance” tab. On this tab, you can see the speed and capacity of the majority of the PC’s hardware. The most frequent issues or inconsistencies you’ll find will be with the RAM modules. Don’t go packing them back up and sending them for a warranty just yet.
First, ensure that they are in the correct DIMM slots and are running in dual-channel mode. If that all checks out, it’s best to go to your motherboards BIOS menu (often achieved by clicking one of your function keys during start-up) to see if the modules are running at their advertised speeds. Often, RAM won’t immediately be configured for maximum speeds. To fix this, scroll through until you see an option for enabling XMP or Extreme Memory Profile. This setting might appear as something more innocuous such as “clock speed.” Simply make sure that the speed shown matches the advertised speed of the sticks.
2. Configure Fan Speeds & Optional Storage Settings
While you’re meddling around in the BIOS menu, you’ll want to take a look at your fan speeds. Not all motherboards or fans will have full fan controls, but many modern ones with PWM controls do. Adjust your fans to the mode or speed that you’re most comfortable with in terms of noise and thermals. It’s fine to play around with these features to find the most efficient speed through trial and error. For those looking for in-depth fan controls and curve options, downloading software like MSI Afterburner will make it easy to adjust those settings on the go without needing to return to the BIOS menu.
If you’re running two M.2 or NVMe SSDs, you will likely want to enable RAID mode in the BIOS. Running the two drives in tandem through RAID effectively doubles the sequential read and write speeds of your drives as well as provides fault-protection by distributing data between the two.
3. Install Drivers & Updates
This will be the most time-consuming yet most important step to take. Go through each of your components and visit the manufacturer websites for each one and download the most up-to-date drivers. Many components sit for quite a while before being shipped out. None of the components you receive will likely be perfectly up-to-date. Also, avoid using CDs or USB drives with drivers that came with the components, as the same issue will be present. Those CDs will often be just as out of date. This will take a bit of tedious work, but installing these drivers is crucial to reliable and stable system performance.
If you’re running Windows, it is best to make sure that your version is the most up-to-date one. Thankfully, Windows 10 makes this easy. You’ll likely see a yellow icon over your start menu’s power options indicating that an update is available. If you don’t see that, manually go to your system settings and check for a Windows update. Installing these updates may take hours, but it will save you the hassle of being interrupted during a game or an important meeting. Having the latest version of Windows is also important for ensuring that the operating system recognizes all of your new drivers and hardware.
4. Optional Steps to Consider
It may be a good idea to install some stress test software as well as run benchmarks to make sure that your components aren’t thermal throttling or running into a bottleneck. These tests are great at rooting issues out and making sure that your system is performing as expected before you hop into a competitive game.
To cycle back to the BIOS, experienced users can find overclocking settings there for their CPU, RAM, and GPU. Make sure to be careful and not exceed manufacturer ratings, as you could damage your components and void the warranty. Always research your specific component and its limits before venturing to overclock it. Additionally, ensure that your cooling solution is up to the task.