Gaming

Does Windows 10 Game Mode make any difference?

Not if you don’t turn it on, which is one of the first mistakes you’ve probably made.

Windows 10 Game Mode is a feature added in the Creators Update, which should have been shoved down the pipe to your Windows 10 machine by now. Type “update” into the Cortana search bar, and choose the Check for Updates option to make doubly sure.

As the brighter amongst you will have gathered, Game Mode is designed to improve the performance of Call of Duty and the like, throttling the impact of background apps and shoving more resources towards the games themselves. There is a snag, however. Windows 10 doesn’t seem smart enough to work out when a game is being played – bewilderingly, even when Microsoft makes the game itself.

To activate Game Mode, you must press the Windows Key + G simultaneously when the game is running. A small blue bar should appear at the bottom of the screen, and if you click the Settings cog you should find a tick box option to enable Game Mode for that particular game.

Microsoft says “some games may have Game Mode turned on automatically”, but when it failed to even recognise Minecraft – you know, the game Microsoft spunked $2.5 billion on a couple of years ago – you don’t hold out much hope.

Does Game Mode improve performance?

Not in our (admittedly) limited experience. We tested Game Mode using Minecraft on our relatively spritely Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Yoga laptop with a Core i7-6600U processor, 16GB of RAM and integrated Intel HD 520 graphics. Not a top-end gaming machine, for sure, but more powerful than your average home laptop.

With Game Mode enabled, and with a swathe of apps chugging away in the background (Outlook, Slack, OneNote, a tab-laden Chrome browser) we swanned around our Minecraft worlds with the frame rate ticking over at between 55-60 fps.

 

With Game Mode disabled and the exact same apps running in the background, the frame rate remained almost identical. We noticed no significant improvement to the game’s performance.

 

Just for shits and giggles, we also switched it on for a Football Manager 2017 session, which often struggles when we attempt to play it with background apps running. Again, we weren’t exactly blown away by the performance. The 3D match action did appear a little smoother with Game Mode enabled, but it wasn’t exactly night and day.

Our findings are similar to those of the rest of the internet, with PCGamesN, ExtremeTech and PC Gamer all reporting little to sod all improvement in tests that were far more rigorous than ours. They used benchmarks and everything.

So, the effects of Windows 10’s Game Mode appear to be positively homeopathic: it won’t do you any harm to switch it on, but it’s unlikely to do you much good, either.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day.

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