There are multiple reasons why any generation of gaming PC slows down. You may not have enough storage space on the C: drive, or your system has an array of background processes open during startup and general use.
Most issues stem from CPU usage, as the system's response speed is tied directly to how preoccupied the CPU is with work. If the frame rate of your system is low, this could be the fault of the GPU or CPU, causing system latency which is poor in gaming performance. While detrimental to gaming, fixing these performance issues is a breeze.
Let’s cover everything you can do to diagnose better and discover why your gaming PC is slow.
10 Reasons Your Gaming PC is Running Slow
Here is a compiled list of reasons your PC may run slow when gaming or doing other productive work.
Your PC Doesn’t Have Enough RAM
If you are attempting to game with 8GB of RAM, then slow frame rate or loading times will be prevalent. The reason behind it is not only the capacity but the CPU's bandwidth to access both memory channels with at least 16GB of memory.
We go over it in greater detail explaining single channel vs. dual channel, but it boils down to having multiple sticks of RAM over just one and ensuring the RAM speed compliments the installed CPU.
You’re Running Too Many Applications at Once
Often, having too many tabs open or having multiple programs running while gaming is also a condition for PCs to slow down. If you're not using the web or other applications, try closing them. If that doesn't work, make sure the application is in focus by doing the following:
- Navigate to the game settings
- Find the “video/display” section
- Then change your resolution to “windowed borderless.”
Any windows or overlays in the background are unfocused, and the game window prioritizes refresh rate and GPU/CPU utilization (Plus, it's easier to ALT+TAB).
Your Graphics Card is Too Old for What You Want to Play
Before games release, developers often publish the minimum and recommended specs that a PC should have. Depending on the new minimum specs GPU, the second-hand or stockpile market for great pricing to get GPUs capable of running the latest generation of games.
Typically developers think five years backward in terms of recommended support and around seven to eight years for minimum support; this varies from game to game.
Cyberpunk 2077, for example, used a GTX 780 released in 2013 as their baseline releasing in 2020, creating a seven-year gap. Starfield’s minimum GPU is a GTX 1070ti released in 2017 for a 2023 release, making this a six-year gap instead.
Your CPU is Getting Old or is Damaged
Due to the delicate lithography process in creating a CPU, structures degrade over time due to everyday use. Bioproducts of degradation lead to system instability and the general performance of the CPU lowering.
We have a detailed list of factors as to why your CPU may go bad, making sure to be on the lookout for CPU errors, hard crashes, or overheating.
Your CPU & GPU Are Incompatible
In more extreme cases, blending old-age and new-age hardware will spell disaster for the system overall. Hard-coded firmware and continued updates play a significant role in hardware compatibility.
Depending on the firmware, it may not even successfully boot into a desktop gaming computer, which is essential if you are trying to install your favorite games, let alone play them. Here’s a great resource on how often you should upgrade to avoid this.
Your PC Runs off an HDD
For some of the older PCs out there, Windows operating systems until Windows 11 could run off of a hard drive. As you can imagine, this isn't especially advantageous for running a modern operating system, let alone gaming.
Getting your operating system on an SSD instead of an HDD is a difference between night and day in terms of speed and performance in daily tasks.
Temporary Files Are Bogging Down Your Storage
To most programs, temporary files or “cache” are best described as on-hand information for whatever the program needs to get it done. Whenever that program is done, it deletes the cache or stores it in a place (preferably on the C: drive).
If programs leave excess cache after each operation, the operating system drive can get clogged up with useless information, eventually slowing your gaming PC down. Programs like CCleaner are excellent for clearing out those leftover cache files.
Your PC Picked Up a Virus or Malware
Downloading programs from the web from a less-than-reputable source is an easy way to get viruses. Windows comes built with “Windows Defender,” specializing in quick, long, and even offline scans that help isolate viruses.
Your Internet Speed is Too Slow
Depending on your connection type and internet plan, online gaming may be a challenging task for you. Ping is the most critical aspect of online gaming, with multiple ways to gauge and improve one's ping. We did a great article on what ping means for gaming and how to lower it, covering everything from connection type to rewiring your house!
You’re Using Outdated Gaming Software
Some games will only work with specific operating systems, with Windows 7, 8, and 10 now on the list to no longer receive security updates. Windows 11 is the new operating system for general gaming releases.
You could keep an “air gap” system around for playing older games or running older software, but a modern gaming PC must keep up with new game releases and security updates for some productivity work.
Summary of Troubleshooting a Slow Gaming PC
If you are running into most of the problems above, it's time to reconfigure your purchase of a PC capable of gaming and multitasking. Easy fixes like running a virus scan or closing applications are easy. However, upgrading a major component like a motherboard or CPU may take time and careful consideration.
At Apex Gaming PCs, we have multiple solutions ranging from new to refurbished options. Understanding the life expectancy of a set of parts should also be considered when buying your custom gaming PC to operate as long as possible and playing games released this year. Whatever your PC needs, we hope to be of service at Apex!
Written By William Wilson
Cover Photo: Pavan Bhakta