Ask LH: How Can I Boost My Laptop's Gaming Performance?

Dear Lifehacker, As a gamer (and not a very rich one at that), I have been using my laptop to play competitively, but I am finding that I am just not able to play on an equal playing field with my friends and against other teams. This is despite the fact that I run games at low-medium settings and at lower resolutions. Is there any way to boost my performance and graphics without buying a new computer or by over-clocking? Thanks, Game Unhappy

Dear GU,

Are you playing on a wireless laptop by any chance? While Wi-Fi lets you game anywhere in the house, it is also up to 30 per cent slower than a wired connection. Interference, broken connections, lag and speed drops are all too common over Wi-Fi. This isn't particularly noticeable when it comes to web browsing but it can really suck the fun out of gaming.

With that in mind, you'll want to connect your laptop via an Ethernet port which you'll find in the back of your router. Also check that your router has a high-speed wired Gigabit Ethernet port (1000Mbps); if it's an old, slower model you might have to buy a new one. Naturally, you'll also be wanting an extra long Ethernet cable so you can game from wherever is comfortable.

As to the next part of your question, it's possible to upgrade your laptop's processing grunt without going down the overclocking route. The first step is to check that you have the latest video card drivers installed for your laptop's GPU — sometimes new updates get released which can provide a significant boost to performance.

If your laptop has an ExpressCard slot you can connect a desktop graphics card to it with an external dock. (Read how it's done here.) Most laptops also come with expandable memory — you might be able to get some decent speed gains by adding a few sticks of RAM which is very affordable.

Finally, it could be worth your while downloading a gaming optimisation app such as Game Booster. This is a software tool specifically designed for gamers that turns off background applications and system tray utilities to free up additional resources.

As always, if you have any laptop gaming tips of your own, please let GU know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Also, make sure you keep your laptop cool while gaming on it. The last thing you want it to do is have it overheat and burn itself out. It's probably worth buying a cooling pad. I'm not sure wether this will directly impact performance, but your laptop will thank you for it.

    Gigabit ethernet? really? No Lifehacker, don't sell him snake oil.

    Well not really, gigabit ethernet is a thing and it does exactly what it should, but unless you're somewhere that has an internet that is actually faster than 100 Megabits per second (12.5 Megabytes for those that don't get bits) then it has no benefit for internet, only LAN (and even then for gaming it's debatable whether the extra speed is worthwhile)

    Why would he need gigabit Ethernet for internet gaming on what is most likely an under 20meg connection?

    Gigabit Ethernet is most useful for file transfer across your home network.

    Without better hardware or overclocking, the only thing I can suggest is keeping your laptop as clean and lean as possible, do defrags, remove excess files, basically only install the basics, and don't have any other processes running other than the game you are playing - Gamebooster is good for this. Reducing any extraneous settings (low graphics and low resolution) is the only other way.

    The reality is you can't get more power/performance out of nothing hence you overclock or buy improved/more efficient hardware. I mention this because after stuffing around with settings and overclocking, etc, there comes a point where it is easier to start saving up for a new rig as all hardware becomes obsolete. A custom gaming rig can be an effective way to upgrade and learn a thing or too about PCs.

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