Is Windows 11 Good For Gaming?

It's not always a yes or no, so let's figure out what's right for you

It’s true that Windows 11 has a handful of features that Microsoft ported over from their Xbox consoles that can improve your gaming experience, but PC gaming is a lot more complex than a few useful features. Let's take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Windows 11, in addition to potential issues, before you upgrade.

How Is Windows 10 vs. 11 When It Comes to Gaming Performance?

At a baseline level, Windows 10 and Windows 11 offer a similar level of gaming performance. Benchmark testing shows that identical hardware turns in almost identical results when running Windows 11 versus Windows 10.

Windows 11 scores slightly higher overall in most tests, but occasionally turns in slightly lower results when checking for frames per second (FPS) performance when actually playing some games. In other games, FPS performance is slightly better on Windows 11.

While Windows 11 turns in better overall performance on average, it isn’t enough to justify upgrading just for the sake of raw performance. Windows 11 does include some useful gaming features that aren’t included in Windows 10 though, so that’s also worth considering.

What Are the New Windows 11 Gaming Features?

DirectStorage and AutoHDR are the two most important gaming features built into Windows 11. These features were both introduced in Xbox consoles first, and Microsoft has brought them over to improve PC gaming on Windows 11.

DirectStorage is a feature that allows Xbox Series X to take advantage of its extremely fast storage. This effectively shortens load times, which lets you get into the action faster and spend less time on loading screens.

If you have an especially fast SSD, and you aren’t using Windows 11, there’s a good chance that your games can’t take advantage of the speed. DirectStorage allows Windows 11 to fully leverage the blistering data transfer speeds of high-end NVMe SSDs, which can both decrease load time in games and decrease the load on your CPU.

The catch is that if you don’t have a speedy NVMe SSD and a GPU that works with this feature, you won’t see any performance improvements courtesy of DirectStorage. The feature kicks in automatically if you do have compatible hardware though, and you'll definitely notice the difference.

Auto High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a feature that you can turn on and off. This feature automatically adjusts Standard Dynamic Range content to HDR, which can provide more highly detailed, colorful, and vibrant imagery in your games.

This feature is great if you have an HDR monitor and play older games that don’t have native HDR support, but it isn’t useful if you don’t have an HDR monitor.

To enable Auto HDR: Open Settings > System > Display > HDR > Display capabilities, and enable both Use HDR and Auto HDR.

Should You Update if You’re an Avid Gamer?

Gamers should consider updating to Windows 11, but with a few caveats. Only upgrade if your computer meets the recommended specifications, especially only if it has the TPM 2.0 security chip. If your system is on the low end of the specifications, or it doesn’t have TPM 2.0, and you’re happy with its performance in Windows 10, you may want to avoid the update.

If you have a speedy NVMe SSD, a compatible graphics card, and an HDR monitor, then your overall gaming experience is likely to improve in Windows 11. DirectStorage will reduce your load times, and Auto HDR will improve the look of your older games.

The last consideration when upgrading a gaming rig to Windows 11 is the issue of drivers. Windows 11 receives regular patches that improve its hardware compatibility on an ongoing basis, but that doesn’t mean it’s flawless.

Before you upgrade, you may want to check if there are any driver issues with Windows 11 and your graphics card and other components. If you turn up a lot of complaints, you may want to wait to upgrade until support for your hardware improves.

Make sure to put in a decent amount of time playing a variety of games after you update. If you notice driver problems or other issues, you can downgrade to Windows 10 within 10 days of the update, so it’s important to identify any game-breaking issues within that time frame.

How to Optimize Windows 11 for Gaming

Windows 11 has a Game Mode that can help optimize Windows 11 for gaming. This feature is on by default, but you can turn it back on if it was switched off accidentally. You can also set specific games to use your gaming graphics card if your computer has both low-power onboard graphics and a more powerful graphics card.

If Windows 11 is slow in general, then Game Mode is unlikely to fix the problem. There are a number of ways to optimize a PC for gaming, but make sure to check likely issues like high CPU usage, and make sure your computer meets the Windows 11 system specifications.

Here’s how to enable and use Windows 11 Gaming Mode:

  1. Open Settings and click Gaming.

    Gaming highlighted in Windows 11 Settings.
  2. Click Game Mode.

    Game Mode highlighted in Windows 11 Gaming Settings.
  3. Enable the Game Mode toggle.

    The Game Mode toggle highlighted in Windows 11 Game Mode settings.
  4. Click Graphics.

    Graphics highlighted in Windows 11 Game Mode settings.

    You can also get here by navigating to Settings > System > Display > Graphics.

  5. Click the game you want to adjust.

    A game highlighted in Windows 11 graphics settings.
  6. Click Options.

    Options highlighted in Windows 11 game graphics settings.
  7. Click your high performance graphics card, and click Save.

    High Performance highlighted in Windows 11 graphics preferences.

    If you don’t see your high performance card, you may need to fix a graphics card driver problem, or there may be a problem with your graphics card.

  • What makes a PC good for gaming?

    When you see pictures of "gaming" PCs, you'll often see lots of glowing lights and really big cases. Those are usually just for fun (and they are fun!), but for sure the lights aren't necessary. When it comes to gaming, you need a really good graphics card (which generates a lot of heat and so a big case is good to help disperse that heat) and usually more RAM than you need for day-to-day use. We dive in much further in our What to Look For in a Gaming PC article.

  • Do I need a mechanical keyboard for gaming?

    Technically, no, any keyboard will work just fine. Mechanical keyboards, however, are a little more robust when it comes to the treatment gamers typically use on their keyboards, so something with a little more hardiness tends to hold up longer over time. They are also a lot of fun to use. But they can be very expensive.

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