How to Fix Game Stuttering in Windows 10

Windows is the largest PC gaming platform in the world, with Windows 10 being the latest version with the most advanced game support. Even the Xbox Series X and its predecessor on the Xbox One run on some version of Windows. So it can be disappointing to load a game onto your shiny Windows 10 gaming PC, only to find that your game falters and ruins the whole experience.

What is game “stuttering” on Windows 10?

One of the problems is that users describe various problems as “stuttering”, even if they are caused by completely different things. Stuttering can be some sort of rhythmic stutter while playing your game, it could be random intermittent freezes, or it could be a frame rate swinging up and down.

Turn off the background slideshow

We found this solution after weeks of frustration with a Windows installation that crashed and stuttered every few minutes. It turns out that whether you’re playing a game or working in Office, switching a background slideshow locks the entire computer for a second. If you have a background slideshow turned on, turn it off or extend the time between backgrounds to reduce the occurrence of freezes.

To disable the Windows background slideshow, right-click the desktop and select personalize† Below the Background section, you should see this window:

change the Drop-down background to something other than slideshow and close the window when you’re done.

Update to the latest Windows (or go back)

When Windows 10 was first launched, video game performance and issues like stuttering were relatively common. With each update, Microsoft has resolved most of the complaints. For the most part, video game performance on Windows 10 computers today is impeccable. If you run into an issue like stuttering on Windows 10, it’s worth checking if there’s a new update available for your version of Windows 10. If you’re lucky, the issue has already been fixed.

Sometimes it is the latest Windows update that introduces stuttering. This is not common, but new Windows updates have been introduced game performance issues† You can uninstall Windows Updates to see if that fixes things, wait for Microsoft to fix the issue in a follow-up patch.

Of course you shouldn’t just assume that the latest update is to blame just because it coincided with your problem, do a bit of googling to see if anyone else has a similar problem before you start uninstalling updates left and right.

Turn game mode on (or off)

Windows 10 introduced a “game mode” shortly after the operating system was first shipped to customers. This mode manages the computer’s resources so that video games are given the highest priority.

In the latest version of Windows 10, Game Mode seems to be on by default. However, if you’re experiencing stuttering in your games, make sure this is turned on. All you need to do is search for “Game Mode” in Settings or directly from the Home menu† Then simply flip the switch to the “On” position.

In a somewhat ironic twist, you could try disabling Game Mode if you experience stuttering while it’s activated. We have seen some users report that their stuttering problems have gone away by simply disabling this option.

Install games on a separate drive

One possible cause of stuttering in a video game is access conflict on the drive that contains Windows. Stuttering is not a problem with modern solid state drives (SSDs), but if your main system drive is still a mechanical model, the game and Windows can take turns fighting to access data.

The optimal solution is to replace your main drive with an SSD, but if you can’t do that, installing your video games on a drive other than your Windows drive is a great way to free up bandwidth.

Enable Vsync

While not strictly Windows related, it affects all Windows gaming PCs, and almost all gaming PCs! Enabling Vsync (in the game menus or your GPU settings) ensures that every frame a game produces is synchronized with your monitor’s refresh rate. This fixes a common type of stuttering on Windows 10 caused by a mismatch in the sync between the game and your monitor.

Vsync is a pretty essential topic in gaming, and we recommend that you read What Is Vsync And Should You Use It? to get a good understanding of what it does and why it is essential.

Using a frame rate limit

If your CPU and GPU are trying to render as many video game frames as possible, you increase the chances of experiencing minor stutters that manifest as stuttering.

You can mitigate this problem by setting a limit on the number of frames the game should display. Modern games usually have a frame limit slider in their menus, but you can also find game- or system-wide frame limits in your graphics card’s software program.

An example of a frame rate limiter in the Nvidia Control Panel.

By the way, activating Vsync also works as a frame limiter. For example, if you have Vsync on and the monitor is running at 60Hz, the game will not render more than 60 frames per second. For most players, there’s no real purpose to displaying more frames than your screen can display. However, some competitive gamers benefit from reduced latency during gameplay, even if their monitor can’t display every frame.

Is your computer too hot?

Components such as the CPU and GPU reduce their performance if they get too hot. This can cause performance issues that can manifest as stuttering. If your game always stutters after playing smoothly for a while, you can check that:

  • All fans are spinning.
  • The computer has enough space around it for airflow.
  • All heat sinks are correctly positioned.

As mentioned above, you can also reduce the load on your CPU and GPU by using Vsync or frame limits.

Is it a Windows problem?

Several issues can cause stuttering in games, and not all of them are Windows’ fault. If only one particular game is failing, it’s more likely to be a problem specific to that title. If all your games are stuttering, it could be a problem with your hardware drivers (e.g. your GPU drivers) or other software running in the background.

Stuttering in individual games often has more to do with in-game settings that are too high, a game with errors, or a slow hard drive than problems with Windows itself.

A PC is a complex system of software and hardware, all made by different companies. More often than not, it’s not so much that a single part is broken, but that several software and hardware components just don’t work well together. That can make it difficult to isolate a problem, but taking a step-by-step diagnostic approach is the best chance you have of solving stuttering and similar problems.

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