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Make Your PC Into a Gaming PC
by rob

Your PC breezes through Office apps, fires off email and browses websites like a dream, but is it capable of running today's latest games? All work and no play makes your PC a dull, gray box. That's no way to live. Today, I'll go over how you can get your system into shape to play.

What makes a Gaming PC?
Today's games push aPCs capabilities to the limit. Systems sold as Gaming PCs have the fastest dual-core processors, gobs of high-speed memory, serial ATA hard drives, and dual (or even quad) graphics cards. While you don't need the biggest, fastest, and strongest to enjoy games, they set the bar pretty high for the rest of us.

Can your PC run the latest games?
The short answer: probably. Check the specs of your PC against the requirements of the latest games. It's not hard to meet the minimum requirements for most games – 1.4GHz processor, 512MB of memory, 5GB of free hard drive space and a 64MB video card. However, to get the best gaming experience, look at the recommended hardware for each game. Some, like F.E.A.R., want you to have a P4 3GHz, 1GB RAM and a 256MB video card to neutralize bad guys effectively.

Upgrade and Play
If you want to play but don't want to lay down $5000 for a new PC made exclusively for gaming, upgrade what you have. Your existing PC might not have the latest and greatest specs, but there are a few things you can do to get the most performance out of your PC:

  • Upgrade to at least 1GB of memory
    This is the single best upgrade you can make to your PC. And the easiest hardware to add. The more RAM you have, the less your computer will use 'virtual memory' – using your comparatively slower hard drive as extra memory.
  • Upgrade your video card
    New, graphically-intense games will take advantage of newer video cards with more built-in memory. With some games, like F.E.A.R. and Call of Duty 2, a faster video card will help game performance more than a faster CPU.
  • Upgrade your CPU
    A new main brain of your PC will help all of your system's processes but this is often the most expensive upgrade.

Looks Don't Mean Everything
It's not just that expensive box under your desk that affects gameplay. Sound is an integral component of games – be it the creepy vibes of a deserted, underground military base, the revving of the engines of your competitors during the race, or an active D-Day battlefront. The basic speakers that came with your computer will only give you a partial experience. To immerse yourself in realistic action, get a 5.1 surround-sound computer speaker system (4 satellite speakers, one center channel and a subwoofer). To power these speakers, you'll also need a sound card with outputs and surround-sound processing capabilities.

Optimize System Resources
Here are a few tips to get your PC to run games efficiently.

  • Do A Full Install
    If you've got enough hard drive space, choose a full installation of your favorite game. This will copy all the files the game will need to your hard drive, which will be quicker than reading them from a CD.
  • Defragment Your Hard Drive
    When the game needs to access your hard drive, it'll be quicker if everything it needs is in one place. Make sure you back up before you defrag, as a precaution. You do perform regular backups, right? (If not, read Chris' article on Data Backup and Archiving immediately!)
  • Restart
    During a typical usage, you'll have memory tied up in applications that you have previously closed. Restarting your system will clear the memory and leave more of it available for the game.

Once you have boosted your system to handle the latest games, you can use your new-found power to save the world, or dominate it. It's up to you.

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