One of the most exciting things about getting a new PC, whether you purchased it or built it yourself, is figuring out what to do with it once it’s up and running. Maybe you’d like to overclock your PC and optimize performance, or start playing some competitive games for fun. Having a few goals in mind can really add to your enjoyment of a new system.
Below you’ll find some recommendations for exciting things you can do while breaking in your new PC.
Try Competitive Gaming
Competitive gaming has a number of positives, including increasing your in-game ranking, testing your skills against more difficult opponents, and experiencing a different side to games you might already be familiar with. Once you’ve found a game you want to get better at, there’s a few different ways to start improving.
- Practice. Getting good at competitive gaming starts with climbing the ladder in matchmaking. In order to progress, you’ll have to practice. Game-specific practice tools and training maps can help develop better reflexes, and help you better understand a game’s mechanics.
- Learn by watching. While you’re improving your in-game mechanics, watch matches between skilled players or professional teams and try to learn from the higher-level play.
- Try different peripherals. Your personal preference will dictate what peripherals work best for you, but consider mice with adjustable DPI (dots per inch), keyboards with mechanical switches, and gaming headsets for communicating with teammates to enhance your gaming experience.
- Upgrade to a high-refresh rate gaming monitor. In fast-paced games like Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, 144Hz and 240Hz monitors can provide a competitive edge over a 60Hz monitor because they display more visual information. They can help improve your reaction times and help you track targets moving across the screen.
One thing to be aware of: high refresh rate monitors have higher system requirements than 60Hz monitors if you want access to the additional functionality. If your system can’t provide a high enough frame rate, you won’t be able to see the advantages of having a high refresh rate monitor.
It’s important to verify that your CPU and GPU are fast enough to provide the frames to your monitor. To play at higher frame rates, the capabilities of your CPU and GPU should be in alignment with the capabilities of your monitor. A high-performance CPU is recommended, along with a GPU of equivalent capabilities. You can learn more about the impact a CPU has on gaming here.
The easiest way to check if your CPU and GPU are capable of supporting high refresh rates for a particular game is by looking at in-game FPS benchmarks. Look for an average FPS that meets or exceeds the monitor’s refresh rate, and experiment with your in-game settings until you find the performance you’re looking for.
Live streaming services allow anyone to broadcast their gameplay sessions to the world — or, at the very least, a few close friends. Streaming adds social interactions to your gaming experiences.
Setting up a stream is easy. All you need is an internet connection with adequate upload speeds and streaming software such as Open Broadcast Software to help you connect. A mic and webcam are entirely optional, although they can help improve the quality of the stream.
When setting up a PC for streaming, it’s important to have the right components — specifically a fast, multi-core processor. Streaming high-definition video while running a game on the same system can put a significant drain on system resources. Without enough cores, the video encoding application and the game will default to competing for resources on the same cores. Both will suffer accordingly.
CPUs with high core counts are best for streaming because they can allocate the resources of some cores for gaming while using others to encode the video signal. An Intel® Core™ i7 processor with at least 8GB of RAM is recommended for playing games and streaming at the same time.
For everything you need to start streaming, check out our full guide.
Become a Power User
Few things are more gratifying than having a new system configured exactly how you want it. This also extends to the software you run on your new system. Third-party applications and power-user tweaks allow you to customize the operating system beyond what is offered out of the box. They can make the desktop user experience smoother, sleeker, and more personalized.
Here are some ways to spice up the operating environment:
- Launch apps with a keystroke. Use a keystroke launcher to quickly open apps and documents from the command line rather than clicking through menus. Ueli and Launchy are two popular options.
- Add flavor to your desktop. Customize the visual presentation of your operating system with sleek, user-created skins. Desktop customization utilities like Rainmeter and Wallpaper Engine allow you to animate wallpapers, modify how information is arranged on the desktop, and add visually compelling weather apps, music visualizers, and system monitors.
- Install all your software in one go. Rather than downloading and installing each application separately, use a software package installer to manage and update all the apps you want on your PC from a single checklist. Chocolatey and Ninite are among the most popular.
- Perform tasks more efficiently. Set up multiple desktops to better organize your workspace. Change button combinations for common tasks like screen grabs and video capture to something you can press without having to look down at the keyboard. Assign frequently used shortcuts to extra mouse buttons.
- Dual boot. Install Linux on a disk partition to quickly hop between operating systems. You can also run applications designed for other operating systems with a virtual machine if need be.
- Update your drivers. Once your PC is up and running, it’s a good idea to update your Operating System and drivers. This will ensure all devices and hardware are working properly. Much of this process is done automatically when updating your OS, but you may need to download a specialized GPU driver separately. GPU software suites will notify you when a new driver has been released, so you can ensure you’re always up to date. These software suites also come with utilities for optimizing in-game graphics settings, and often include tools that can add to the gaming experience, such as frame rate counters or screen capturing software.
- Keep an eye on system performance. System monitoring apps help ensure your system is running optimally. They can show you the usage, speed, and temperatures of system components. They can tell you how fast the fans are turning and how many are operational. Some give you component specific analysis. The app CPU-Z, for instance, can show you the CPU’s clock speed for each core.
Put Your System to the Test
Benchmarking utilities push your system to the limit. These tough computational challenges slam system components with heavy workloads, scoring them on their ability to perform under pressure. You can use benchmarks to judge the strengths of your PC’s build, and even use them to rank your build against other people’s builds online.
- Test your system’s responsiveness. You can do this by simulating your work and leisure environments. PCMark 10, for instance, scores your system on how well it can handle a variety of use cases, from creative workflows to doing a video call while browsing the internet.
- Give your CPU a stress test. Benchmarking tests in Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel® XTU) can be run for 5 minutes, or up to 30 days. CINEBENCH is a fully threaded application that rates how quickly multi-core CPUs can complete large rendering tasks. Handbrake plays a high-resolution video file and scores your processor on how fast it can decode it.
- Rank graphical performance. GPU-centric benchmark tests rate your PC’s ability to create complex 3D environments. Heaven Benchmark is a long-standing test for weighing gaming performance.
- Compare memory and storage speeds. Other applications specialize in assessing how fast SSDs and HDDs can transfer information. There are even tools for testing RAM speeds.
One reason you might want to run benchmarks is to know which games you can play, and what FPS you can reach when playing. Many games (such as Civilization VI, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and Horizon Zero Dawn) have benchmarking tests built in, and will give you a sense of how well your system can run the game.
Another way to run benchmarks is by playing games and seeing how well they perform. Frame rate monitoring tools like Fraps actively display your FPS in the corner of the screen while you play, and can be used to measure your average frame rate in specific sections of the game, or over an entire play session.
Just keep in mind that no two games are created equal. In-game performance will fluctuate depending on the specific demands of the game you are playing.
Our guide on how to read CPU benchmarks will provide more detail.
Overclock Your CPU
Overclocking your CPU involves adjusting its voltage and frequency to attain speeds beyond what are indicated in the manufacturer’s specifications. It may sound complex, but the fundamentals of overclocking are pretty straightforward, and overclocking software from Intel makes overclocking relatively simple.
- Beginner. Overclock your CPU automatically with the Intel® Performance Maximizer.
- Intermediate. Perform intermediate-level overclocks with Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility. The software is more hands-on but still relatively straightforward. Our guide will walk you through it. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even overclock RAM.
- Advanced. Manually overclocking your CPU from BIOS can come later, once you’re comfortable with how overclocking works.
You’ll want to make sure you have the right kind of processor before getting started. Overclocking is only supported on processors that are unlocked. Unlocked CPUs will have a “K,” “KF,” or “KS” designation after the product number, such as the Intel® Core™ i7-10700K processor.
Enjoy Your New PC
Now that you’ve maximized your new PC’s potential, it’s time to have some fun with your optimized gaming PC. The PC gaming ecosystem is truly diverse and offers a wealth of compelling experiences. Try out some exclusive titles, download some user-created mods, or regularly broadcast your games on your streaming channel.
Whatever you choose to do with your new system, have fun!