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A Gamer's Fix

The modern world of gaming demands a lot from our PCs and laptops. We crave new games, more content and a wonderful world to get lost in but what happens when you launch a newly purchased title and it refuses to work or crashes. I have been playing games on PC/laptop for past 18 years and still some of the crashes baffle me, sometimes it is nigh impossible to fix them and yet we keep going, buy new games, upgrade our systems and game on.

 

Error.jpgNobody likes a crash. 

At the end of the day you come home, power up the system and go in guns blazing or questing and suddenly a CRASH!! Sometimes PC gaming might give you the CRASH headache more often than you'd like. The reasons for game crashes can be plenty, I will try to list down a few of the most common ones here -

 

1) The game is too old and has compatibility issues with your latest machine or operating system.

2) The game is new and has too many bugs in it.

3) You installed the latest graphics drivers and they are unstable.

4) Your PC/laptop is overheating.

5) A third party software is interfering with the game.

6) A hardware failure or error.

7) An external device connected to the machine.

 

The above list cannot be exhaustive due to wide variety of systems and games available. Back in 1998, my parents bought me a PC (after much deliberation about studies) which worked great with 64MB RAM and a 10GB HDD. One day I was playing a platformer game, which to my surprise crashed and the icons on the desktop became unbearably large. It was something new and we had no other option but to call in the engineer for a fix. The engineer arrived, navigated through some mystical menus (Changed the resolution back to normal) and fixed it. My first experience with a crash taught me something about PC gaming, I needed to learn a lot more in order to play games and keep my system in shape. I had the same realization when I bought my first laptop in 2010 (Yes, I was a late adopter due to lack of funds). Gaming laptops need more care to perform at optimal level for a satisfying experience, but that's a topic for another time. Based on my experience and the type of problem, I will detail some of the basic fixes below so you can resume your gaming.

 

Game does not launch/Black screen/Low FPS

 

1) Check out if your machine meets the minimum system requirements for the game. Press WINDOWS key and type dxdiag, it will show all your system information. Compare this to the game's requirements which you can find online or on the physical case.

Most important details to see are the CPU, GPU and RAM requirements. If your system is under-powered in any of them, it will not be able to run the game. This is actually a good step to check before you purchase the game.

 

2) If the game is too old say pre-2005, then try running it in Compatibility mode. Go to the folder where the game is installed, find the exe file for launching the game, right click and select Properties.

Go to Compatibility tab and check 'Run this program in compatibility mode for:', select the Recommended Operating System as per the game requirements.

 

compatibility.pngCompatibility Mode Options

 

3) If the crashing game shows an Options screen before the launch, try changing the resolution and launch it again. Some old games work only in specific resolutions.

 

Game launched but randomly crashes/freezes/ Low FPS/ BSOD

 

1) It's time to upgrade/downgrade the graphics drivers. Do take note to perform a clean install. To upgrade simply visit the NVIDIA/AMD drivers download website, choose the right OS/GPU family and download them. Before installation, I recommend to always perform a google search with tags "NVIDIA/AMD Driver version xxx.xxx issues", to know if the latest driver is good or bad.

The thing to keep in mind is that the latest drivers are not always the best, I have used drivers which are 1.5 years old and can still run games well. The important factor is stability.

My latest drivers upgrade was when I bought the Witcher 3 and it did not work with SLI at all (1.5 year old drivers). I went over to NVIDIA website and downloaded a driver version from Jan 2016 which was reported to be stable.

 

2) Make sure that your machine is set to high performance.

For NVIDIA users,

a. Right click on desktop and select the NVIDIA Control Panel.

b. Go to Manage 3D Settings > Program Settings

c. Select the game file in the dropdown and make sure the GPU is selected as the High Performance NVIDIA processor.

(Global Setting is mostly Auto-Select)

 

nvidia-control-panel-program-settings.pngNVIDIA's Settings

 

For AMD users,

a. Right click on desktop and select AMD Catalyst Control Center.

b. Go to Switchable graphics setting.

c. Under the Recent Applications or Other applications, find the game file and make sure High Performance is selected.

 

amd.jpgAMD's Settings

 

3) For laptop users, you may want to plug in your laptop whenever gaming. The simple fact is that most laptop batteries are ill-equipped to handle High performance gaming, so it is always better to plug in the adapter. This should get rid of some of the jerkiness/freezing while playing games.

 

4) Go to your manufaturer's machine Support page and download the latest BIOS and drivers. Make sure to select the correct OS before downloading. Install these and check if that fixes the issue.

For desktop, you may have to go to the specific vendor websites to download drivers for Intel suite or the Motherboard BIOS. My recommendation for such updates is to do them ONLY when you face a problem. Updating a perfectly running system usually invites more trouble. (I keep my Windows Updates OFF on 8.1 since many times they can make the system unstable)

 

5) Check if your system is overheating. It could either be the CPU or the GPU which are going over the threshold temperatures. I recommend using CPUID HWMonitor and MSI Afterburner to check the clocks, voltages and temperatures. Afterburner can log the results to a file, so enable that if you must, for later verification.

I tend to do this for my laptop whenever I buy a new game. It's sort of personal benchmarking of graphics while keeping the temps to an acceptable 80 degrees celsius.

Mostly laptop CPU/GPU have thresholds of 100 degrees celsius beyond which they start to throttle/crash and get damaged (This threshold can be changed by the manufacturer). In reality however, anything more than 85 is not good for the well-being of your laptop. From my experience, desktops should always run cooler than a laptop.

 

MacBookFire.jpg 

 

To counter overheating -

a. Keep the machine adequately ventilated. Play on a level surface and keep the laptop propped up to allow air circulation. (Most laptops have vents either on the side or the bottom of the laptop)

b. Clean the machine, fans and any vents that might be blocked by dust. A 'Compressed air can' should be sufficient for this task.

c. Manage the room temperature (to be between 20 - 27 celsius) by using external fans or air conditioning.

d. Turn down the graphical settings a notch. Try playing on medium if the game runs too hot on High settings.

e. Buy a good Notebook cooler, preferably with multiple movable fans. There are several guides on how to choose one so I wont be going into details.

f. For more advanced users, sometimes the thermal paste can be replaced to increase cooling effects. You can try re-pasting your CPU and/or GPU thermal paste. Again, there are guides on these and please do extensive research. The Hardware maintenance manual of your machine should guide you with the disassembly.

g. If your BIOS is unlocked, you can even undervolt the CPU and the GPU which should reduce the heat produced. I use NVIDIA Inspector to undervolt my GPUs and NVIDIA XTU to undervolt the CPU.

 

6) Windows can sometimes get corrupted and cause the crashes. To check the Operating system, click on Windows Start Icon and type CMD, you may need to open the one with Admin privileges.

In the Command prompt window, Type sfc /scannow and hit Enter key.

 

sfc-scannow.jpgA useful Command for windows file check

 

At the end of the run if you see errors, you can fix the errors with these 2 options -

a. Restore to a backup point. (If you created any)

b. Wipe out the system and do a Recovery/Fresh install.

 

Refer the recovery procedure provided in your system manual.

 

7) External software could be causing lag in the game. Such software can range from a necessary anti-virus to a useless Update service. You can always try disabling the anti-virus before playing the game. That could fix some unusual activity.

To determine if any other software is causing issues, you may need to download a program such as ProcMon. This program essentially logs all activity and shows which application runs at what time. You will need to perform keen analysis to identify which application started running when your game was lagging or got minimized or crashed.

In my case, my games kept randomly minimizing every hour at the same time. ProcMon helped me identify that it was a Printer application causing the issue. The fix was easy, Uninstall the crapware.

 

8) At times, external hardware can cause game freezes. This hardware could be the game's incompatibility with a bluetooth or USB mouse/headset/keyboard or other gaming pads.

In one of the scenarios, Dead Space 3 was starting up fine but froze up as soon as I clicked on Play Game. The reason for the freezing was my bluetooth headset, which actually work perfectly with every other game. I had to use speakers or wired headphones for that one.

 

You should be able to fix most of the game problems with the suggestions above, however, there is always a possibility that your game needs a specific fix. These can be found on official game forums, Lenovo forums, reddit or other similar sites. Either that or your hardware could have been damaged over time, in which case the best solution is to avail warranty services or contact the local technician.

 

Besides entertainment, PC/Laptop gaming is quite informative and interesting. You can learn a ton of stuff about software as well as hardware. There are enthusiasts who overclock their CPUs and GPUs, which gives higher performance but produces more heat. Please post below if you have any comments or suggestions or if you just need more details on a certain point. Let's stop the crashes and Game On.

 

Do check the latest Y720 Review fitted with the latest and greatest hardware and see how it offers a great Price-Performance ratio.

 

References - All images have been taken from google search.

 

Have other tips as well? Feel free to share them with us in the Comments section below.

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