With Blizzard’s latest expansion in the World of Warcraft series, gamers are yet again introduced to an increase in the minimum system requirements for what many consider to be minor to non-existent upgrade in its graphics engine. To those of you who are not using a newer computer with the latest video / graphics card or processors, this means your gaming performance in WoW may have gone from “good” with medium graphics settings to “barely playable” on even the lowest graphics settings.
Fortunately, there are ways to optimize your current rig for improved performance, or at the very least, attempt to return it to a state that is closer to when your PC was new. So before you go to your retailer of choice to order a new gaming system or hardware update, take a couple minutes to follow these steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your PC.
1) Install the latest drivers for your video card:
A video card driver is a piece of software that tells your video card how to communicate with your PC. Video card manufacturers release regular driver updates for their hardware, often including specific updates for the latest games.
If you know the make and model of your graphics card, simply go to the manufacturer’s site to download the latest driver. If you don’t, run the DirectX Diagnostic tool:
Go to “Start” -> Run -> type “dxdiag” (without the quotes) -> Enter.
Click on the Display tab to find the name and manufacturer of your device. Here are the websites to two common video card manufacturers.
ATI / AMD: http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/Pages/index.aspx
2) Turn off Windows visual effects:
The default Windows visual effects can unnecessarily slow down the overall performance of your computer. Turning them off is an easy way to free up some additional system resources for your gaming session, particularly if you have an older system and have Aero enabled on Vista or Windows 7.
Windows XP: Right-click “My Computer -> “Properties” -> “Advanced” tab -> “Settings” in the Performance box -> “Adjust for best performance” -> OK
Windows Vista: Right-click your Desktop -> “Personalize” -> “Window Color & Appearance” -> “Open classic appearance properties” -> choose “Windows Vista Basic” in the Color scheme box -> OK
Windows 7: Right-click your Desktop -> “Personalize” -> choose “Windows 7 Basic” from your list of themes -> OK
Choose the basic theme
3) Clean or Optimize your Registry:
Your registry is a Windows database that stores a myriad of data related to your system including software and hardware settings. A registry cleaner will remove unused or unwanted data is accumulates over time as you use your PC regularly.
Speed up your Slow PC with a free registry scan.
SLOW-PCfighter Registry Cleaner
4) Disable Startup items:
Many people don’t realize that there are many programs that are automatically launched every time Windows loads. Each icon in your notification bar / tray area represents a program that may be unnecessarily running in the background.
Each of these startup items can be disabled from automatically launching upon system startup via the Windows msconfig tool. A tutorial of this tool is beyond the scope of this article and I don’t recommend using it unless you are a very experienced Windows user as there are settings here that can cause undesirable effects that can be difficult to undo.
A much safer way to disable your startup items is to use the free “Startup Manager” tool found in SLOW-PCfighter.
The Startup Manager will present a list of programs which you can enable or disable. Simply uncheck the items you do not want running in the background and restart your PC after making the changes. This is an easy way to temporarily disable your Antivirus, antispyware, or other resource heavy programs from running while you game.
Is this what your tray bar looks like?
5) Check the speed of your internet connection:
It is a good idea to make sure it is not a slow or bad internet connection that is actually the culprit of what appears to be “choppy” graphics or slow loading.
Run a broadband speed test here.
If all else fails, check your system’s specs against World of Warcraft Cataclysm’s minimum requirements. The upgrades that will likely give you the most “bang for your buck” are a new gfx card or additional RAM if you have less than recommended amount.