Simple questions: What is the Game Mode and how do you use it in Windows 10?

Game Mode is a feature that is available to all users of Windows 10. It promises to make Windows 10 great for gamers, by preventing system background activities and by offering a more consistent gaming experience. Even if your hardware configuration is modest, the Game Mode makes games more playable. Did we manage to make you curious about it? If yes, then read on. In this guide, we explain what Game Mode is, how it works, and how to turn it on:

NOTE: Game Mode is a feature that was first introduced in Windows 10 Creators Update, back in 2017. This article, however, was written using the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. If you have an older version of Windows 10, some of the things we show might look different or might not even be available to you.

What is Game Mode in Windows 10?

Game Mode was created to help boost performance in games, regardless of your computer's age or hardware configuration. According to Microsoft, it is designed to do two things: increase the frames per second you get in games and offer a more consistent gaming experience. You can view more information in the video below.

Introducing Game Mode for Windows 10

What does "consistent gaming experience" mean? Microsoft says that is about avoiding extreme slowdowns and very low framerates. If you are a gamer, it is certain that you know what this is all about: you play a game, and it runs smoothly for some time. Then comes a fight with the boss at the end of the level you are on, and the framerate drops, the game becomes less responsive, and you lose the fight because your Windows computer could not handle things well. That is not a positive ending, right?

That is where Game Mode steps in and tries to squeeze every bit of performance from your Windows 10 computer. When enabled, Windows 10 prioritizes processor and graphics card resources to your game. With the launch of Windows 10 October 2018 Update, Game Mode can also stop Windows Update from installing drivers and showing restart notifications during game play. Hopefully, that might be enough to keep the frame rate stable and provide you with a more "consistent gameplay experience." The Game Mode is not designed to increase the highest framerate on high-end hardware.

How to enable Game Mode in Windows 10

If you use Windows 10 with October 2018 Update or newer, you should know that the Game Mode is enabled by default. However, if you have an older version of Windows 10 or if you changed the Game Mode settings and you do not know how to turn it back on, follow the next steps:

To enable Game Mode, you must first open the Settings app. A quick way to launch it is to open the Start Menu and then click or tap on its button. If you prefer using your keyboard, you can also press the Windows + I keys on it.

Opening the Settings app from Windows 10

In the Settings app, click or tap on Gaming.

The Gaming category from the Settings app

On the left side of the window, click or tap Game Mode.

The Game Mode page from the Settings app

On the right, you are told that "When Game Mode is on, Windows optimizes your PC for play." Under this sentence, there is a switch called "Game Mode." As we previously mentioned, this switch is turned on by default. However, if it is not, click or tap on it and the Game Mode is enabled right away.

The Game Mode switch from Windows 10

That was it! From now on, the Game Mode is used by Windows 10 whenever it detects that you are playing a game.

How to manually activate Game Mode in games

Although the Game Mode feature is enabled, that does not mean that it is also automatically turned on in all the games that you play. Some games support it, while others do not. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not provide a public list of games that support Game Mode, so there is no easy way to tell if your favorite game is on that list, except to check what the Game bar tells you when you are playing it. You can also use the Game bar to turn the Game Mode on for any game that is not supported by default. Here is how:

To activate the Game Mode for a game you play, launch the game and then open the Game bar. A quick way to do it is to press the Windows + G keys on your keyboard. On the Game bar, click or tap on the Settings button. It looks like a gear, and you can find it in the top-right area of the Game bar.

Opening the settings of the Game bar, while playing a game

In the General tab, check the "Remember this is a game" setting and close the settings shown on the screen.

Making Windows 10 remember your game so that it turns on the Game Mode for it

Now you can go back to your game and, if Microsoft keeps its word, you should see an improvement in your gameplay experience.

The limitations of Game Mode in Windows 10

There are several limitations to this feature:

  • Game Mode is enabled by default, but Windows 10 does not use it automatically for all the games out there. If you are playing an older game or a game that is not automatically recognized by Windows 10, you need to turn the Game Mode on manually for it, by enabling the "Remember this is a game" setting from the Game bar.
  • We tested Game Mode using several video games and different test systems. Unfortunately, Game Mode has rarely improved gaming performance for us. Its real-life performance is a mixed bag so you might see tangible improvements only in some games and on a limited number of systems. To learn more, read our analysis, here: Game Mode in Windows 10: Testing real-life performance in modern games.

Has Game Mode improved your gaming experience?

Microsoft has made a promise that Windows 10 is going to be the best operating system for gaming. While in theory, the new Game Mode is a useful feature, in practice it is difficult to say how significant its positive impact is. Did you try it? How well does it work for you and the games that you play? We would love to hear about your gaming experience in Windows 10.