October 5th, 2011
Just how much do free PC tweaks boost gaming performance compared to more costly hardware upgrades? Not much, according to a new benchmark published by Lifehacker.
Of the free tweaks tested, overclocking your graphics card will net you a performance increase of 9%, followed by a 4% bump when overclocking your processor, Lifehacker found. Closing background apps resulted in a mere .5% increase, while disabling OS visual effects and upgrading graphics card drivers did virtually nothing.
All told, free "soft" tweaks were only capable of boosting performance by 12% when added together, compared with a "holy crap!" 68% performance increase when upgrading your rig with a second $100 card or a single $200 card.
In other words, you get what you pay for.
"In the end, the answer to 'can I increase performance for free?' question is 'not likely'," the benchmark concluded. "If a 12% bump will get you where you want to go, then yes, software tweaks can boost your performance enough to be significant. But if your games aren't playing up to your standards, the only thing you can really do is just buckle down and upgrade."
Of course, this is just one benchmark. And results obviously vary by game. But it confirms that overclocking is still your best free bet, but overhauling your hardware, especially your graphics card, is more than worth the cash.