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How to turn your laptop into a gaming laptop

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You might be thinking to yourself; how can a laptop be upgradable? Well for the most part, they aren’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bump up the performance a bit to game on your ordinary laptop. Being a portable enclosed machine; a laptop is much more difficult to upgrade as compared to a full Desktop PC. 

Desktops offer modularity which welcomes upgrades throughout their lives. Most laptops are built for basic everyday tasks and they work pretty well for what they’re built for, but if you try gaming on one of these, it’ll be a disaster. This TechyWired guide will help you turn your old laptop into a gaming laptop of sorts. Have a look at what we’ve planned:

What exactly is a Gaming Laptop?

Gaming laptops have existed for decades, but there is still some confusion when differentiating between a ‘normal’ and a gaming laptop. Let’s go over these two again based on different factors:

Purpose/Uses

What really sets these two apart is what they’re designed to do. Gaming laptops are purpose built for gaming. They’re overbuilt and are designed to handle every type of task you throw at them. The specifications are bumped up to max and they’re configured to handle the latest titles. Normal laptops are designed to handle everydays tasks like Microsoft Office, movies, and other basic tasks. Gaming laptops on the other hand are built purely for gaming enthusiasts and are specced to run the latest titles.

Specs

At this point you might expect us to list every single gaming laptop characteristic. But, if we look into it, what really sets gaming laptops apart are their powerful CPUs and GPUs. Pricing, RAM, Storage and design are not really a factor in differentiating the two anymore. Premium Business Laptops and Ultrabooks cost just as much as gaming laptops do. They usually have the same amount of RAM and Storage. So, that leaves us with the CPU and the GPU:

GPU

A dedicated GPU is the first thing to look for in a gaming laptop; it practically defines it. Normal everyday use laptops don’t usually have dedicated GPU chips, they usually make do with the integrated Intel Graphics on-board the processor. Integrated Graphics are enough to handle everyday tasks but they simply cannot run any games. For that, you need a powerful dedicated GPU. 

AAA titles demand a lot from your GPU and if it isn’t up to the task; you just can’t game. Decent gaming laptops these days have at least an RTX 3060 with 8GB GDDR6 VRAM. This will allow your gaming laptop to handle the latest AAA titles like Halo Infinite, GTA V, and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla with max settings. Integrated Graphics, on the other hand, don’t have dedicated VRAMs, they utilize the actual RAM and take up a portion of your RAM to use it for graphics processing. Laptops like the Acer Nitro 5 and the MSI GS76 Stealth have an RTX 3060.

CPU

The Processor is also another thing that set’s a gaming laptop apart. To handle power hungry titles and other complex tasks; the processor needs to be able to keep up. For that, manufacturers include the latest generation Intel or AMD processors. Intel Core i7 11800H and AMD Ryzen 7 5800H are what gaming laptops of this generation have. 

These processors can turbo boost up to 5 GHz to handle those intense gaming sessions. ‘Normal’ laptops do have latest generation Intel and AMD CPUs integrated in them, but the clock speeds are limited to save battery life and to keep the temperatures down. These processors are enough to handle daily tasks, but they are nowhere enough to handle games. 

To make it more easier for you; we’ve created a spec sheet that differs the both:

So, now that you’re familiar with what exactly makes a laptop a gaming laptop; you should be able to determine what your laptop is. Here are some tips for you to turn your laptop into a gaming laptop:

How to turn your laptop into a gaming laptop?

This certainly isn’t an easy task, as laptops are the opposite of modular devices. You can’t simply swap stuff out for upgraded stuff like you can with Desktops. But, we do have some tips for you to enhance your laptop’s performance so you’re able to play at least some games on your laptop. We’ve divided them into sections for your ease, have a look:

Upgrading your laptop’s software

Upgrading your laptop’s software might be the quickest, easiest and the cheapest (well free) method through which you can turn your laptop into a gaming laptop. Here are some free upgrades you can perform to your laptop:

Updating your DirectX software

You might not be familiar with what DirectX is. It’s because Windows updates it automatically. But, if you haven’t recently installed any updates, there might be a chance that your DirectX is outdated and you’re running an older version.

DirectX is an important piece of software. It essentially provides support for your gaming and other graphics hungry tasks. So, running the latest version is important and integral for running games. Here’s how you do it:

  • Press the Windows + R keys
  • Type in ‘dxdiag’ and press enter
  • A pop-up will open and it’ll show you the DirectX version you’re running. If you’re running anything older than DirectX 12, you need to install your Windows updates.

    Updating your Drivers

Drivers are what allow your hardware to communicate with your system. So, for instance, if your Graphics Driver is running on an older version; your laptop will be unable to run on optimal performance. 

To update your drivers:

  • Right-click on the Windows button and open device manager
  • Go to your Graphics Card driver and right-click to update drivers automatically.
  • Windows will automatically install any driver updates that are available

    Adjust your Performance Settings

Most ‘normal’ laptops these days are focused on providing excellent battery times. So, by default their performance settings are set to low or medium so that they can last long their battery. 

Put your laptop in maximum performance mode by sliding to Best Performance in the battery icon.

Tweak your Power Settings

Power Options are again not really set to perform the best, they’re tweaked for best battery life. Settings like the Graphics card power plan, PCI express power settings etc should all be set to Maximum Performance to upgrade your laptop to a gaming laptop. 

To change your Power Settings:

  • Go to the Control Panel
  • Open Power Options
  • Click on the Power Plan you’re running
  • Click on Advanced Settings
  • Turn everything to maximum performance

    Adjust your Game settings

The final ‘free’ upgrade you can do to your laptop is to adjust your game settings to low. Even if you’ve followed all our tips, it is best to set your game settings to low. This will allow you to game considerably smoother and you’ll be able to run some decent games. 

Your game graphics settings are usually located in the Video or Graphics section of the settings page.

These updates will only get you so far, at some point you’ll have to spend money on your laptop and here are some TechyWired top tips to do just that:

Hardware Upgrades

When it comes to upgrading the hardware of your laptop, you can’t exactly do much. Unlike Desktop PCs, you can’t go crazy with the upgrades and expect to fully rebuild your laptop. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t perform some effective upgrades on your laptop. Here are some hardware upgrades ranked from most effective to least effective:

RAM

RAM is among the limited number of upgrades you can perform easily on your laptop. Unlike the CPU, GPU and the motherboard, which are soldered, RAM is modular. You can always swap out your old RAM with bigger Sticks. 

RAM can have a significant effect on your laptop’s performance. RAM is what allows you to have a smooth UI and gaming experience. So, it stands to reason that the first thing you should upgrade is your RAM. Another benefit of increasing your RAM is that you can expand your Integrated Graphics VGA memory. This will improve your graphics performance as well.

Some important things to consider are the limitations of your motherboard and the support your laptop offers. If your laptop has a DDR3 RAM, you can only put in another DDR3 RAM, DDR4 won’t work with your motherboard. There’s also another factor; the capacity support. Laptops have a limit to which you can expand their RAMs to. Check your laptop’s specs on the manufacturer’s website to find out what your RAM is upgradable to.

Storage

Your Storage is also something that’s super effective. Especially if your laptop is running an old Hard Disk Drive. Traditional Hard Disk Drives are really slow and are unable to provide consistent performance. SSDs are a really effective upgrade to your laptop. You can easily swap your old disk drive out for a Solid State Drive. SSDs can boost your read and write speeds up to triple of what your traditional hard drives run at. 

So, SSD and RAM are the first and the most effective upgrades for any laptop. But, if you want to spend some cash and are willing to go the extra mile to get some performance out of your old machine.

  • External GPU

You might not have heard about this one. External GPU or eGPU allow you to have a dedicated Graphics Card even if your laptop doesn’t have one. Confusing right? Well it works like this, you attach a thunderbolt cable to this eGPU and connect it with your Laptop. You plug the eGPU power adapter into a socket. And you play games that weren’t even remotely possible to run on your laptop. 

External GPUs are a relatively newer trend in the market. eGPUs like the ASUS ROG X2 Station 2 and the Razer Core X are still new. But, if we think about it, it could genuinely work! Both of these have a GTX 1070 installed in them and they’re capable of handling some pretty decent AAA titles. 

But, these eGPUs do come at a cost. Both of these eGPUs cost upward of $550, and for that, it isn’t exactly value for your money. Prices can go up if you opt for a bigger GPU. Given the price tag, you start to wonder if it’s even worth it to spend this much upgrading your old laptop when you could buy a proper gaming laptop for a bit more. Head over to your Budget Gaming Laptops section if you want to pull the trigger on a new gaming laptop that doesn’t break the bank. 

TechyWired’s bonus tips to upgrading your laptop to a gaming laptop:

  • Cleaning your laptop regularly

You’re probably thinking we’re talking crazy, but cleaning your laptop at least twice a week is guaranteed to make your laptop run much better. Your laptop’s heatsink, fan and air inlets get clogged up by either dust or crumbs. If you don’t clean them out, your laptop will start to lag because it isn’t being cooled down fast enough. Resultantly, your CPU and GPU will start to thermal throttle and ruin your gameplay.

  • Making sure things stay cool

This works in coordination with the previous tip. Make sure that you place your laptop on an angle that allows it to breathe in fresh air and dissipate all that heat inside. If you’re used to placing your laptop on your bed, we recommend that you stop doing that. It blocks the air vents and your laptop heats up. This will of course degrade your laptop’s performance.

  • Close all background tasks

If your laptop is running all sorts of background tasks like Skype, Chrome etc., more than half of your resources are already taken. So, when you try to game with these tasks sucking up all your CPU and RAM, you’ll experience a laggy gameplay. Thus, close any background tasks that you have opened in your background. Use Task manager end tasks that aren’t your game or windows applications.

  • Use Windows game mode

Windows 10 offers a dedicated game mode. Game mode optimizes your laptop for gaming and puts all your resources towards your game. To do this:

  • Click the Windows button
  • Open Settings
  • Go to Gaming and turn on Game Mode
  • Check your Internet Speeds

If you’re playing an online game, your internet speed is a key factor in dictating the quality of your gameplay. If you have a slow internet connection, resultantly, your game is going to run terribly. Check your internet connection before gaming and make sure that you have minimal Ping, along with decent Upload and Download Speeds. You can use any website to check your network speed. TechyWired recommends speedtest.net

If you’re willing to spend a few more bucks and buy a gaming laptop, here are some budget gaming laptop recommendations for you:

Dell G15

Key Points

  • 11th Generation Core i7-11400H
  • Nvidia RTX 3050
  • 8 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 256 GB NVMe SSD

Purchase from here

Buy Now: $879.99

Lenovo Ideapad 3

Key Points

  • AMD Ryzen 5 5600H
  • Nvidia RTX 3050
  • 8 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 512 GB NVMe SSD

Purchase from here

Buy Now: $799

MSI Sword 

Key Points

  • 11th Generation Core i7-11800H
  • Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti
  • 8 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 512 GB NVMe SSD

Purchase from here

Buy Now: $1039

Conclusion

By now you must have gotten the idea about upgrading your laptop to a gaming laptop. There are some actual cost effective upgrades that you can perform on your laptop, and they will surely enhance the performance of your laptop. Updating your drivers and software are free of cost but they really help get that extra bit of performance out of your machine. But, there are some upgrades that don’t seem that cost effective. Like the eGPUs. 

For that amount of money we’ve shown you three proper gaming laptops that you buy right now and without doing any upgrades; game. To sum it up, there is a fine line between upgrading and wasting money. Upgrading your Drivers, RAM, Storage, and cleaning out your cooling system are really smart upgrades, and TechyWired highly recommends them.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does eGPU stand for?

An eGPU stands for an external Gaming Processing Unit, this will work magic for your normal laptop and will enhance the specs of the laptop automatically. AAA games will be played effortlessly with the aid of eGPU.

  • Do Normal Laptops have Special fans for cooling?

Normal laptops employ fans which dissipate a huge chunk of heat generated during usage. These fans expel heat quite effectively. There are no special vents and cooling mechanisms built in these normal laptops but are standard in gaming laptops from different manufacturers.

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