Playing video games on a PC provides you with a lot more freedom than on a console. But because PCs are often more complex and lack standardized components like consoles, graphical glitches in games, performance problems, and other issues are common.
Most of the common PC gaming problems you’ll experience fall into a few general categories. Let’s go over some of the biggest PC gaming problems you might run into, and learn how to fix them.
1. Visual Artifacts and Graphical Glitches
The term “artifacts” refers to heavy distortion of visual media. With video games, this manifests as all sorts of graphical weirdness. You might see missing or deformed geometry, wonky textures, flickering elements, and similar.
Because your video card is the component responsible for processing visuals and sending them to your screen, these issues are typically rooted in your GPU. The first step you should take is making sure that your graphics card drivers are up to date. See our guide to updating Windows drivers for help, though be aware that you may need to cleanly reinstall your GPU drivers if problems persist.
If you still experience glitches with the graphics in games after confirming you have the latest drivers, you may have an issue with heat in your system. Physically clean your PC if you haven’t in a while; too much dust will build up excess heat, which harms your video card and other components. Make sure your PC has adequate ventilation, too. In case you’ve overclocked your GPU, consider rolling it back to normal.
You can use PC diagnostic tools to monitor the temperature of your graphics card and other components. There’s no exact operating temperature you should look for under all circumstances, but in general, an idle card should be about 30-40 degrees Celsius. While playing a game, something in the range of 60 to 85 degrees Celsius is normal. Running above 90 or 100 Celsius is too hot.
Finally, you can stress test your GPU to check for problems. If you see artifacts and other visual strangeness during the test, your video card is likely failing. You’ll need to send yours in for a warranty repair if possible, or consider replacing it soon.
There’s also a chance that the game, not your hardware, is responsible for the graphics glitching. Make sure to install any available updates for your game, especially if you only notice the issues in one title. If the problems persist, consider uninstalling and reinstalling it fully to make sure the game files aren’t corrupted.
2. Extreme Online Lag
Lag refers to a delay between you taking action in an online game and the server’s reaction to what you did. If you’ve ever sworn you shot right at an opponent in an online shooter, only to have him skip across the bullets while they hit the wall behind him, you’ve experienced lag.
The quality of your internet connection will affect how much lag you experience. Because of this, when you experience lag, you should make sure to close any bandwidth-intensive tasks that are running on your network. Stop all downloads and video streams, and make sure you aren’t running any torrents. Make sure you’ve configured your router for optimal gaming performance.
Lag is a more common issue on an unstable internet connection. If you’re playing online via Wi-Fi, you should consider switching to an Ethernet connection. Have a look at the best powerline adapters if wiring in directly isn’t an option. These allow you to connect your PC to your router with an Ethernet cable using the power lines in your house.
Note that the game you’re playing can affect lag as well. If the game uses a peer-to-peer (P2P) setup, like some Call of Duty games, your experience will be affected if another player has a poor connection. In games with dedicated servers, though, only your connection will suffer.
By the way, network lag is not the same as input lag. Input lag can occur offline and refers to a delay between you pressing a button and you seeing that action happen in the game. If you’re suffering from input lag, you should turn off VSync, a common PC game graphics setting that can introduce this problem. You may also need to disable any post-processing features on your monitor, which can add input lag.
Understanding Network Ping
When troubleshooting network lag, you should be aware of your ping. This is a value, in milliseconds, that indicates how long it takes your actions to go to the server and back to your device. As you’d expect, a higher ping results in delayed inputs.
Most online PC games have an option to show your ping on the screen in real-time, which you can use to gauge the health of your connection. Generally, you’ll notice lag with anything over 100 ping. If your ping is 50 or under, you’re in pretty good shape.
Keep in mind that location plays a huge role in determining ping. If you’re in the US and playing a game on EU servers, you’ll experience much higher ping because your inputs have to travel a greater distance. This is why it’s best to select servers that are as close to you as possible.
3. Games Freezing, Hanging, and Stuttering
When games don’t run smoothly, it’s a huge pain. If you regularly experience sudden freezes in offline games where the game slows down and then has to “catch up,” chances are that at least one component of your system is a bottleneck.
You can take a few quick steps to troubleshoot this game hanging problem. If possible, drop the graphical options to a lower setting so that the game isn’t as resource-intensive. Close other programs running on your PC so they’re not using up your RAM and CPU power. Make sure you have some free disk space so your game has room to breathe.
If these fixes don’t solve the game freezing, you should review your current PC hardware and make sure that it meets the specifications of the game you’re playing. There are several easy ways to find out if your PC can run a title.
You may need to upgrade if your system isn’t up to snuff. For instance, an SSD will provide far better load times than an old HDD, and you may need more RAM to keep a game running smoothly. If you can’t keep a consistently smooth frame rate, it’s probably time for a new graphics card.
Check out the upgrades that will improve your system performance the most to get an idea of what you need.
4. Screen Tearing
We covered general visual artifact issues earlier, but screen tearing is a special case. This visual problem occurs when your screen shows multiple frames from a game at one time, split into two or more parts that don’t align correctly.
Unlike many PC gaming issues, this isn’t really the fault of any one component. Screen tearing occurs when the feed that your video card sends to your monitor does not sync up properly with the display’s refresh rate. In effect, your card submits a new frame before your monitor has finished showing you the last one, so you see a broken image containing both.
Most games include a feature called VSync (vertical synchronization) to combat this. Enabling it prevents the video card from updating your display until the monitor finishes the current refresh cycle. While this helps prevent screen tearing, it can also introduce input lag, as discussed above.
Enabling VSync can also cause sharp drops in frame rate—during intense moments, your graphics card might show even fewer frames per second to match the monitor’s refresh rate, which causes choppy gameplay.
Thus, whether you decide to use VSync depends on what type of game you’re playing. In a multiplayer game where every instant counts, you should probably keep it off. But in a slow-paced single-player game, using VSync will make your display look as smooth as possible.
Depending on your video card and monitor, you may be able to use FreeSync or G-Sync, which are improved versions of VSync that handle changes in FPS more efficiently.
5. PC Games Crashing
Visual and performance issues are frustrating, but at least they don’t prevent you from playing the game. Games that continually crash are an entirely differently story, though. When games crash, it’s quite annoying because you can lose progress. If a game crashes frequently, you might not even be able to start it.
Some of the advice we’ve touched on above applies to games crashing too. Make sure that you have the latest video drivers installed and that your system meets the recommended requirements to play the game. Restart your PC to make sure it’s not a temporary problem, and make sure your game is up-to-date.
From there, you can jump into some other steps to troubleshoot crashing games. Disable your antivirus and other software that might interfere with a game’s proper operation. You should also try running the game as an administrator, which can sometimes clear up crashing issues.
Next, reinstall the game to confirm all its files are installed correctly. If none of this fixes the problem, it’s worth Googling the specific game to see if other people have had similar issues. In some cases, you may have to attempt a specific workaround for that title, like modifying a config file.
Why Is My Game Glitching? Now You Know
We’ve looked at some common PC gaming problems and how to go about solving them. Hopefully, you’ve successfully resolved the issues and can now get back to enjoying your favorite games.
Note that these are all general categories of problems; you may also run into glitches specific to a certain title. Perhaps it’s a visual issue or something that impedes your progress. In these cases, the bug will hopefully get patched out in a future update of the specific game. It’s always a good idea to Google your specific problem if the broad fixes don’t work.
And remember that even when you’re not having any major PC gaming problems, it’s always a good idea to make use your machine is running at optimal level.
Are you gaming on Windows 10? Use these tips to optimize Windows 10 for gaming and set it up for best performance.
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