Lots of people love video games – but only a select few can become gaming pros. Competitive gamers know that optimizing your P.C. for gaming is one of the most important steps to better your performance in the video game realm. However, not every gamer, no matter how avid, can afford expensive gaming equipment or devote tonnes of time to revamping their computer. That’s why we’re here to bring you a few simple ways you can optimize your P.C. for gaming – without splurging on new equipment.

Maintain the Equipment You Already Have

The first and most important rule of gaming optimization is to keep your equipment up-to-date. Games are constantly updating their system requirements – and falling behind on system updates means you risk falling behind in-game as well. On the other hand, the best gaming P.C.s tend to come with exciting new updates, more RAM and higher speeds. So, do yourself a favor and update your P.C. when it prompts you to, instead of telling it to “Remind Me Later” for the next three months.

Another cool way to maintain your machine is to perform a stress test on your CPU, GPU and RAM. In other words, you’ll want to push your P.C.’s performance to its limit to see how well it can perform under stressful conditions. If your P.C. passes the stress test, it is considered “stable,” which is what you’re looking for when it comes to gaming. Check out Make Use Of’s guide to performing a safe stress test on your machine for more guidance on this important step.

Defragment Your Hard Drive

Another way to optimize your P.C. for gaming without splurging on a new computer is to defragment your hard drive. According to Gamespot, just because your files are neatly organized doesn’t mean all your data is stored together on your hard drive.

Fragmented files take longer to load because they’re stored as bits and pieces throughout your entire hard drive – so when you want to open one, your computer must work harder to reassemble all the scattered fragments of your files. Defragmenting your hard drive, on the other hand, combats this by storing all of your files’ data sequentially, rather than storing it as a series of broken puzzle pieces across your entire hard drive.

Of course, there are some notable exceptions where you should NOT defrag your hard drive. For example, Solid State Drives (SSDs) and Windows 7 and 8 do not require defragging because of the way they were designed. However, if you use older software on your P.C., defragging is recommended – especially for gamers – because of the significant performance and speed boosts it can offer.

Update Your Graphics Cards

The newest computer games tend to come with exciting visual updates, including high-definition graphics, designed to enhance your gaming experience. Unfortunately, failure to keep up with graphics updates on your machine can lead to reduced performance when playing these newer games on your P.C., since your machine can stall while trying to load those high-def visuals. If you want to enjoy graphics updates at their highest potential, you need to ensure your graphics cards are up to speed. Firstly, you can buy a graphics card designed specifically for gaming, such as those designed by Nvidia and AMD, which provide their own applications for managing graphics card drivers. Another option is to download a third-party application, such as MSI Afterburner or EGA Precision X, which allow you to tweak your computer’s graphics settings when you might not otherwise be able to access them.