Why wouldn’t you choose the Windows OS for gaming? Linux could be a viable alternative, but it’s way too limited. And the Mac OS simply doesn’t come with the graphics processing power to run the best titles. Add to this the fact that since most PC games are created on the Windows platform, the Windows operating system is already well optimized for gaming. And since gamers are important to Microsoft, the company ensures its OS caters to them well. To that end, the latest iteration of Windows will always be the best as Microsoft stops supporting older iterations, like XP and Vista. The current Windows OS comes in a Home, Pro and Enterprise version. But which one makes the best Windows OS for gaming?
Minimum Specs for Gaming
Before we get into these operating systems, it’s important to note that the OS you choose for gaming doesn’t matter much if the underlying hardware isn’t in place. That’s why we’ve dedicated hours producing guides to help you choose the best specs for your gaming laptop relative to your budget.
The most important gaming components to focus on are the CPU, GPU, RAM and storage drive. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to PC gaming. But at bear minimum, we recommend:
Unless your gaming aspiration only extend as far as undemanding online games, avoid laptops with only two-core processors. While it may not be an issue for older titles. Newer games likely won’t be able to play with less than four cores. A laptop with a six-core CPU ensures compatibility with every PC game you could ever want to play.
On the flip side, you don’t need to splash out for a gaming laptop with an eight-core processor. While getting an Intel Core X-Series chip might give you bragging rights. It won’t add much to gaming performance.
A gaming device that offers an SSD (solid-state drive) is really the only choice for PC gaming. The overall performance you get is way faster than what you get with an MHD (mechanical hard drive). While an SSD won’t necessarily impact the gaming experience, it allows for the game to load onto your system up to 30 seconds faster. And levels load faster with an SSD reducing the lag experienced with an MHD.
Most popular games don’t need more than 16GB of memory. If your budget is tight, we recommend opting for a laptop that offers at least 8GB of RAM for PC gaming. But again, 16GB will ensure you can play any game on the market. Laptops that offer Optane Memory provide a less expensive alternative to a machine that offers more RAM.
The only two companies worth talking about when it gaming graphics is Nvidia and AMD. Not only do they make up the bulk of the GPU market. But both companies offer such a wide variety of graphics cards that it’s easy for gamers to choose the performance they need at a price they can afford.
Windows OS Requirements
Now with your fully loaded gaming laptop sorted out, it’s time to choose the best version of the Windows OS for gaming. Let’s see how these different Windows operating systems compare.
You’re first decision is to consider whether you need the 32- or 64-bit version of Windows. Newer systems will require 64-bit version of Windows. Older laptops with older CPUs will need a 32-bit version for gaming.
To find out which version you need, head over to your laptop:
- Click the Start button (the Windows icon on the bottom left corner of the screen in Windows 10).
- Click System, then choose System Type.
An x86-based processor requires a 32-bit version of Windows. An x64-based CPU means you can get a 64-bit version of Windows.
Windows Home is perfect for almost every gamer. Microsoft loaded everything you need to be able to game from this basic product. And upgrading to the Pro version won’t change your gaming experience, much.
Windows Home is the best version of Windows for gaming that Microsoft has to offer to date. It’s no wonder it’s currently the most popular version of Windows.
In addition to Cortana, Virtual Desktop and Windows Mixed Reality. The most significant feature for gaming is the ability to sync up your entire Windows ecosystem. You can also access your Xbox Live accounts from your PC. And if you run Xbox One, you can play games on any PC within your local network.
Windows Home also comes with Game Mode. This feature boosts gaming performance and allows you to broadcast so that you can stream from your PC to Mixer without having to rely on any other software.
One of the biggest issues when deciding on the best OS for gaming is compatibility. It’s not uncommon to upgrade an OS so you can play newer games. Then finding out that you’re suddenly cut off from older titles.
Thanks to the mindfulness of the Windows team, however, the current version of Windows won’t stop you from playing any of your favorite games. Add to that, that fantastic services like GOG do a lot of the heavy lifting by ensuring that classic games are up-to-date with current operating systems.
Issues Within the Ecosystem
- Forced updates
- Occasional crashes
- Gradual slowdown over the life your PC
All these issues can be a nuisance, but they come with simple fixes. And you don’t need to be a tech genius to run them. Click to see more notorious issues.
Windows Home is equipped with several dedicated gaming features for seamless gaming performance. But every new release does come with some level of assumed risk. Also worth noting, the current version of Windows doesn’t differ much in gaming performance from Windows 8.1, 8, or 7. So, if Windows Home is so great, why upgrade to Windows Pro?
While Windows Home hits a home run with many features specifically designed to enhance your gaming experience. Windows Pro comes with a few more core features worth looking into, especially if your laptop pulls dual duty for work and play.
The most obvious feature differentiating Windows Pro from the Home version is Windows Update for Business. This feature offers extra security for business use cases, including Secure Boot and Device Guard.
You also get access to Hyper-V, which is a virtualization tool that helps you run more than one operating system on your PC laptop. But it actually takes away from gaming performance, even without virtual machines running in Hyper-V. But if you choose the boot entry without the Hyper-V extensions, gaming performance is usually normal.
But when it comes to gaming, Windows Pro and Windows Home offer the same performance – neither is inherently faster than the other (there’s not even any information on either SKU suggesting a difference). Any noticeable, significant difference in performance can usually be attributed to your laptop’s hardware rather than the OS.
Issues Within the Ecosystem
If you have a need for the Remote Desktop capability, Windows Pro offers that feature. But while it does have a place in gaming, it won’t improve your gaming experience.
If you need Windows Pro for your professional life, you can game with as much confidence as the Home version. You won’t see any added gaming benefits, though. So, unless you need the Windows Pro business accessories, then you’re better off sticking with Windows Home. And if you do need the Pro version, you can run Windows Pro normally without engaging the extra features. So then, what does Windows Enterprise offer that Windows Home and Pro don’t?
Windows to Enterprise
Just like the difference between the Windows Home and Pro versions. The difference between Pro and Enterprise brands is features. Unfortunately, there is a pervasive notion that spending more for the Windows Enterprise operating system increases gaming performance, which couldn’t be less true in this case.
The features offered by Windows Enterprise benefit enterprise related tasks only, like virtually managing a network of PCs. Such tools offer nothing to gaming performance.
Microsoft designed Windows Enterprise specifically for large networks used in business environments. And since it’s a volume only SKU, you wouldn’t be able to get independently if you purchased a gaming laptop – Neither the volume licensing nor security features are designed to serve single users.
Issues Within the Ecosystem
Does this mean that you won’t be able to play games during your downtime on a work PC running the Enterprise version of Windows? Thankfully you can, as long as your access permissions allow it.
So long as you have the permissions from the network owner, your free to play all your favorite titles on Windows Enterprise. But you wouldn’t be able to purchase this operating system on your own. Plus, with a focus on security and network scalability, the features it offers have no benefit to your gaming experience to justify acquisition.
The most useful way to decide which operating system works best for you is to think of the other ways you plan to use your laptop. Since as a single user Windows Enterprise is off the table. That leaves Windows Home and the Windows Pro versions. If you’re purchasing a gaming laptop and your activities are mostly dedicated to gaming. The Windows Home is half the price of the Pro version and comes with many important features for gaming. If, however, you have professional considerations and deeper pockets. Windows Pro offers business-focused privacy features that makes it worth the extra cost.