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How to Quickly Check If Your Computer Can Run a PC Game

game-running-on-pc

PC gaming isn’t quite as simple as console gaming. If you have a laptop with weak graphics hardware or an older PC, it’s important to check whether your computer can support a game before you spend your hard-earned cash.

Gamers don’t have to upgrade their hardware as often as they used to. Even a gaming PC built years ago should be able to handle the newest games just fine. Laptops not build for gaming and older PCs are a different matter.

Beware Intel Graphics

First, one big warning: If your computer uses onboard Intel graphics instead of dedicated NVIDIA or AMD graphics hardware, you’ll likely experience issues running newer, graphically demanding games.

Most laptops include Intel on-board graphics, which is cheaper and doesn’t use as much power. However, even the latest Intel graphics hardware is much slower than NVIDIA or AMD graphics. If you only have Intel graphics, you may not even be able to play the newest games on the lowest graphics settings.

Intel’s onboard graphics performance has improved with Intel’s new Haswell graphics, but it hasn’t improved nearly enough. All but the most extremely expensive Haswell chips offer only moderate improvements over the previous generation.

nvidia-graphics-card-header

Check Your PC’s Specifications Manually

We’ll cover a more automatic method later on, but first we’ll look at the manual method. You’ll need to know the hardware in your computer — primarily its CPU speed, amount of RAM, and graphics card details. You can find this information in a variety of different ways, including looking up your laptop’s specifications online.

However, it would be easiest to use a system information tool for this. We recommend Speccy, made by the same company that makes the excellent CCleaner.

Here are the main three things you need to care about:

  • The CPU’s speed, in GHz. Click the CPU header in Speccy and you’ll be able to see the number of cores your CPU has, too.
  • The amount of RAM your computer has, in GB.
  • The model of your computer’s graphics card and the amount of RAM the graphics card has on-board. Also note whether you have NVIDIA or AMD graphics. If you see both Intel and NVIDIA or AMD, that’s fine — your computer has both and switches between the two to save power.

speccy

Next, look up the system requirements for the game you want to run. You’ll generally find this information on the game’s website or on the site for whatever store is selling it. It’s at the bottom of each game’s page on the Steam store, for example.

Compare the information shown in Speccy to the details below. Pay particular attention to the processor, memory, and video card requirements.

Once you can remember the basic hardware your computer contains, checking system requirements is as simple as glancing at them and comparing from memory.

skyrim-system-requirements

Automatically Compare Your PC’s Specifications to a Game

Let’s be honest: this process is inconvenient. Computers should be able to do all of this for us.

To check system requirements automatically, use the Can You Run It? website. This website is endorsed by a variety of big companies, including AMD.

Before using this website, we recommend running the System Requirements Lab Detection desktop app. Install this app and it will scan your computer’s hardware before sending you back to the website, setting a special cookie that identifies your hardware. This way you won’t have to install any Java or any ActiveX applets.

system-requirements-lab-detection-tool

After running the tool, just visit the website, select the game you want to run from the dropdown box, and click the Can You Run It button.

can-you-run-it-website

You’ll be informed how well the game will run on your current hardware. You can check as many games as you like in the future — but if you clear your cookies, you’ll have to run the detection tool again.

can-it-run-crysis


But can it run Crysis? Well, that depends on your hardware — with these tools, you’ll be able to figure out the answer!

Image Credit: włodi on Flickr, Carles Reig on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 07/31/13

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