If you take a quick look at online gaming forums, you’ll see endless discussions about the best viewing mode for optimal performance.
There are three options: fullscreen, windowed, and windowed borderless.
Some users argue that there’s no significant difference between the three modes, while others report experiencing much higher FPS after switching to a different viewing mode.
Does one mode have a definitive performance edge over the others?
Does Fullscreen Give More FPS?
Fullscreen gives you higher FPS in nearly all situations because the graphics driver has complete control over the screen output.
On the other hand, in windowed modes, Windows Explorer manages the output on the screen.
Windows Explorer acting as a middleman in windowed modes hurts game performance and reduces FPS because it draws extra resources.
However, the performance gain in FPS in fullscreen mode is negligible because it doesn’t go beyond one or two frames in most cases.
In other words, Windows Explorer’s overhead has no impact on your perceptible experience.
This YouTuber tested the FPS of five different titles in windowed, windowed borderless, and fullscreen mode and found only minimal differences:
Therefore, any improvement in performance after switching to fullscreen is most likely just in your head.
That said, the results will vary from one title and device to another—as shown in the video above.
In-game performance depends on many factors, including the game engine, your software settings, and the number and model of graphics cards and displays.
Moreover, some games aren’t optimized for all viewing modes.
For instance, the windowed mode in some games makes the screen smaller and reduces the resolution, which increases the FPS because fewer pixels need to be rendered.
Windowed Borderless: Middle Ground Between Performance And Convenience
Based on the previous section, running your game in fullscreen will most likely let you squeeze every ounce of performance from your GPU.
However, performance isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding on viewing mode.
Windowed borderless is usually the best viewing mode because it offers the best of both worlds.
Here are the advantages of windowed borderless mode:
- You can use all your screen’s real estate and play without distractions.
- Unlike fullscreen, which is best for a single display, it supports multi-screen setups.
- Your mouse won’t be locked, so you can multitask and quickly switch between contexts.
- Alt + tabbing between windows is smoother and faster because it doesn’t require switching between the graphics driver and the Desktop Window Manager (dwm.exe), so you won’t experience that annoying split-second black screen.
Windowed mode is only suitable for when you want to play older, low-resolution titles that have significant problems in fullscreen mode.
Disabling Fullscreen Optimization To Increase FPS
Fullscreen optimization is a Windows 10/11 feature that promises to enhance your gaming experience by running your game in a highly optimized windowed borderless mode.
The borderless window fills the entire screen.
As a result, gamers won’t notice that they aren’t running in fullscreen mode, and they get all the benefits of windowed borderless.
According to Microsoft’s DirectX developers, running fullscreen optimizations gives you a nearly identical performance to running fullscreen.
The feature is active by default, but some users report that turning it off increases your FPS.
That’s true in most cases, as one YouTuber found.
Disabling fullscreen optimization gives you higher FPS, but again, the gains are barely noticeable.
You can try the tweak for yourself and see if it makes a difference.
You may see some improvement if your game is unplayable due to low FPS.
However, if that’s the case, you should investigate other causes that lead to significant enhancements, not minor gains.
Follow these steps to turn off fullscreen optimization in Windows 10/11:
- Right-click on your game’s executable file and click Properties.
- Navigate to the Compatibility tab.
- Check “Disable fullscreen optimizations.”
- Click OK.
Low FPS In Fullscreen
As odd as it may seem, many users report experiencing sharp drops in frame rate when they switch to fullscreen, even as low as 15 FPS.
The most common advice for getting more FPS is to buy better hardware, such as a new SSD or GPU.
However, upgrading your PC can be expensive, and it might not even fix your problem.
Before splurging on new hardware, try these fixes to solve your low FPS problem in fullscreen mode.
1. Check Another Game
More often than not, frame rate issues are specific to individual games.
Before looking for problems in your Windows, drivers, and hardware, see if the same problem exists for different games.
If it doesn’t, you probably need to tweak a few game settings.
Google the problem along with your game’s title to find a solution.
Otherwise, try the other fixes on the list.
2. Download Display Driver Uninstaller
Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) is a software utility that lets you remove all traces of NVIDIA/AMD graphics card drivers from your computer.
The advantage of this app over the default Windows uninstaller is that it wipes the setting files, registry entries, and system folders from your computer.
It’s as if the driver was never installed on your Windows.
This way, you can be sure that all conflicting files and settings are removed, and you can do a clean install of the graphics card driver.
However, before using the app, create a backup of your critical files because working with driver files is never risk-free.
You should also create a Restore Point before removing the driver.
DDU supports Windows 7, 10, and 11.
3. Disable Windows Game Mode
Windows 10 and 11 come with a feature that lets games access more system resources to create a more enjoyable gaming experience.
When Windows detects that you’re playing a game, it allocates more CPU and GPU time to the game while deprioritizing other applications.
The feature is designed to stabilize your frame rate, but sometimes it does exactly the opposite.
It’s enabled by default and automatically detects games.
Follow these steps to turn it off:
- Press the Start button and type in Settings.
- Click on Gaming.
- Click Game Mode on the left-hand sidebar.
- Turn off the toggle button.
4. Turn Off “Fix Blurry Apps”
Another Windows feature that might be ruining your frame rate is the one that tries to make your apps look sharper on high-resolution monitors.
The problem is that, once you have this feature on, it might decide to automatically make your app’s pixels larger or smaller.
Those automatic adjustments might wreak havoc on your game’s graphics and ruin the FPS in fullscreen mode.
The feature is enabled by default, but you can turn it off using the following steps:
- Press the Start button and type in Settings.
- Click on System.
- On the left-hand side, click on Display.
- Scroll down and find Advanced scaling settings.
- Turn off the toggle button next to “Let Windows try to fix apps so they’re not blurry.”
5. Optimize Your Power Settings
This solution is especially helpful if you’re facing a low FPS issue on your laptop.
Windows 10 and 11 have three default power management plans.
For an optimal gaming experience, you need to set your plan to Best Performance.
It’ll drain your battery more quickly, but your GPU will receive more juice and work more quickly.
6. Modify Your Game Settings
Depending on the title you’re playing, you may be able to tweak everything from the textures and shadows to the sky color and water clarity.
Aim for less detail.
Although it may make your game appear less realistic, you’ll put less strain on your GPU, resulting in smoother gaming.
Reduce or turn off anti-aliasing, a feature that makes the edges of objects smoother but requires heavy computations.
Also, reduce the draw distance to ensure the game doesn’t render too much ahead of time.
Other settings you can tweak include dynamic reflections, ambient occlusion, volumetric lighting, and motion blur.
Each of these technologies adds a bit of detail to make your gaming experience more authentic.
Taken together, though, they may overload your GPU and prevent it from rendering new frames quickly enough.
Finally, experiment with turning off v-sync as it sometimes reduces your FPS.
7. Reduce Your Resolution
Your computer has to display more pixels as your resolution goes up, which means your GPU has to work harder to render those pixels.
It’s impractical to expect a GPU to generate many pixels at 60 FPS—even a solid GPU.
By lowering your resolution, you’ll give your graphics card some breathing room to maintain the higher refresh rate and give you a smoother experience.
You probably won’t lose any details because the standard resolutions on modern devices are more than enough for most titles.
If you don’t want to sacrifice image quality for frame rate, you can always upgrade to a more powerful GPU.
However, you may need to spend upwards of $700 on a super high-end GPU like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 if you want extremely high resolutions.
8. Switch To A Higher Refresh Rate
Your monitor’s refresh rate determines how many images it can draw in a second.
Modern displays have a refresh rate of 60 Hz, meaning they show 60 images per second.
Ideally, your refresh rate and game FPS must be equal.
Because most games run at 60 FPS nowadays, you should check if your monitor is refreshing at a lower rate.
You can also use the UFOtest to automatically check your current refresh rate and FPS.
Simply log on to the site and wait a few seconds to get your results.
The website also tells you your pixels per frame and pixels per second values, representing the number of new pixels the monitor displays in one frame and one second, respectively.
Follow these instructions to change the refresh rate on your display:
- Press Start and type in Settings.
- Click on System.
- Click on Display from the left-hand sidebar.
- Scroll down to Advanced display settings.
- Click on Display adapter properties for Display 1.
- Navigate to the Monitor tab.
- Change the refresh rate to a higher value (if your monitor supports it).
- Click OK.
9. Try Another Display
If you’re unlucky and your current monitor doesn’t support a higher refresh rate, you can always borrow a display from a friend for a few hours.
You can even connect your device to a projector or TV and see if the problem persists.
If it goes away, you know you need to dig deeper into your monitor and its settings.
Otherwise, look into your Windows, GPU, and storage.
It might even be worth installing an SSD or overclocking your GPU.
However, consult an expert before making any of these decisions.
What FPS Is Too Low?
Now that we’ve covered different fixes for your low FPS problem, you’re probably thinking about what frame rate you should try to achieve.
What’s the lowest acceptable FPS for gaming?
The answer depends on several factors, most importantly, the type of game you want to play.
Action games such as first-person shooters and racing games require instant reactions, so you’ll need to get as close to 60 FPS as possible.
On the other hand, casual titles can appear smooth at around 45 FPS, and you’re unlikely to experience stutters or lags.
You may even be able to get away with 30 FPS because we’re all used to the 28 to 30 FPS limit on our TVs.
However, anything below 20 FPS is considered unplayable, and you should find a solution to bring the frame rate up.
You can use an in-game FPS counter to see how many frames your game displays in a second.