Now we know what Microsoft’s upcoming ‘Game Mode’ for Windows 10 will do

A few weeks ago, sharp-eyed users spotted something new in a Windows 10 Insider Preview build — reference to a new “Game Mode.” Discussions on what the feature might do, or how it could improve performance, have made the rounds since. But a new investigation suggests the new feature won’t make much difference for the vast majority of Windows 10 gamers.

PCGamesN has details on the latest Insider Preview build (15007) and what it exposes in the OS. While Game Mode can’t be enabled yet, you can read the description of what it’s going to do. Basically, it performs some low-level services tailoring to make the system work smarter when you’re actively using Microsoft’s GameDVR function.

Windows 10 Game Mode

Image by PCGamesN

This is more-or-less as expected, and fairly worthless in any case. Both Nvidia and AMD have shipped software solutions with their own, low-level DVR capture capability, with a minimum impact on their own hardware. Microsoft’s decision to bake in its own solution is probably a boon to Intel gamers or to people who aren’t aware of Radeon ReLive or Nvidia ShadowPlay, but it’s not much benefit to anyone else. If you want to get back the performance improvement of Game Mode before Microsoft ships the feature, you can disable the DVR altogether using these instructions.

As for the amount of performance you’ll get back by making these changes, it’s unlikely you’d ever notice. Heck, it’s not even likely that you’d notice if you benchmarked the game. Barring an unusual situation, DVR recording and other background Windows services are meant to run in the background, where they’re unlikely to consume resources or cause issues. Part of the reason why this simply doesn’t matter on modern hardware is because Windows’ hardware specifications have only changed slightly since the introduction of Windows Vista in 2006. (The idea of running Vista on hardware from 1995 would’ve been beyond hilarious, but you can run Windows 10 on equipment sold 11 years ago, if you have to). Microsoft hasn’t done much moving of the goalposts, and later versions of Windows are generally viewed as improvements to Vista, as far as running on low-end hardware.

Don’t get us wrong — if Microsoft is enabling this feature because it has data suggesting that its DVR software doesn’t play nice with specific titles, that’s a fine thing. But we’d prefer the company just say that, as opposed to pushing the idea of a Game Mode that’s going to make most titles run faster. If you’re trying to play modern games on a computer that was cutting-edge in 2008 and hasn’t been upgraded since, DVR support is the least of your worries. If that doesn’t describe you, then these optimizations aren’t likely to matter.

What we would like to see, if Microsoft is taking notes, is a Game Mode that prevented Windows Update from rebooting the computer while resource-intensive applications or games are running. If you’ve ever had a Windows 10 system suddenly decide it’s time for a reboot in the middle of a game or benchmark run (and I’ve seen multiple testbeds pull this trick with zero warning), you know how infuriating it can be. Fix that problem, and you’ve got a Game Mode worth deploying.

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