Laptops manufacturers typically try to strike a balance between power, battery life, and heat concerns for a device’s default settings. Since everyone uses their laptops differently, though, your machine’s power settings as-shipped could potentially bottleneck its performance when gaming or editing media.
Luckily, you can inspect and change your laptop’s settings to give yourself a minor—but appreciable—performance boost that doesn’t require expensive upgrades or potentially-dangerous overclocking. All you need to do is enable your computer’s performance mode.
PCWorld recently tested the performance modes for a handful of laptops and found most got between 10 and 30 percent speed boosts. That won’t magically turn your potato rig into a powerhouse, but it could boost a game’s frame rate without changing in-game settings, or make media editing and exporting less of a slog.
As executive editor Gordon Mah Ung writes:
Take an older MSI Prestige 14 aimed at content creators. Its 10th-gen Core i7-10710U is a low-power chip, so it’s never going to be a barn-burner. Nevertheless, if you change it from its out-of-box ‘’Balanced’ setting to ‘High Performance,’ you’ll see a 10-percent performance increase in PCMark 10 overall general use. In PCMark 10’s Digital Content Creation, the High Performance setting nets you about a 15.5-percent improvement.
Performance benefits will vary depending on the task. Give that same MSI Prestige 14 a CPU-intensive HandBrake video encode and switch to High Performance, and it takes 30 percent less time to run. That’s a nice uptick.
How to enable your laptop’s performance mode
Finding and changing a laptop’s performance settings will differ between manufacturers and models, but most are accessible through a desktop app. The apps are usually named something like “power settings” or “performance monitor.” Some laptops have hardware toggles or shortcut keys for performance presets, like the “Turbo” button on some ASUS ROG models. A quick internet search can help you find where the performance settings are hiding on your system if you’re not sure where yours are.
Note that the specific power settings and presets available to you will also depend on the laptop’s make and model. Just make sure you select the options that favor speed and power over battery-saving. You should notice your laptop’s performance increase immediately—but, again, keep your expectations in check.
Changing power settings is not the same as overclocking your CPU or GPU. While overclocking can boost a desktop beyond the hardware’s normal limitations, it’s a dangerous process that can damage your computer or even cause injury from the increased heat output—especially on laptops.
Changing your laptop’s performance settings is entirely safe, however, and each mode comes tested by the manufacturer. That said, you may notice increased fan noise when using performance mode, and your laptop will probably run hotter (and possibly eat up the battery faster). Some laptops will also dynamically change performance settings when it’s unplugged or if battery life drops below a certain level. These options can be adjusted on some devices, but it’s best to keep your laptop plugged in to avoid interruptions.
If you’re still experiencing issues even with performance mode turned on, make sure your laptop’s drivers are updated. This is particularly important for GPUs if you’re playing games; outdated drivers can cause compatibility issues and slow down your GPU. Similarly, Nvidia and AMD’s controller apps can help take the guesswork out of the best in-game settings your machine can handle.
These tweaks will have a smaller impact compared to performance settings, but every little bit helps when you’re trying to optimize your laptop’s speed.