How To Check If Your PC Can Run A PC Game

In order to avoid the endless disappointment of your PC being unable to run the latest game you’ve been itching to play, it’s necessary to check if you meet the system requirements.

The game’s developers will often put a section either on the Steam page, their own website, or somewhere similar, that will describe the minimum and the recommended system requirements.

Before getting into things, we need to clarify why are these requirements presented and which one is needed for which.

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What Is Needed For What?

Concentrated gamer in headphones using computer for playing game
It’s important that you check whether or not your PC can run a game before you buy it

There are a lot of requirements that are put there just in case. Things like a sound card or a DVD drive that are certainly inside your PC anyway. But, in the old days of PC gaming, these things weren’t common, and it was necessary to put them in the requirements section.

With the technology world moving at a pace that it’s moving, these requirements are likely to shift more and more.

While it could appear that an OS requirement may seem silly, it’s important to highlight that only about 50% of the PC users worldwide are using Windows 10. Others are using Windows 7 or 8 or a macOS and even Linux. And some of those aren’t even using a 64-bit version of their OS which is a key requirement for most modern games.

While hard drive capacity might seem irrelevant, as the modern PCs are running at terabytes of available storage, it’s still nice to know if you need to clear a few things off your computer before starting the installation.

ssd
With the games requiring more and more disk space, it’s best to use an SSD to get better performance

Sure, a lot of installation wizards nowadays have a simple check to see if there’s enough available space before starting the process, but you still don’t want to risk it and get stuck mid-way through the installation, with all files rolled back due to a lack of space.

RAM requirement is important, but it depends on the game you’re playing. Obviously, the more resource-intensive the game you’re playing is, the more RAM you’re going to need, pretty much like everything else.

RAM is especially useful in simulation games where those extra computations will be directed to CPU, which will then turn to RAM for assistance to communicate data back and forth more quickly.

RGB RAM
Most modern games require at least 8 GB of RAM

An important note about RAM: while you may be tempted to purchase the fastest one you can get, you should know that the relation between price, and overall performance improvement, isn’t that great. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be forgiven if you stay with a lower clock RAM, as long as the capacity meets the requirement.

Up next, it’s time for trouble as the next two requirements are oftentimes the most confusing.

Usually, the game developer will write in a certain model of CPU as the requirement as well as the core number and clock speed.

The reason why both cores and speed, as well as a certain model, are put is to avoid confusion. Not to say that it was successful, but hey, at least they tried.

The number of cores is actually quite useful, although not all games fully take advantage of multiple cores. For the most modern games, at least 4 cores will be a requirement, however as time progresses, we’ll likely see an increase there as well.

A CPU
Modern games are continuously improving on their usage of multiple cores

The clock speed is necessary because if your PC can’t work on data at a certain speed then the game itself won’t be able to run at all. This occurs because the game speed (and sometimes other stuff like random events) is often tied directly to how much new data is available to it. If you’re experiencing stuttering in games, it might find that the CPU is the bottleneck.

In that case, the GPU will render enough frames, but the game won’t be requesting new frames as it will be stuck waiting on the CPU to process all the data needed.

The reason behind a certain model of CPU being on the list is because the game’s development company tested the game on that exact model and they can guarantee that it works.

You should be checking your system’s specifications (if you don’t already know them) and comparing your CPU model’s exact numbers to those of the given processor.

Luckily, the GPU is a little easier to understand. The same argument as before applies here as well – compare your GPU’s specs to those of the card recommended by the game maker. The actual model is irrelevant, but they will usually post both Nvidia and AMD cards so it’s best to compare with the appropriate card maker.

GPU stronger than CPU
In most cases, the GPU is much more important for gaming than the CPU

Of course, it’s important that you have a proper VRAM for the GPU needed. One gigabyte of GDDR4 is not the same as one gigabyte of GDDR6.

Another crucial thing is the DirectX compatibility. Although most modern graphics cards will be able to run DX12, some older ones might struggle and you’d want to take that into consideration. Fortunately, DX11 is usually the base requirement and it has much bigger support.

Minimum System Requirements

minimum system requirements
Make sure that the specs of your PC meets the minimum system requirements at least

This is the place where you want to look if you’re okay with lower image quality and lower FPS. The exact specifications in this section have been tested by the game developer, and the game will technically work if your rig meets the minimum requirements.

However, this doesn’t mean much. It’s basically the developer saying that the game won’t crash on start.

If your PC barely meets the requirements, you will be able to run the game, but it can be even as low as 1-2 FPS at the lowest settings and although the game technically is running, its’ nowhere near playable.

Of course, the minimum system requirements aren’t as bleak as they sound and there are exceptions to the rule. The good news is that more and more, the minimum requirements are at a playable level.

Recommended System Requirements

recommended system requirements
If your PC specs meet the recommended system requirements, you should have no problem running the game

So, what are recommended requirements then?

It seems we have to sound bleak again, but the recommended requirements are technically what you’ll need to get the game running at 30 FPS at the lowest settings. The companies test at what configuration they can get this going and list that.

As with the minimum system requirements, the recommended configuration is slowly becoming a much better standard. With the whole gaming world set out to game at least 60 FPS, it’s highly likely we’ll soon be getting recommended requirements that are necessary to play at 60 FPS.

How To Check Your System’s Configuration

It’s natural that even if you very carefully planned and built your PC, you still forget what exactly is in there, and at what Hertz is running, and at what overall capacity. Therefore, you shouldn’t sweat it if you’re looking to learn the exact configuration.

If you’re on Windows 10, you can get a rudimentary overview by simply right-clicking ‘This PC’ and choosing ‘Properties’. There, you’ll see the information about the CPU and RAM, and you can get just a little bit more info if you click on the ‘Device Manager’ on the left-hand side.

A better option however, is to get a dedicated software that lists all the minute details about your machine. There are plenty of good apps for this out there, and many of them free. The easiest to use and install would be something like CPU-Z, which despite its name, can give you info about everything you need.

cpuz screenshot
CPU-Z will give you a pretty straight-forward overview of your PC’s specifications

Now that you know how to check your PC’s abilities, you can go to a website like game-debate.com and check if you meet the requirements, be it minimum or recommended.

By far the best option is a website called ‘Can You Run It’. The process there isn’t exactly intuitive, so we’ll take you step-by-step through it.

  1. Go to the System Requirements Lab website
  2. Type in the name of the game you want to run in the search bar
  3. Click the ‘Can You Run It’ button. You will be directed at a page where an automatic download will start. Don’t worry, it won’t harm your PC.
  4. Once the download is finished, run the ‘Detection’ program you just downloaded and wait.
  5. After a few moments, the software will detect your system’s components and exit automatically.
  6. Then, you can switch the windows back to your browser and you will be informed if your PC meets either the minimum system requirements or the recommended ones.
  7. (Optional) From this point, you can continue to browse the website and simply by clicking on the game, the website will distinguish if you can run it. Furthermore, they will also tell you precisely what needs an upgrade.

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Aleksandar Cosic
Aleksandar Cosic

Alex is a Computer Science student and a former game designer. That has enabled him to develop skills in critical thinking and fair analysis. As a CS student, Aleksandar has very in-depth technical knowledge about computers, and he also likes to stay current with new technologies.