How To Check If Your PC Can Run A PC Game

Before buying a video game, it's important to be sure that your PC can actually run it. Here are some tips and tricks on checking for that.

In order to avoid the crushing disappointment of your PC being unable to run the newest game you’ve been itching to play, it’s important to always check whether you meet the system requirements beforehand.

Game developers will usually put a section either on the Steam page, their own website, or somewhere similar, where they describe the minimum and the recommended system requirements.

Before exploring this topic further, we need to clarify why these requirements are listed in the first place and which ones are needed for what.

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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

Many requirements are mentioned just to be safe, such as the need to have a sound card or a DVD drive (if you intend to buy a physical copy), both of which will usually be part of your PC. In the old days of PC gaming, however, these components were less common, so it was necessary to add them to the requirements section.

With the world of technology moving at an increasingly fast rate, these requirements are likely to keep changing.

Operating System And Storage

While an OS requirement might seem silly, it’s worth mentioning that about 50% of PC users worldwide use Windows 10. Others use Windows 7 or 8, macOS, or even Linux. Furthermore, some of these people aren’t using a 64-bit version of their OS, which is a key requirement for most modern games.

While hard drive capacity might also seem irrelevant, as most modern PCs have terabytes of storage, it’s always good to check if you need to clear a few things off your computer before installing a new game.

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

It’s true that many modern installation wizards run a simple check to ensure there’s enough available storage space before starting the process. Even so, you don’t want to risk it and get stuck halfway through the installation and have files rolled back due to a lack of space.

RAM requirement is important, but this varies greatly depending on the game you’re playing. The more resource-intensive the game you’re playing, the more RAM you will need. This applies to pretty much everything else on your PC.

RAM

RAM is especially useful in simulation games. In these games, extra computations will be directed to the CPU, which will then use RAM for assistance to transfer 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 might be tempted to purchase the fastest Random Access Memory available, you should know that the relation between price and overall performance improvement isn’t particularly strong.

If you’re on a tight budget, you should be able to get away with sticking to a lower clock RAM, as long as the capacity meets the requirements.

Now is where the trouble could begin because the next two requirements are often the most confusing ones.

CPU And GPU

Usually, the game developer will list 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 given model, are listed is to avoid confusion. This might not really help much but at least they tried.

The number of cores is actually quite useful, although not all games properly utilize multiple cores. Most modern games will require at least 4 cores. However, as time goes by, we will likely see an increase in this 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 processing) is often directly linked to the amount of new data that is available to it.

If you’re experiencing stuttering in games, you might find that the CPU is the bottleneck. In that case, the GPU will render sufficient frames, but the game won’t be requesting new frames quickly enough. It will be stuck, waiting for the CPU to process all the necessary data.

The reason for a certain model of CPU being on the list is because the game development company tested the game on that exact model, so they can guarantee that combination works. Check your system’s specifications and compare your CPU model’s numbers to those of the listed processor.

Luckily, the GPU is a little easier to understand. The same tactic also applies here: compare your GPU’s specs to those of the card recommended by the game maker. The specific model is irrelevant but they will usually list both NVIDIA and AMD cards, so it’s best to compare your card to the same brand.

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

It’s important that you have sufficient VRAM for the necessary GPU. One gigabyte of GDDR4 is not the same as one gigabyte of GDDR6.

Another crucial aspect is DirectX compatibility. Most modern graphics cards will be able to run DX12 but some older ones could struggle, so you need to take that into consideration. Fortunately, DX11 is usually the base requirement and it has much wider support.

Minimum System Requirements

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

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

However, this might not mean much. In many cases, it effectively amounts to the developer saying that the game won’t crash on launch. If your PC barely meets the requirements, you will be able to run the game, but it could be as low as 1-2 FPS at the lowest settings. Although the game is technically running, it’s nowhere near playable.

Of course, the minimum system requirements might not be as bleak as they sound and there are many exceptions to the rule. The good news is that the minimum requirements are becoming more and more playable nowadays.

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?

This might sound bleak again, but the recommended requirements are technically what you will need to get the game running at 30 FPS at its lowest settings. The companies test which configuration will achieve this and list it.

As with the minimum system requirements, the recommended configuration is slowly becoming a much better standard. With the whole gaming world aiming for at least 60 FPS, we’ll likely see recommended requirements that are necessary to play at 60 FPS relatively soon.

How To Check Your System’s Configuration

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

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

Our recommended option is to get dedicated software that lists all the minute details about your machine. There are plenty of good apps available for this and many of them are free. The easiest one to install and use is probably CPU-Z which, despite its name, can provide you with all the information you need.

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

Now that you know your PC’s abilities, you can go to a website such as game-debate.com and check if you meet the requirements, whether they are the minimum or recommended.

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

  1. Go to the System Requirements Lab website
  2. Type the name of the game you want to run into the search bar
  3. Click the ‘Can You Run It’ button. You will be directed to a page where an automatic download will start. Don’t worry, it won’t harm your PC.
  4. Once the download is completed, run the ‘Detection’ program you’ve 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 back to your browser window 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 browse the website for more functions. Simply click on any game and it will tell you if you can run it. They will also tell you exactly which components require upgrading.

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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.