Ever since I built my new PC, I’ve been busy benchmarking and optimizing various AAA titles such as Fortnite, Valorant, Warzone, Apex Legends, and much more.
My goal with each optimization was to maximize FPS output and minimize input latency. After successfully finding the perfect combination of settings for each game, I’ve developed a 2-step methodology that can work to optimize any competitive FPS title on Windows 10.
While there are many different reasons for input latency, in this guide I will only be focusing only on Windows 10 DWM’s forced V-Sync.
WHAT IS DWM?
DWM (Desktop Window Manager) is a process that manages windows on your desktop. It’s the process that manages all the different tabs and applications your have open and interact with.
What many don’t know, is that Desktop Window Manager has built in V-Sync (Vertical Synchronization). As we know in the FPS optimization community V-Sync = Input Lag = BAD.
HOW TO TURN OFF V-SYNC?
Step 1: Run the application in fullscreen exclusive mode
Step 2: Override DWM’s V-Sync
The exact method depends on the application, but before worrying about turning off V-Sync, make sure the application runs in fullscreen exclusive mode.
How to configure your game to run fullscreen exclusive?
Windows 10 is tricky in the sense that you have to “unlock” this fullscreen borderless feature by disabling fullscreen optimization.
I’ve also found that forcing the application to run as administrator, and also overriding high DPI scaling behavior, essentially gave the application the highest level of control over the system and screen to help it overwrite DWM.
A common question is: how do you know if your application is running fullscreen exclusive?
The answer is: If you Alt+Tab and the screen flickers black for a second, the game minimizes and your desktop appears then your are in fullscreen exclusive.
If you Alt+Tab and another window overlays your game, then you are running borderless windowed mode (with DWM’s forced V-Sync).
How to Override DWM’s V-Sync
At this point, we introduce our graphics card drivers. I haven’t tested this with AMD, but with Nvidia you can specify 3D Settings for a selected program. This allows you to specify finely tuned profiles for each application. What’s more, it also provides you with a setting to disable V-Sync for the selected application.
At this point, you must test your game and see if Windows 10’s V-Sync is indeed turned off. A lot of times, your game will be showing 300+ FPS and the game will feel smooth, but Windows is still forcing V-Sync on your system.
For some games like Apex Legends, I actually had to turn V-Sync on in the actual game settings, which allowed the Nvidia drivers to overwrite that settings with an “off”.
It’s very unfortunate that Windows 10 has such limited customization when it comes to it’s graphic properties. The forced V-Sync creates a significant amount of input lag when the PC can push frames much higher than the monitor’s refresh rate.
This essentially negates any benefit of a powerful PC when paired with a mediocre monitor. If you are able to push 200+ FPS in AAA games, but only have a 144hz or less monitor, you need to disable V-Sync in order to take advantage of all those extra frames.
What’s more is setups that push 700FPS+ are completely negating the huge FPS benefit when V-Sync is forced to the monitor’s refresh rate. Unlocking this V-Sync unlocks much more potential from your rig.