You just got a new gaming laptop and now you need the software to blackmail it. One of the biggest benefits of PC gaming is that you can install software to make your life easier, from tools that automate mundane tasks to programs that free up system resources to focus on the game you’re playing.
I have moved machines and reinstalled Windows too many times to count. These are the apps that I always install first on a new gaming laptop.
Ninite (Chrome, Steam, Discord)
I won’t bore you with the basics. You need at least Steam and Discord on your gaming laptop, plus a browser if you don’t want to use Microsoft Edge. Ninite puts all the bases in one place. Check the boxes next to the programs you want and Ninite will create a custom installer with all of your selections.
You probably already know what you need here. Grab your gaming software, maybe mix Spotify if you have a subscription, and you should be good to go. If you want to experiment with other software, here are some good options to add to your installer:
- WinDirStat: Your hard drive may be clean now, but it will probably be full in a few months. WinDirStat provides a visual overview of your hard drive. It makes it easy to spot which folders are taking up space and lets you explore areas where you can free up storage space.
- Revo: Windows Control Panel sucks. Instead, use Revo. The app makes it easy to uninstall programs by giving you a single window with all of your apps, and it lets you uninstall a program just by right-clicking on it. Revo also cleans up leftovers after uninstallation, which Windows does not offer.
- All: Steam is the main PC gaming platform, but you will likely have games from different storefronts installed on your PC. Everything is basically a search engine for your PC. It lets you search for any file or folder – and it’s fast, unlike File Explorer.
GeForce Experience or Radeon Software
One of these utilities is probably already installed on your gaming laptop, but it never hurts to check. GeForce Experience and Radeon Software are essential tools for Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, respectively. They each have several unique features, but they both offer the most important thing your gaming laptop needs: new graphics card drivers.
Apart from the new drivers, these applications will allow you to view your frame rate, take screenshots and record game sections. GeForce Experience and Radeon Software can replace several applications on your laptop, so make sure the correct one is installed for your graphics card.
I recommend looking to see if you’ve already installed one. Chances are you will. Otherwise, you can find GeForce Experience on Nvidia’s website and Radeon Software on AMD.
Game launchers and Playnite
Gone are the days when you could get all of your games through Steam. If you want to play the latest AAA games, you will need at least a few launchers. Assuming you already have Steam, here are the launchers I would recommend installing:
- Xbox app: A must if you have the Game Pass. However, the Xbox app is terrible for buying games, so install it only if you have a Game Pass membership.
- Epic Game Store: Indispensable for many new AAA games. Epic has exclusive rights to several major titles, as well as games like Fortnite and Rocket League. For your efforts, Epic is giving away free games every week, so this is an essential install.
- GOG Galaxy: GOG often has the best-selling RPGs and features retro titles that you can’t play anywhere else. Galaxy gives you a way to access your library, as well as collect other showcases. A must have installation for retro PC fans.
- Battle.net: Battle.net isn’t great, but it’s the only way to access annual releases of Call of Duty and games like Monitoring and World of Warcraft. Install if you play any of these franchises, if not, ignore.
Any seasoned PC gamer will notice that a few key launchers are missing from the list. You don’t need it. Here are the launchers that you should not install on your new gaming laptop:
- Origin EA: EA games are available on Steam and the Xbox app. There’s no reason to install Origin unless you really want the library.
- Ubisoft Connect: Ubisoft has games spread all over the place. The latest titles are available on the Epic Games Store, and that’s all you need to know. Only download Connect if you intend to use Ubisoft’s monthly subscription service.
- Bethesda Launcher: You can find all Bethesda games on most major platforms. There is no reason to install the Bethesda Launcher.
- Rockstar Launcher: Don’t worry about downloading the Rockstar Launcher, it will take care of it for you. Rockstar will install this program so generously, no matter where you bought its games.
That makes eight game launchers, and there are even more depending on the games you want to play. Save yourself the headache and install a unified launcher like Playnite or Launchbox. I have a soft spot for Playnite due to the way it handles my unnecessarily large library, but those are two solid options.
Most “game booster” apps are nonsense, but Razer Cortex is not. It’s a robust app, but I recommend it for the Game Booster functionality. It’s a one-click solution that handles all of the best practices for your new gaming PC.
It does too many things to enumerate – allocate memory for your game instead of background apps, move to a higher power plan, and turn off power-saving processor features, all to do with it. to name a few. The best part is that Game Booster only starts when you launch a game, so you can go back to your normal settings when you’re done. In my testing, I got a 10% higher score in 3DMark Time Spy just by activating Game Booster.
Game save manager
Game saves aren’t a problem until they are. Once you lose a backup with hundreds of hours on it, it’s too late to get it back. Enter GameSave Manager, which allows you to save, restore, and move your game saves.
In addition to giving you an extra layer of protection, GameSave Manager makes it easy to find your saves. There is no standard location for your game saves, which can make finding them a headache. GameSave Manager solves this problem by automatically finding everything you need.
PC games break, and sometimes you won’t be able to close them. SuperF4 supercharges the Alt + F4 command to close any window that is behaving badly. Alt + F4 is supposed to close the active window, but Windows does not force the program to close. Instead, it just sends the request and lets the program decide. SuperF4 changes that.
With a shortcut – Ctrl + Alt + F4 in this case, you can force any program to close. It might seem small, but after restarting your PC because your gaming session paused several times, you will search for something like SuperF4.
AutoHotKey is a scripting language for Windows. Calling it a keyboard shortcut program is reductive. AutoHotKey has enough bandwidth to compete with full scripting languages, letting you do everything from automating mundane tasks to batch opening programs and websites. It’s also easy to use, at least when it comes to scripting languages.
You don’t have to program anything yourself. AutoHotKey has a long list of community scripts specifically for games. You want to experience hindsight in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive? There is a script for that. Tired of calling your way and picking a hero in League of Legends? There is also a script for that.
AutoHotKey isn’t necessary for everyone, but it’s a great tool to have on hand. This is especially true if you plan on repetitive and challenging games like MMORPGs or competitive shooter games. Keep in mind, however, that some scripts may get you banned in competitive contexts. Don’t be a cheater.
There are several utilities that allow you to check your system specifications and monitor your temperatures. I have a soft spot for HWiNFO because of the amount of information it provides. This is the monitoring tool used by NASA, which is telling given that HWiNFO is quite easy to use.
I mainly use it to monitor temperatures, fan speeds, and clock speeds, but HWiNFO can do a lot more. If there is any spec or sensor in your PC, HWiNFO will let you see it.
This is why I use it. There are similar programs like CPU-Z and HWMonitor – both of which I have used and enjoyed – but they are not as comprehensive as HWiNFO. These are great alternatives if you don’t want all of the information in HWiNFO, however.
CCleaner is not a gaming application, but it is essential for a new gaming laptop. Games create junk files and after uninstalling these files and registry keys usually remain. CCleaner scans your computer for old registry keys, dated caches, and junk files that hog space and system resources.
I haven’t really used CCleaner for the past few months. I started it before writing this article and found 361 unnecessary registry entries and 1.7 GB of junk files. Deleting everything also only took a few seconds. Wait a few months to run CCleaner and you will probably find a lot of files that do nothing on your PC.