5 mistakes to avoid with your gaming laptop

arm reaching outside laptop aiming blowhorn at man
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Gaming laptops have been increasing in popularity for years now, and consumers spend precious time, energy, and money to acquire a laptop that works best for their needs. To give them the products they deserve, laptop manufacturers take crafting the perfect portable gaming machine very seriously. Plenty of research, budget, and time goes into the creation of a gaming laptop that balances power with portability and aesthetics.

But the work to ensure that you have the best gaming laptop for the perfect gaming experience doesn’t begin and end when you part with your hard-earned cash either. It’s vital that you do everything you can to maximize its performance in order to bring out the best in your machine. 

And in order to best accomplish that, there are several things that you should never do with your gaming laptop. By avoiding these five huge ‘don’ts’ and ‘nevers,’ you’ll be well on your way to having a gaming laptop that reaches its full potential.

a screenshot of the power and battery settings screen

(Image credit: Future)

1. Never settle for default settings

The moment you purchase your gaming laptop and plug it in, immediately change your performance and battery settings. Though it seems like a modest adjustment at best, leaving your settings at default is a great way to hamper your gaming machine’s performance, as they’re often meant to limit its power to conserve battery life. 

In Windows 11, you can adjust most of these settings through the Power & battery options. Ensure the mode is set to Performance and any sleep options are set to Never. Also, go to Display settings and crank up that refresh rate – you’ll thank me when those PC games are running butter smooth on your screen.

In addition, check if your graphics drivers are properly updated. It’s easy to assume that they’ll be up to date at boot up, but guaranteed you’ll need to install at least one new update to enhance performance. If you have an Nvidia GPU, download the GeForce Experience tool, and set up the update that way. If you’re using an AMD GPU instead, download the Radeon software from the Drivers + Download Center.

a screenshot of the Core isolation settings screen

(Image credit: Future)

2. Don’t enable this Windows security feature

Since Windows 11 first premiered in 2021, there were already complaints about the VBS (Virtualization Based Security) interfering with gameplay quality. But at least then, you could easily toggle off the feature and not worry about it slowing down your PC games. However, a recent discovery from our sister site Tom’s Hardware found that, after a recent OS update, the setting will toggle itself back on even if you previously had it turned off. This means that you could have been experiencing average drops in frame rate and performance at around 5%, with variations depending on the game of up to 10%.

While these may seem small, these performance drops occur even with an Nvidia RTX 4090, currently one of the best graphics cards on the market. And if you’re buying a gaming laptop that’s tricked out with such a powerful house of a graphics card, then chances are you don’t want to see any sort of drop in framerate or performance. 

If you need to turn off VBS, it’s surprisingly easy to do. First, search for Core Isolation and click it, then toggle the Memory Integrity option off, and restart your computer as prompted. To make sure it’s off, go to System Information, and check if ‘virtualization-based security’ is set to ’not enabled.’ 

Thanks to Microsoft's ham-fisted handling of the feature, you may need to repeat this process every time you update your PC. But I’ll make sure to go over exactly what went wrong with this Windows 11 update in far more detail in a future story.

a hand plugging in an AC adaptor into a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Never take it off the AC power

The number one rule for any gaming laptop is that, unless you are physically transporting it to another location, do not remove it from the AC power. Gaming laptops are meant to game with access to unlimited power; even if you max out the settings and enable Performance mode, having your rig on battery power will not only drain the most likely mediocre battery in a few hours, but it will also negatively affect performance because the laptop is too busy trying to keep itself alive to make sure that frame rate is always above 100.

It seems counterintuitive, but gaming laptops aren’t portable to enable gaming on battery power at all times. They’re portable to avoid being chained to whatever desk it was set up at first. The idea is that you can carry it to another location, like a friend’s house or an office, and then set it up again with minimal effort. So always keep that laptop plugged into an outlet.

To help this along, check on the Change advanced power settings in Control Panel, and make sure that the following options are set to Never for plugged-in: Turn off hard disk after, Turn off Display after, and Sleep after. This prevents your laptop from going into sleep mode if you leave it idle for too long, which would otherwise interrupt your session.

The Lenovo Legion 5i (2022) gaming laptop on a wooden desk.

(Image credit: Future)

4. Never block the ventilation ports

Just as important to performance as the best GPU is a solid ventilation system. If you have an older machine or one with poor thermals, you’ll find that overall performance will begin to suffer because your laptop has no reliable way to expunge all that extra heat accumulating in its components. So it’s absolutely essential that you research and examine your potential gaming laptop to see how many and where its vents are located.

Location is key, because you want a laptop that’s able to push out heat from places that won’t be easily obstructed. Good spots include the sides and back of your laptop, since those should be clear enough to constantly dissipate that heat. The bottom is another common location for vents due to that area tending to accumulate the most heat. However, if you block any of these areas, then the fans will have to work harder, which diverts power from gameplay performance. This means no putting items near any side or back vents, and no resting your laptop on a blanket or any cloth as that blocks bottom vents.


(Image credit: Future)

5. Don’t assume that overclocking will net the best performance

The general concept of overclocking a gaming PC or laptop is that by essentially pushing your GPU (or other components) to its limit, you can net higher performance levels from it, which should translate to better and smoother gameplay. 

However, there are many factors involved in overclocking including the method you choose, how well the GPU and CPU play together, and more. And this gen currently seems to be experiencing some interesting issues with bottlenecking, mainly because the RTX 4000-series GPUs are hampering the performance of the 13th-gen Core CPUs.

That said, sometimes the best option is to not overclock your gaming laptop, especially if it’s running an RTX 4090. First, because it’s simply not necessary. If you’ve been following all the advice in this list, then your laptop should be already gaming to the best of its ability. And second, there seem to be cases of even mild overclocking that negatively affects performance. For instance, the normally well-performing Lenovo Legion Pro 7i will experience a massive drop in frame rate if you touch a single option in the Lenovo software that falls under performance.

Of course, experiment with your gaming rig and see what works best for you. But don’t be afraid to leave those options alone if you notice a decrease in performance.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.