PC gaming is the best around, sure, but your PC is capable of so much more. Doing all of the more can be a bit daunting. As such I have gathered a pile of useful programs that all PC gamers will want to know about. They are listed in no particular order so 10 is not an indication of being the worst and 1 is not necessarily the best.
If you have a high end system monitoring it can be a sort of obsession. It can be crucial to know what you CPU usage and temperatures are. The GPU is also an important component to monitor, particularly when overclocking.
There are lots of programs that help with this but none are as flexible and customizable as Rainmeter. There are tons of different skins and modules that look great and add some really cool features. Some add news feeds or shortcuts while others might just add some really cool animated effects to your desktop.
Rainmeter is free to download and install. The skins are also free and can be found on a ton of sites. There is a bit of a learning curve to installing some of the more advanced stuff as it will read information from different programs. Reading the guides that are usually included should have you right as rain in no time.
9: Display fusion
Got more than one monitor? Display Fusion is for you. While many of the features are available from various other programs or windows itself, Display Fusion makes things easier. Particularly if you have 2k or 4k monitors or high refresh rate monitors.
Nvidia and AMD control panels allow you to adjust the refresh rates and resolutions on monitor but both are hidden in menus. Display Fusion makes it easy with a list of options that the aforementioned control panels don’t even offer. It also allows you to set specific wallpapers or animated wallpapers to individual monitors.
8: Spybot Anti-Beacon
Windows is really bad at caring about your privacy. When you install Windows 10 you will be given a list of options that you can turn off. What it fails to mention is that it will often turn them right back on after each update.
Spybot Anti-Beacon disables these options. It also disables a host of other privacy infringing options you are never even made aware of. You could go through windows and do most of this yourself but why bother when Spybot Anti-Beacon is free? Best of all it can be set to automatically run at start-up and takes around a second to complete!
CPU-Z is a really useful program for those of us who can not always remember our exact system specs. Running CPU-Z will pull up all of your information in one program. It will tell you all about your motherboard, CPU, GPU, memory, Caches and more! It also has a few other nifty features.
You can stress test your CPU as well. You can even choose which CPU to reference against your CPU! Afterward you can validate your result and show it off on the CPUID (not CUPID) website! Just don’t get too depressed when you see how much better other people’s systems are!
6: Geforce Experience
Nvidia’s Geforce Experience is a mixed bag. On the one hand it does some questionable things like try optimize your games. It is kinda dumb and is best not trusted with this aspect. What it does right is in the recording and screenshot categories.
Recording gameplay and clips is easypeasy with Geforce Experience. Set the shortcut keys as you like and adjust the details like bitrate and resolution. The files can be pretty big once you start recording at 1440P and 4K .
Screenshots, in supported games, can be truly breathtaking thanks to Ansel. Rathering than simply capturing what is on screen, Ansel freezes everything in place and frees the camera so that it can be adjusted. It allows you to find the perfect angle for the perfect shot. You can also adjust several different options to adjust depth of field, color balance, and so on. It even allows for 360 shots!
Unfortunately you will need to have an Nvidia GPU to use Geforce Experience. Fortunately the list of supported GPUs goes all the way back to the GTX 750ti so anyone shopping for an Nvidia GPU can be fairly sure that they will be good to go. The AMD version, Relive, is less powerful and not as user friendly.
5: VLC Media Player
VLC solves a problem many people didn’t even know they had. It allows DVD playback on Windows 10. Out of the box Win10 does not have a player for DVD movies, VLC will do the job and even works with some Bluray!
VLC also has a few other advantages. For one it plays nearly any video format. There are some pretty obscure file extensions out there but chances are VLC will be the player that works. Got a .MKV file? No problem, VLC will play it.
Lastly VLC has a feature that is really obscure but also awesome. You can use VLC to play a video file as your desktop background. Download a clip of something you dig and BAM! Animated wallpaper.
Much like Rainmeter Speedfan is useful for system monitoring. Unlike Rainmeter it can also be used to break things on your system. Because of that it is recommended you use the first tab only, or better yet, use it to provide information to Rainmeter.
Speedfan can be very useful for those who know what they are doing but is not useless for those who are clueless. Just starting it up will be required for many Rainmeter skins to report things like CPU and GPU temperatures. It can also be used to monitor hard drives that have the S.M.A.R.T. feature.
3: MSI Afterburner
Like Speedfan, MSI Afterburner will be needed for some Rainmeter skins and widgets. Also like Speedfan you can use it to mess up your system, this time by overclocking your GPU. If you know how to OC, or want to learn how, this is a great way to do it. Just be sure to follow a guide for your GPU.
2: Google Chrome/Firefox
This one is pretty well known. What may not be as widely known are the tons of useful extensions for Chrome. Ad Block is a MUST as it will block ads (shocking I know) on YouTube. It works on any site but no where is it more useful than YouTube. There are also extensions that allow you to capture video and/or audio from sites that are not YouTube.
Chrome is not perfect. It has a tendency to eat memory like Pacman at a buffet. The fix is to not open 20+ tabs, but if you are like me that will be difficult to commit to. Until earlier this year it also had issues with playing Netflix videos at 1080P. It can also be wonky at times with a few sites, refusing to load them or having trouble running flash.
When Chrome is giving you trouble it is good to have a second option. Edge is always a terrible idea so Firefox it is. As a browser Firefox is more than capable. You can do most of the things on Firefox that you can do on Chrome, but since Chrome does such a great job with keeping track of everything and continuing on a different device it tends to get more love.
Streaming is a very popular way to share game play. Twitch is the biggest option out there at the moment and Geforce Experience is also capable in its own right. Both, however, are slower than Caffeine.
One big problem that streamers face is the delay between the actual game play and when the viewers see it. The result of high lag is that viewers comment on things long after they actually happened, making interaction with the player difficult. Caffeine is fast, reducing this problem to a mere second or two delay in most cases. Also since Caffeine is relatively new it is easier to get your stream noticed.
Those were 10 of my picks for some of the most useful programs for your PC. It is nowhere near being an exhaustive list and I am sure I left out some crucial programs. To that point let me know what I am missing in the comments!