Whether you’re a PC gaming veteran or a complete newbie, one of the most important questions you’ll find yourself asking is: “Can my computer run this game?” There are a ton of ways to answer this question, but also countless variables that can muddy up your real-world results, thanks to the endless intricacies of PC build variations and game optimization.
If you want to know how to tell if your computer can run a game you want to play, keep reading. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know in this article, and by the end, you’ll always be able to figure out whether or not a game will work on your system.
You can also check out our new system requirements section which covers minimum and recommended system requirements as well as our own recommended PC specs for popular PC games such as League of Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch, and Destiny 2.
Before You Start
Know Your Exact Specs
First up, you need to figure out what your specs are; you can’t know what games your PC can run otherwise. While some tools auto-detect these things for you, the most thorough and accurate methods require you to know your detailed system specs. Tools like Speccy can do this for you, but may not be as accurate for prebuilt PCs and certain GPUs.
In my case, Speccy works fine– don’t judge me for running in single-channel, one of my sticks went out– but if you can’t get a detailed reading of your Processor, RAM, and Graphics Card from it, you may need to do a little extra research.
As long as you’re using an AMD or Nvidia graphics chip, for instance, your driver software (GeForce Experience or Radeon Software) will be able to identify what graphics chip is inside your system. If you’re using Intel integrated graphics, just Google the name of your Intel CPU and you should be able to pull it up.
If you’re using a prebuilt desktop or laptop PC, you’ll want to find the exact model number so you can pull up detailed specs if any of the above solutions fail.
Once you’ve identified your exact system specs, either write them down or keep them in a Notepad file; after all, if you need to reference them in the future you won’t want to repeat all of this over again. Now, move on to our next step.
Have UserBenchmark On Standby
UserBenchmark will be an indispensable tool for comparing your own system’s power to “recommended” and “minimum” specs on a game’s page. Just as an example, let’s look at the Steam page for Devil May Cry 4 (and its minimum/recommended specs) to see if I can run this game.
All of the components listed here are a decade old, so you may have difficulty comparing your current system specs to these to find an expected level of performance. You’ll often find that system requirements pages will list GPUs and CPUs that are a few generations behind (note DMC4 recommends Windows Vista for optimal performance…), even when the game has just been released.
As for things like memory, this refers to how much RAM you have and is relatively straightforward. And to make sure you have enough space on your hard drive just open the File Explorer and click “This PC”. You’ll see your hard drives here.
Using UserBenchmark’s GPU comparison tool, I can compare my relatively-modern GTX 760 to the GeForce 8600GT listed on this page to find roughly what level of performance I can expect.
The moment of truth. Can my computer run it?
Looks like I can definitely play Devil May Cry 4.
Can I Run It: Our Guide
Manual Method: Check The Product Page
This method is touched upon above, but essentially you’ll want to find a game’s recommended specifications. If the game is on Steam, all you’ll need to do is search it and then bring up the product page. From there, you should be able to scroll down and find your results pretty easily under the “System Requirements” section.
If the game isn’t on Steam, you’ll need to do a little bit more work… instead, try Googling something like “game title’s system requirements”. For instance, a Google search of “Overwatch system requirements” brings me to this page from Blizzard!
If you want to save yourself a little bit of work, you can also try…
Tool Method: SystemRequirementsLab
SystemRequirementsLab is a tool that you can use to automatically determine if your PC can run a game or not. It’s a little bit more in-depth than using product pages– especially those that aren’t as specific as they should be– but won’t be as accurate as finding benchmarks or accounting for special scenarios where you can run a game despite not meeting its requirements; it’s kind of a stickler like that. (More on that later!)
After you run the tool once, it saves your system information as a cookie in your browser. As long as you don’t clear your browser data, you can keep coming back to SystemRequirementsLab and checking your compatibility with different games!
Best Method: Find Benchmarks That Match Your Setup!
The best method isn’t using any tool or product page, though.
The best method is finding benchmarks or videos of people running the game with your specs. If you own a GTX 760 like me, for instance, you can search for, say, “GTX 760 PUBG” and get a video like the one we’ve embedded below, showing a player running PUBG with that graphics card.
You can check out our own Youtube channel which we have just launched, we have some fantastic benchmarking videos for various PC builds we have recently been testing, including the latest Ryzen 3000 CPUs and the Radeon 5700 XT GPU which we tested in more than 15 games.
Check out our Youtube channel right here.
The above video is one of our most recent videos which shows us playing a whole host of the latest and greatest AAA games including PUBG, Fortnite, Dota 2 and many more. We’re testing the latest AMD Ryzen 3700X with the Radeon 5700XT GPU and 16GB DDR4 RAM.
You see, product pages aren’t always accurate. Sometimes they over-estimate system requirements, or sometimes (usually in the case of older titles that are still getting continuous updates, like Team Fortress 2) they underestimate them.
The only way you’re going to know for sure how well your system runs a game is if you run the game yourself. This is relatively easy with Free-to-Play titles, but if a game’s not F2P, then the next best way is to find an up-to-date video of someone with similar specs running that game in action, such as us!
Below Minimum Requirements?
Let’s say you’re below minimum requirements on the product page, or SystemRequirementsLab says so. The first thing you’ll want to do is some strategic Googling to see if that’s really the case.
However, what if you can’t find a matching benchmark or you still aren’t happy with the performance you’re seeing?
Well, you may still have other options. This is PC gaming, and the best part about playing on this platform is that the options are pretty much endless.
In the case of Valve games, like Team Fortress 2 and CS:GO, there are countless performance config files out there that you can use to push higher framerates.
Finally, if it’s only a single component and it’s not a massive performance difference, it usually won’t be a problem. Generally, the biggest concern will be the GPU, then the CPU, and possibly the amount of RAM you’re using.
Utilizing UserBenchmark, you can get a good idea for how large the gap between what you’re running and the recommended components are. However, if you’re still new to the scene, you should consider asking for advice before buying a game you might not be capable of running.
At the end of the day, though, there are going to be scenarios where you simply can’t run a game with a satisfying level of performance. More recently, some modern titles may outright refuse to run if you have less than 6GB of RAM in your system, though these are typically few and far between.
If you can’t run a game and you spent real money on it, we recommend getting a refund. Steam, UPlay, GOG, and Origin all offer full refunds in this scenario! Most brick-and-mortar retailers will offer this, too, but you’ll need to keep your receipt if you’re returning the game.
Demos and Trials
You can also run a demo of the game, but these have unfortunately become quite rare in modern PC gaming. (Steam also offers free trials of games, so if you’re interested but unsure, then just test.)
If a game you’re interested in does offer a demo, though, be smart and try it out before you buy it! Even with refunds in play, it can often take days to get your money back on a game that doesn’t work with your system.
And that’s just about everything!
We hope that this article helped you learn how to tell if your computer can run a game. If you have any other questions or concerns, comment below and let us know! We’ll do our best to help you.
If you’re interested in our PC builds, we also provide expected levels of performance in the most popular PC games in each of our build guides, with numbers for games like League of Legends, PUBG, Fortnite, Destiny 2, Overwatch and more!