Nowadays, one doesn't need to be a Twitch streamer to rock a killer PC build. So then there's no sense to stop at the hardware level. In fact, there are a plethora of third-party apps out there to make navigation and maintenance a darn sight better than what vanilla Windows 10 offers out of the box.
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Today, let's take a look at 15 of the best apps to install for any gaming PC. These apps tackle a number of different things, but when installed in conjunction, they can transform a regular rig into a full-fledged entertainment tour de force!
Updated by Juliet Childers on December 17th, 2020: Protecting a PC from dangerous malware and viruses is important. But so is maintaining its overall health regarding things like storage space and performance monitoring. Of course, there are also just programs anyone who plays video games should have on their PC. Which programs do gamers need most on their PCs?
The days of Ventrilo and TeamSpeak are essentially long over. Even Skype is not nearly used as much for gaming as it once was. This might be due to many games developing their own chat systems, but the smart money bets on Discord. This likely includes anyone who has ever played Among Us.
Its diversity of features, ubiquity, and freemium model make it an obvious choice for many. Like Slack, it also allows for more organization within a single Discord. Users can also navigate from one Discord to another seamlessly using the sidebar on the mobile and desktop apps.
Investing in a super high-end keyboard isn't really necessary these days. Players can get an RGB keyboard with cherry keys in a variety of designs for less than $30 in some cases. However, many players are also switching to non-traditional keyboards out of necessity or desire.
This requires a program like KeyTweak that allows people to remap their keyboard layouts. The less than 500kb program doesn't currently have dev support, but it is compatible with Windows 10 PCs. Some alternatives include programs like Autohotkey or Sharpkeys for people who want a supported program.
13 SSD FRESH
While advanced Windows users can manually configure many of the options found in SSD Fresh, there's no denying how easy the program makes the entire process. SSD Fresh will detect and scan your SSD drives to determine whether they're running at peak efficiency. Chances are, they'll be in the red-line when you first start the program up.
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A series of personal optimization choices will cause the needle to inch closer to the green, which indicates that your SSD is running at peak efficiency. It allows you to turn off Windows features such as Hibernate, Indexing and kernel swapping in order to free up resources and keep your drive running like a Ferrari.
12 EQUALIZER APO
At first glance, this little program doesn't look like much, but it's actually one of the most robust audio equalizers available. It can act as a full-on replacement for a sound card's undoubtedly limited audio options.
Equalizer APO features a list of items that can be stacked vertically to customize the perfect sound environment. In addition to a 15-band, 31-band, and variable EQ, users can also stack a preamp, low and high pass filters, loudness correction, and VST plugins. Once configured, it will run silently in the background, eliminating the need to fuss with secondary audio apps.
Keeping any computer clean regarding files is almost as challenging as keeping Henry Cavill clean during The Witcher. And though there are many competitors, MacPaw's interface for CleanMyPC is one of the best. It's intuitive, user-friendly, and easy to understand.
With a few clicks, people can clean out the build-up of garbage files that accumulate in a system, set Autorun programs, and shred files and Recycle bin items so they can't be recovered. The only tricky thing is the Registry cleaner as this feature carries many inherent risks in today's technological ecosystem.
Itching to play Android-based games and apps on a PC? Then an emulator is the way to go and Bluestacks seems to be the platinum standard. This handy little program creates an Android environment within Windows as a self-contained bubble to play games in/on.
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Players will need to enable virtualization on their motherboard in order to fully take advantage of virtual machines like Bluestacks. This can vary depending on specific hardware in any given PC. Luckily, a quick Google search or thumbing through the MoBo manual can show people how to enter their BIOS and turn this feature on. Most will have it disabled by default.
9 DOSBOX GAME LAUNCHER
DOSBox isn't the most user-friendly program, but people can alleviate some of that burden by choosing an appropriate front-end. DOSBox Game Launcher is arguably the best of the bunch. Not only is it simple and straightforward, but it comes with a multitude of options for the perfect setup.
Adding new games can be done via a wizard system or manual function which allows people to scrape data from MobyGames. The launcher can even match particular profiles for each game. This prevents one from having to fiddle with the settings to achieve the right performance of each title. It may lack the flash of a front-end like Launchbox, but it's the best way to kick off old DOS games without any head-scratching.
This free app from Paddy Xu can be found in the Microsoft Store. It's one of those "never knew I needed it" kinds of programs that can make Windows navigation so much better. Essentially, Quick Look emulates the Mac OS-inspired Preview function triggered when someone highlights a folder or file and taps the space bar.
This particular version of Quick Look is far more powerful than the Mac equivalent. Features such as mouse wheel volume control and zoom functionality take it to the next level. It's a great way to quickly view photos, document content, movies, or folder data with a simple button press.
When gamers are not gaming, chances are that they're surfing the web. From trolls to DDOS attacks and black hat hackers, the digital landscape is fraught with peril. Adguard is one of those programs that seems suspect at first. But it is actually a great, non-invasive option to help guard a PC. The program runs silently in the background as a Windows system program that auto-tracks any open browser. It costs a few bucks, but it eliminates a massive amount of web-related headaches.
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Although Adguard is primarily an ad blocker, that's just scratching the surface. It can also be configured to block trackers which is great for those who want more privacy. It also helps with potential phishing and malware threats. Adguard is NOT an anti-virus or anti-malware program. But it does identify risky web pages and work to protect people from their schemes. Stealth Mode is where Adguard truly shines, letting people self-destruct third party cookies, block Flash and Java, and strip X-Client data from HTTP requests -- commonly used by things like Google Analytics.
There's a good chance people don't use their gaming PCs strictly for video games. Powerful rigs are capable, by default, of acting as complete all-in-one media solutions, as well. There's where Plex comes in.
Plex manages and maintains a collection of digital movies, TV shows, and other media under one easy-to-use interface. Simply install the client, point it towards the media collection, and allow Plex to auto-download metadata, pictures, and box art under one launcher.
Users can configure Plex to allow access to the collection remotely via a web browser. This allows for streaming content to a living room TV with full 1080p/4K and 5.1, 7.1, and Atmos support. Now if only Google Stadia could get their streaming business together.
This handy little tool makes organizing any gaming collection such a pleasure. It's widely regarded as one of the most robust gaming front-end programs out there. As such, it comes with a ton of premium-level options to choose from. The app costs $30 dollars with an annual fee of $15 dollars, but it's arguably worth the price of admission. There is also a lifetime license for $75.
Launchbox can automatically scrape metadata on a gaming collection and auto-download box art, logos, and even video previews in one fully customizable menu. It also comes packed with the alternative Big Box mode. This full-screen version of the program is designed for an arcade-style experience. Users can even add games from third-party launchers like Steam and Uplay to keep everything in one spot.
Mac users are already familiar with the kind of interface Winlaunch offers. But this particular app is leaps and bounds beyond the Apple rival. This extremely useful launcher eliminates the need to clutter a desktop with unsightly icons or navigate the Start menu.
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Winlaunch can be configured to pop up however a user prefers. One example is by just a tap of the middle mouse button. From there, users can add program executables and drive folders with a few clicks, assign custom icons, and rearrange tiles on the fly across multiple pages that can be scrolled via the mouse wheel. It's a convenient and tidy way to manage a library of apps and games.
3 OBS STUDIO
There are many programs out there that let people record games and audio. But OBS Studio might be one of the best free options available. It also has continuous updates that add new features and improvements.
It is pretty widely used, so tutorials on how to set it up abound. The file sizes are also not nearly as gargantuan as they can be on other similar programs like Fraps). For those who want to get into streaming or just want to record games, OBS Studio is the way to go.
More and more, there is a focus on protecting our eyeballs from blue light. Though Windows comes with a "nightlight" function, it doesn't account for brightness across different rooms and programs. f.lux aims to fix that by making a PC display adjust throughout the night and day.
This program is especially useful for gaming laptop users. Apparently, people can also control their smart lights with f.lux, too.
Some people will say that CCleaner is glorified malware or unnecessary usage of space. But, for many others, CCleaner offers a one-stop-shop to easily access programs, change start-up protocols, and remove old files.
The company has expanded its offerings to include recovery software, a defragger, and programs for Android and Mac products. Though it might not be essential, it can save lots of time if one is prone to installing then uninstalling lots of games or other programs.
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Read NextAbout The AuthorDerek Draven(130 Articles Published)
Derek started out writing about video games way back in the mid-90s. Since then, he's gone on to write for Cinemablend and GamePro Magazine, to name a few. Butter chicken is his fuel!MoreFrom Derek Draven