When building a gaming rig, most people shell out a lot of money on all the hardware. Monitors, GPUs, RAM cards, cooling systems, keyboards—you name it. However, most people don’t spend too much time thinking about what OS to use for gaming. Since all time and effort is spent picking out the hardware, they forget the ever-important software.
In general, Windows 10 is the best OS for gaming. Gaming is a massive market for Microsoft so their Windows platform has been designed to specifically handle games and gaming. Considering that Windows has a ton of PC titles and Microsoft owns Xbox, it’s no surprise that Windows is designed with gaming applications in mind.
Windows 10 is also the best choice considering that Microsoft has started ending support for older OS versions like XP and Vista (and also the huge flop that was Windows 8).
Windows 10 is the best OS for gaming, as Linux has compatibility issues with many modern games and Mac OSX devices lack the computing power to run demanding titles. That being said, there are several versions of Windows 10, each designed for specific purposes. The versions are Windows 10 Pro, Home, and Enterprise. We are going to cover these OS versions and figure out which is the best version of windows 10 for gaming.
PC Specs For Gaming
First, though, we need to talk about required PC hardware specs for gaming. Your choice of OS is very important for gaming but it will be useless if your hardware cannot keep up with computing demands.
When it comes to gaming, desktop rigs are usually the better choice. There are a lot of really powerful gaming laptops out there, but they tend to be very expensive (~$2,000) and you usually cannot customize them too much, such as replacing the CPU, GPU< or other components (some gaming laptops allow you to change components).
Desktops, on the other hand, are usually more powerful and generally cost less as you can buy the parts separately and put together the PC yourself. Desktops also are tougher and less prone to breaking as you are not moving them around too much. So if you are going for a solid gaming rig, we recommend building a desktop.
The most important pieces of hardware you need are:
- Hard Drive
Desktops have a bunch of other components like ethernet ports, sound cards, and USB ports, but these 4 hardware pieces are the most important for gaming.
The processor (CPU) is basically the brain of your computer and handles all of the various calculations and computations needed to run apps. The CPU takes instructional inputs, runs calculations, and then sends back outputs to the various peripherals. Games require a lot of computing power so a beefy processor is necessary to play.
RAM (random access memory) is temporary memory your computer uses to store data so it’s immediately accessible for manipulation. RAM is necessary for games because games have a ton of constantly changing variables that need to be kept track of. RAM is used for gaming because it’s much faster to get info from temporary RAM instead of communicating with the hard drive. Essentially, the more RAM you have, the more tasks your computer can handle at once, so games run smoother.
The GPU (graphical processing unit) is essentially a CPU that is dedicated specifically to processing visual images created by games. Modern games have extremely high-fidelity graphics. The GPU is what allows the crisp, defined 3D textures you see in modern games. GPUs have their own store of video RAM (called VRAM) that is dedicated specifically for images. A gaming PC needs to have a dedicated GPU with a lot of VRAM if you want to run the most recent titles.
The hard drive is the main memory unit that stores all the files on your computer. The hard drive is where the core files for the game are stored. Modern games are fairly large (~50GB) so you need a large hard drive. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are also a better choice than hard disk drives (HDDs) because they are faster and less prone to memory corruption. SSDs also reduce load times because the processor can access the stored data faster.
Now that we talked about the important hardware components, we can give you a list of recommended specs:
- CPU: 6-core processor
- RAM: >16 GB
- GPU: 2 GB VRAM for 1080p, >3 GB for >1080p
- Hard Drive: 500 GB minimum (SSD recommended)
6 core processors are fairly standard and should allow you to play whatever modern game you want. You can drop to a 4-core processor if you are tight on money, but a 4-core may have some trouble running newer games. Dual-core processors can run a lot of indie titles and older games but probably can’t handle any AAA title released post-2016.
Most modern games don’t require more than 16 GB of RAM but this may change soon as games get more advanced. Also, SSDs are recommended because they can drastically reduce loading times, even if they do not affect in-game performance. SSDs tend to be more expensive than HDDs and SSDs normally have a finite amount of overwrites they can perform. HDDs, in contrast, can be overwritten essentially indefinitely.
As far as GPUs go, the market is basically cornered by NVIDIA and AMD. NVIDIA has the best GPUs hands down but most of their product line is very expensive. AMD GPUs are not as powerful as NVIDIA and lack some of the unique architectural features that make NVIDIA stand out. But AMD has a lot of awesome budget options that will handle modern games just fine. We should mention that Playstation consoles exclusively use AMD processors, so AMD GPUs are capable of handling any current-gen title.
Windows 10 Versions Compared
Ok, now that we have all that technical hardware stuff out of the way, we can talk about specific versions of Windows 10 and how well they work for gaming.
We’ll come right out and say it here, then go more in-depth below: Windows 10 Home is the best version of windows 10 for gaming, period. Windows 10 Home has the perfect setup for gamers of any stripe and getting the Pro or Enterprise version won’t change your experience in any positive ways. The Pro and Enterprise versions have some nice extra functions and security features, but nothing that impacts gaming performance to a noticeable degree.
Now let’s compare the specific operating systems.
Before you buy though, make sure whether you need the 32-bit or 64-bit version. The exact differences are a bit technical, but the main point is that 64-bit systems can access more memory at once. Whereas 32-bit systems can access a total of 4GB of physical memory, 64-bit systems can access 18 quintillion GB of RAM. In other words, you will never in 1,000 years need more RAM than what a 64-bit system can access. Most modern computers are 64-bit machines so you’ll need the 64-bit version of Windows.
Keep in mind that 64-bit systems can run 32-bit programs, though it’s recommended to use the 64-bit version on a 64-bit system. 32-bit systems can run 64-bit programs by using virtualization, but performance is likely to suffer due to lower RAM access.
If you’re not sure which kind of system you have, you can check by clicking on the start button on your computer and selecting the System option from the Settings menu. If the screen says you have a x64-based processor, then you need the 64-bit system. If it says you have a x86-based processor, then you need the 32-bit system (yes, it says x86 instead of x32; it’s weird, we know).
Windows 10 Home For Gaming
Windows 10 Home is the basic OS version made for consumer use. Retail versions of Windows 10 Home start at $119, but you can get an OEM key with a hardware purchase for $109. Aside from its gaming features, Home comes with a bunch of usability features, including the return of the Start menu button that was axed in Windows 8, for some reason.
The Home version also a new virtual desktop application that lets you access your desktop from any compatible computing device. This feature is not too useful for gaming, but you can create an infinite amount of virtual desktops for everyday use. This is a useful feature if you like to browse the web or watch videos while gaming.
Those are the basic features, now for the gaming-specific features.
Game Bar And Game Mode
The single best feature Windows 10 has for gaming is the ability to sync your entire Windows ecosystem on your PC. Chief among these is the ability to manage Xbox Live accounts right from the taskbar. Also, if you own an Xbox One, you can play your games directly to any PC on the same local network.
Windows 10 Home has the Game Bar, a neat application that lets you manage gaming functions. The game bar lets you stream video/audio and take recordings/screenshots. You can also check on your CPU and RAM performance. The Game Bar is also fully customizable so you can tinker with the settings to find something you like. The Game Bar features will appeal to gamers who like sharing with the larger community.
Windows 10 Home also has the Game Mode which boosts performance and lets you stream video from PC to mixer without having to download any extra software. Game Mode minimizes computational processes that interfere with gaming applications. Most users claim Game Mode helps performance, but there is a dedicated anti-Game Mode demographic of gamers. The main reason why is that there are some games that just do not play well with Game Mode, whether it’s because they are too large or if they are just built that way.
The one drawback of the Game Bar and Game Mode is that they cannot be used for a lot of games while playing in full-screen mode. Honestly, this is a pretty big oversight as every time you want to check the game bar you have to minimize the full screen or switch to windowed mode, which can get really annoying, really quickly. Let’s hope they change this feature in future versions of the software.
No discussion about OSs would be complete without talking about graphics capabilities. Graphics are not so much the purview of the OS, but the GPU and VRAM, however, the OS does set the maximum video display possible. Windows 10 Home supports the highest resolution possible on monitors, which is normally 4K (though some 8K monitors have dropped in recent years). No matter which game you are playing, Windows 10 Home will be able to display it in at least HD (1080 x 1920), unless the game itself does not have native HD resolution.
Most gaming devices don’t use Windows OS so the graphical capability is sort of a separate issue. In fact, Xbox is the only consumer console that uses Windows architecture. PS4 and the Nintendo Switch have completely different OSs with distinct architectures.
One other useful feature of Windows Home 10 is the ability to delay system updates. System updates can make the OS run more efficiently, but it runs the risk of messing up and parameters specifically set for games. Auto-updates can automatically overwrite saved game settings so you have to set them manually again. Updates can throw a wrench in your gaming schedule, especially if you make money off streaming or uploading commentary videos.
One issue with OS updates is compatibility. Sometimes, OS updates can lock you out of older games, especially older games that don’t receive support anymore. There are always compatibility risks with updates, but thankfully the Windows dev team is pretty conscious about making sure everything works right. Sites like GoG also do the heavy lifting and update classic titles to work with newer operating systems.
Windows 10 Pro For Gaming
Windows 10 Pro is a Windows OS more designed for professional use. Windows 10 Pro comes with most of the same base features of Windows 10 Home, such as the battery save, game bar, game mode, and graphics capabilities. However, Windows 10 Pro has a lot more security features, more virtual machine capabilities, and can support a higher max RAM. Retail versions of Windows 10 Pro start at $199 but you can buy an OEM key with a hardware purchase for $149. That’s about $40 extra you can put to other hardware components.
If you find differences between the two versions while playing games, the most likely culprit is your hardware configuration, not the OS itself.
That being said, Windows 10 Pro has some features that gamers can appreciate, even if they are not directly related to gaming. The Pro version allows for more powerful virtual desktops and lets you access your PC from any other compatible device on the same network. Windows 10 Pro also has “Bitlocker”, a disk encryption application that lets you encrypt specific files rather than doing all-or-nothing encryption.
Windows 10 Pro includes a neat “sandbox” feature which basically lets you create an isolated pocket where you can run and test programs before installing them on the whole system. This feature is useful when you are not sure if downloaded software is legit or has harmful effects. Windows Pro 10 has the “Hyper-V” system for running virtual machines. This feature is not very useful for gaming, but it can be extremely useful if you run a lot of virtual machines on your desktop.
One last major difference between Windows 10 Home and Pro is memory limits. Windows 10 Home supports a maximum of 128GB of RAM. Pro supports a massive 2TB of RAM. Unfortunately, all of the extra RAM is not really useful for gaming but is extremely useful if you run a lot of virtual machines.
At the end of the day, the Home and Pro versions do not have too many differences relevant to their gaming potential. That being said, gamers are humans and use their computers for more than just playing games. If you also use your computer for professional work, then the Pro version can be a smart choice that gives you the best of both worlds.
Windows 10 Enterprise
Last on our list is Windows 10 Enterprise. As the name implies, Windows 10 Enterprise is designed for businesses that need management software solutions. One major difference between Enterprise and the other versions is that you can’t buy an OEM key for the software. Instead, you have to buy a volume licensing agreement. In that sense, Windows 10 Enterprise is generally not for public consumption.
Windows 10 Enterprise
Some unique features of Enterprise versions include more secure data protection, device-specific restrictions, provisioning packages that streamline setup on multiple systems, advanced biometric security features like fingerprint scans or facial scans, and the Azure Active Directory (ADD) that lets you access thousands of SaaS applications.
Otherwise, though, Enterprise has all of the features of the Home and Pro versions but also includes some useful applications for business activity. That means that running Enterprise versions will have no difference for your gaming experience, unless you are running all the extra features at once.
Also, given that Enterprise does not have a retail version, it is usually not a suitable choice for gaming due to price. That being said, if you really want the Enterprise version for all of its extra business features, then you can game on it just fine. Just keep in mind that you have to set the right permissions so users can play games on devices with Windows 10 Enterprise.
Summary & Bottom Line: Which Version Is the Best?
As we stated earlier, Windows 10 Home is the best version of windows 10 for gaming and will be the optimal choice for the vast majority of gamers. Windows 10 Home has some great features like the Game Bar, Game Mode, and streaming capabilities, along with the ability to run any modern game at max resolution settings. Windows 10 Pro can do anything that Home can do, but also comes with some extra security features.
Ultimately though, the additions to Pro will not make much of a difference to your gaming experience. Pro has some neat features that gamers can appreciate, like the ability to hide your activity from Windows and other professional features. So if you use your PC for both gaming and work, then the Pro version can be a good choice. Windows Enterprise, on the other hand, is generally reserved for businesses and is not considered suitable for recreational gaming.
When it comes to buying an OS for gaming, try to think of its uses beyond gaming. The fact of the matter is, no matter which version of Windows you buy, it will handle gaming extremely well. So the real decision-metric comes down to what other things the OS can do besides gaming. If you like to experiment with virtual machines, for example, then the Pro version may have some features you find useful.
No matter which version you choose, you should try to stick to the 64-bit version. The 64-bit version can run any modern game, and its full potential has not been tapped yet. Make sure you have the right hardware set up too. Windows is the best choice for gaming because Linux has minimal support and Mac OS X cannot handle the high graphical demands of modern titles. So really, your efforts should be focused on finding the right hardware setup to take advantage of your OS.