When it comes to playing games on your computer, there are typically three options you have to choose from – windowed mode, full screen mode, or a sort of hybrid between the two – windowed or borderless fullscreen.
But did you know that depending on the options that you choose, the performance of the game will be different?
In this article, I’ll be covering whether or not windowed fullscreen mode affects FPS in any way, why different options behave differently, and when you should consider each option.
Let’s get into it!
Does Windowed Fullscreen Lower FPS?
With all else being equal, windowed fullscreen will offer slightly lower frames-per-second than running the game on fullscreen mode. However, the exact degradation in performance can vary depending on the game, and the resolution that it’s rendering it.
This largely has to do with the way that Windows and other similar operating systems allocate resources, and how your graphics driver operates for different applications.
That being said, there are several important benefits that windowed or borderless fullscreen can offer, which I’ll cover a little later on.
First, let’s look a bit further as to why fullscreen is preferable, especially while gaming!
Why Is Regular Fullscreen Mode Better?
Both your computer’s operating system as well as its graphic driver are quite complex, and one of its important jobs is resource management.
This means that your computer ensures that it allocates as much performance as possible to specific applications when they’re needed, but is still able to quickly switch to another application should your needs change. This ensure that movement between applications is as quick and smooth as possible.
When you run a game in fullscreen mode, it is given exclusive priority by Windows. This gives it full control over your monitor’s output, without needing to run it by any other software first.
When a game is windowed mode however – even if the window is taking up the entire screen, the process is different. Rather than having direct control, the application has to send information to Windows software that determines where on the screen the output is drawn. Although this process is very quick, it does lead to a slight degradation in performance, which can affect your overall FPS.
Additionally, windowed or borderless mode can result in slightly higher input lag as well, which can be very detrimental in competitive online gaming environments.
If you’re interested, tech YouTuber BitWit has put together benchmark data on fullscreen vs windowed mode,l which you can watch in the video below:
Overall, the difference between borderless windowed and fullscreen resulted in an average of a 2-3 FPS drop on the tested games.
Here’s When You Should Use Windowed, Or Windowed Fullscreen
Although the slightly lower FPS and the increased input lag may make windowed mode unappealing, there are some situations where you may want to use it.
While these situations may seem relatively niche, you’ll still want to read over them to see if they apply to you at all!
1. You Are Using Multiple Monitors
One of the reasons borderless fullscreen is used in the first place, is due to multiple monitors.
If you are on exclusive fullscreen mode, your mouse will be locked to the single monitor that you’re playing the game on.
If you are only running the game on one monitor however and you’re running a different application (such as an internet browser) on a separate monitor, leaving the game running in a windowed mode will allow you to pull your mouse over to the other monitor, for you to work on.
So, I encourage you to try out both borderless fullscreen as well as regular fullscreen mode if you have multiple monitors, to see which you like best!
2. You’ll Be Switching Back-And-Forth From Multiple Applications Frequently
You may notice that switching between applications is slightly faster when running the game in windowed mode, rather than exclusive fullscreen.
Again, when a game or application is in exclusive fullscreen mode, Windows will dedicate more system resources towards it. While this aids the application’s performance, it can mean that it’s slightly slower to switch out of it, even when using the Alt+Tab shortcut.
Personally, there are a lot of games that I play while listening to audiobooks or podcasts. During these sessions, I used to run the games in windowed mode, so I could quickly alt-tab out to write notes. While I now have a separate laptop for this, it was indeed faster to do it this way!
Typically, you can quickly switch between borderless and fullscreen modes in the game’s settings, so feel free to change this as needed.
Note: Some games are prone to issues when alt-tabbing out of them. In this case, running in windowed mode can help prevent these issues from occurring.
3. You’re Using A Screen Recorder That Doesn’t Work In Fullscreen Mode
Finally, some screen recording software will not work when the game is running in fullscreen mode.
While in exclusive fullscreen mode, the software may not be able to accurately capture frames that are being rendered. If this is the case, you will be required to run the game in windowed mode if you want any of the gameplay footage to be captured.
If you’re running software like this for the first time, be sure to take a test clip to know whether or not it’s recording properly – otherwise, you may end up disappointed later!
Typically speaking, you can expect a 2-3 fps reduction in most games while running them in windowed mode. Additionally, you may also experience increased input lag.
However, there are benefits to running windowed mode if you have multiple monitors, or switch to other applications while gaming frequently.
I hope that this article has answered your questions, and you have a better understanding on how these different modes affect performance.
If you have any other questions, please ask them below and I’ll respond as quickly as possible.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister