Windows 11 for gamers: Should you expect a performance hit?

Windows 11 for gamers: Should you expect a performance hit?

Microsoft’s Windows 11 is now available and you can get it up and running on your PC by simply following a few easy steps. As detailed in our full review of Windows 11, there are a lot of improvements this time around that deserve your attention and we highly recommend upgrading your PCs to the new OS. But if you are a gamer, then you are probably in two minds whether to hit the update button. Well, I was too, especially after knowing about Microsoft’s implementation of Virtualization-based Security (VBS).

For the uninitiated, VBS uses hardware virtualization features to create and isolate a secure region of memory from the normal operating system. This secure portion of the memory can be used to host a number of security solutions, preventing them from any vulnerabilities in the main OS. Microsoft highlights the Hypervisor-Enforced Code Integrity (HVCI) as an example in its write-up about VBS.

Long story short, the implementation of VBS seems to be negatively affecting the gaming performance of machines running on Windows 11. UL Benchmarks confirmed the same through its findings in a press release. From what we know so far, it seems like VBS will not be enabled by default if you are upgrading from Windows 10. However, it seems to be an issue in some cases of clean installs. Most new machines from OEMs will also have it enabled by default, which means your new laptops and desktops will probably take a performance hit while gaming.

Before updating my primary gaming machine to Windows 11, I decided to do some testing to see if the performance is truly getting affected. And if yes, then by how much exactly? A lot of gamers in the community are curious to know the results for this particular scenario in which they are upgrading an existing Windows 10 system to the new OS.

Gaming Performance Delta

Here’s a quick look at the specifications of the system used for this test –

SpecificationTest Device
Processor11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H @ 2.30GHz base clock
ChipsetIntel HM570
RAM32GB DDR4
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop, 16GB GDDR6 VRAM
Storage2TB NVMe SSD
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 20H2 -> Windows 11 Home 21H2

The laptop’s operating mode was set to ‘Performance’ mode to ensure we are firing all cylinders and the fan’s speed was set to the max throughout the testing process. I also tried eliminating the external factors like maintaining an ambient temperature of 25°C, closing all the background applications (except the monitoring software), etc.

To measure the performance I ended up running a bunch of 3DMark tests and a few AAA titles with a built-in benchmarking program. Alright, time for the results now –

3DMark TestScore on Windows 10Score on Windows 11
Time Spy10,63710,813
Time Spy Extreme5,2785,303
Fire Strike22,41422,558

These results, even for an untrained eye, shouldn’t raise a red flag. The performance delta here is well within the margin of error. And I did not notice any major issues in the way both CPU and GPU were behaving while running the test. Quickly moving to the gaming test, we picked up a bunch of titles with an in-game benchmark to eliminate the human error of traversing through a different scene that may have a varying impact on the results. So, how did it go?

GameAvg FPS on Windows 10Avg FPS on Windows 11
Shadow Of Tomb Raider (1440p | RT Ultra settings)6159
Shadow Of Tomb Raider (1080p | RT Ultra settings)8385
Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (1080p | RT & DLSS Ultra settings)9394
Far Cry New Dawn (1440p | Ultra settings)8485
Far Cry New Dawn (1080p | Ultra settings)8793

As you can see, I was looking at a marginal difference in performance between the two runs. It helps that we tested games and programs that scale very well across different hardware, but it seems to be a promising result. There was nothing unusual about the individual components too, meaning there were no limiting factors affecting the performance from either the OS side or otherwise.

The difference in thermals is also not outside the margin of error, which means all components are performing as they would in an optimal condition.

A graph with grey background showing difference in temperature between two tests

A quick look at the GPU thermals shows that temperatures were around the 70°C mark while running the Far Cry New Dawn benchmark in both operating systems. Keep in mind that the ambient temperatures were kept in check for both tests. I saw similar results while monitoring Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition but the temperatures were on the higher side (upwards of 80°C) in both cases. But again, there are no red flags here either to show us how the performance is being crippled in one version of the OS than the other.

Is There A Performance Hit in Windows 11?

Based on our testing and the numbers we have shown in this piece, we weren’t able to measure any significant difference in the performance. Well, that’s not really surprising because, as mentioned earlier, VBS is not enabled by default while upgrading from Windows 10 or even with a manual installation of a fresh copy. Looking at our observations though, it is safe to safe that there is no difference in gaming performance or any compatibility issues due to the new OS. I haven’t tested a machine running Windows 11 with VBS enabled yet, so it’s too early to comment on that. Besides that, we can always wait for Microsoft to add their official word on the ongoing banter around VBS.

If you are still sitting on the update button wondering if it’s going to stop you from playing your favorite games, then there’s nothing to worry about. Of course, we will continue testing different applications to see if we end up hitting any major bumps along the way. That being said, I think Windows 11 has no more major issues or bugs than the ones we already know about, and it seems to be handling games well. I would love to know your thoughts and opinions on Windows 11 and drop a line about your gaming experience in Windows 11. Happy gaming!

About author

Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer

Karthik covers PC hardware for XDA Computing. When not at work, you will find him yelling at his monitors while playing video games.