PC gaming contains a rich and relatively open world of niche titles, monstrously powerful systems, and epic Steam digital sales. It can, also, be quite complex and inaccessible.

Shrugging off the simplicity of the console world, Windows-powered gaming PCs give you access to piles of tools, tweaks, and various storefronts for buying all of those yummy games.

Whether you're a complete newb or a seasoned vet, here are a few tips and tools that might help you get more out of your gaming PC purchases.

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1. Know your storefronts

If you're completely new to PC gaming, you might be wondering about the best places to actually buy PC games.

  • Amazon.com's PC store: Physical retail isn't as widely used for PC gaming as it used to be, with the rise of digital storefronts like Steam, but Amazon, naturally, still carries a selection of PC games for those who want to keep boxed versions.
  • Steam: You can't talk PC gaming without mentioning Steam. Valve's digital store has almost total dominance over the digital PC game distribution market, allowing users to sync settings and licenses across devices, complete with a huge, huge selection of games, new and old. You jus sign up for an account, pay with PayPal, make friends, create wishlists, and indulge in some insane seasonal sales. Steam is quite arguably the best place to buy games as a PC gamer.
  • GreenManGaming: GreenManGaming is another popular solution for purchasing PC titles that rocks some impressive deals of its own.
  • Origin: Origin is Electronic Arts' (EA) own digital distribution platform, allowing you to pick up PC versions of franchises like Battlefield, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and more.
  • Windows Store: Microsoft hosts a increasingly diverse selection of both casual touch games and core PC titles, including Halo Wars 2, Fallout Shelter, and Gears of War 4. Games purchased from the Windows Store tie into your Microsoft Account, too, granting access to Xbox Live achievements, and sometimes, Xbox Play Anywhere.

2. PC monitoring tools

Whether you're discussing your PC in a forum online or trying to troubleshoot an issue, knowing what's actually inside your PC is critical. That's why there are dozens of quality (and free) tools for this very issue.

  • Speccy is a lightweight tool that gives you quick information on everything inside your PC.
  • HWMonitor is another great app that gives you real-time information on voltage, heating, and the current load that's affecting your PC. It can be particularly useful for troubleshooting issues with overheating.

3. PC maintenance and optimization

PCs are a little like houses; without the proper care and attention, they can become cluttered, damaged and maybe even fall apart. Thankfully, there are piles of free tools to help keep your PC performing at its best.

  • CCleaner is a beloved program for clearing out junk files from your system. It can be a little too powerful at times, however, so make sure you review what options are checked before you hit that clean button.
  • IOBit Uninstaller helps you get rid of the remnants of uninstalled programs, plugins, and beyond, keeping your system cleaner, smoother, and happier.
  • GeForce Experience is a great tool for those who don't fancy tweaking the settings of each and every game. GeForce experience is a catch-all program for PCs using supported NVIDIA GPUs, and it contains a few neat tricks. First and foremost, it will automatically provide optimal visual settings based on your hardware for hundreds of games. Not all games are supported, but the list is growing. Additionally, it also allows you to quickly update and access new drivers, and even record, share and stream game clips.
  • AMD Gaming Evolved is similar to the GeForce Experience app, but is used for AMD-based PCs.

4. Capturing game footage

As noted above, you can use GeForce Experience and AMD Gaming Evolved to capture game footage, but there are also a few other tools worth considering.

  • DXTory is, as far as I know, is the lightest way to losslessly record both Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and Win32 (Steam) games and apps. It's incredibly easy to use, lightweight and provides visual feedback. Head over to my GPD Win review to see it in action.
  • XSplit is another great solution for recording and streaming games, but it is a little pricey.
  • OBS is an alternative to XSplit that is 100 percent free and open source, but it can be tricky to use in certain situations.
  • You can also use Windows 10's Game Bar by pressing Windows Key + G to record games and apps. Head here for more information.

5. Miscellaneous tips and tricks

  • If you don't already have a solid state drive (SSD) in your machine, consider picking one up to store games. SSDs are invariably faster than their hard disk drive (HDD) cousins, providing faster texture streaming, load times, and improved performance in general. If you can pick one up to install Windows itself on, too, that would be great. Here's a list of our picks for the best SSDs in 2017.
  • Clean your PC at regular intervals. If you're using a laptop, this could be a lot trickier, but most desktop PC towers are easy to get into these days, with simple screws and hinges for accessing your PC's innards. Head here for more info on how to clean your PC.
  • Consider buying gaming focused peripherals, including mice, keyboards, and a decent mouse mat.
  • Get acquainted with PC-focused gaming communities, such as the highly-sarcastic but often helpful PCMasterRace subreddit; the less sarcastic and also helpful PCGaming subreddit; and the GamingPC subreddit, all of which contain a lot of resources on building your own PC.

Share your tips

What tools, programs, and advice would you offer new PC gamers? Let us know below, or in our dedicated PC gaming forum.

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