How to Play "Grand Theft Auto" Games on the Computer

By Elvis Michael

Updated September 22, 2017

You may use all game weapons with the left mouse button and switch items with the right button.
i mouse and keyboard image by PinkShot from

"Grand Theft Auto" (GTA) games are a series of action/adventure titles available for multiple platforms, including Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It typically features a fugitive performing a series of violent missions to redeem his status in the eyes of other criminals. While the console versions are generally light in options, playing it on a computer might require additional tweaks to satisfy your tastes.

Perform a full game installation. While installing any "Grand Theft Auto" game, select the option for a “Full Installation” rather than the “Typical” or “Minimum” setting, if applicable. Due to the wide range of performance among computers, run all game data from the hard drive to avoid possible lags. This will effectively help the game run more efficiently, because no data is retrieved from the game disc itself.

Use Windows “Compatibility Mode” if playing older GTA titles. Depending on your video card, certain settings may not properly register with these older titles. Right-click the game’s executable file, and select its “Properties” menu. Go to the “Compatibility” tab, and enable the option “Run This Program in Compatibility Mode For.” Select the operating system the game was primarily designed for. For example, if playing GTA 2, select “Windows 95” or “Windows 98” from the drop-down menu available. Press “OK” to apply all changes.

Launch the game, and adjust all graphical settings according to your computer’s performance. From the game’s main “Options” menu, toggle all graphical settings to accommodate your hardware configuration. If your video card is much older than the GTA game in question, disable common features such as shadows, high-quality textures and lightning effects. Moreover, set the in-game resolution to a standard 800x600 or 1024x768, because a higher quality might cause the game to perform poorly.

Use the standard keyboard and mouse inputs if you are an avid PC gamer. Console-based games often aid you by auto-locking on vital targets and characters. This is due to the gamepad’s precision as compared to the more reliable pointing abilities of a mouse. Thus, if you are comfortable with the standard computer input, take advantage of the manual precision management to play the game.

Reprogram the game’s movement keys to your liking from the main “Options” menu. "Grand Theft Auto" can use the “W, A, S, D” keyboard combination, which allows a more natural placement of the hands and fingers to control the game character. Ideally, control the main character using such keys while aiming all weapons with your mouse.

Use a game controller if you are not accustomed to standard computer-based gaming mechanics. Because keyboard and mice are the main form of input in computer games, you may feel uncomfortable playing "Grand Theft Auto" games. This is particularly noted if you generally favor console games over their PC counterparts. Connect the controller prior to launching the game to ensure proper detection and functionality.