How to Increase Gaming Performance on a MacBook Pro

By Todd Bowerman

There are both hardware and software options for tuning up your MacBook Pro.
i Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Mac gamers have traditionally gotten short shrift since most games are first developed for Windows, but new tools and an increased focus from game devs on the Mac platform have made the idea more viable than ever. If you’re experiencing slow performance gaming on your MacBook Pro, changing a few settings and making a hardware upgrade could dramatically improve the quality of your gaming experience. MacBooks aren’t as flexible as a desktop PC, but there’s still a certain degree of tweaking available to the gaming enthusiast.

Upgrade Your RAM

RAM is what controls your computer’s ability to focus on several simultaneous tasks. The higher your RAM, the better your performance when running multiple applications. RAM is also vital for video games, which rely on this special type of memory for core game engine functions. Modern games require a minimum of 2 to 4GB of RAM, with next-gen titles recommending up to 16GB. Unfortunately for Mac owners, RAM is the only hardware component that can be upgraded in a MacBook Pro as the CPU and GPU are permanently connected to the laptop’s motherboard.

Streamline the Gaming Environment

Every open application on your computer will pull performance away from your game sessions. You can achieve slight performance bonuses by disabling and exiting all non-game applications before you start your session. It’s also a good idea to perform a system update to ensure you’re running the latest version of OS X. Finally, disable your MacBook’s “Automatic Graphics Switching” option to prevent it from hampering your graphics performance for the sake of saving battery. Clearing out unwanted startup apps and uninstalling apps you don’t use can also improve performance.

Play With Your Settings

Improving game performance requires that you spend a bit of time tinkering with the game’s settings. You may not be able to run all games on the “High” or “Ultra” presets, but playing with individual options will allow you to set the perfect balance between graphic fidelity and performance. Disabling or lowering a game’s anti-aliasing setting, for instance, can result in a marked improvement in performance even if you leave all other settings at their defaults.

Run Games Through Boot Camp

Boot Camp is a built-in Mac functionality that enables you to reboot your Mac computer into the Windows operating system. It’s very handy for playing games that aren’t available on OS X, and some users have reported that running games in Boot Camp instead of in the native OS X environment results in a slight boost in performance. You will need to purchase a Windows license and complete the initial Boot Camp set up in order to enable this option on your MacBook.