Borderless Windowed vs. Full-Screen: Gaming Performance?

Here’s how borderless windowed mode compared to full-screen mode affects your gaming performance:

Overall, gaming in full-screen mode will give you better performance than borderless windowed mode. 

However, full-screen mode comes with some downsides that you might not be willing to live with. 

In particular, accessing apps and functions outside of the active gaming window is much easier outside of full-screen mode.

So if you want to learn all about how borderless windowed mode compares to full-screen mode while gaming, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

Borderless Windowed vs. Full-Screen: Gaming Performance?

What is Windowed Mode? (Not Borderless)

Think of your computer’s web browser. 

Towards the top of it, you’ll have a bar with options to minimize, resize, and close the application.

That’s the border to the window. 

Games can have this too if they are set to windowed mode.

There are not a ton of reasons to play in windowed mode. 

If the game is very old and does not support high resolutions, windowed mode might look better than trying to stretch the game across your whole monitor.

Or if you’re just really opposed to having your game taking up all the space on your monitor, you’ll want to stick to windowed mode. 

Otherwise, borderless windowed mode offers the same performance level but a more immersive gaming experience, as there is no border to distract your vision.

What is Borderless Windowed Mode?

Borderless windowed mode is generally used as an alternative to full-screen mode. 

Basically, the game starts in windowed mode but cuts off the border to the game.

When sized to the resolution of your monitor, this gives the illusion that the game is in full-screen mode: the game takes up all the space on your monitor.

Your computer will use more resources in borderless windowed mode compared to full-screen mode. 

There are background processes and apps that continue to run that would otherwise be put on hold in full-screen mode.

The benefit to borderless windowed mode is that it lets you multitask more, allowing easier access to other programs you are using. 

I’ll go more into this later, so you can understand if this mode is right for you.

What is Full-Screen Mode?

When gaming in full-screen mode, your computer grants the game full control over your monitor. 

This has the potential to give performance boosts over windowed mode and borderless windowed mode. 

Again, the mode itself doesn’t directly change performance. 

Instead, full-screen mode (by default) gets more priority from Windows, and that allows Windows to optimize game performance a little bit.

Depending on your preferences, full-screen mode may be the way to go for you. 

If you enjoy being immersed in your game and don’t like distractions, full-screen mode will likely give you a better experience than any other mode.

Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft released Fullscreen Optimizations which help to make full screen better at multitasking. 

For many games, it might be equal to borderless windowed mode in this regard now.

What Does Gaming Performance Mean?

When gamers talk about performance, they mostly care about frames-per-second (FPS)

Higher FPS gives you a smoother gaming experience and allows you to see things and react to them faster.

Other than FPS, gamers also care about graphics quality. 

Graphics are how the game looks, the detail in objects and surroundings.

Graphics quality and FPS are inversely related. 

When you adjust the graphics quality to be better, the FPS will drop off a bit (in most cases).

Finding a good balance is important for you to have the best possible gaming experience. 

Usually, you’re going to want to go somewhere in the middle, a spot that allows the game to look good and run smoothly.

Which Gaming Mode is Right for You: Borderless Windowed or Full-Screen?

There is no all-encompassing best mode to choose from. 

If you absolutely must squeeze every little bit of performance out of a game then you’ll probably want to stick with full-screen mode because of the Windows optimizations mentioned earlier.

Otherwise, there are many valid reasons to choose borderless windowed mode. 

They could be as simple as because it’s what you like or as complicated as making other apps more accessible while you play. 

The major reason many gamers choose to stick with borderless windowed mode is the ease of “tabbing out”.

Pressing Alt + Tab allows you to switch windows and bring another application to the foreground of your screen. 

This means you can easily respond to messages or Google something about the game.

You can still do all this in full-screen mode, but the process will take longer and some games tend to crash if this is done at the wrong time.

Should You Choose Borderless Windowed or Full-Screen if You Have Multiple Monitors?

If you have a setup with two or more monitors, you’ll probably want to play your games in borderless windowed mode. 

If you play in full-screen mode then your mouse will be locked to the monitor you’re playing the game on unless you tab out of that game.

Borderless windowed mode will allow you to keep access to the other monitors so that you can continue to work on them while the game is running on your main monitor.

Should You Opt For Borderless Windowed or Full-Screen if You’re a Pro?

As mentioned before, full-screen mode generally gives the best performance. 

So if you feel like the extra FPS will improve your performance then, by all means, go with full-screen mode.

Many professional gamers also tinker with the graphics settings, usually reducing them, for added performance and visual clarity.

Full-screen mode also prevents you from accidentally clicking out of the game into a different window since it locks the mouse to the game. 

This makes sure you always have the game set to be the active window that receives input from the mouse and keyboard or controller.

Is the Performance Trade Between Bordered Windowed and Full-Screen Really That Big?

Every game will be affected differently by borderless windowed mode and full-screen mode. 

Some games are optimized better than others and are less prone to see significant performance changes between the two different modes.

Let’s talk about that optimization for a moment.

Game designers have to dictate how a game utilizes the hardware on your computer. 

Because of the vast differences in hardware configurations available, not two games are going to be optimized for the exact same computer build. 

So, you’ll find that some games play better on your setup and are less prone to performance changes when you swap screen modes. 

Other games aren’t as optimized, and you’ll notice a bigger difference.

The best way to find out if the performance boost of full-screen mode is worth losing out on the speedy multitasking of borderless windowed mode is to try them both out. 

Depending on the specific game you are playing and your computer’s hardware, you may not see much of a difference.

For less graphically intensive games you might have plenty of FPS to go around and might not notice a small loss due to borderless windowed mode.

Other games could have a night and day change, with full-screen mode drastically improving the gaming experience.

Just run a test between the two if you’re in doubt and go with what fits your preferences.

What are Windows Fullscreen Optimizations?

Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft developed a method of displaying full-screen mode games as borderless windows with improved performance. 

This was meant to preserve the performance boosts you see playing in full-screen mode while offering the benefits of borderless windowed mode.

Microsoft notes that they have data showing the majority of people using Fullscreen Optimizations see performance equal to that of traditional full-screen mode.

By default, Fullscreen Optimizations are enabled for games. 

That means you don’t have to worry about changing any settings to use it.

If you have already adopted Windows 11, Fullscreen Optimizations will still be available to you.

Problems With Windows Fullscreen Optimizations

Despite Microsoft’s insistence that their Fullscreen Optimizations work for most gamers, it is possible you will still see FPS drops compared to the old version of full-screen mode. 

Many gamers have even sought ways to disable the Fullscreen Optimizations to boost gaming performance.

If you notice increased input lag from your keystrokes or mouse movements in full-screen mode, it could be due to Fullscreen Optimizations not playing nice with your game.

Similarly, if your FPS seems to be lower than it should, you might want to try disabling Full-Screen Optimizations. 

It’s a multistep process, but it could make a big difference if you’re experiencing issues due to a bug with it.

What Other Ways can you Boost Gaming Performance? (3 Ways)

If you still want better performance after you’ve found the right gaming mode for you, there are a few things you can do.

I’ll go more into detail on them soon, but the three major things that are easy to do are:

  1. Close non-essential programs
  2. Adjust video settings
  3. Install all available updates

If none of these options get you to the performance level you want, you might need to consider upgrading your computer’s hardware. 

That could mean getting a new computer entirely, or just newer parts such as a video card or processor and motherboard pairing.

#1 Close Non-Essential Programs

Even when in full-screen mode, other programs can eat into your computer’s resources. 

This limits what is left available for your game to use.

The fewer resources your game can use, the slower it will run.

To ensure that your game runs the best it possibly can, close other applications you are not using. 

This could be web browsers, music players, or anything else that you are not likely to need while gaming.

You can use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Escape to open the task manager to view all the programs you have open. 

Clicking the “More details” arrow will allow you to see the exact percentage of CPU, Memory, and GPU different programs are using.

This can give you a good idea as to which programs may be worth closing for a performance gain. 

The programs that use a high percentage of any of these three resources may be worth closing.

#2 Adjust Video Settings

Every game has an array of video settings available to you to customize your experience. 

Some affect performance more than others.

Resolution is one of the major performance-impacting options. 

A higher resolution will give you a crisper picture at the cost of FPS.

Usually, it’s best for you to match the resolution of the game to that of your monitor. 

However, if your monitor has a particularly high resolution, like 2K or 4K, you might want to consider dropping it down to 1080p if you are really struggling to get your performance to an acceptable level.

As mentioned before, lowering the graphics quality will also improve the FPS of your game at the cost of reduced picture detail in-game.

#3 Install All Available Updates

Many updates offer performance improvements to games and your computer in general.

For starters, you’ll want to keep your operating system up to date. 

Windows 11 especially is constantly releasing performance-improving updates for gamers.

Beyond that, updating the graphics driver is also very important. 

If you have a graphics card, you’ll want to go to the manufacturer’s website to ensure you have the most up-to-date drivers.

Games developers also release updates for their games which could improve performance. 

If your game is not set to automatically update, be sure to periodically check for them yourself.

What’s the Difference Between Lag and Poor Performance?

When you experience lag, generally it is caused by an internet connection problem on an online game. 

That means that while your game might be running at a good speed, your computer might not be sending and receiving data from the game’s servers in a timely manner.

Lag can be very frustrating and cause your actions to be significantly delayed compared to other players. 

Most multiplayer games have a ping value that shows how many milliseconds it takes to communicate to the servers.

When your computer is running slowly, your FPS will drop. 

When it’s bad enough the game will seem very choppy regardless of whether you’re online or not.

Full-screen mode and borderless windowed mode won’t cause you to experience any additional network lag.

Sometimes there will be a minor increase in keystroke or mouse input lag in borderless windowed mode, but you might not even notice that.