View Full Version : Building a Gaming PC Part 3: Useful Software

05-25-2016, 05:30 PM

We're going to work under the assumption that you have Windows installed in this scenario, but if that's not the case, you should probably go and get that sorted (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10). Assuming that, we want to share with you some software that we've found particularly useful over the years for various things.

Now, there are thousands of great software solutions out there for everything, including what we'll be talking about today and in the end it's all down to personal preference. You choose the software that benefits you and does what you need it to do, not everyone's needs are the same.

On this occasion we're going to stick to software related to gaming, keeping in touch with your friends and keeping an eye on your beloved rig

We'll try to keep things brief too and unless otherwise specified all of the software mentioned in this article is free.


We'll start with social applications which are often an important tool depending on the kind of games you're playing and of course if you're playing with friends or not. Which you should if you can... games are better played with friends ;)

Maybe you've met someone else where on the web that enjoys the same games as you and you want to talk to them outside of the game as much as you do in it. There are plenty of options.

Website (https://discordapp.com/)

Discord hasn't been around too long but it is making strides in becoming one of the most popular social solutions for gamers, and for good reason. Discord supports Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and can be used via any major web browser (Linux Support coming soon). The app supports text chat and VoIP with respectable audio quality and is backed by a sleek modern interface.

Discord is designed for simplicity and ease of use but don't let that fool you. Discord is a solid solution for anyone looking for quick to setup coms and has enough power to suit the needs of most users.

Similar Alternatives: Raidcall, Razer Comms


Website (http://www.mumble.info/)

Let's start by clarifying... Mumble needs to work in conjunction with a hosted server. These can be hosted on a local machine with relative ease or via one of dozens of server providers for a few cents per slot per month. The software and server client are free however.

If you're looking for a more advanced and tweakable solution for something a little more serious however, then Mumble is a great option for you. Mumble in an open-sourced service designed group VoIP, particularly when gaming and has been around for over a decade. It has been a reliable and cheap (Server can be hosted locally for free) go to for many communities or group of friends looking to expand their circle.

While it doesn't quite offer the ease of setup that Discord offers (not by a long shot), it's a more powerful and robust system that you can tailor to your needs. Mumble is designed for VoIP rather than text chat however and thus you can expect excellent audio quality, plentiful moderation options, and an advanced set of customization options.

Similar Alternatives: Teamspeak, GameVOX, Ventrillo


Website (https://www.skype.com/)

Skype is a video/voice/messenger communication service that has been around for many years and there's a high likelihood that you already know this. While it lacks the tools needed to work as a communication tool for communities or large groups it works perfectly well if you're just looking to talk to a handful of friends at a time or as a persistent solution to always have running.

Voice quality is often excellent, text chat functionality and management are far superior to both Mumble and Discord and adding new people can be done in a few clicks so it's easy to use quickly.

If you're looking for something that's a little more "Always On" then you can't really go wrong with Skype (If you're not already using it)

Recording & Streaming

Every now and then you might want to capture those perfect moments. That "WTF?" kill cam or maybe you're thinking about throwing a video or 2 on Youtube. You might be looking to do some streaming. The below software can help you out with that.


Website (http://www.geforce.co.uk/geforce-experience)
(Nvidia GTX 600 Series GPUs or later)

Straight from the folks at Nvidia the Geforce Experience client has a built in tool for capturing your screen and gameplay. Providing you're running a 600 series or later card you will be able to take advantage of what make this software so special. Instead of adding load to your CPU and GPU the encoding for your recordings is done using a separate on board processor on the Graphics card.

This results in very little performance impact when recording... a sought after trait when it comes to recording gameplay and trying to preserve those precious frames. End quality is also excellent, so you need not worry about churning out ugly videos. One of the other nice features is that you can actually record the last few minutes of gameplay with the press of a button. yup, you can record stuff that happened in the past... It's magic! (Not really)

GFE also allows you to stream to twitch via a simple login and it can also keep your drivers up to date and optimize your game settings.


Website (http://raptr.com/amd)

AMD Gaming Evolved (Powered by Raptr and Plays.tv) is similar to Nvidia's GeForce Experience but it is not restricted by your hardware. It can take advantage of hardware encoding in both AMD and Nvidia GPUs that support VCE and NVENC respectively. It also allows you to use the built in iGPU from Intel processors (Supporting HD 4000 Graphics or better) to encode your videos.

It shares many of the same features as GFE and is definitely a reliable go to for those with AMD cards looking for the best performance while recording.


Website (https://obsproject.com/)

Open Broadcaster Software or "OBS" is an open source program for recording videos and live streaming and while it's not quite as simple as the above it is an incredibly versatile bit of kit. It can be a little complicated to use out of the box for a new user but due to its popularity there is no shortage of help out there to get the most out of this great software.

In addition to being able to record and stream, OBS also supports multiple scenes and sources. A scene being what is recorded and a source being, well... a source. All the good stuff you're putting into your scene. This can range from multiple screens/videos, images, tickers, animations, windows... you name it.

Definitely one to consider if you like to tinker and want a lot of options at your disposal.

Similar Alternatives: XSplit


Website (https://gaming.msi.com/features/afterburner)

MSI Afterburner looks like a weird choice at first as it comes off as a GPU overclocking and monitoring tool... and it is, but it can also record gameplay and it does a damn good job at it.

It can be a little complicated to get setup just right and the menus are not outstandingly intuitive but once you wrap your head around everything you've got a reliable recording tool on your hands.

Afterburner also fits into our next category of software too as it sports both overclocking options and system monitoring, so let's move over to that shall we?


Pre-installed on Windows 10

For windows 10 users, Microsoft have included the Xbox App as part of the Windows 10 installation. Within the Xbox app you can find a function for "Game-DVR" which is what you'll want to use. You can enable or disable this feature as you please and with a simple key combination you can start recording gameplay and taking screenshots with minimal performance impact.

The Xbox App also supports historic recording via a buffer so that you can record gameplay that has happened a few minutes in the past.

Compatibility can sometime be an issue with the Xbox App, but when it works it's a fantastic option that's already at the fingertips of most Windows 10 users. It can be launched via the Xbox app or via pressing WIN + G.

System Monitoring

If you're one of those people who love to keep tabs on the performance of their machine then we've got a couple of options that will get you started.


Website (https://www.piriform.com/speccy)

Speccy is nothing remarkable and it's great for those who just want to keep an eye on their rig occasionally. It provides you with a complete list of the hardware in your machine in a neat, easy to navigate little package. It can also give you a handful of the key temperatures of your hardware so you can make sure nothing is going to set on fire.


Website (https://camwebapp.com/)

CAM comes to us from the folks over at NZXT with a fresh modern look and a host of useful options for the more advanced users or number crunchers looking to monitor their machine's performance over time.

Sporting a fully-fledged overlay giving you the low down on what's going on while you game you're not going to be short on information while you've got CAM running. All the while, CAM will be storing this information for later use and you can keep tabs on your performance via their cloud support.

It's worth a look for both those new to PC and any enthusiasts whom might not yet know of its existence.

Well, that's all from us for now. If you're looking for a tool to do something in particular, don't hesitate to let us or the community know. There's no doubt something that will meet your needs.

The Uplay Team

05-27-2016, 10:43 PM
Just saying thanks for this "Building a Gaming PC" series of articles! This one, part 3, was the most useful for me. Tips about at least 4-5 pieces of software I didn't know about. Gonna check some of them out. ;)

05-31-2016, 11:43 PM
the two programs you will ever need. for monitoring and gpu fan curves OC etc, but don't over clock your gpu unless you know exactly what your doing 9/10 you will never need to do it.
you lot are funny telling us stuff we already know. and most that begin ask their friends, or know someone who knows someone. I hope they don't take your advice. that build was funny couldn't even fit 140mm fans in that case, no static strap constant edits on uplay , it seem you forgot a load of stuff.
and who gives a crap about Xbox app bit of promo for the consoles. I thought yo were building a PC not selling a crappy console if games for windows was anything to go by well the less said the better.

You mean telling you stuff that YOU know... doesn't mean that everyone else does ;)

That build had 2 140mm fans, 2 120mm fans and 1 200mm up front... so not sure where that comment came from.

In regards to the Xbox app. When a half decent piece of software comes at you for free and can do a half decent job of something a lot of people (for some reason) pay for, you can't really complain.

It's not a great piece of software by any means but it does an ok job, it's free, built into Windows 10 so doesn't require any additional downloads/installs and it's easy to use. Heck... it does a lot of things better than some other software in terms of its interface and usability.

The beautiful thing about gaming on PC is the freedom to use all this stuff or whatever else we prefer, and in the end, some people are multi-platform gamers they might have an Xbox and then it offers them even more value... let them have it, let them enjoy it and let them reap the benefits on PC. We should be welcoming everyone to the (In my eyes) ultimate gaming platform, not shunning them away because of some petty little gripe against consoles... it kinda makes PC gamers look bad.

06-06-2016, 04:04 PM
Great work there Cain. Thou you might wanna add teamspeak in. It seems to be used more often compared to mumble due to the price point of the server rental. As for monitoring programs CPUZ is pretty good too as is nvidia systems monitor.

06-06-2016, 05:00 PM
the programs I linked are not only free they are both excellent at what they do, unlike some who cannot take criticism, well tuff.

EVGA Precision didn't make the list because MSI Afterburner does pretty much everything Precision does and more, and personally I think it's better at it.
Precision is fine and all, but unfortunately I can't include every piece of software out there :)

AIDA64 is not free (After 30 Days) which is also why it did not make the list. This particular article was focused on free software solutions that are and will remain free until otherwise changed by the developer. I did not wish to suggest "temporary" free solutions that won't work in a month unless you decide to fork out for them.

And consoles are crap and yet you fail to mention that the ps4 can also been streamed to the PC, I know as I also own a ps4. but only have exclusive only games as I play everything else on a pc, the graphical compromises and lack of power on the current consoles is laughable, they all look like DX10 games just. Mind you that's AMD for yo cheap n cheerful.

This article has nothing to do with PS4/PC Streaming and I'd prefer not to see console bashing in this thread.
Feel free to do it elsewhere where it's deemed appropriate though.

PC owners are not dumb plug and play gamers and you think we are.
Established PC gamers, perhaps not, but this isn't necessarily for established gamers. Was that not clear from the first 2 parts?

You seem to be confusing "dumb" with "inexperienced"... those are 2 very different things.
If there are so many console players coming to PC like you seem to think there are then perhaps they'll need a little advice to help them on their way, no? We all had to start somewhere after all :)

Whenever you open yourself to something new on PC whether it be Gaming, Art, Music, Videos, Programming and hundreds of other things... there are often many different resources you can tap into to broaden your horizons and improve your experience, and that's why this guide exists. It can sometimes be a little overwhelming with the amount of choices out there and if I can help a couple of those people discover something new for free and without risk then I'll be happy.

Like most established PC gamers they will do what many of us do. They will discover and try new alternatives, discover them from friends as you suggested and more. Like the PC, many who choose to use this platform are an always evolving group of users.

Next time your homework, and certainly don't want software or hardware that does half a job.

Feel free to mention what software and hardware is doing half a job. You will be helping everyone reading this thread to not make silly choices based on my mistakes.

Great work there Cain. Thou you might wanna add teamspeak in. It seems to be used more often compared to mumble due to the price point of the server rental. As for monitoring programs CPUZ is pretty good too as is nvidia systems monitor.

Teamspeak was on my original list but it was getting a bit lengthy so I tried trimming it down a touch and decided to remove it in favour of Mumble. It's a little more newbie friendly and TS isn't quite as easy to setup on a local machine given the "immediately available" documentation. If someone from that does decide to move towards server renting Mumble is also a bit cheaper. TS is definitely a great piece of kit to have though.

Perhaps I will add some "Honourable mentions" when I make some updates to the guide in future. Like the other 2 parts, it's a n iterative work and it will evolve as time goes on.

CPU-Z is a staple for many these days and it's an invaluable bit of kit.
Can't say I've ever used Nvidia System Monitor though. I was put off at the time by the whole 3D interface thing that I thought was a bit pointless and never went back to it. Might we worth taking another look though :P

06-08-2016, 08:59 PM
Please remove any and all quotes made by myself, in your post Cain. if you cannot take it don't dish it out, and now I object to you singling my post out in smaller bytes, in a bullying way then only remove my critique of yourself. who on earth do you think you are? I was incorrect your also an megalomaniac.. I will be making formal compliant.
good day

You're coming off awfully strong on a response to your criticism on a very helpful thread. Try re-reading your first (and second) post here and start counting the number of times you were being plain rude. Then, you get a very honest and, to be fair, lenient response to your rant and you feel mistreated. You're turning the world upside down my friend... criticism is not a one way street. It is you who is dishing out but can't take it in.

I never knew that I would come to the defense of Ubisoft or its employees one day but, here we are.

Your recommendations are also a bit off - EVGA Precision X is not always as compatible as MSI Afterburner, for example, and then there is the frequency of updates and changes that make Afterburner actually a lot more simple to use - and keep using. I would also guide a new user to Afterburner before I would give them Precision X. On top of that, there have been some skirmishes between EVGA and the creator of Rivatuner OSD (Unwinder) which these applications are partially based on. No such thing in relation to MSI Afterburner. Precision X has seen revisions that have also not been entirely stable - again, no such thing happened with Afterburner in the past few years. In the same vein, I can agree with a choice of Mumble over Teamspeak, much simpler.

AIDA is a paid application with a trial period and it also isn't extremely good at stresstesting a system - it has a rather 'light' benchmark/stress test procedure even if you check every box you can. IF you want hardware monitoring, the real application for free users is HWINFO. The only time I would install, stress and directly uninstall AIDA is when I build someone a new system - the stress test is good for a burn-in, that's about it. If you want to do stress tests, OCCT does a much better job for both CPU and GPU while providing much more relevant information, including charts for the whole bench run - hell you can even monitor vDroop with that.

TL: DR Let's be constructive and relevant...