7 Reasons Your Windows PC Is Stuttering (And How to Fix It)

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The Lenovo Slim 7i Pro X laptop playing a YouTube video
Cianna Garrison / How-To Geek
If your Windows computer is stuttering, you can fix it by tweaking in-game settings, disabling wallpaper slideshow and any unnecessary background services, updating drivers, upgrading your storage or RAM, and improving your PC’s cooling.

Modern computers are fast, really fast. So it can be quite annoying when your computer. Stutters. Constantly. Tracking down and fixing these stutters can be a real chore, but for some of the most common stutter causes there are fixes.

Audio Stutter, Video Stutter, and More

There are lots of different types of stutter that all manifest in different ways on your computer. The most impactful type of stutter is one that brings your entire computer briefly to a halt, but stutter is usually more granular than this.

For example, video stutter happens when the video freezes or skips frames. Audio stutter freezes sound, causes it to skip ahead, or loop the contents of the audio buffer a few times before moving on. Mouse stutter happens when your pointer freezes and skips when you try to move it. Even your keyboard can “stutter” when there’s a long delay between pressing a key and the computer responding.

In other words “stutter” refers to a diverse set of phenomena on your Windows PC and likewise have various causes and solutions. In this article, we’re going to cover some of the most common culprits and look at a few ways you can eliminate or reduce stutter.

Solutions to Stutter While Playing Games

If you’re playing a game like Elden Ring, Fallout, or Stray and it’s stuttering, the first thing you should do is set all of its settings (barring resolution) to their lowest settings. If the stuttering persists (and your computer exceeds the minimum requirements) it’s likely the problem isn’t related to the game in particular. So push the settings back up until the stutter returns and then back off those settings to something your system can handle.

A Video Game Settings Page

A common cause of DirectX 12 PC game stutter these days is shader compilation stutter. Unless the game has the option to pre-compile its shaders, there’s not much you can do other than complain to the developer or switch to the DirectX 11 version of the game if it has one.

Another neat solution is to turn game mode in Windows 11 and Windows 10 on or off, depending on which state has stutter and which doesn’t. We don’t know why game mode causes stutter in some cases, but luckily you only have one of two choices.

Finally, one common cause of stutter in video games is having an unlocked frame rate. This is where your PC tries to render as many frames as it can, and since video games are dynamic you end up with inconsistent frame delivery that’s perceived as stutter.

To fix this, you need to activate a frame limiter. There are a number of options, including activating VSync in the game’s menus, using the game’s own frame limiter slider if it has one, or using your GPU’s software utility to limit rendered frames. The perceived stutter should be gone by bringing the frame rate down to a level your computer can deliver smoothly and consistently.

Wallpaper Slideshow Is Enabled

Windows offers you the option of having a slideshow of pictures play as your wallpaper. Unfortunately, whenever the picture changes it seems to cause a brief system freeze, which manifests as a big stutter in whatever you’re doing, whether it’s playing a game or watching a video.

The good news is that you can eliminate this issue by either turning the wallpaper slideshow off or increasing the interval so that it happens less frequently. We recommend setting it to once a day if you must have the feature.

Simply right-click on the desktop and choose personalization or go to Start > Settings > Personalization > Background.

Windows 11 Wallpaper Slideshow menu

Here you can use the dropdown many to select an alternative to wallpaper slideshow, or with slideshow selected as your choice just the interval.

Background Software or Malware

Before we start looking at hardware issues, take some time to check if there aren’t background processes hogging all of your resources. Open Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and check if any programs are using large amount of CPU time, hard drive bandwidth, or RAM.

In particular, if you see processes in task manager that use lots of resources and don’t recognize them, it’s time to run a thorough malware scan using the malware tool of your choice. This might be at the root of your stutter issues.

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Bitdefender Internet Security
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Avira Free Security
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Malwarebytes Premium
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Bitdefender Mobile Security
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Bitdefender Mobile Security

Bad Drivers

Other common stutter culprits are bad or outdated drivers. Drivers for what? Everything! GPU drivers are a main candidate for gaming or anything graphically demanding, but sometimes it’s the driver for something mundane like your Wi-Fi adapter that’s making the rest of the system have hiccups. The process for updating drivers on Windows 10 and updating Windows 11 drivers is slightly different, so follow our guides for more details.

The solution, as you might have guessed, is to download and install the latest official drivers for your hardware and make sure Windows is updated while you’re at it. The stutters might just be an undiscovered “feature” that Microsoft still has to patch.

You’re Using a Mechanical Drive

This one is pretty simple. If you’re using a mechanical hard drive as your primary operating system and application drive you’re likely to get stutter in modern apps and games. The drive takes its time seeking data in its platters and then delivering them to you relatively slowly. Upgrade to an SSD for Windows and apps, and you’ll see a massive leap in responsiveness across the board.

The Best Internal SSDs of 2023

Samsung 870 EVO
Best Internal SSD Overall
Samsung 870 EVO

WD Blue SN550 NVMe Internal SSD
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Best Internal SSD for Gaming

Samsung 980 PRO SSD with Heatsink
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XPG SX8200 Pro
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Samsung 970 EVO Plus
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Samsung 970 EVO Plus

Not Enough RAM

When you don’t have enough RAM (Random Access Memory) for the app or apps you’re running, Windows is forced to shuffle data between RAM and your drives. Even if you have one of those snappy SSDs we were talking about, this is still a recipe for stutter and slowdown. So if you’re at 100% RAM usage and performance is tanking, it’s time to add more memory.

Thermal Throttling

Thermal throttling happens when a processor’s temperature reaches dangerous levels, and it cuts its speed below the minimum promised performance level. This is the penultimate step before the computer performs an emergency shutoff, but in most cases, things never go that far. What happens is the CPU or GPU throttles speeds, temperatures drop, speeds go up, throttling happens again, repeat.

This can lead to a stuttering experience and can be tricky to pin down. What you want to do is run a stress test like Prime 95 (for CPUs) or FurMark (for GPUs) and then monitor your CPU temperature or GPU temperature. If the temperature reaches the maximum limit specified for that processor by the manufacturer, you’re probably experiencing throttling.

To fix the issue:

  • Clean your PC.
  • Check that your cooling system and thermal paste are still in working order.
  • Upgrade your cooling.
  • Reverse any overclocking you may have in place.

If that still doesn’t resolve your throttling issues, it might be a manufacturing defect and you could be eligible for a warranty return.

RELATED: How to Make Your Laptop Run Less Hot

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