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How to set up your Mac for games

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8 min read

Since the early days, Macs have never been associated with hardcore gaming, unlike their PC counterparts. Games for Mac were customarily more simple and none of the top games were even present on the platform for a long time. But it’s changed over the recent years. Today, with a pinch of optimization, you can create a great gaming setup on Mac. 

In this blog post, we give you step-by-step instructions on how to tweak your Mac’s settings and resources to make it a better gaming machine. 

Are Macs good for gaming? 

Top games require top-level setups. With Apple’s focus on beauty and simplicity of design, Macs have long been offered as turnkey solutions in few variations. That meant little wiggle room for all the customizations best Mac games required.

Meanwhile, the gaming industry skyrocketed, mainly on PCs, which made it easy for people to build powerful computers to take full advantage of all the latest games and then update those computers with even more processing power, RAM, and new video cards to keep up with the gaming evolution.

Macs eventually did catch up, or maybe games have reached a plateau of sorts, when most top computers’ power and graphics got good enough to run just about any new game, short of VR. Today, gaming on Mac is becoming increasingly more popular, and more developers are dedicating resources to producing new (as well as porting older) hit games for the operating system. Thus the iconic StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty was developed for both PC and Mac at the same time, while hugely popular Stardew Valley was ported to Mac at a later date. Steam games for Mac are also gaining popularity worldwide as the Steam platform continues to grow.

Here’s what you need for gaming on Mac

Some Macs are definitely better than others when it comes to gaming capabilities. If you’re choosing a new Mac or thinking about how to optimize your current Mac for gaming, here’s what you should definitely consider: 

  • GPU. A powerful graphics card is a must if you want to play games on Mac. To put it simply, GPU enables your Mac to show graphics, which is extremely important, especially with gaming graphics constantly evolving. 
  • CPU. Some games are more CPU-demanding than others, so do your best to invest in the highest amount of CPU possible. 
  • RAM. You need 8GB at the very least. Again, the more the better. 

Tip: Monitor GPU, CPU, and RAM usage on your Mac with iStat Menus — an advanced monitor that can reveal if your machine is ready to play.  

Is gaming on macOS Ventura better? 

Yes! With the release of macOS 13 Ventura in 2022, more and more gamers say a Mac can actually be a great gaming machine, among other things. This is due to the release of Metal 3, an advanced graphics framework that will enable a Mac to run high-end games with ease. Amazing news for Mac users and game devs! 

How to optimize Mac for gaming

When you start thinking how to play games on your Mac and about what you need to do to optimize your Mac so you can get maximum performance out of it, first of all, think about getting more space, freeing up memory, clearing up clutter, turning off unneeded features, and lowering your graphics card requirements. If none of those do the trick, you probably need another Mac, which we’ll also discuss.

Free up space for Mac games

Whether you’re getting Steam games for Mac or download one-off titles from the App Store, one thing is for sure — they take up lots of gigabytes on your hard drive. More than that, besides the actual size of the game, it’s also recommended that you keep at least 25 GB (and preferably more) of your hard drive free, as some of that space would be used while you play.

How do you free up so much space? The easiest method is to use CleanMyMac X. 

CleanMyMac X scans your drive for large and unneeded files and lets you free up gigabytes of space in minutes. If you do it through a Smart Scan, the app will also check your Mac for malware and find a few things you can optimize to speed up your Mac. Here’s how it works: 

  1. Open CleanMyMac X via Setapp 
  2. Click Smart Scan 
  3. Wait for the results of the scan, then click Run. 

setting up your mac for gamingWhat’s more, CleanMyMac X can help you uninstall apps that are the biggest storage hogs. You shouldn’t remove them manually because it could leave hundreds of associated files all over your hard drive. With CleanMyMac X, you can use an Uninstaller module and find everything that belongs to the application to delete it at once.

uninstall cmm apps

If you don’t have CleanMyMac X, you can try and free up drive space manually. Start by going through your Mac’s folders and see if there is something you truly haven’t used in a while. Check Movies, Music, and Pictures — those tend to be quite heavy. Even if you can’t delete something, consider moving it to the cloud.

Then go to the Applications folder and check if you can purge an app or two there. Anything you haven’t used in a year is probably better deleted and reinstalled than kept occupying space on your disk. And, of course, don’t forget to delete games you no longer play. 

This process may take a while, and in fact it’s quite hard to delete things off your drive completely, as various affiliated files are always clinging on and hiding in the most remote folders of your Mac. This is why we think investing into CleanMyMac X is a great idea. 

Keep an eye on your Mac’s performance

While having lots of free space will generally boost your Mac’s performance, it’s not the only contributing factor. For instance, RAM and CPU are just as important. And once you hear the overheating fans, you really need to take a look at how your processing power is being consumed.

Built into your Mac is a useful utility called Activity Monitor. Open it from your Applications folder to scroll through tabs like CPU, Memory (RAM), Energy, etc. Activity Monitor shows all the active tasks consuming your Mac’s resources and allows you to terminate those tasks right from the app as well.

But in most cases, CPU, RAM, and energy levels won’t give you a complete picture of what’s really happening with your computer. That’s where you need to use a top-tier utility like iStat Menus, which in addition to all the above shows air flow, network usage, frames per second, and much more. It also lives in your menu bar, making it easy to monitor your Mac continuously. 

istat for gaming mac

Improve gaming with secure VPN

ClearVPN is the best full-featured VPN app to install on your Mac in 2022 (and, very likely, the upcoming years too). What does it have to do with games? Well, if you are into online gaming, ClearVPN makes sure you can always count on low-ping server connection. 

Using innovative DynamicFlow technology, ClearVPN analyzes your current network status and then automatically connects you to the best idle server available. And that’s only a small part of what the app can do. Whether you want to watch movies unavailable in your region or boost Twitch streaming, ClearVPN has a shortcut for anything. Thanks to the best industry-standard encryption, your gaming (just as anything you do with ClearVPN) is 100% safe. 

vpn for gaming

Optimize your Mac

While ClearVPN will give you the best gaming experience your Mac can handle, you can make your Mac handle even more.

The best way to increase your Mac’s performance is to regularly (e.g. once a month) use high-quality software devised for that purpose. CleanMyMac X here is a leading program that boasts millions of users worldwide. Through various scans, from speed optimization to mail attachment removal, you can resolve problems exactly where they come up. Now it also has menu bar monitors that keep you in the know and help you tune up your Mac even faster. 

optimize your mac for gaming

So if you want to upgrade your Mac’s capabilities, CleanMyMac X will take care of the 95% optimization processes. To achieve the final 5%, try these small tweaks. 

If you don’t find Notification Center useful at all, you can turn it off and save the power your Mac uses to keep it running in the background. Unfortunately, macOS doesn’t give you a way to turn it off in the settings, so you need to use Terminal:

  1. In Terminal, enter launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.notificationcenterui.plist
  2. And then follow up with killall NotificationCenter
  3. Notification Center should now disappear and won’t relaunch with the next system restart

terminal mac

Likewise, you can disable the Dashboard utility if you don’t use it often:

  1. In Terminal, enter defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean YES
  2. Then restart the Dock with killall Dock

Mac terminal usage

If you think through every process running on your system, you can probably come up with more functions that you don’t need. However, Dashboard and Notification Center are probably the most common once people want to see gone.

Finally, when you’re playing a game, check if you can lower the strain on your graphics card in its settings. Frequently you can change the resolution, level of details, and shadows to increase processing speed. To get a little extra game booster for Mac, try playing a game in an app window rather than full screen.

Choose the best Mac for gaming

If you had the most powerful computer available, no game would be a problem. And truth be told, PCs are easier in the sense that you get a box to fill up with everything you need and reshuffle the parts with ease. When it comes to Macs, parts are difficult to change, and most of the time you have to decide on what you need right away.

So how do you not make a mistake? What is the best Mac for gaming?

The two most important Mac components to games are processor and graphics. While processing power is fairly straightforward — the more the better — graphics cards have always been somewhat tricky. 

Graphics cards can be discrete or integrated. The former are faster but independent from the processor. The latter are part of the system and able to use available processing power. Many Mac models have both integrated and discrete graphics cards, which is great because you can use the discrete graphics specifically for gaming. So that’s something to pay attention to. 

If you don’t know what graphics your Mac has, go to About This Mac > Overview > System Report and look for Graphics. 

All things considered, here are top three Mac models we recommend to gamers in 2022: 

  1. Second-generation 16-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
  2. 14-inch MacBook Pro (2021)
  3. 21.5-inch Mac. 

Laptops of 13 inches and smaller are significantly less powerful and thus not recommended for serious gaming on Mac. And if you choose a 16-inch MacBook Pro, keep in mind that games for Mac are the greediest when it comes to energy consumption.

You can try all sorts of manual hacks to increase your battery life, from dimming your screen to quitting apps to turning off WiFi. But for a seamless way to make your battery last you up to 20% longer on every charge, use an automatic app like Endurance, which takes advantage of all ways to prolong your gaming on Mac and balances battery life and CPU at the same time.

endurance mac

Try the ultimate Mac optimization toolkit for free

Following recommendations above will ensure that your computer is 100% prepared to face the best Mac games out there. Sure, you can perform a few tweaks manually, but nothing will compare to using specialized software to get your Mac to its top shape! 

CleanMyMac X, iStat Menus, Endurance, and ClearVPN are all amazing tools to enhance your Mac’s capabilities. The best thing is you don’t have to buy them separately if you have a Setapp subscription! Setapp is an app subscription service for macOS and iOS, with 240+ tools designed to elevate your everyday experience. The whole pack is free for 7 days, then $9.99 per month. Get ready to buy all those Mac games! 

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