Do Gaming PCs Come With Windows?

There is much to consider when choosing the best gaming PC for you among the many options available. It is especially important to consider the operating system you get with a newly bought computer and whether you must install Windows yourself. 

Do You Have To Buy Windows For A New PC?

If you’re buying a pre-built PC from a manufacturer, it usually has an installed operating system. You can check what software a PC has in the product description on its product page.

The same goes for custom-built PCs if you order them from a professional. They typically install Windows, but as a customer, you have a say in what operating system you want and what version you’d prefer.

Most PCs have Windows pre-installed, whether they’re gaming PCs or not. Some models use Linux, but they are harder to come across.

And, of course, it goes without saying that Apple computers come with macOS, but Macs are not popular among gamers.

Though Microsoft released Windows 11 in 2021, you will likely encounter 10 on some older PC models. The upgrade to 11 from 10 is free, so this isn’t a problem.

However, if you’re buying the components for your PC separately to build it yourself, you will have to install an operating system manually.

You will also have to do this if you get a pre-built PC that doesn’t have Windows pre-installed, but this is a pretty rare occurrence.

In most cases, you won’t have to deal with installing Windows yourself. It is common practice for manufacturers and teams that build custom PCs to sell them with an installed operating system.

When Do You Have to Buy Windows?

Do gaming PCs come with Windows?

If you’re building it yourself, you have to buy Windows for a new PC. If you’re buying a pre-built PC, it will typically be installed and included in the cost, so you won’t have to purchase it separately.

When you buy a pre-built computer or laptop, the product page will tell you whether an operating system is installed and which one it is.

Multiple options may be available, and a PC with Windows pre-installed will cost more.

However, if you’re building your gaming PC from scratch, you’ll have to set up an operating system on your own.

You can either purchase a licensed version with an activation key or download free software from the official Microsoft website.

The free version of Windows can be used indefinitely, yet it will not offer you full functionality.

Most importantly, you won’t be able to install some of the important software updates, and your options for customization are limited.

One of the most irritating things for many is, perhaps, a watermark that is constantly on your screen reminding you to activate Windows.

While the free version has some restrictions, it works fine on most PCs and can help you out if purchasing a license key is beyond your current budget. You can upgrade to the full software version anytime. 

Still, buying Windows right away will ensure the operating system works without limitations and make you eligible for all major updates, so I would highly recommend acquiring the license key for your new PC.

Best Windows Version for Gaming

While using Windows is a no-brainer for gaming PCs, there is still a question of which version is best for gamers.

With Windows 11, Microsoft specified that they are focused on making the software even more convenient for gamers.

They made a big point about it in their marketing, which is why many users have considered upgrading to the latest version.

On paper, Windows 11 offers enhanced performance for gaming, but you will only see a significant improvement compared to 10 if your device is powerful enough.

The truth is that most PC gamers won’t notice a significant difference after improving to Windows 11, especially if you have an older PC.

If your PC is older than 4 years, it will likely not be supported by Windows 11.

However, Windows 11 does have noticeable improvements in all-around system performance.

And if you’re worried about bogging down your not-so-powerful computer, you can rest easy knowing that Windows 11 doesn’t slow down low-end PCs and will likely improve their speed.

Just don’t expect to see direct improvements in gaming performance.

But what are the Windows 11 features that Microsoft was so eager to market to gamers? Some will only shine if you have a powerful rig, but others will be handy regardless.

Best Windows 11 Features for Gaming


While DirectStorage is supported by Windows 10, it makes much more of a difference on 11. If you don’t know how DirectStorage works, here’s a brief explanation. 

The purpose of DirectStorage is to make games load faster. It achieves this by compressing the game files and shortening their path to the GPU.

For the best DirectStorage performance, an NVMe SSD is required. If your PC is equipped with one, you will experience incredibly fast loading, no matter how big and complex the game world is.

The technology, in fact, allows for even greater expansion of game worlds without bringing the players’ experience down due to technical issues.

Auto HDR

In terms of visual quality, Windows 11 is also a step forward. It allows you to enable Auto HDR, which automatically enhances the graphics in your games to create an even more spectacular and realistic image.

HDR, or Higher Dynamic Range imaging, is a step up from Standard Dynamic Range image, or SDR. HDR increases the dynamic range of the images your PC produces, allowing for better contrast.

HDR burdens the CPU and GPU, which affects the loading speed and can become a problem on computers with lower capability.

But if you have a powerful gaming PC and a screen that supports HDR visuals, the Auto HDR function can really improve your gaming experience.

This feature built into your operating system is an easy way to enhance your PC gaming experience.

If you’d like to try the feature out, here’s how to enable it:

  1. Go to the Start Menu.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Go to System.
  4. Select Display. If you have more than one monitor, choose the display you’d like to use HDR on.
  5. Enable Use HDR and choose More options.
  6. Enable Auto HDR.

3D Spatial Sound

3D Spatial Sound improves immersion by creating a 3D effect. You experience the sounds as if you’re actually in the game’s surroundings.

Needless to say, you will need decent speakers or headphones to achieve this effect. You won’t notice a difference with your typical earbuds.

This feature will let you get fully lost in the world you’re exploring and help you improve your play.

You will be able to navigate the surroundings better and respond to threats you encounter.

This is especially significant if you play competitive multiplayer games, where hearing your enemy’s footsteps can give away their location.

Here’s how to enable Spatial Sound:

  1. Go to the Start Menu.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Go to System.
  4. Select Sound and choose the device you are going to use.
  5. Scroll to Spatial Sound and choose Windows Sonic for Headphones.

Game Bar

Game Bar is an extremely handy tool that allows you to access widgets and apps outside the game without having to open them in a different tab.

It is essentially a way to minimize distractions while you play while still being able to do anything you need.

For instance, you can skip songs using the Game Bar, capture the screen, or check performance.

It can be accessed by pressing the Home and G buttons simultaneously or the Xbox button on your controller.

The game bar was already present in Windows 10 but improved in 11.

How To Upgrade to the Most Recent Windows Version

If you’re eager to try Windows 11 in your new gaming PC but it came with 10 pre-installed, here’s how to upgrade to the latest software version.

Changing your operating system might sound like a complex task, but the process is rather quick and straightforward.

Microsoft offers a free upgrade to all Windows 10 users, which is certainly great news. Here’s a step-by-step on how you can install the update:

  1. Go to the Start Menu.
  2. Choose Settings.
  3. Go to Update & Security.
  4. Select Windows Update.
  5. Click on Check for updates. The system will allow you to download and install Windows 11.

Note: Once you’ve updated to Windows 11, you will have 10 days to change your mind and return to Windows 10, otherwise a fresh installation will be the only way.

Take that time to see whether a new operating system improves your gaming experience and is convenient for you to use.

How To Install Windows Yourself

A USB flash drive is placed on a computer's keyboard.

Here’s a guide on manually installing Windows for those new to building your PC. Although it involves a few extra steps, it’s not that difficult.

1. Download an Installation Media Tool

First of all, you need to download the Windows version you’ll use. Needless to say, you’ll have to use a separate computer.

Make sure only to use the official Microsoft website. Files from other sources could carry viruses.

Don’t forget to specify which version you want. For Windows 11, for instance, use this page. Scroll to “Create Windows 11 Installation Media” and click “Download Now.”

2. Make a Bootable USB Drive

Next, you need a USB drive with 8 or more GB of space. If you already own one, make sure to back up all the currently stored files, as they will be erased from the drive.

Plug the USB drive in and start the downloaded file. Follow the instructions on the screen until you are asked to select which media to use.

Choose a USB flash drive and select the device you want to use from the list of currently plugged-in devices.

Wait for the process to be completed and click Finish.

3. Connect the Flash Drive to Your New PC

Connect the bootable flash drive to a USB port on your new gaming PC.

If the PC boots from the flash drive automatically, you’ll see instructions for installing Windows 11 on the screen. From here on, it’s pretty straightforward.

Choose the settings you want and select the hard drive where you want to install Windows. Usually, you’ll want to use an SSD for that.

If you boot the PC and it doesn’t do anything, or it goes to the BIOS screen, go to the next step.

4. Open the Boot Menu

You’ll have to access the boot menu if the PC doesn’t boot automatically from the flash drive.

You can do this by pressing a specific key while the PC is booting, usually F12, F11, or Delete. Once you’re in the boot menu, you’ll see the available sources to boot your PC.

Choose the bootable flash drive you just created.

If you can’t access the boot menu, go to the BIOS and change the boot order. This varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so you’ll want to check your user manual.