Screen tearing occurs when display hardware shows information from multiple frames in a single screen draw. This typically happens when the frame rate of the video being played is not in sync with the monitor’s refresh rate. During gameplay, this can be particularly distracting and might impact a player’s performance.
Several workarounds exist to alleviate or potentially resolve this issue. While not all methods guarantee a complete fix, starting with the first suggestion and progressing through the list may improve the situation significantly.
However, it’s important to recognize that if screen tearing is a result of hardware limitations, specifically the monitor’s specifications, it may not be resolved without replacing the monitor with a model that supports technologies like NVIDIA’s G-Sync or AMD’s FreeSync, which can dynamically adjust the refresh rate to match the content’s frame rate.
1. Changing Resolution and Refresh Rate
Incorrect resolution or refresh rate is often the primary cause of screen tearing. Adjusting these settings can sometimes significantly reduce the problem, though it might not always provide a complete solution.
- Press Windows + S to launch the search bar. Enter ‘resolution’ in the dialogue box and open the displayed application.
- In Settings, scroll down and select ‘Advanced display settings‘.
- A new window will open detailing your display. Click on Display adapter properties for Display 1.
- Your hardware properties will be displayed. Click on ‘List All Modes‘ found under the ‘Adapter‘ tab.
- A list of resolutions will appear. Change them as needed for your hardware specifications, pressing ‘OK‘ after each change. Test each setting to see if it reduces screen tearing.
- Restart your computer after successfully changing the settings and check for persistent screen tearing.
2. Enabling / Disabling VSync
VSync, or Vertical Sync, is a common technology across many graphics systems, including those by NVIDIA and AMD, to help reduce screen tearing by synchronizing the frame rate with the monitor’s refresh rate. Screen tearing can occur when frame rates are not in sync with the display, whether too high or too low. To experiment with VSync settings, follow these steps:
Note: Some find that setting VSync to Adaptive can resolve the issue.
- Right-click on your Desktop and select NVIDIA Control Panel or the relevant control panel for your hardware.
- Go to 3D Settings > Manage 3D settings. Then click on the Global Settings tab on the right side of the screen and click on Vertical Sync.
- Adjust the setting to On or Off based on your requirements and observe if there’s an improvement.
- Apply the changes and exit. Assess the effect on screen tearing.
For AMD users, similar functionality can be managed using the Wait for Vertical Refresh setting. Consider adjusting this setting to Always on.
3. Disabling ‘Game-mode’ and Full-screen Optimizations
Windows’ ‘Game mode’ aims to optimize system performance for gameplay. This mode recognizes games and attempts to prioritize their performance, including features like game recording and screenshot capturing. Disabling these features may reduce screen tearing:
- Press Windows + S, enter ‘settings‘ in the dialogue box, and open the app.
- In Settings, click on Gaming.
- Turn off the option ‘Record game clips, screenshots, and broadcast using Game bar’ found under Game bar. Next, under Broadcasting, turn off ‘Record audio when I broadcast‘.
- Completely restart your computer and launch the affected game to see if screen tearing has been reduced.
If disabling ‘Game mode’ doesn’t work, try disabling full-screen optimizations, which can also affect screen tearing.
- Right-click on the game’s executable file and select Properties.
- Under the Compatibility tab, tick the Disable fullscreen optimizations option.
- Apply the changes and restart your computer. Relaunch the game and check for screen tearing issues.
For games launched via Steam, adjusting launch options to include ‘-windowed -noborder‘ may help.
4. Checking Graphics Drivers
Outdated or improperly updated graphics drivers could cause screen tearing.
- Boot into safe mode and press Windows + R, type ‘devmgmt.msc‘ in the dialogue box, and hit Enter. In Device Manager, find your graphics hardware, right-click on it, and choose Uninstall device. Then, reboot your system.
- Typically, Windows reinstalls default drivers automatically. If it doesn’t, right-click on any empty space and select ‘Scan for hardware changes‘.
Next, check if the screen tearing persists. If so, try one of the following:
- Search for the latest driver for your hardware on the manufacturer’s official website and install it manually, or allow Windows to install the newest driver automatically by choosing to update the driver from the hardware’s context menu in the Device Manager.
- After driver installation, restart your computer to check if screen tearing has ceased.
5. Turning Off Frame Limit
The Frame Limit is an in-game feature allowing the restriction of the maximum number of frames output to the monitor. Although helpful for lower-spec hardware, it can lead to screen tearing. In your game or application, locate the settings and turn off the Frame Limit. Make sure to reboot your machine to apply the changes.
6. Disabling Smooth Scrolling
Smooth scrolling in Windows creates a seamless experience when navigating through content. Although usually beneficial, it has been known to cause screen tearing in some instances. To fix this, consider disabling the Smooth Scrolling feature and then restart your computer to test for improvements.
7. Using High-Performance Power Plan
Adequate power and priority rendered through the GPU is crucial for optimal gameplay. To enhance performance, switch to a more power-focused plan, such as “High Performance” or “Ultimate High Performance.” Laptop users should be wary of increased thermal output and battery usage with these settings. To change power plans:
- Press and hold the Windows key and press R to bring up the Run dialog.
- Type “powercfg.cpl” and press Enter.
- You should now see the Power Options window on your screen.
- Click “Show Additional Plans” and then choose “High Performance”.
- Restart your computer and verify if screen tearing still occurs.
8. Using Another Browser
Screen tearing within a browser suggests an issue with that specific browser rather than your entire system. Consider switching browsers to see if the problem is browser-specific or a broader issue. This step will help you narrow down the cause and address it accordingly.
In addition to the solutions above, try these additional steps based on your situation:
- Enabling Windows Aero Theme
- Setting appearance to ‘Best under 3D-settings‘
- Adjusting the game’s output FPS
- Experimenting with OpenSync and G-Sync settings