There's nothing more frustrating than buying a new game and discovering it doesn't work. Here are three ways to remove some of the guesswork.

Check its Windows Experience Index score

The Windows Experience Index is a measure of how capable your computer is. To calculate it, Windows analyzes the hardware and software on your PC and then assigns it a score. The higher the number, the more likely your PC can handle games and other demanding programs.

When you buy a game, make sure the minimum score recommended by the publisher (typically printed on the box) is less than, or equal to, the Windows Experience Index for your computer. That's one way to ensure it will run smoothly.

To calculate your computer's Windows Experience Index score

  1. Open Performance Information and Tools by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type Performance Information and Tools, and then, in the list of results, click Performance Information and Tools.

  2. If your computer's Windows Experience Index hasn't been established, click Rate this computer. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

To learn more, see What is the Windows Experience Index?

Check its hardware requirements

Even if your computer's Windows Experience Index score is good enough for a particular title, it's possible that an individual piece of hardware—a video card, for example—on your PC isn't.

That's why it's also critical to study the minimum system requirements listed on the game packaging and confirm your computer meets or exceeds them. Few programs put a heavier demand on your computer than games. If your computer falls short, a game might run sluggishly—or not at all.

The components game publishers are typically most concerned with are:

  • Central processing unit (CPU): Make sure both the CPU speed and model meet the game requirements.

  • Random access memory (RAM): Many games now require at least one gigabyte of RAM.

  • Video card: Your video card must have a certain amount of memory and have a compatible chipset (publishers usually list the make and model of compatible cards). Cards must also typically support DirectX 9 or later.

  • Hard disk: Most games require a certain amount of free space.

Not sure about the make and model of your video card or other hardware specs? Not to worry. Windows has a built-in tool called the DirectX Diagnostic Tool that can provide these details.

To run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool

  • Open DirectX Diagnostic Tool by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, typing dxdiag in the search box, and then pressing Enter.

Note

  • If this is the first time you’ve used the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, you might be asked whether you want to check if your drivers are digitally signed. We recommend you click Yes to ensure that your drivers have been signed by a publisher that has verified their authenticity. For more information, see How can I decide which drivers are safe to install?

Look for "Games for Windows"

Titles that display "Games for Windows" on the box have been extensively tested by Microsoft and the game publisher to ensure they perform reliably and work on both 32- and 64-bit editions of Windows.

These games also support the Xbox 360 controller for Windows, widescreen displays, and more.

For more details, go to the Games for Windows website.

The Games for Windows website also offers a handy tool called the Game Advisor. Once installed, the software scans your computer to determine if a particular game will run. If your PC doesn't have the right hardware installed, the Game Advisor will let you know what to upgrade.

For information about games that come with Windows, see Learn about games in Windows 7.