Windows 11 could be bad news for gaming PCs — here’s why

image of gaming on windows 11 PC
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 might have a nasty sting in its tail for pre-built gaming PCs, as a new security feature could hobble gaming performance. 

That’s because PCs that come with Windows 11 are set to have Microsoft’s virtualization-based Security (VBS) function enabled, which can cause up to a 28% drop in game frame rates, according to PC Gamer’s testing. This all flies in the face of Windows 11’s potential to boost PC gaming. 

VBS is an enterprise-grade function that creates a secure region of system memory that’s isolated from the normal operating system. It effectively provides a safe virtual zone to run programs in that keeps them away from any vulnerabilities or malware that could affect the main OS. It’s an option in Windows 10 to allow companies to better lock down corporate PCs, but in Windows 11 it’ll be enabled by default. 

But virtualization takes up hardware resources, and according to PC Gamer that translates into a negative impact on game performance. The site found that while games like Far Cry New Dawn were barely affected, Horizon Zero Dawn took a 25% performance hit, Metro Exodus dropped by 24% and Shadow of the Tomb Raider took a 28% hit to frame rates. Furthermore, synthetic benchmarks in 3DMark Time Spy also took a 10% performance hit. 

Now this doesn't mean you shouldn’t upgrade your gaming PC to Windows 11, as VBS won’t be enabled when you upgrade from Windows 10. Nor is it applied when a clean install of Windows 11 is carried out. 

But it’s with pre-built PCs from OEMs, like HP or Dell, where we have some concern. These computer makers are likely to have VBS enabled by default and this comes with a potential gaming performance hit. There may be a way to disable VBD, but that might require some registry editing, which is something for more advanced users. 

Microsoft has yet to comment on VBS and there's no way to tell if this feature will affect future pre-built gaming PCs, or if OEMs will find a workaround. With Windows 11 coming October 5, time will tell, but we suggest people after a brand-new pre-built gaming PC proceed with a degree of caution here. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face. 

  • znon9934
    What about gaming laptops? Or laptops designed to be a work PC that you're using for gaming? Would those also automatically turn on VBS?