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Monday, 3 February 2014

Can I run DayZ standalone on this old PC?

Can I run DayZ standalone? What are the technical specifications for DayZ standalone? Can an old computer run DayZ standalone? Can a laptop run DayZ standalone?

I've had quite a lot of people ask me what computer is needed to run DayZ standalone. I made a video showing it running on quite an average PC and many people have commented asking if it will run on their computer. So I'm making this article to help people answer this question for themselves.

Before I start, I have to emphasise that DayZ does not run like other games. Most games these days heavily rely on the graphics card to do most of the work, but DayZ mostly uses the processor and gets very little benefit from the graphics card. It's been like this with all the ArmA games and DayZ standalone uses the game engine from Take on Helicopters - the Real Virtuality 3 engine - which is an updated version of the engine used in ArmA 2 and Operation Arrowhead. It's because of this that DayZ very much relies on the processor to do all the work. So if your processor isn't up to the job, you won't be able to run DayZ standalone well.

What processor do you need to run DayZ?

Well, you need one with at least two cores. The more cores the better. Bohemia specify an Intel Dual-Core 2.4 GHz or AMD Dual-Core Athlon 2.5 GHz. Bear in mind that these are minimum specs and will run the game at the lowest graphics settings. If you've got two cores, you need 2.4GHz of clock speed, if you've got four cores or more, then clock speed doesn't really matter.

Also remember that laptop CPUs tend to be a bit weaker than their desktop counterparts. Due to lack of space, laptops don't have big heatsinks and fans for their processors, so they need one that runs cooler and uses less power. So a dual core laptop CPU running at 2.4 GHz is going to be a little weaker than a desktop dual core CPU at the same clock speed.

In the video, I'm using an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 running at 3 GHz and it runs the game acceptably. You can use this tool from CPU Boss to compare any processor with that one. Halfway down the right side of the page, you can enter your CPU model and it'll show you a comparison. The main stat to look at is the one marked Performance (Benchmark performance using all cores) as that shows you the overall performance level of the CPU. If you've got better performance than the E8400, your processor is up to the task of running DayZ.

What processor do I have?

Surprisingly, a lot of people don't seem to know what CPU is in their PC. It's quite easy to find out by using the System information display in the Control Panel. 

If you don't know how to find and bring up this window, here's how to do it in Windows 7.

How much RAM do I need?

Bohemia say you need 2 GB as a minimum, but I really would recommend 4 GB. 2 GB will run it, but it leaves almost no slack. You need to close absolutely everything that is not essential to keeping your PC running and I would recommend a fresh boot beforehand just to maximise the amount of available memory. If Windows runs out of RAM, it will start using virtual memory - to make space in the RAM, Windows will copy some of its contents to the hard disk and copy it back again when it needs it. This can lead to serious thrashing of the hard disk and slow down the game. RAM is about a thousand times faster than a hard disk, so you really want to avoid any virtual memory activity when playing DayZ.

4 GB is a lot more suitable for running DayZ. Although the game will only use about 1.5 GB of RAM, Windows always needs some memory for background tasks and keeping the PC running. 4 GB is enough for all that with a bit left over.

Also, some built-in graphics don't have their own memory and use system RAM further cutting into the memory you need to run the game.

What graphics card do I need?

Oddly, it doesn't matter very much. I've tried a variety of graphics cards with DayZ and it barely uses any of them. DayZ does need a certain level of card because it uses features that aren't present on every card. Bohemia say you need an NVIDIA GeForce 8800GT or AMD Radeon HD 3830 or Intel HD Graphics 4000 with 512 MB VRAM. I have actually managed to get the game running on Intel HD graphics 3000, so Bohemia are being a little pessimistic.

It's very difficult to understand which graphics cards are more powerful than others, so I would suggest that you consult this list of relative performances:,3107-7.html

It doesn't list every graphics card and the results are approximate, but you'll be able to see roughly where your card stacks up. If your card falls below the minimum, realise that you probably will not be able to run DayZ. It barely uses the card, but it relies on certain features to be able to run. For instance, if you try to run it on Intel HD Graphics or Intel HD Graphics 2000, you'll get an error about the shader mode not being supported and the game will refuse to run. You can't negotiate your way past this - if it doesn't support the shader mode, it doesn't support the shader mode and the game cannot run at all.

Almost every game relies on the graphics card to do a lot of the work, but the DayZ standalone does not. It will barely use any of your graphics card's power as thigns stand at the moment.

What graphics card do I have?

Again, it's surprising how many people don't know what graphics card is in their PC. You can find out what it is by using the guide in this article:,2817,2406120,00.asp

What graphics settings should I use?

This is a subjective thing. Setting the right level of graphics is a trade-off between framerate and prettiness. The game will run at a higher framerate in open areas than it will in the middle of a big town like Cherno or Electro. Experiment with all the graphics settings in order to get the best level of performance for yourself. Here's a list of all the settings:

This is the main video settings window. Select Custom for overall quality and you'll be able to change all the settings individually.

The Rendering Resolution should always be set to 100%. DayZ allows you to change the resolution that 3D objects are rendered at. What this means is that it keeps the same screen resolution and renders objects at a lower resolution and scales them up. Depending on your graphics card, this can cause extra work for your computer and may make things even slower than if you use 100%. So keep this at 100% unless you have tried everything else - it will make your game look ugly and it probably won't help.

Tearing - click to view full size
VSync is much misunderstood. What it does is synchronises the game's framerate to that of your monitor. A lot of people like to boast that their computer can run a game at 200fps or something like that. It's pretty pointless as almost all monitors can only display 60fps. So vsync just locks the framerate to match your monitor. If you let a game run higher or lower than the monitor's framerate, then you can get 'tearing' - this is where the graphics card is only halfway through drawing a frame before it's time to draw the next one. See the image above for an example.

So vsync is a good thing? Mostly, yes. But vsync needs your computer to do a little extra work to check when the time is right to draw the next frame, so vsync will slow down your computer a little. And if you're getting less than 60fps, it not only won't help, but it can drop your framerate a little lower. So turn it off unless you're running way above 60fps.

The Quality settings are mostly obvious. The settings for Objects, Terrain and Shadows do just what you'd think and control the level of detail used in the polygon meshes for those things; the lower they are, the faster the game runs. The setting for Clouds is worth looking at as they do seem to have a disproportionate effect on framerate. In the tests I've run, it seems that clouds affect lighting, so turning them off can lead to surprising jumps in framerate.

The Textures settings affect how things look in the game. Video Memory should be set to Auto by default and you should keep it at that. It's possible that DayZ will not correctly measure your graphics card memory, but I haven't seen it get it wrong yet. So don't touch this.

Texture Detail and Texture Filtering are settings that can have a profound effect on how the game runs. Some graphics cards have the ability to handle texture filtering themselves and some don't. Those that don't are passing that work to the processor and, with DayZ already getting the processor to do just about everything, this can really slow down your game. Set both of these as low as you can put up with and revise them upwards until it starts to affect your framerate.

The Rendering settings affect how the game looks and how it runs. A lot of them are unnecessary. I recommend turning off postprocessing and rotation blur (motion blur) - they may look pretty, but they really disrupt your ability to see. A lot of the time, you're going to be identifying potential enemies from a couple of pixels, so anything that blurs these can lead to you missing a guy who's going to shoot you in the face. With HDR, antialiasing, etc it's mostly personal choice, but they all have an impact on framerate, so try turning them on and off and see what you're happy with.

How do I improve framerate?

The short answer is that you can't. Changing the settings will help but, if you're already running at the lowest settings, there's nothing you can do to improve things. Yeah, there are loads of videos on YouTube that claim to be able to provide miraculous boosts to performance if you just change a few settings in a confirguration file, but they're all bullshit. By mucking around with the config files (changing the number of rendered frames ahead, etc) you might at best be able to get an extra frame or two per second, but you'll get nothing like the performance boosts that the video creators claim. Those YouTubers are just making videos that will attract a lot of views in order to earn themselves advertising money. Notice that they don't reply to the hundreds of comments below their videos saying that nothing helped.

If you have more than one graphics card, I would suggest that you try disabling all but one. DayZ doesn't seem to like SLI or Crossfire very much and it seems to actually run slower with two cards than with one. This situation might be improved with future updates (Rocket has said that he'd like to use graphics cards a bit more) but right now it's worth trying to run on one card to see if it helps. Using some Nvidia 660 Ti cards in SLI, I found that they ran 50% slower than with just one card on its own.

Help! I still don't know if I can run the game

If you'd like to leave me a comment below, I'll do my best to reply to you. Please leave as much information as you can. At a minimum, I need to know what processor you have (and be specific - just saying "3GHz dual core" isn't much help), how much RAM you've got and what graphics card or built-in graphics chipset you have.

Please do try to go through the article to check if your graphics card and processor are up to running the game. I get up to a hundred emails a day about DayZ (I have an installation guide for the mod and many articles and videos about running the single player mods that my programming team put together), so I would prefer it if you can answer your own question. But if you're stuck, leave a comment and I will get back to you.