The Best Custom Windows 10 ISO for Gaming
Let us be honest – Windows 10 is nowhere near perfect for gaming and Windows 11 is Windows 10 but with a facelift and even more telemetry and components that will inevitably take away some of your FPS.
There are TONS and I mean legitimately TONS of Windows components, services, and apps that you will never use or touch but which are sitting idly in the background consuming your precious CPU cycles that could be otherwise dedicated to increasing your FPS and reducing your input lag.
Be it because your PC is freezing and your CPU/GPU usage is through the roof, or because you own an older piece of hardware that simply can’t keep up with modern Windows 10, installing a custom Windows ISO is a great solution for your troubles.
Understanding What You Are Getting Into
A custom Windows 10 ISO does not mean that magically you will now have 300FPS instead of 30 in your games. You are still bottlenecked by your hardware but a cleaner and slimmer Windows install will give your hardware the leeway to spend more time on your game instead of running Windows services.
It is also important to understand that depending on how custom you are going with your Windows ISO you will end up with a system with huge chunks of Windows stripped in the name of latency and FPS.
Before installing any custom Windows 10 ISO do your research and figure out what components are missing and what issues are known to happen with these custom installs. Usually, this means scrolling through all of the Discord channels of the said custom Win 10 install and looking in the support chats, etc.
There will be a lot of troubleshooting and figuring things out involved in the process of fully setting up your custom ISO after install so if you are not ready to do that, or are afraid/too lazy to install the ISO again in case something breaks fully then this is NOT a good idea for you. There will be one custom Windows ISO that is generally 99.9% as stable as a normal build so I would recommend you go with that and nothing beyond it (Ghost Spectre).
General Understanding of Different Windows 10 Builds
Another important aspect of knowing which custom ISO to get and which ones you should stay away from is directly related to how old the custom build is. The general rule of thumb is that the older the Windows build the better the latency will be since you will benefit from fewer services, telemetry, and no Meltdown/Spectre patches.
At the same time, the older the build, the fewer components it will have resulting in a lot of services you currently use being broken or unusable. Most custom Windows 10 installs are based on the following builds: 1709, 1809, 21H1/21H2.
The main recommendation is to stay away from 1709 (FoxOS, RekOS, EVA) builds if you have no clue about custom Windows installs or simply do not want to troubleshoot basic issues that might arise from these builds missing components you might otherwise use. If you however are comfortable with troubleshooting and dealing with problems then these builds will result in the best latency and inputs you can currently get.
A lot of the 1709 builds circulating on the internet could also be discontinued as well since a lot of software simply does not work with them anymore so be careful what you are installing.
Which Custom Windows 10 ISO Should You Go For?
This is a complex question because each ISO tends to favor different games and different hardware as shown in this video made by Derek, therefore, your decision should be purely based on your personal testing.
Another great idea is to check The World of PC Discord channel called kevs-w10-charts where you have a handy thread made by Kev. He spent quite a lot of time so I would encourage you to join the Discord and take a look at his findings regarding which custom Windows 10 ISOs performed the best in his testing.
Putting together all of the information I have been gathering about custom Windows 10 ISOs and after testing some of them for myself the general recommendations would be as follows:
Ghost Spectre (21H1/21H2) – This is one of the most mainstream custom ISO builds for Windows 10. This ISO does not necessarily have a lot of tweaks done for FPS and latency but it is the closest to a normal Windows 10 install, so the chances of you breaking things are slim. If you are a novice this should be the first custom Windows you install and then once you gain more experience you can go further into the optimizations black hole.
FoxOS/KernelOS (1709/1809) – If you care about latency the most and want stable FPS in games FoxOS/KernelOS are a great choice. FoxOS has builds for both 1709 and 1809 while KernelOS is 1809. These are extremely tweaked and stripped Windows installs so a lot of the components are missing or are not working. It would be a good idea to check all of their Discord channels to see if these versions are compatible with the software you are using daily (Adobe products might not work, Microsoft accounts, etc). Overall superb latency and FPS in games at the cost of extra troubleshooting and certain missing components.
ggOS/ReviOS/AtlasOS/Xtreme Gamer’s v2 (21H1/21H2) – These are all extremely tweaked out and stripped out custom Windows 10 versions of the newest builds available. All of the creators of these builds recommend NOT doing any independent tweaking outside of the post-install folders with tweaks that have been specifically designed to work with that custom ISO.
Outside of the post-install procedures trying to further tweak the ISO usually results in complete failure and the need to reinstall the ISO. Unlike older builds (1709/1809) that are tweaked for the sake of latency, these newer builds work with a lot more modern services and software and usually cause fewer issues with incompatibilities. (My second recommendation for newer people to tweaking would be ggOS).
A lot of these custom ISOs come with their own power plans and specific tweaks so to truly understand which one is better for your hardware you will need to test all of them individually.
From general testing, we can infer that ReviOS is generally better for Apex Legends, meanwhile, ggOS performs well in Fornite. KernelOS seems to play well with CS:GO (probably because of the older build) on my machine resulting in +40FPS moving from one of the custom 21H1/21H2 builds.
These findings might not match with your own experience therefore once again I would recommend you check The World of PC Discord channel called kevs-w10-charts where you have a lot of data comparing different custom ISOs made by Kev and also check out Derek’s YouTube channel where he also compares different custom Windows 10 builds.
You should make your individual decision based on what games you play (it seems that different ISOs impact FPS differently for games), are you aiming for max FPS and smoothness or minimum input lag (usually tweaks to decrease input lag affect FPS stability negatively), and how much are you ready to troubleshoot (older builds 1709/1809 miss compatibility with certain newer software).
Once you have made your decision considering all of the data, you are ready to move to your new fully custom, fully tweaked out Windows 10 ISO.
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