Thursday, May 17, 2012

Playing Half Life 2 on an old/slow computer

I wanted to play Half Life 2 on an old laptop with Intel GMA 900 graphics (910GML/915GM chipset), but with the default settings the game would often become unbearably slow. So after doing some googling and lots of testing, I found some settings that seem to work.

  1. First, create a text file named autoexec.cfg and place it in the hl2/cfg folder. Give it the following contents:

    // see for more information
    // also see

    // ***** major stuff *****
    mat_compressedtextures 1
    mat_forcemanagedtextureintohardware 0
    mat_softwarelighting 0
    // in pixels
    // specific number
    // level of detail at a distance: -8 to 8

    // ***** minor stuff *****
    cl_ejectbrass 0
    cl_show_splashes 0
    dsp_slow_cpu 1
    mat_bumpmap 0
    mat_dxlevel 70
    muzzleflash_light 0
    r_drawflecks 0
    r_waterforceexpensive 0
    sv_robust_explosions 0
    violence_ablood 0
    violence_agibs 0
    violence_hblood 0
    violence_hgibs 0

    // these are newer source 2007-based variables and may be unrecognized by older
    // versions of half life 2
    ai_expression_optimization 1
    mem_max_heapsize 768

  2. In your shortcut that you use to launch Half Life 2, add the following parameters:
    -novid -window -dxlevel 60 -heapsize 786432 -console

    The end result will look something like this:
    "C:\Program Files\Games\Half-Life 2\hl2.exe" -novid -window -dxlevel 60 -heapsize 786432 -console

  3. (Optional) Create valve.rc in the hl2/cfg folder, or edit the one that already exists, and make sure the startupmenu line is commented out by ensuring there are two slashes (//) in front of it.

  4. Lastly, read this article to get more information on what these tweaks mean and how to customize them for your system:
If you're playing on a machine with integrated Intel graphics, GMABooster may help some as well.


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