You're interested in playing Star Citizen, but you've heard that you need a powerful, high-end computer to play it. What now?
How do you check if your computer is powerful enough to run Star Citizen? What is most likely to affect how well your computer can run Star Citizen?
Computers that can run previous-generation games may struggle to smoothly run Star Citizen with high FPS, but even mid-range computers can run Star Citizen with the right components. If you're looking for the official minimum system requirement specifications from the game developers, you can find those specs on the official RSI website's Star Citizen System Requirements page, but those basic specs are only the first things you should check.
First off, CPU and GPU performance are important. Fortunately, the Star Citizen developers have an online tool to estimate how well your CPU and GPU will run Star Citizen. The RSI telemetry tool uses anonymized player-reported performance to show you the average FPS that different CPU and GPU combinations are capable of making. You need to leave this website and go to the official Roberts Space Industries website to use the RSI telemetry tool. Click the link below (or copy and paste it into a new browser window) to go to the official Roberts Space Industries website:
Though CPU and GPU performance are important, Star Citizen also stresses other components harder than other games. Three of these components are RAM, the storage drive that Star Citizen is installed on, and your CPU and GPU cooling.
RAM is always an important contributor to game performance, but it is even more important for Star Citizen. While other games may use 8-10GB of RAM, Star Citizen uses at least 16GB of RAM and can often use over 20GB of RAM. Pagefile, or using a portion of your storage drive as extra RAM may allow your computer to load Star Citizen, but Star Citizen will not run well or smoothly with pagefile.
Storage drive performance is typically most important in loading the game, and this is also true in Star Citizen. Like many modern games, Star Citizen does not use loading screens once you start playing and, instead, loads game assets in as you play the game. For example, as you fly up to a planet, Star Citizen loads the planet in ever-increasing detail up to the point that you land and start walking around. Loading all of the planet terrain and can push your storage drive performance, but if your drive keeps up, you can seamlessly fly from space to the detailed surface of the planet! In addition to loading game, having your computer use pagefile because you have too little RAM installed makes storage drive performance even more important. Due to the constant loading, Star Citizen does not run well with a Hard Drive Disk (HDD), and an SSD or NVMe drive is required for Star Citizen to run well.
Star Citizen will push your CPU and GPU to their limits, so cooling is something that should not be overlooked. Insufficient cooling will lead your processors to reach their thermal limits, and the reduced or inconsistent processing power will cause Star Citizen to run at reduced FPS, stutter, and possibly even crash.
The infographic below provides a quick summary of what to evaluate before playing Star Citizen, and you can find more details and tips for RAM, storage drive, and cooling after the infographic.
You need at least 16GB of RAM installed in order to run Star Citizen. However, if you have only 16GB installed, then Star Citizen will need to use pagefile on your operating system installation drive. Pagefile is orders of magnitude slower than RAM, so you should expect Star Citizen performance to suffer when more pagefile is used. Additionally, if you have any web browsers or chat applications like Discord open, then those will also end up using pagefile and performing poorly.
If you can, install additional RAM to improve game performance, both in higher FPS and fewer crashes. Having 32GB of RAM is ideal as it provides enough memory for Star Citizen to run while also keeping your operating system and other applications you have running in RAM.
Do not try to run Star Citizen with less than 16GB of RAM installed in your computer - Star Citizen may not load without crashing, and if it does load, it will probably crash while you are playing. Unless you're trying to play for free in a Star Citizen free fly event, you'd be better off using your money to buy more RAM for your computer before buying Star Citizen.
Other RAM parameters - dual or single channel, speed, latency - can affect how well Star Citizen runs, but quantity is by-far the most impactful parameter.
The drive that Star Citizen is installed on will affect how quickly the game loads before it runs and also how smoothly it runs once loaded. Star Citizen is constantly loading assets as you play the game, and your storage drive needs to keep up with the load. If you're using pagefile to supplement your limited RAM, then your drive will be stressed even more.
For an enjoyable experience, you need to install Star Citizen on an SSD or NVMe drive. Not only do these types of storage drives have faster data rates, they are also capable of reading random locations much faster than HDDs with physical disks. An NVMe drive is usually faster than a SATA SSD drive, but a SSD is still much faster than an HDD.
Star Citizen requires a lot of space in addition to a lot of speed. Having the standard Persistent Universe (PU) will take about 90GB of space on the storage drive that Star Citizen is installed on. Technically, a 128GB SSD or NVMe drive would fit the game, but if you're planning to use pagefile, then you'll want your operating system installed on the same drive. In this case you'll want at least 256GB of space for the operating system, Star Citizen, and for 10GB+ of pagefile.
Bonus note: if you ever plan on playing in the Star Citizen Persistent Test Universe (PTU) in addition to the PU, then you will need about 160GB of drive space to have both installed. The PTU is used to test versions of Star Citizen before they are released to all players in the PU, giving you a sneak peek at upcoming versions and a chance to try them before most players.
There is no single way to universally improve cooling. If you have the budget, you could try higher-performing cooling options - new heat sinks, liquid-cooling, etc. However, for many that is not an option, and if you're using a laptop you're stuck with the poor cooling that is inherent in the design of laptops.
That means that we need to focus on software-based options. One option is to tweak the graphics settings within Star Citizen to limit the load on your CPU and GPU, but these options are relatively limited.
A more powerful option is in your GPU control panel - frame rate limiting. For Nvidia GPUs, the option is called "Frame Rate Limit", and for AMD GPUs, the option is called "Frame Rate Target Control". Star Citizen does not have a built-in frame rate limiter, so you have to use your GPU's frame rate limiter.
The frame rate limiter is a software-based control that limits how many new frames per second that your GPU will produce. The benefit with this option is that it forces Star Citizen to produce a set number of frames per second instead of the game trying to make as many frames as possible, which means that it reduces the load on your CPU and GPU and the heat they generate. Another upside is that Star Citizen will run more consistently because your processor is not thermal limiting. The downside is that you're directly limiting your FPS!
The first step is to set up a Star Citizen account, or "enlist" on the Roberts Space Industries website. Check our our Enlist with Referral page to learn how to use our referral code to get 5000 bonus game credits for free!
After you purchased a starter pack (or joined a free fly), you need to download and install Star Citizen. Our How to Download & Install page has all the details of where you need to go to get Star Citizen onto your computer!
Finally, you're ready to start playing Star Citizen. Check out the Star Citizen Play Tips page for tips and how to get one-on-one help as you start playing. As you continue to play, check our our Star Citizen Resources page for useful third-party tools to help your journey in the 'verse more fun and cool content creators to watch and learn more about the game!
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The official Star Citizen website may be found at https://robertsspaceindustries.com