How to Force Games Into Windowed Mode on Windows 10 & 11


Most players probably play their games full screen in Windows 11 or 10. However, you can also play games in a windowed mode. This mode lets you play games in a window with the taskbar visible beneath it.

The advantages of playing in windowed mode are that you can more easily open other programs alongside games when you need them and see the time on the system tray’s clock. Therefore, some players might occasionally prefer to play in the more flexible windowed mode. This is how you can play games in window mode within Windows 11/10.

1. How to Switch to Window Mode With a Hotkey

You can switch to a windowed mode whilst playing many games by pressing a keyboard shortcut. Try pressing the Alt + Enter hotkey when you’re playing in full-screen gaming mode. This hotkey might activate a windowed mode when pressed; however, it’s not a universal keyboard shortcut that every game supports.

2. How to Change Display Mode Settings in Games

If pressing Alt + Enter doesn’t do the trick, you’ll likely find a windowed display mode option in the game you’re playing. Most games include a window mode option within their general display settings.

To find such an option, open the graphical settings for your game from its title screen. Then look for a Display Mode drop-down menu like the one shown directly below. Select a Windowed option to set the game to run in that mode.

A Display Mode drop-down menu

You might notice some of the Display Mode drop-down menus in your games include alternative borderless windowed and windowed options. The difference between those settings is that the borderless windowed mode runs games within a window without a border. Selecting that option is closer to playing the game full screen, but you can still easily switch to other apps.

3. How to Add a Window Parameter to a Game Shortcut’s Target

Command-line switches (parameters) are launch modifiers you can add to programs to start them in specific ways. You can configure games to start in a windowed mode by adding a -window command-line switch to them. Then your games will launch in windowed mode whenever you select to play them. This is how you can add a window parameter for a game in Windows 11:

  1. If you already have a desktop shortcut for your game, skip to the fifth step. If not, right-click somewhere on the desktop and select the New and Shortcut options on Windows 11’s context menu.
    The New and Shortcut desktop context menu options

  2. Click Browse to select a game’s EXE file for a shortcut, and select the OK option.
    The Create Shortcut window

  3. Select Next to input a title for the shortcut.
  4. Press the Finish button to add your game’s desktop shortcut.
  5. Right-click your game’s desktop shortcut to select Properties.
    The Properties option

  6. Then add a space at the end of the game path in the Target box.
  7. Input the -window command-line parameter after the space in the Target box as in the snapshot directly below.
    The Target box

  8. Click Apply to save the new window parameter.
  9. Select OK to exit the window.

Now double-click the game shortcut to which you added the window parameter. The game will start in a window you can reposition on your desktop. If you ever want to undo the windowed mode, delete the -window parameter you added to the game’s shortcut.

A game in windowed mode

4. How to Play Games in Window Mode With DXWnd

DXWnd is a freeware app that enables users to launch games in a windowed mode. It is primarily designed to enable users to start older games in windowed mode. That software has an exports folder that includes windowed profiles for many old game titles. However, you can also set up new window mode profiles for more recent games.

You’ll need to extract a RAR file to utilize DXWnd. So, make sure you’ve downloaded and installed the freely available 7-Zip utility for extracting archives. Then you can extract DXWnd’s archive and launch games in windowed mode as follows:

  1. Open the DXWnd download page on Sourceforge.
  2. Click the green Download option to save the RAR archive for DXWnd.
  3. Open the 7-Zip File Manager software.
  4. Navigate to the folder that includes the DXWnd RAR archive in 7-Zip.
  5. Select the v2_05_83_fx3_build RAR archive, and click the Extract button.
    7-ZIP's window and Extract button

  6. Click the ellipsis button on the Extract window to select a folder path for the software.
    The Extract to box

  7. Then press the OK buttons on the Browse for Folder and Extract windows.
  8. Close the 7-Zip window after extracting the RAR archive.
  9. Bring up Explorer to open the folder you extracted DXWnd to.
  10. Double-click the dxwnd.exe file to open DXWnd.
  11. Click File > Import in the DXWnd window.
    The Import option

  12. Select the exports subfolder in DXWnd’s extracted folder.
    The Exports folder

  13. Choose a game to run in windowed mode, and select the Open option.
  14. Right-click the game profile in DXWnd’s window to select Modify.
    The Modify option

  15. Click the ellipsis button to select the game’s folder path on your PC.
    The Main tab

  16. The Run in Window option should be selected by default. If it isn’t, you’ll need to select that checkbox.
  17. Click OK to exit the window.
  18. Select Save on the File menu.
  19. Click Yes on the prompt that asks for save confirmation.
  20. Then click the profile for the game in DXWnd to start it in window mode.

If DXWnd’s exports folder doesn’t include a profile for your game, you’ll need to add one. Click the Edit menu and select Add. Enter the title for your game in the Name box on the Main tab. Click the Path box’s button to select a game location, and make sure the Run in Window checkbox is selected. Then click OK to add the profile, which you can select to launch its game from DXWnd’s window.

The DXWnd window

You can configure games’ windowed modes on the Target window for their profiles. Click the Video tab on that window to view the settings below. There you can select four alternative window style radio button options and numerous handling settings. That tab also includes resolution options and an FPS counter setting.

The Video tab

How to Enable Optimizations for Windowed Games

Aside from merely playing games in windowed mode, you can now optimize them with a Windows setting. Microsoft added an Optimizations for windowed games setting to Windows 11 with the 22H2 update. That option enables advanced features and peak performance for games in windowed mode. So long as you’re utilizing Windows 11 version 22H2, you can enable Optimizations for windowed games like this:

  1. Launch Settings by opening up the Windows 11 Start menu and clicking that app’s pinned shortcut.
  2. Click Display in the System tab.
  3. Scroll down the Display navigation options and select Graphics.
  4. Click the Change default graphics settings navigation link.
    The Optimizations for windowed games setting option

  5. Toggle on the Optimizations for windowed games setting.

Then play a game in windowed mode with any of the above methods. You might notice a bit of performance enhancement when playing a windowed game with that optimization setting enabled. It’s a setting that enables the modern flip model to be applied to windowed games just the same as full-screen ones for reduced latency.

Such a feature has made windowed gaming more desirable. The main disadvantage was the reduced performance that comes with playing games in windowed mode. However, now you can play windowed games much closer to peak performance in Windows 11 with that optimization setting turned on.

Play Your Games in Windowed Mode

Playing games in windowed mode will give you more direct access to the desktop. It is a multitasking mode for gaming that enables you to access other programs and tools as you play. So, it might be quite useful to activate window mode for at least some of your games with the methods above.


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