A GPU stands for Graphical Processing Unit, and every system in the world has one. A graphics card handles all the graphical load on the system, which is why it plays a great role in playing games, rendering, or other graphical computing applications. Some use integrated graphics, while others use a dedicated graphics card. Today we will shed some light on why you have 100% GPU Usage and how you can fix it.
A great thing about GPUs is that they are capable of parallel processing due to having tons of processing cores, as opposed to processors with a few cores. That is why GPUs are unimaginably better than processors when performing tasks with the capability of parallel processing.
The best thing about latest graphics cards is that they come with thousands of shader processing units, which is why the performance of these cards in modern applications is simply incomparable to what we had five years ago.
What is GPU Usage
As for GPU usage, it covers the percentage of GPU being used for all the tasks. Usually, it is considered a good indicator if the GPU is getting at 100%. The reason is that it shows that the graphics card is processing the data at its maximum capability, and nothing is hindering or causing the bottleneck in the system.
Let us consider the scenarios where the graphics card is pushed to 100%. First of all, most people use their graphics cards for gaming. It is a thumb rule that the processor must not be pushed hard, as it causes stutters in games, so people tend to buy a processor that can easily handle a certain graphics card. In such a case, the graphics card is pushed to achieve as much FPS as possible. This scenario is favorable as it usually does not result in stutters.
On the other hand, a graphics card can be pushed to 100% usage in computing or rendering applications, and there is nothing wrong with that as well unless the graphics card is running at high temperatures, which can lower the life of the graphics card and ultimately your graphics card can die.
How much GPU usage is normal
Now, let us understand how GPU usage works. A processor sends draw calls to the GPU, and then the GPU handles that according to its power. Both components are working rather independently but are a part of the same chain, which is why a weak link in the chain will ultimately result in a weak chain overall.
If the CPU is sending too many draw calls to the GPU, but the GPU is not able to keep up at all, you will have a low performance. In such a case, you should upgrade the graphics card, so that it can process more instructions.
If the graphics card is so powerful that the CPU cannot send enough draw calls, you will witness low GPU and high CPU usage. This is not a desirable scenario, and the perfect combination is only achieved when the CPU sends such an amount of instructions that can be barely processed by the graphics cards so that the GPU can get more active time.
What Causes High GPU Usage
As we have discussed various scenarios above, let us see what can cause super-high GPU usage all the time.
- First, applications used for rendering will use the graphics card as much as they can, juicing it all the way, which means there will be 100% GPU usage unless the CPU holds it back.
- In gaming, if you are not using vertical sync or similar technologies, you will have an uncapped FPS, and the graphics card will render as many frames as it can render and have 100% GPU usage. You can also use a frame limiter to limit the FPS in the game. This will result in lower graphics card temperatures, and its power draw will also be much lower.
- In some cases, there can be mining trojan viruses on the system that are meant to mine cryptocurrencies on the graphics card, and even if you are not actively using any application, the PC will continue to mine cryptocurrency, leaving you with a high GPU usage. Most of the time, it happens with the processor, but the GPU can be used in such a hidden mining virus.
Is 100% GPU Usage Bad
Now, let us talk about the consequences of 100% GPU usage. First of all, you should make sure that the graphics card does not reach high temperatures, crossing 85 degrees, which can result in performance loss and lower the life of the graphics card. If you are facing such a situation, you must improve the case airflow or maintain the cooling solution of the graphics card. If you are still not getting desired thermals, you can lower the graphics card’s clock rates or undervolt, although it might affect the performance slightly.
If you continue to use the graphics card with high temperatures, you can jeopardize your graphics card, and we have seen many graphics cards that stopped giving displays due to overheating.
Another notable thing is that a graphics card with 100% usage will consume a lot of power and cause spikes in your electricity bills. Especially if you are not actively running any graphical application, and there is still a high GPU usage, you should check your system with antivirus for possible attacks.
How to Monitor GPU usage
How can anyone check whether his GPU usage is going off the charts? You can check GPU usage in many ways, and we have discussed them in great detail below.
GPU Usage Monitor in Windows
The first and foremost tool for GPU monitoring is the software application that comes with graphics card drivers. Both AMD and NVIDIA provide great software support for checking statistics, and that is why if you don’t have much knowledge about other software applications, it will be easiest for you to check your GPU stats via the company’s application.
However, things often need to be more detailed when discussing AMD or NVIDIA driver applications. Many other software applications are designed to fill this gap and provide as much detail as possible. We want to name some of the most famous ones here, which are MSI Afterburner, Rivatuner, and Open Hardware Monitor. Moreover, the AIB partners of the graphics cards also design software applications such as Sapphire TriXX, Zotac FireStorm, etc.
These applications allow you to show multiple GPU temperature sensors in modern graphics cards with GPU clock rate, memory clock rate, and many other statistics you won’t find in the native application. A great thing with these applications is that they provide a much shorter time interval for the statistics, which helps diagnose the issues related to GPU or CPU usage.
Interpreting GPU usage statistics
Interpreting GPU usage can be quite difficult for someone who does not know how hardware works. However, we will try our best to help you diagnose the issues related to GPU usage, so stay seated.
We have mentioned above that high GPU usage in an intensive graphical application is not an issue, as the graphics card is trying its best to process the information as fast as possible. It is that if there is a hidden process doing the GPU thingy that is scary.
GPU Usage in Various Scenarios
GPU Usage in Gaming
Now, let us discuss the relationship of high GPU usage with CPU usage. A high GPU usage and 30 to 70% CPU usage are preferable in gaming scenarios. This means the CPU can send more instructions than the GPU can handle, so combining both components is fine.
Meanwhile, if the GPU is pegged 100% with very low CPU usage, like 10 to 25%, this indicates that your processor is much more powerful than the graphics card, and you should upgrade the graphics card to improve system performance marginally. This situation is often cited as a GPU bottleneck, as the GPU cannot keep up with the processor.
On the other hand, if the GPU usage is lower than 80% and the CPU is being pushed to 50% or higher, this could indicate a performance issue with the processor. Do note that not every time a 100% CPU usage causes a CPU bottleneck, as most games do not utilize all the CPU threads.
GPU Usage in Rendering
All the above scenarios do not apply to machine learning or rendering because rendering is usually done on either CPU or GPU. So if you see very low CPU usage with high GPU usage, there is no issue here, as the application is sending all the tasks to the graphics card. This is vice versa, and you could see high CPU usage with little to no GPU usage with a rendering software application too.
Processes causing high GPU usage
If you are gaming or rendering, you probably don’t need to identify the application causing high GPU usage. However, many people have reported high GPU usage, even on desktops, which is problematic. Identification of high GPU usage has been made easy in Windows 10 and Windows 11, where all you have to do is open the task manager and see which application uses a big chunk of your GPU.
In some cases, it has been seen that when using features like AMD Instant Replay, which records the screen for the past few minutes, the task manager shows high GPU usage. However, note that this GPU usage, often as high as 50-60%, does not cost you the performance loss, nor is it an intensive task. The GPU usage shown there is simply about GPU Video Decode, which is normal. This can be seen in the image below.
How to Fix High GPU Usage
Now that you have diagnosed the issue with GPU usage let us look at various solutions to minimize this issue.
How To Lower GPU Temperature
First of all, if you have high GPU temperatures above 85 degrees, it will not be a good thing in the long run for the GPU, so there are many ways to solve this issue. The first thing is to check the airflow in the case and see if you are using enough fans to dissipate hot air from the case. For a laptop, see if you have well-working laptop fans, if their vents are not blocked with dirt, etc.
If that does not solve your issue, you might have to do maintenance on the graphics card. It is not a difficult job, but you do require a quality thermal paste. If you are not sure of these things, getting the graphics card to a PC shop for maintenance will be better. Usually, the cooling solution of the graphics card is separated from the board, and after cleaning, a new thermal paste is applied to the GPU chip. This process usually results in 5 to 10 degrees of improvement, but if there was some issue with the GPU, you might see a much bigger improvement.
Another aspect of managing the thermal issue is checking the graphics card’s fan curve. The graphics card manufacturers design the card with a relatively slower fan curve for reducing acoustic levels, so if you are not worried about a little bit noisier fans, you can alter the fan curve of the graphics card with the native AMD or NVIDIA application.
Updating GPU Drivers
Drivers are called drivers because they drive the hardware components, so a GPU is as good as the driver allows it to be. AMD drivers are known to be inefficient compared to NVIDIA drivers, although both companies keep improving the drivers, which can result in drastic performance improvements, especially in rendering applications. If you last updated the drivers a long time ago, updating the GPU drivers to the latest version would be a good idea to squeeze every bit of performance out of your graphics card.
This section of the guide is meant for relatively experienced users only, as you can have system crashes with this, leading to an unstable PC. Most high-end graphics cards consume over 200 watts of power, so many users like to undervolt the graphics card. This does not reduce the system’s performance, but it will drastically affect power consumption, bringing it down to 20%.
This can be achieved via the native driver application of the company, and you can start by reducing the voltage by an offset of 12mv and run any graphics benchmark with it. Keep decreasing the voltage until the benchmark crashes. This will be the boundary of your optimal voltage, so increase the voltage once by 12mv, and you will be good to go.
While underclocking, you can also increase the core clocks of the graphics card. Like undervolting, keep increasing the core clocks with an offset of 25 MHz and see if the benchmark crashes. If it does, reduce the clocks by 25 MHz, your optimum clock rate. You can ultimately reduce the power limit of the graphics card if it is consuming too much and causing high temperatures, but this greatly reduces the power consumption, as the graphics card will run at lower clock rates.
Upcoming Technologies in GPUs
NVIDIA and AMD have advanced a lot in the past few years. The improvement in each generation is so much that two-generation older graphics cards are getting obsolete. Moreover, there are many new advanced features that we have seen since the whole RayTracing fiasco. NVIDIA has been providing the RT and Tensor cores in all of its RTX-series graphics cards and the AMD RDNA 2.0graphics cards are also giving a tough time to NVIDIA.
All these advancements have taken a toll on the power consumption of the graphics cards and where we would witness a 250-watt TDP flagship graphics card, even the mid-tier graphics cards are having higher TDP, going as high as 400 watts. Increased power consumption also rises the temperature of the case, ultimately rising the temperature of all the components in the case.
This concludes our guide related to 100% GPU usage. In short, high GPU usage is not an issue if you are actively using a graphical application and your graphics card temperatures are lower than 80 or even 85 degrees. If you do not know which application is causing high GPU usage, follow this guide’s steps to determine what is causing high GPU usage.
We have also discussed how to lower the thermals of the graphics card if you need help with high graphics card temperatures. All these things can compile up too, and once you start solving these issues one by one, you will get a significant performance boost and relief from crashes.