When gaming, if you’ve ever used a GPU Usage monitor which usually displays the temperature, frame rate, and GPU usage, you’ve probably noticed your graphics card running at 100% or 99%. Now, this can seem like your GPU is overworking itself, and have you wondering if it should be running at such high usage.
In this post, we’re going to go over why your graphics card is running at 100% and what it really means, if 100% GPU usage is bad, and if it has any ill effects on the graphics card. Gaming on a PC can be confusing, so we hope by the end of this post you’ll have a better understanding of GPU usage.
Answer: When your graphics card is running at 100%, this means your graphics card is running at its full potential meaning you’re getting all the performance you’ve paid for. Naturally, running at 100% isn’t bad, it’s effects that come with it such as heat. Once you manage the heat generation, then you have nothing to worry about.
What Happens When A GPU Is At 100% Usage?
To put it quite clearly, when your graphics card is running at 100%, this means your graphics card is running at its full potential. This directly translates to in-game performance, and you’ll notice with higher GPU utilization, your frame rate will be much higher, essentially your graphics card it’s normal for your graphics card to run at 100%.
If your graphics card is at 100%, then you’re getting the maximum amount of frames possible in that game with that specific graphics card, and if you’re not reaching 100% then you’ll experience lower frame rates. 100% GPU utilization is actually a good thing, and you should look for this when gaming.
Also, if your graphics card is running at 100%, this can often cause the graphics card to operate at a much higher temperature. But if you try to keep things cool in your system, and you have optimal airflow, then your graphics card can run at 100% for hours without ill effects.
However, 100% GPU usage isn’t always a good sign, and it could be caused due to something malicious. If you’re graphics card is running at 100%, and you’re certain you’re not playing games, then it could be a sign that there is malware or a virus on your computer.
The malware using your graphics card is probably a sort of crypto mining software that is using all of your graphics cards resources. In this case, you will need to install anti-malware software such as Malwarebytes to rectify this issue. If not, then your graphics card will have a severely reduced lifespan.
What Does Low GPU Usage Mean?
If your graphics card isn’t running at 100%, then this can be the cause of a bottleneck, and the most common bottleneck is the CPU. If your CPU isn’t powerful enough, then this means it cannot keep up with the number of frames your graphics card is pushing, therefore causing the GPU to have low utilization.
Another bottleneck is usually caused in older types of games, and this usually means the game is limiting the number of frames your graphics card can push. Either the game is limiting the number of calculations, or the game has a frame rate limit. Usually, this means you don’t need a massive amount of frames for the game.
Finally, the last cause of low GPU usage is if there is a problem with your graphics card, either it’s not getting enough power or it’s throttling itself. Due to poor airflow and temperature control, this can cause your graphics card to run at a much lower clock speed, causing the GPU utilization to be much lower. To fix this, all you need to do is improve airflow and dust occasionally.
To avoid low GPU utilization, this usually involves picking up the correct hardware and balancing things out. When you buy a graphics card that is fairly powerful, say an RTX 3090, you should never pair it with a weak CPU because you’re going to leave a massive amount of performance on the table, instead pick up a CPU that is high end too.
You’ll be surprised to find out that lower resolutions actually increase bottlenecks because it has the same effect as having a much more powerful GPU. Lower resolutions mean the CPU will have to work harder which could eventually lead to the GPU not running at 100%. Find the sweet spot, typically 1440P is a decent resolution to run at.
There are actually bottleneck calculators online which you can use to guide you into making the correct PC build. If you’re going to buy a high-end graphics card, a good rule of thumb is to pick a high-end CPU too.
Can High GPU Usage Degrade Your Graphics Card?
Running at 100% GPU utilization constantly should not degrade your graphics card if you take care of your computer’s overall health by cleaning and having the correct airflow setup. The only reason 100% utilization will degrade your graphics card is if your computer has dust inhibiting airflow or other thermal issues.
The reason high temperatures are bad for your computer is that heat causes accelerated degradation to components by expanding and contracting metals and capacitors. Over time, this can weaken the integrity of the device you’re using eventually causing hardware failure of some sort. This is why it’s important to have sufficient airflow when running at 100% utilization.
In other words, if you’re graphics card has sufficient airflow and cooling, and you’re running at 100%, then your graphics card is working normally, and you have nothing to worry about. This is a good sign because it means you’re pushing your machine to its full potential and effectively using what you’ve paid for.
In conclusion, you want your graphics card to run at 100%, which means you’re using your computer to its maximum potential. But you should be careful not to cause overheating because this can cause a variety of issues such as hardware degradation, and throttling.
100% GPU usage is a good thing when done correctly, when gaming, you may require your graphics card to run at 100% because you won’t get the optimal amount of frames. This can be quite annoying because low FPS can make some games unplayable.
And finally, if your graphics card isn’t running at 100%, then this probably means your graphics card is being limited by the game engine or hardware. Some games will limit the number of frames possible, and sometimes your CPU can bottleneck your graphics card. This is usually caused when you have a much weaker CPU in comparison to your GPU.