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Should GPU Usage Be At 100? The Full Breakdown.


When I first installed MSI Afterburner and turned on the GPU usage metric out of curiosity, I had the same question. Seeing the GPU usage that high is very concerning at first, but let me ease your mind.

Should GPU usage be at 100%? Your GPU isn’t expected to be at any percentage usage, but it is okay if your GPU runs at 100% usage.

Let’s dive deeper into what makes your GPU usage this high and why this will likely always be this high.

Should GPU Usage Be At 100? The Full Breakdown.

GPU usage is known to be high because of how graphics-intensive gaming, video editing, and other 3D rendering tasks tend to be.

Your GPU’s job is to provide as many FPS as possible, which can end up maxing your GPU out at a certain FPS.

For example, with graphics settings at high, at an ultrawide 1440p resolution, I often see my FPS hovering around 65 on average.

I see this across many games, and I see that my GPU usage is also relatively high in the high 90s.

This is nothing to be concerned about because this won’t hurt my graphics card. This is precisely what the graphics card was made to do!

If this usage wasn’t above 80%, I would probably even be concerned that my graphics card isn’t being used as much as it should be.

Typically, when one part is running at 100% or very close to that, and another part is running at a much lower percentage usage, that is referred to as a bottleneck.

Many people will spend a lot of time and concern thinking about how they can perfectly balance their build to have no bottleneck at all. When in reality, you will almost always have a bottleneck.

One part is always going to be running at a much higher percentage than another.

For example, if your GPU usage wasn’t that high, your CPU usage would probably be very high.

If you were to play at a high FPS and lower resolution with an uncapped or very high FPS ceiling, you would experience a CPU-bound bottleneck where it would be your CPU usage running at a very high percentage.

Whereas, if you were to play at a higher resolution with a decent FPS, you would likely see a GPU-bound bottleneck like you may be seeing now where the GPU usage is very high.

Your parts will process and do their jobs to the maximum potential they can, which is perfectly normal. But just keep in mind that this will always lead to being at a high usage and another being at a lower usage.

The real thing you should watch out for is high temperatures if your GPU usage is running at 100%. You don’t want these to be over 80 degrees Celsius because that could cause performance issues.

If you notice very high temperatures in your GPU, you can check out our article on why my graphics card is so hot.

What Is A Bottleneck?

A bottleneck is when one part in your computer is limiting another part’s performance because it is an inferior part that is much slower.

The two parts that bottleneck each other the most are the CPU and GPU.

Most of the time, one of these will be very high, and the other will be much lower.

I will add a note that although GPUs are good to run at 100%, you should try to avoid your CPU reaching that high usage because it will cause stuttering.

It’s unavoidable unless you manually cap your FPS to avoid your graphics card from creating more frames and therefore stop it from trying to run as powerful as it can.

But, there is no point in doing this since it doesn’t harm your component to run at its maximum strength; that’s what it was made to do.

Bottlenecks aren’t only bound to these parts, though. RAM can also severely impact and hold back your build’s performance if you don’t have enough of it.

Pairing a 3090 with 4GB of RAM isn’t going to leave you with excellent performance. These days, even if you had one stick of 8GB RAM, that will likely hold you back in newer games.

The current ideal standard for gamers is 16GB in a dual-channel format where you use two sticks of 8GB RAM.

If there isn’t enough RAM, but everything else is very powerful, the RAM will significantly decrease your FPS because it isn’t as good as the other parts in the build.

Is A Balanced Build Important and What Does It Look Like?

If your CPU is much weaker than your GPU, that could be a problem that can lead to stuttering and FPS drops.

However, if you have a slightly weaker CPU paired with a good GPU, that isn’t as much of a problem since when a GPU maxes out, it simply can’t render any more frames.

But when a CPU maxes out, it can stutter because there is no more room for processing instructions and delivering them to all the parts.

At the very least, everything can feel very bogged down and slow, but at the worst, you will get some awful stutters.

That’s why it is essential to balance your build, but balancing a build is easier than you may think and is more focused on avoiding the extremes.

Don’t pair budget parts with high-end parts or very old and obsolete parts with very new and powerful parts.

At the very least, make sure your build leans more towards the GPU being more powerful than the CPU being more powerful because that way, you are less likely to have performance inhibiting issues.

To wrap this section up, the ideal balanced build would have your GPU at around 70 – 90% usage and your CPU around 50%.

That would be considered a very balanced build, but it isn’t imperative to have this balance to get excellent performance.

A Quick Solution For Lowering Your GPU Usage

If you have performance issues, or maybe you are just a little nervous about having your GPU usage at 100%, worry not there is a quick solution you can do in any game to lower this.

If you are currently running a game at higher than 60 FPS, go into the menu and lock the FPS to 60. This will prevent your GPU from rendering more frames and should provide relief.

Monitor this with MSI Afterburner to see if this helps your usage. If it doesn’t or doesn’t help it by enough, you can lower the graphical settings, providing more relief.

If you lower your graphics but don’t cap the FPS, that will result in a higher CPU usage because with more frames for the CPU to prepare it has more work to do therefore shifting the workload onto the CPU.

Wrap Up

So GPU usage is acceptable at 100%, as long as your temperatures are lower than 80 degrees Celsius. Bottlenecks are present in most gaming PCs because there will always be one part working harder than another.

You should avoid reaching 100% CPU usage though, that can cause stuttering and FPS drops.

Lastly, the most balancing any PC builder needs to do is match your CPU’s power to your GPU roughly.

If you are getting a cheaper GPU, it may be a good idea to get a cheaper CPU.

If you are getting a cheaper CPU, you should also get a cheaper GPU.

Even though this isn’t as impactful on performance, to have a GPU-bound bottleneck, to spend what you need to, and to get the most out of your parts, this is the best decision.

Tom

I've been a PC gamer and builder for around 3 years now but my love for gaming spans many years all the way back to the Nintendo 64! Getting into PC gaming there was a lot of information that was hard to understand so I made it my mission to make PC gaming easy!

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