High CPU usage and low GPU usage bothering you? Try these 10 fixes
The bottlenecking is nothing strange in the current era. We have a cryptocurrency-mining GPUs which need a nuclear reactor to supply on and CPUs need some catching up to do.
AMD does that with Ryzen series (affordable but powerful) and we hope Intel will follow in the same fashion. But, bottlenecking isn’t always the reason for the strange usage discrepancy between CPU and GPU. High CPU usage and low GPU usage might occur for various reasons.
This will, of course, lead to FPS drops, CPU overheating and all kinds of issues. In order to help you resolve it, we put everything we can think of in the list below. Follow the steps and hope for the best.
How to deal with the high CPU/ low GPU usage in a few simple steps
- Check GPU drivers
- Tweak in-game setting
- Patch affected games
- Disable third-party apps working in the background
- Disable all power-preserving modes in BIOS/UEFI
- Enable XMP in BIOS/UEFI
- Use 4 cores if possible and try overclocking
- Reinstall the game
- Reinstall Windows
- Replace/add some hardware
Solution 1 – Check GPU drivers
These symptoms usually mean that your CPU is bottlenecking your GPU, which is quite common if you have a powerful graphics and an outdated CPU. However, there are so many variables that, even though highly likely, we can’t say with certainty bottlenecking is the reason for high CPU and low GPU occurrence. Making sure you’re meeting game system requirements is the first step.
If that’s indeed the case, let’s start by removing the current set of drivers for the graphics card and installing the latest version manually. For both AMD or Nvidia GPUs, make sure to use the DDU (Display Driver Uninstaller).
Solution 2 – Tweak in-game setting
Now, let’s slightly move to the game which exhibits this kind of behavior. The games we run into are largely recently introduced or their recent versions are causing high CPU/low GPU process usage.
The likes of Overwatch, Battlefield 5, Black Ops 4, or PUBG are dominating the list. The funny thing is that affected users haven’t experienced strange CPU/GPU behavior on other titles, some even more demanding.
This means that something concerning that exact game is causing issues. And, in this case, we would suggest disabling all CPU-depending graphical features and enabling GPU ones. Some even say that most games should be run on high or ultra graphics settings to avoid CPU burdening. We can advise you disabling VSync and Antialiasing.
Also, increasing resolution, details, and enabling Future Frame Rendering should make GPU work more instead of CPU doing a majority of the work. Some games will work much smoother on the DX12 option, so switch to it if possible. This might or might not affect FPS, but it’s worth a try.
Solution 3 – Patch affected games
This step is the continuation of the previous one. Some games, like Overwatch, suddenly started exhibiting this kind of behavior even though players have more than enough processing power to run it. Seemingly, issues started suddenly in the third quartal of 2018 and we can blame the graphics-improving patch for that.
This might or might not be the case for other games, but whether it’s a Battle.net, Origin, or Steam game, make sure it’s up to date. Some issues got patched and the majority of players are enjoying seamless gameplay without a CPU throttling a GPU.
Solution 4 – Disable third-party apps working in the background
We might’ve been focused on the game optimization (or lack of it) as a primary reason for the high CPU and low GPU usage, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There’s an abundance of third-party apps working in the background (some even game related, like FRAPS or TeamSpeak) which can take a lot of CPU.
With that in mind, we suggest disabling all background processes and sticking with only Microsoft services while gaming. This will eliminate a possible negative effect and reduce CPU usage. This stands for game clients (Steam, Origin, Battle.net) and antivirus solutions as well, so close them before starting the game and disable real-time protection.
Here’s how to disable all background applications:
- In the Windows Search bar, type msconfig and open System Configuration.
- Under the Services tab, check the “Hide all Microsoft services” box.
- Click “Disable all” to disable all active third-party services.
- Now, select the Startup tab and go to Task Manager.
- Prevent all programs from starting with the system and confirm changes.
- Restart your PC.
Solution 5 – Disable all power-preserving modes in BIOS/UEFI
Power-preserving modes are a big no-no if your CPU is falling behind the GPU in terms of processing power. Especially if you’re an avid gamer dealing with demanding AAA titles. This means that both system and motherboard settings regarding less power consumption should be disabled.
So, reboot your PC into the UEFI Firmware settings menu and disable everything even remotely connected to power preservation. Once you’ve done that, navigate to Power options and enable a High-Performance mode within the Windows UI.
Here’s how to do it:
- Right-click on the Battery icon in the notification area and open Power options.
- Select High Performance.
- Confirm changes.
Solution 6 – Enable XMP in BIOS/UEFI
Enabling XMP or Extreme Memory Profile in BIOS will, at least slightly, improve RAM performance. We know that RAM isn’t in a direct connection with the high CPU/low GPU issues but it has its part in it. Bottlenecking is a common problem, as all parts (mainly CPU) of configuration don’t function well together.
This option allows for the faster-than-standard speeds of RAM and possibly will improve the overall PC performance a little bit. Whether that will be enough to overcome the CPU bottleneck or not, we can say with certainty.
Solution 7 – Use 4 cores if possible and try overclocking
In order to optimize the game for the general public, developers have to deal with thousands of different configurations. Some GPU–CPU combos, regardless of how capable, just won’t work as intended. This might be the case here.
If you’re running a multi-thread CPU, double check the in-game settings and try switching to 4-thread option if available. For example, Battlefield 5 might do better on a 4-thread option.
In addition, if you can take more from your CPU by upping the clock speeds, we highly suggest to do it. Just keep in mind that this requires some general knowledge about the overclocking and software to keep track about temperatures, voltage, and performance.
The manufacturer speeds are usually much lower than the CPU is capable of meeting. Firstly, inform about your CPU online and then move to the overclocking.
This should, in right circumstances, be quite a boost and a possible resolution for the problem at hand.
Solution 8 – Reinstall the game
If none of the previous steps helped you with that one game which refuses to work as intended, consider reinstalling it. Removing everything and starting from a scratch can be a painful and lengthy experience. Especially if you need to wait for hours for a game to download again.
However, PC games, like any other piece of software out there, can get broken. Configuration files can get corrupt (if you’ve made some hardware changes) or a bad update breaks the game for you.
That’s why reinstallation isn’t such a bad idea after all. Just make sure you’ve backed up your saves and reinstall the game. After that, reboot your PC and give it another try. Make sure to use several process managers to make sure that the CPU is indeed hitting high rates while GPU is almost idle.
Solution 9 – Reinstall Windows
The system might be at fault as well, so that’s another thing you can do to reduce high CPU usage. If you’re running Windows 7, consider disabling Windows Update as it’s service is known for skyrocketing CPU usage.
Most recent titles require Windows 10 in order to work and, all annoyances aside, this system proved to be the best for gaming.
Therefore, consider upgrading to Windows 10 or, if you’re already running Windows 10 on a 64-bit architecture, try reinstalling it and run the game again. This will take some time but it helped some users normalize CPU/GPU performance. You can find out how to reinstall Windows 10, here.
Solution 10 – Replace/add some fresh hardware
And finally, we came through with this Captain Obvious suggestion. But sometimes your CPU is just not enough. Combining an older CPU with GTX 1070 won’t do you any good, as the CPU will always try to keep up with the top-notch graphics processor. And it will fail every time. That’s why minimum requirements might be misleading and often are.
For the majority of games where users reported the high CPU and low GPU usage, a powerful gaming processor is a must. Basically, if you want top performance, buy top CPU. As simple as that.
Add some RAM along with the new CPU and the bottlenecking will be a thing of the past. And, with that said, we can conclude this article. Hopefully, we provided you with enough troubleshooting material to deal with this issue.
Don’t forget to share an alternative approach in the comments section below. It might help other readers in need and sharing is caring.
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