Have you experienced a problematic drop in FPS (frames per second) during a recent gaming session? Such performance-related issues are common in modern PCs, with all of the tasks they have to perform. In many cases, they’re due to a bottleneck. However, many people don’t understand why CPU and GPU bottlenecks even happen.
Unfortunately, having a great gaming monitor won’t help you in this case. A CPU or GPU bottleneck is created when one of those components is significantly more powerful than the other, or when a particular game has been poorly designed. We can’t help you with the latter problem, but in this guide, we’ll offer some guidance on fixing the former.
Your FPS just became FPM. Ouch.
What Is a Bottleneck?
Bottlenecks are just one of the frustrating things that can happen in PC gaming. They result in keyboards being thrown against walls and your mouse being crushed beneath your angry hand. Failing because of external factors, as opposed to your own mistakes, is the ultimate joy-killer and the destroyer of gaming adventures.
What you have experienced is most likely a CPU or GPU bottleneck. The effect is similar to a bottleneck occurring in regular traffic.
“Man, I don’t know how to drive, what are you talking about?”
A bottleneck is a gap or passageway not wide enough to accommodate all of the cars (or megabytes) that need to move through it. When your CPU or GPU isn’t capable of handling all the data that needs to be processed at a given time, a bottleneck happens. The information will not be processed in time, if at all.
When this happens, the game will not be able to run smoothly and consistently. If you’re having considerable FPS drops, a bottleneck could be the cause.
Why Do CPU and GPU Bottlenecks Occur?
The CPU and GPU work together as a team to process and display our games. They each have their own tasks to complete within the complicated process of running a video game.
The CPU, for example, deals with the calculations of physics or AI. The GPU, on the other hand, deals independently with the graphics of the game (lighting, textures, etc.). However, the game is a complete picture of all those processes combined and synchronized.
The CPU and GPU should finish their operations at the same pace. But what happens when one is much faster than the other?
When a high-speed gaming CPU is paired with a much slower budget GPU, the CPU will keep completing tasks as expected. However, the slow GPU will not be able to keep up at all times. When a CPU delivers too much information relative to the speed of a graphics processing unit, a GPU bottleneck occurs. The GPU will not process data in time, and we will perceive that as a sudden drop of FPS.
Following the same logic, if we pair a high-end gaming GPU with a much slower budget CPU, it will result in CPU bottleneck. Too much information not being processed in time is being displayed as an abrupt FPS drop. Knowing how bottlenecks occur isn’t enough to stop them from rearing their ugly heads. Video games are quite different from one another; some rely much more heavily on your CPU, while others mostly use your GPU. Sometimes, tweaking various in-game settings can help relieve bottlenecks.
CPU & GPU Bottleneck Causes
As we mentioned before, CPUs and GPUs work independently on different aspects of the game. Those processes are not always equally balanced. It depends on the game design. Reading Reddit or various forums, you might’ve come across comments saying that a game is poorly optimized. This means it causes bottlenecks because of bad CPU/GPU balance.
Some games put a heavy load on the CPU, and they are called CPU-dependent games. Examples of CPU dependent games are Civilization 5 and 6, GTA 5, Stellaris, Total War: Warhammer 2, Assassins Creed: Origins, Far CRY 5, and Cities: Skylines.
These games need a fast CPU and will produce high FPS even with a weaker GPU (to an extent). Slower CPUs will create bottlenecks in these games.
However, other games demand more from the GPU and are dubbed GPU-dependent games. Examples of GPU dependent games are The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Final Fantasy XV, Crysis 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Rise of Tomb Raider, Just Cause 3 and Metro: Last Light Redux.
These games need a potent GPU to properly function and will produce high FPS even if you have a slightly weaker CPU. Slower GPUs will create bottlenecks.
You get the idea. Now, things are making sense. It turns out bottlenecks aren’t so scary.
Overall, bottlenecks are a result of a significant discrepancy between your processing units (or, in some cases, poor game design). However, they also depend on the game itself. Therefore, to prevent drops in FPS, you should build your computer based on the type of games you play. If you play more GPU-dependent games, you should rely on a stronger GPU and vice versa.
Alternatively, you can invest your money in building the best gaming PC possible and avoid bottlenecks altogether.
CPU & GPU Bottleneck Fix
If you are choosing components for your new PC, the problem is easier to prevent than it is to solve after it’s occurred. Consider the kind of games you play before you make your choices.
Another solution is to find a bottleneck calculator online. Once there, input your choice of CPU and GPU into the given boxes, and the website will calculate the risk of experiencing bottlenecks. It will also tell you which of your components is weaker, and what might be a better choice.
Another way to analyze your PC is to download MSI Afterburner. With this program, you can monitor your PC while playing different games. It will show you how much work each component does and where you can expect bottlenecks.
Once you discover the source of bottlenecks, it shouldn’t be too hard to solve the problem. The solution is to balance the workload of your CPU and GPU. You can apply one of the following methods to solve it.
Method 1: Increase the game’s resolution
If you have a CPU bottleneck, you can resolve it by increasing the game’s resolution and graphics. That action will put more load on your GPU, and it will equalize the amount of work that both components do at the same time.
Method 2: Stop unnecessary processes in the background
If you have a CPU bottleneck, you can enter the processes menu and stop unnecessary processes running in the background. That will leave more CPU resources for the game and can prevent bottlenecks—but make sure you know which processes are safe to terminate.
Method 3: Overclock your CPU
By overclocking your CPU, you will force it to work harder. It’s important to mention that overclocking your CPU should be done with caution since it can damage your CPU.
Method 4: Overclock your RAM
Your RAM and CPU work closely with one other. Better RAM means that your CPU gets data faster and in an orderly fashion. That means that your CPU becomes more efficient and doesn’t have to work as hard.
Getting your RAM up to speed may solve your CPU bottleneck.
Method 5: Lower the CPU demanding game settings
To free up some of your CPU resources and resolve CPU bottlenecks in the game, you can enter the game settings and lower those that require work from your CPU. Those are generally settings related to AI, visibility distance, object position, etc.
Method 6: Lowering resolution and graphics settings
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about GPU bottlenecks on the software side. All you can do is to enter the game settings and lower the resolution and graphics settings. That usually helps, but the price is having reduced visual quality of your game, and if your GPU is really outdated, you may not see much improvement at all.
GPU and CPU bottlenecks can be a frustrating problem. They are created when your computer components are mismatched. For that reason, you need to be very careful when building your computer to avoid poorly paired parts. Be sure to adapt your PC to your gaming style.
- CPU Bottleneck – What is it, and how it affects your games, TW Center Forums