CPU Bottleneck Vs GPU Bottleneck [Explanation and Solution]

Written By Farhan Max

Have it ever occurred that you’re in the middle of a duel with some random dude, and suddenly it starts to lag?

Consequently, frame rate goes way beyond the playable limit. It’s highly likely that you’re facing that issue because of bottleneck. It may be caused by a different component, but CPU and GPU bottlenecks are pretty common for the criteria.cpu-bottleneck-vs-gpu-bottleneck

Let’s immerse ourselves in the article and figure out more about how bottlenecks happen and how to avoid them.

Check out the easiest way to know can Motherboard Bottleneck GPU?

What Is a CPU and GPU Bottleneck?

In general, When CPU usage is higher than GPU usage then you have a CPU bottleneck, and it also means the app or game you are running is CPU reliant. This can occur from another side too, like the app or game may be GPU intensive. Thus, generating GPU bottlenecks.

In other words, bottleneck, as the name stated, occurs when there is a gate which has a limit to processing the data that has been sent to it.

Can you imagine a big garment factory and when the office ends all the employees come out together? But the office gate is smaller compared to the number of people coming out. And it takes time to let out everyone. That’s the concept of the bottleneck.

Also, check out our separate post on can a Motherboard Bottleneck a CPU?

CPU Bottleneck

CPU bottleneck occurs when a CPU cannot keep up with other components, most notably with the GPU. It means that when the GPU processes data, but the CPU cannot keep up, results in CPU bottleneck.

Same thing happened to me as well. In 2019, I built a system for a friend with a Core i3-9100F and a GTX GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6 GB. I run some tests after the build and discover that my processor is running at 100% and my GPU is idling at 56% on average.

That’s how the CPU i3-9100F bottlenecks. Also, read our detailed discussion on how bad a CPU bottleneck can be for your PC.cpu-i3-9100f-bottlenecks

GPU Bottleneck

When a CPU outperforms a GPU or the graphics unit cannot keep up with the CPU, the GPU bottleneck takes place.

The CPU handles the action, audio, and other processes, while the graphics unit handles the visuals. If the GPU is unable to keep up with the CPU in these situations, it means the GPU bottlenecking the CPU.

Additionally, you should know whether to upgrade the CPU or GPU first, in case you face any bottleneck issues from either of these components.

Why Does CPU & GPU Bottleneck Happen?

Now let’s discuss why the bottleneck happens. You may think you have a slow processor compared to GPU or vice versa. But it depends on the game or apps you run.

Moreover, different games have separate factors to push the limit of the processor or graphics card. And there are games that are CPU or GPU-reliant.

Games like Total War: WARHAMMER 2, Grand Theft Auto 5, Far Cry 5, and Cities: Skylines are highly processor dependent. That means with a better CPU you get improved performance and the games will use a processor more than a GPU.

Also, games like Battlefield 5, Metro Exodus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Red Dead Redemption 2 are highly graphics-reliant games. With better graphics, you will get higher FPS. And these games will utilize your GPU more than your processor.

Most of the time, if you bind a very high-end CPU with low-end graphics or conversely, then that might cause bottlenecking undoubtedly. But, bottlenecks do not alone depend on the PC components. Apps or games can push hardware dissimilarly.

Different apps or games can push hardware variously.  Thus causing the bottleneck. For example, when I play CS: GO on my Ryzen 3 3300X it runs smoothly but whenever I get into my Adobe Premiere Rush. It seems like the total system will crash and lags heavily for some time.

My CPU usage stays 100% for all cores, and my graphics card just relaxes. That’s how my CPU bottlenecks.

Check out our latest guide about whether a CPU can bottleneck RAM.

How to Determine Whether the CPU or GPU is Bottlenecking?

You can identify which one causes bottlenecking issues by monitoring your CPU and GPU usage. It’s possible to use the PC’s task manager, but for checking real-time usage it’s better to use proper monitoring software like MSI Afterburner, Prime 95, or HWiNFO.

You can use any of these to monitor your usage. Download any of those apps and install them on your system. Run the app when gaming and let the app monitor the hardware utilization. As I monitor with MSI Afterburner, here is the example.msi-afterburnerWhen gaming, observe the CPU and GPU usage. If the GPU usage is high and the central processor maintains an ideal state, then you have a GPU bottleneck. And if the result is the opposite of the first one, I mean the CPU usage is high and the graphics card continues in an ideal state, then the CPU is bottlenecking.

Furthermore, here’s our detailed guide on how to tell if the CPU is bottlenecking the GPU.

How to Fix CPU and GPU Bottleneck?

Nobody enjoys bumping bottleneck problems. But if you still experience bottlenecks, there are some ways to resolve or lessen CPU or GPU bottleneck issues. And different approaches are used depending on the choke point.

Follow these methods to fix bottleneck issues:

1. Prevent Unnecessary Background Activities

It’s possible to reduce or fix bottleneck problems by stopping the workload running in the background. On modern PCs, there are many apps and services running in the background. And this uses CPU to run.

You can find these apps and services with the help of Task Manager. Close the apps and services which are not necessary, and you will find a good boost in your performance. Apply these methods mainly if you encounter processor bottlenecks.help-of-task-manager

2. Enhance Game Resolution

If you encounter a CPU bottleneck, then the theory is your CPU is either unable to keep up with your GPU or your GPU just exceeds the CPU. You can fix these issues in the game setting by providing more tasks to the GPU.

Seems funny, right? If you raise the game resolution to the highest setting. That will keep your GPU busy rendering and process the data. Thus, the CPU will get more time to keep up with the GPU. That’s how you can fix the CPU bottleneck.

Follow our guide to check if GPU is working properly.

3. Decrease In-game CPU Associated Settings

If the CPU and GPU usage are over 90%. You can lower the CPU bound settings. There are many games which are CPU bound. Games which have to cover more equations than graphical tasks are normally CPU bound games like WARHAMMER III, Civilization VI, Red Dead Redemption 2.

Changing these settings will not change the performance dramatically, by creating some breathing room for your CPU.

4. Overclock The Processor

By overclocking the CPU, you can utilize the utmost performance from your CPU. It also gives you more breathing room to your CPU.overclock-the-processor

Before overclocking, you need to be sure about whether your CPU is overclockable or not. If possible, then overclock your CPU. And now-a-days, most CPUs come with the overclocking enabled functionality.

As for CPU bottlenecks, there are some fixes for GPU bottlenecks. You can lower the graphics settings or overclock the GPU. That will ensure a more fluid game with better FPS.

And the window is always to upgrade the GPU. The primary concept is that a GPU bottleneck is less harmful than a CPU bottleneck. Because GPU bottlenecks don’t bring any damage in most cases.

Check out the easiest way to know if a CPU is compatible with my GPU.


Which is worse, GPU bottleneck or CPU bottleneck?

A GPU bottleneck is much worse, especially right now. A GPU bottleneck implies that the GPU isn’t powerful enough to deliver a high, smooth framerate, but your CPU is. For example, a Ryzen 7 5700x processor with an Nvidia GT 1030 graphics card is a perfect example of GPU choke point.

Does bottleneck damage GPU or CPU?

When the CPU slows down, the GPU is also impacted and is unable to process the data fast enough. For this reason, the GPU will have a difficult time rendering the game’s frames, which will cause frame rate lag and poor performance. It’s crucial to remember that every machine has a CPU bottleneck of some kind.

What is acceptable, CPU or GPU bottleneck?

A CPU bottleneck is present if your CPU consumption is way greater than the GPU usage, and vice versa. Utilization rates of 50% or less are regarded as poor, those of 50% to 70% as typical, and those of 70% or more as high.

Does more RAM reduce bottlenecks?

Simply run Task Manager while you game and look at the performance tab to see whether you have a RAM limitation. You may require more RAM capacity if your RAM usage is at its maximum, or very close to it, in order to avoid a bottleneck.

Wrapping Up

In general, unbalanced components cause the bottleneck issue. And normally at the time of building a gaming rig, most of the people are more on the graphics unit. It’s best to get a balanced component for reducing bottleneck issues.

Some bottlenecks are not avoidable. But the theme is to get as little as possible. And at the time of heavy tasks, it’s best to get similar performance from the processor and graphics unit.

However, these different issues are from the same concept. I discuss through the article how this causes and how you can reduce them.

About The Author
Farhan Max is a tech geek with a particular interest in computer hardware. He's been fascinated by gaming since childhood and is now completing his undergraduate studies while researching and testing the latest tech innovations. Alongside his love for all things geeky, Farhan is also a skilled photographer.

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