How To Tell If Your CPU Is Bottlenecking Your GPU

Most of the PC gamers are aware of the term bottleneck. It has been around for as long as one can remember. It normally happens when you buy a graphics card that is too powerful, so much so that the CPU can’t handle the processing requests done by the GPU, and often lags behind in terms of the performance.

If your CPU is bottlenecking the GPU, it will basically mean that you will be stuck on certain performance and lowering or tweaking the settings will no longer affect the performance in a positive, or negative way.

It certainly sounds like a painful thing, and it is normally easy to get rid of the bottleneck but there are certain things you must know about the bottleneck, and these things are actually a lot more important to understand than anything else is.

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How To Tell If Your CPU Is Bottlenecking Your GPU

Before we get into details, we are going to look at what bottleneck is; that way, you will have a proper understanding of what you are dealing with. We can then proceed to explore the situation even further.

1. Understanding Bottleneck

While the term “bottleneck” is certainly something that sounds a lot more technical, understanding it is not all that difficult, to begin with.

For instance, bottleneck always happens when the PC is running a really intensive application, and it might appear that the application should be performing better than it already is.

Imagine that you have bought a GTX 1080Ti for your PC, but you are not quite achieving the same level of performance as the benchmarks tell you. The biggest determinant here is the CPU you are using.

Many people believe that CPU does not play a big role in games, and that is where they are wrong. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest performance determinants is the CPU.

Now looking back at the previous scenario, if the GTX 1080Ti that you have just purchased is more powerful as compared to the CPU you are using, then the bottleneck is certainly going to be there.

This is what the CPU bottleneck is, and yes, in that case, your GPU is certainly being bottlenecked by the CPU.

The positive aspect here is that understanding the bottleneck is rather easy.

All you need to do is a good monitoring tool like MSI Afterburner and you are good to go.

Make sure that you enable both CPU and GPU monitoring, especially the one that shows the usage percentage. After that, I would suggest that you run a well-optimized game, the one that benefits from both components, and play that game a while.

The idea here is rather simple, you just have to monitor the usage percentage in order to determine whether there is the bottleneck or not.

For instance, if your CPU usage is somewhere around 70 percent or above, while the GPU usage is significantly lower than the CPU usage, you can simply say that the GPU is being bottlenecked by the GPU.

In more technical terms, when the CPU is under a heavy load, it has difficulty going through the entire process through which the game runs.

Just to give an example, if you want your CPU to be able to hit the 60 frames per second experience, the CPU will have to be able to take the instruction of rendered graphics in 1/60th of a second.

If it cannot achieve that in that duration, another 1/60th of a second will be used, which ultimately would slow down the overall process.

2. How to Eliminate Bottleneck

Now the important question comes from a lot of people. How can they possibly eliminate the bottleneck, and the answer for that is rather simple.

However, you do need to understand that it involves spending money, and not spending money. There are two possible ways of removing the GPU bottleneck, and we are going to take a look at both of them below.

Buy a New CPU

If you want to be able to retain the performance of your GPU and get as many frames as you possibly can then the best option here is to upgrade your CPU to the one that can match the performance, or overclock the existing one.

If you are looking for suggestions, then the Intel’s new Core i5 8600, 8600K, and Core i7 8700, and 8700K are great options. In addition to that, any good AMD Ryzen CPU will be more than enough for those who are looking to eliminate the bottleneck.

The trick here is to ensure that you have at least 6 physical cores in your CPU, that way, you can forget about the bottlenecking.

The downside to this is that you are going to have to spend money, and if you are on an older platform, then you might have to replace your entire system just for the sake of eliminating the bottleneck.

Downgrade Your GPU

Another option that you have that will allow you to simply eliminate the bottleneck is simply downgrading the GPU.

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but if you are not looking to spend extra on just upgrading the GPU, then downgrading is a good option.

For instance, if you are looking at a GTX 1080 Ti, and you want to run games at 1080p, then you can downgrade to a GTX 1070, or even 1060. You will save money, and the bottleneck would be gone too.

Now a GTX 1060 is great for 1080p @ 60 FPS gaming, but if you want more frames on 1080p, then you can go for 1070, and that would serve you well, too.

Just know that you would have to sell your existing graphics card if you are looking to downgrade, so it is better if you just do your research before you buy a graphics card to see if there is a chance of any bottleneck or not.

That will help you a lot more than selling an existing graphics card.


The bottleneck is a nuisance to deal with, and there is no other way to look at it. However, the good thing here is that if you do your research early on, then removing the bottleneck becomes a lot easier for you.

Using this guide, you can easily tell if you are going through a bottleneck or not. The good thing is that if you have read it beforehand, then you can avoid running into a bottleneck altogether. Just make sure that you take precautionary measures from the start, and it will give you a proper understanding of everything as well.