Why Is My GPU Usage Higher Than CPU Usage?

Your GPU and CPU usage will spike when playing AAA games or using resource-intensive applications, depending on the required resources. However, some people experience a significant difference between GPU and CPU usage, which can be alarming, right?

Your GPU usage will be higher than your CPU usage if your program requires heavy graphics processing, such as a game. It may also be caused by CPU and GPU performance mismatch, the drivers installed on your computer, or the settings for the programs you’re using.

In this article, we’ll talk about what it means when you get a GPU utilization spike, including the things you can do to deal with it.

Keep reading to understand how a GPU works and why it gets more workload than the CPU when using some programs.

Why is my GPU usage higher than CPU usage?

Why is My GPU Usage Higher Than CPU Usage?

It’s normal for your GPU usage to be higher than your CPU usage if you’re playing an AAA (high-profile) game.

In fact, you want it to be higher because it means the GPU is working properly and can process the rendering instructions from the CPU.

The CPU handles many things, from simple calculations to running multiple complex programs.

However, it can’t render graphics, so it needs to send all the instructions to the GPU. On the other hand, the GPU can only process instructions coming from the CPU.

It’s so efficient with this task that, in many cases, the GPU utilization rate will be higher than CPU utilization.

If the difference is significant, for example, a 90% GPU utilization rate or more while the CPU utilization stays below 10%, then it means that you’re dealing with one of the following:

  • Hardware performance mismatch.
  • Graphics-intensive programs.
  • Too many programs running in the background.
  • Programs or application settings.
  • Outdated software or a mismatch.
  • GPU-based malware.

These scenarios can significantly increase your GPU utilization rate and may cause a spike even if you’re not using a graphics-intensive program.

Although you shouldn’t worry about most of these, you still need to be sure because you want the GPU to work only when you need it to render graphics.

Let’s talk about the most common reasons for the GPU utilization rate to be significantly higher than the CPU usage.

There Is a Performance Mismatch Causing a GPU Bottleneck

A performance mismatch or a “bottleneck” is the most common reason the GPU utilization rate is significantly higher than the CPU utilization rate.

This means your GPU’s processing power can’t keep up with the CPU, or your CPU sends too many rendering instructions so quickly that your GPU needs to use all of its resources to keep up.

The CPU can do a lot of things on your computer. Still, it can’t render graphics unless you’re using an APU (Accelerated Processing Unit) or a CPU with an integrated GPU.

Regardless of your CPU’s processing power, a computer wouldn’t work without a GPU because there’s nothing to render the graphics and display on your monitor.

A GPU’s utilization rate depends on the amount of rendering instructions coming from the CPU.

If you have a hardware mismatch, the GPU won’t be able to keep up with your CPU’s processing power, forcing it to work harder, resulting in a significant difference in the utilization rate.

You’ll have a bottleneck issue if you’re using an outdated graphics card released several years ago with the latest CPU.

It can come in many different forms, but when you have a bottleneck in your computer, its performance will be limited to what the slowest component is capable of, and in this case, it’s the graphics card.

A GPU bottleneck usually happens when you upgrade your CPU or use an older GPU for your new build.

Remember, the best computer build is the one that has the right balance between the performance of all the components.

You must always consider all the parts you have, whether you’re building a new computer or upgrading a part of it.

A Program Is Using the GPU More Than the CPU

If you have a well-balanced build, a significantly higher GPU usage could also mean you’re using a program requiring more graphics processing.

You will experience this discrepancy if you’re using a program that has one of the following:

  • Too many objects are displayed simultaneously.
  • Too many things are happening at the same time.
  • Games that allow you to view farther distances.
  • You’re using a program that needs HD graphics.
  • Editing or rendering high-resolution files.

These tasks only need a little processing power, but they create heavy workloads for the GPU to process.

Therefore, you’ll experience a significant difference between the utilization rate of the CPU and GPU.

You shouldn’t worry about your GPU’s utilization rate if a program is causing it to work harder than the CPU.

However, if it’s causing issues with your games or the programs you’re using or need to use them frequently, it may be time to consider upgrading your GPU.

A good GPU will last several years even if you get a consistent 90% utilization rate.

In most cases, you’ll only need to replace a graphics card because it became obsolete and is already having trouble rendering the graphics for your games or programs.

High Graphics Settings on Games

You might want to look into your graphics settings if you’re playing games and getting a significant difference between the GPU and CPU utilization rate.

When you enable auto mode in most games, the program will determine the best graphics settings for you, which may cause your GPU to work much harder than your CPU.

This shouldn’t be an issue because your GPU should give you the best graphics possible, especially when playing games.

However, you may want to look into it if you’re wondering why your GPU usage is much higher than your CPU usage.

The only time it becomes an issue is when your games start to get laggy.

Consider upgrading your GPU to make your computer build a bit more balanced when this happens.

If upgrading isn’t an option and you still want to make your games smoother, you can manually adjust your graphics settings to reduce the workload on your graphics card.

Hardware Acceleration on Applications

Some video editing applications offer hardware acceleration, giving you a smoother experience in exchange for a higher GPU load.

You can disable this option on the settings page inside the program to reduce the GPU load. However, your experience with the program will be very different once you disable this option.

Web browsers don’t require a lot of graphics processing power. However, some also have hardware acceleration features, which can provide a smoother browsing experience.

You don’t have to worry about it if you’re only browsing the web. However, if you’re using another graphics-intensive program, consider disabling it to reallocate the GPU resources.

It’s rare for hardware acceleration to cause issues with your computer because it will automatically adjust depending on the available resources.

It’s just one of the things that you may want to look at if your GPU usage is significantly higher than your CPU usage.

Background Applications Are Using GPU Resources

In most cases, applications running in the background won’t require much from the GPU. However, some applications can eat up your resources even if only running in the background.

There are even some Microsoft native apps that use the GPU even if you’re not using them!

If you’re having issues with your GPU while playing games, then one of these apps may be causing a spike in your utilization rate.

Closing these background applications will free up some of the GPU resources, giving the active apps more processing power.

Here’s how you can close background applications that are causing the GPU utilization to spike:

  1. Go to your Windows Search Box and type in Task Manager. Another way to open it is to right-click on the taskbar and click Task Manager.
  2. Click the GPU tab to sort the programs using the GPU from highest to lowest.
  3. Right-click on all the programs you’re not using, then click End task. You can also click on the program, then click the End task button on the lower right corner of the window.

Closing these background programs should free it up from unnecessary workload, which can restore the balance between your GPU and CPU usage.

GPU Driver Installed Is a Mismatch or Outdated

If you’ve recently upgraded your GPU, a driver mismatch could be causing a significant difference in utilization rate.

A GPU’s driver makes it work seamlessly with the CPU, and if you’re using the wrong driver, it will always have a high utilization rate, even if you’re not using graphics-intensive programs.

If you’ve been using the same GPU for years and only noticed the difference recently, your driver might be outdated.

If it’s starting to make your computer laggy, especially when you’re playing games or editing photos and videos, updating your driver should help you get more from your graphics card.

You can find the latest driver for your GPU by going to the manufacturer’s website and looking for the downloads section on the graphics card that you’re using.

You need to have the latest version for the driver if you want to ensure that your GPU will work well and can keep up with your CPU’s processing power.

If you’re still getting the same issues with your graphics card even after updating the driver, you can also try clearing your BIOS.

You can do this by removing the battery from the motherboard, which removes all the settings you have for your computer parts, including the new GPU.

When you upgrade your GPU, your BIOS might still be loading the old settings for your graphics, which causes it to have a significantly higher utilization rate than your CPU.

Resetting will allow the BIOS to create new instructions for your computer, including your graphics card.

GPU Malware That Forces High Utilization Rate

The last reason that causes your GPU to have a very high utilization rate is malware inside the graphics card.

It’s also the most alarming because most antivirus programs can’t detect GPU-based malware, making it harder to deal with.

Anyone can remotely control an infected GPU to perform various tasks, including mining cryptocurrency.

This activity forces your GPU to use its resources to keep mining whenever you turn on your computer. It doesn’t require much from your CPU, which may cause the GPU utilization to spike.

There are a lot of other security risks that are associated with GPU-based malware because they may contain one of the following:

  • A keylogger that can record keystrokes on your computer.
  • A user-mode rootkit that can be used to attack your computer and your network.
  • A remote access tool that makes it possible to control and view your computer remotely.

Fortunately, the GPU still needs to communicate with the CPU to work.

So if your GPU is infected with malware, it will still leave traces in the CPU. However, you’ll need a high-end antivirus program to detect and remove it from your system.

There are two ways for a GPU to be infected, it can either be:

  • Physically accessing the GPU to infect it with malware.
  • Opening a program that releases the malware into the GPU’s memory.

Except for buying 2nd-hand GPUs or from unauthorized resellers, the only way for a graphics card to get infected is by downloading and opening malicious files.

That’s why you need to be extra careful when downloading files online.

Conclusion

There are several reasons for a GPU to spike in its utilization rate. However, most of them are within the bounds of their normal operation.

If you’re using a GPU, you want it to have a high utilization rate because it means your graphics card works as intended.

You only have to worry about an unusually high utilization rate if the driver you’re using for it is not compatible or outdated.

Aside from this, malware infection can also cause the GPU utilization spike, creating a lot of security risks for your computer.