It is not a common thing to monitor your CPU usage when playing a game but, it is also important to monitor this along with your memory and GPU. Not only do you have to monitor those but also, you need to look out for the rising temperatures from your CPU.
All of these increases when you start playing and you would not know exactly if your PC build can handle the game you are playing if you barely reach the recommended system requirements. This article will focus more on the CPU and give bits of information that you also need to know. So, what should CPU usage be when gaming?
What is CPU Usage?
Like the words used on it, CPU usage is basically a measurement of how much the processor is working. Since all processors have different specifications, not all CPU usage is the same, as more powerful CPUs will have a bigger chunk of that “100% CPU usage”.
When you have more cores on your CPU, it will always be better. You will also benefit from more threads but you will most likely look for the multi-threading support to further utilize your CPU to its max potential. CPU usage while gaming is based on utilization and it is the measurement of a processor’s limits. You will see your CPU usage in games increase when you underclock your CPU and vice versa.
Best CPU Usage When Gaming
When we are dealing with a GPU’s usage or utilization, it would be fine to go 100% since you are maximizing your GPU. For the CPU, this is not possible because there are a lot of things that could go wrong.
Since the CPU literally means the central processing unit, everything revolves around it as it is the command center of your computer. It is the part that tells your GPU what to do, it is also the one accessing your memory when you play a game, and much more. It processes all these data once given to it.
If you are running at a CPU 100 usage while gaming, other data might not get processed and might lead to crashes, freezes, and other technical problems. On rare occasions, it might damage your CPU or other computer components if this happens frequently.
This is why you should know how important is a CPU for gaming. It handles the most important work even if your GPU is being worked more in certain games. The best CPU usage would most likely be around 80-80% max. This means you are utilizing more of your CPU’s capabilities while giving it some leeway to handle a spike in CPU usage.
Is High CPU Usage Dangerous?
When it comes to CPU usage alone, reaching the limits of your CPU or pushing your CPU usage to 100% should be safe. The only problem would be the inefficiencies and possible freezes and crashes because your CPU cannot keep up with the tasks it is given.
Another thing you should worry about is your CPU temperatures. CPU usage and CPU temperatures should have a direct relationship with each other. If one goes up, the other one goes up as well.
Now, you may ask “when will it start getting dangerous?”. There are a few factors to look into as you continue to monitor your CPU usage and temps.
When you see your CPU usage skyrocket, your CPU temperatures should also increase. While the CPU temperature increases, it is being cooled by the CPU cooler and the quality of your cooler matters here. If you have the best gaming CPU, expect to invest in the best air & liquid CPU coolers for your system as well.
So, how hot should my CPU be while gaming? CPUs are built to withstand a certain limit of heat but, it is designed to know when it is time to throttle. There are safety mechanisms for CPUs and when they reach a certain temperature, they will know how to cool down to prevent further damages.
The safest temperatures to go for would be 70-80 degrees Celsius when gaming. While 80 is already nearing the danger levels of 90 degrees Celsius and above, it should still be able to do its tasks perfectly.
The question is when if the CPU usage is low and it is already reaching these temperature levels, you might need to reapply thermal paste, check your CPU coolers, or reposition your CPU to a cooler environment.
This is because CPUs are meant to be used at these levels and if you cannot reduce the CPU temperatures to safer levels, you need a better cooler. There are some scenarios where your PC was able to handle a certain amount of CPU usage and then a few years later, it is starting to increase its CPU temperature with the same workload. This will be most likely be the thermal paste drying up.
If you are curious about how often do you change thermal paste, it highly depends on your CPU usage throughout your PC’s lifespan. It is best to just reapply if you are having this issue because of the given scenario above.
This is why it is always important to monitor your computer. Keep an overlay of your CPU, GPU, RAM usage when you play so you can monitor their usage and temperature. When you start noticing something different, check what might be causing it first and then troubleshoot. Most of the time, it should take years to encounter these types of problems.
CPU bottlenecks are quite common. It is when the CPU is using 100% of its capabilities and your other components are being underutilized because the CPU cannot process all of the requests. This is making your other components such as the GPU become idle.
If you remember the part where the CPU has a safety mechanism, CPU bottlenecks are common in the aftermath. This is because when a CPU reaches a certain temperature that can potentially damage it, it will decrease its performance automatically and reduce its temperature.
That reduced performance lowers the limit of your CPU usage. So when you see your CPU usage reaching a high percentage even when your game is already closed, it might be because your CPU is still throttling due to the heat.
To learn how to fix a CPU bottleneck, you can read our article on it and, follow the steps below as reducing CPU usage can also fix a CPU bottleneck as long as you know what is causing the problem.
How to Reduce CPU Usage When Gaming
If you are already reaching a high CPU usage and you want to check if your PC can still handle the game you are playing, follow the following steps before going for a CPU upgrade.
Close other applications or processes
Open your Task Manager application by searching it on your Windows search bar. Once you open it, check the services running on your computer in real-time by going to the “Processes” tab. On this tab, you will a column that is labeled “CPU”. Each service you see on the tab will have its CPU usage measure on this tab.
Close all the programs that you do not need when playing a game. While a CPU processes more when you are doing something with the application, you will see it increasing when the application starts to process data. The sneakiest culprits could be ads running in the background. If you have some tabs open with a lot of video showing up, that might get a chunk of your CPU usage without knowing.
Reduce graphics settings
If you have read our article on how important is a CPU for gaming, you would know that the CPU deals with the logical side while the GPU deals with the graphical side. When you play a game, anything logical including the commands you are doing to play the game, are all handled by the CPU. Since the CPU also partly handles what the GPU renders graphically, it has a lot of tasks on the plate.
Reducing almost any kind of setting will slightly help decrease your CPU usage. Even if they are on the graphical side such as textures, shadows, and lighting, it will still help your CPU. Just prioritize the type of settings you would need that would increase your gameplay performance such as field of view and view distances.
Reinstalling your GPU driver
Sometimes, it is the version of your GPU that might be causing an uptick in CPU usage or even causing other technical problems like crashes and freezes. It is best to uninstall your GPU driver and install the proper driver directly from the manufacturer’s website.
Programs like Nvidia’s GeForce Experience will help you do this easily and even help optimize the game you play on launch. While reinstalling can help, you can also try to update your drivers first. In certain situations where you are playing a game that just came out, there might be optimization updates that could help you run the game smoother.
Normal CPU usage while gaming is one of the hardest things to achieve, especially if you’re playing a very demanding game on a lower end build.
Your CPU just has too many tasks that anything you do might contribute to CPU usage. If you like multi-tasking or just like to have a lot of applications and tabs active at the same time, you will definitely need to invest in a good CPU and a good RAM.
CPUs are designed to run safely at 100% CPU utilization. However, you'll want to avoid these situations whenever they cause perceptible slowness in games.Is it OK if my CPU is at 100%? ›
If the CPU usage is around 100%, this means that your computer is trying to do more work than it has the capacity for. This is usually OK, but it means that programs may slow down a little. Computers tend to use close to 100% of the CPU when they are doing computationally-intensive things like running games.How much CPU do I need for gaming? ›
For ideal results, a machine running an Intel® Core™ i7 processor or better with at least 8GB of RAM is sufficient for playing games and streaming at the same time. If you're hoping for less impact on your gaming performance, an Intel® Core™ i9 processor makes for an even smoother experience. Find out more.Is 5% CPU usage normal? ›
When your computer is idle, CPU use of 10% or less is typical. Windows 10 and the apps on your PC are constantly writing log files or checking for notifications in the background. This causes persistent resource usage, and it's nothing to worry about. Using Windows Task Manager to check CPU usage for an idle PC.Is 40% CPU usage normal? ›
If you are currently not running any additional programs, your CPU usage should be anywhere between 1% and 10% just through Windows processes alone. Anything higher than that on an idle PC means that something might be wrong.What percentage should CPU run at? ›
For almost CPU or OS, an average CPU percentage is below 10% at idle. This mainly depends on what apps are running on your PC. In Windows 10, if you are using a decent GPU, CPU, and SSD, the normal CPU usage is around 2% to 4% at idle.How do I lower my CPU usage while gaming? ›
- 1) Change The In-Game Settings.
- 2) Turn Off Unnecessary Background Programs.
- 3) Reinstall Graphics Driver.
- 4) Disable the Power Preserving Modes.
- 5) Reinstall The Problematic Game.
A normal CPU temperature depends on which CPU you use. Generally, anything between 40–65°C (or 104–149°F) is considered a safe heat range for a normal workload. While running more intensive apps or games, the normal CPU temp range can increase to between 70–80°C (158–176°F).How can I improve my gaming CPU speed? ›
- Turn on Game Mode.
- Changing Your Power Profile for Optimized Performance.
- Disable Startup of Unnecessary Programs.
- Close Browser Background Apps.
- Tweak Registry.
- Changing High Precision Event Timer Settings.
- Disable Dynamic Tick (DPC Latency)
- CPU Undervolting.
CPU affects your frames per second (FPS) only if it's a bottleneck, the least capable component in your system. For instance, if your CPU is so slow that your GPU utilization is around 40 to 50 percent despite 100 percent CPU utilization, your overall game experience and FPS will be subpar.
When buying a new PC, you can check the CPU's name to get its age and approximate performance level. The blurb should also tell you the clock speed and whether it's a dual core or quad-core chip. More GHz and more cores are always better, though a dual-core chip can still be faster than a quad-core.How many CPU cores do games use? ›
Games do use multiple cores. However, depending upon the particular game, it can use anywhere between 1 – 8 cores generally. But a vast majority of the games still use 4-6 cores optimally.What should my GPU and CPU usage be? ›
Although it's normal to see low GPU usage in eSports titles, it should be around 95-100% in the latest AAA games. If you're getting less than 80-90% GPU usage in demanding games, you most likely have a CPU bottleneck. The CPU has to feed data to the GPU.Is 80 degrees Celsius hot for a CPU while gaming? ›
Between 70 and 80 degrees Celsius (158 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit) is a safe range for gaming. It indicates that the CPU is working hard, but there's not much worry about lasting issues. That changes when temperatures rise beyond 80 degrees Celsius.Why is my CPU usage at 100 games? ›
This could be because new games are starting to take advantage of more cores and more cpu power (especially cores) as those things get more mainstream, so the cpu might just be working hard to help push out as many frames as possible. Also possibly a driver issue could be the problem.Is 80 degrees OK for CPU? ›
If you are hovering around 70 to 80 degrees Celsius, some would say that it is generally safe. While it is a little bit safe, it is already near the danger levels of overheating as going close to 90 degrees while gaming can get your CPU damaged over time.What should my GPU and CPU usage be? ›
Although it's normal to see low GPU usage in eSports titles, it should be around 95-100% in the latest AAA games. If you're getting less than 80-90% GPU usage in demanding games, you most likely have a CPU bottleneck. The CPU has to feed data to the GPU.