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Chrome Hardware Acceleration Explained

Posted by Arch on October 2, 2019
chrome hardware acceleration

Hardware acceleration is a term web app users are becoming more and more familiar with. In short, it means that your app will offload some tasks to other hardware components to be able to work more smoothly.

There are plenty of apps that need much more than RAM to work well, and web browsers such as Google Chrome are among them.

This article will explain what hardware acceleration is, as well as how to activate it and check out if it works in Google Chrome.

What Is Hardware Acceleration?

If you enable hardware acceleration, you are allowing your apps to use parts of your hardware to improve their overall performance. In the past, your computer’s processor was enough to handle most of the essential tasks of apps, especially web browsers.

But as technology progresses, the requirements of minor web apps become bigger than before. Some apps can’t work at their full potential if they only use your processor’s capacity.

Take web browsers for example. Web sites are becoming more polished and demanding, so your browser may need to ‘borrow’ some power from your graphics and sound card to be more efficient. Google Chrome is one of those browsers.

How to Check Hardware Acceleration

Before you turn hardware acceleration on or off, you should check its status. To do this, you need to:

  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. Type “chrome://gpu” in the address bar on the top.
    chrome
  3. Press ‘Enter’ to go to the location.

After you execute the command, Chrome should display a list of various data about the software. For hardware acceleration, you should only pay attention to the ‘Graphics Feature Status’ section.

graphics feature status

Next to each parameter, you should see either ‘Hardware accelerated,’ ‘Software only. Hardware acceleration disabled,’ ‘Disabled,’ or ‘Unavailable.’

If most of these items have a ‘Hardware accelerated’ value displayed in green, it means that the feature is enabled. On the other hand, if ‘Canvas,’ ‘Flash,’ Compositing,’ WebGL,’ and others are disabled, you’ll need to turn hardware acceleration on.

Turning On Hardware Acceleration in Chrome

You can turn on hardware acceleration by following a few simple steps:

  1. Click the ‘More’ button (three vertical dots) on the top-right of your Chrome window.
  2. Select ‘Settings’ from the drop-down menu.
    settings
  3. Click the ‘Advanced’ menu at the bottom.
  4. Toggle on ‘Use hardware acceleration when available’ under the ‘System’ section.
    use hardware acceleration when available
  5. If Chrome notifies you that it needs to be restarted, just close all the tabs and relaunch it.
  6. Type “chrome://gpu” in the address bar.
  7. Check if most of the items under the ‘Graphics Feature Status’ have ‘Hardware accelerated’ value.

To turn off hardware acceleration, just follow steps 1-3 and toggle the ‘Use hardware acceleration when available’ option off.

Note that if the ‘Use hardware acceleration when available’ option was already on when you entered the Settings and the values were disabled regardless, you will need to use another method.

Forcing Hardware Acceleration

If nothing else works, you can attempt to override Chrome’s system flags. To do so, you should:

  1. Type “chrome://flags” in the address bar and hit Enter.
    chrome 2
  2. Find the ‘Override software rendering list’ option.
  3. Click on the ‘Disabled’ button to open the menu.
  4. Switch the status to ‘Enabled.’
    enabled
  5. Click on the ‘Relaunch now’ button at the bottom of the window.
  6. Go back to “chrome://gpu” and check if the hardware is accelerated.

You should see ‘Hardware accelerated’ next to most of the parameters.

What If Neither Method Works?

If hardware acceleration is disabled even after you overrode the system flags, then the problem may not be in the Chrome’s software.

Instead, you should try and update your video drivers or check if the graphics card has physical issues.

How to See If Hardware Acceleration Helps

There is a nice web site developed by Mozilla that performs a demonstration of web browsers’ graphics potential. This web site also works well on Google Chrome. Here, you can check your 2D and 3D animated performance, draggable videos, SVG-embedded media, HD movies, etc.

If you know some web sites that utilize high-quality flash animations or video games, you can open them and see if your browser slows down or works smoothly.

You can also watch HD videos on YouTube or other video streaming platforms and check the picture quality. Keep in mind that the video buffering usually has more to do with the internet connection, so hardware acceleration won’t make any difference.

You Can’t Accelerate Everything

If your hardware is on the lower end of the spectrum, offloading a chunk of tasks to it may make your computer slower than it was. That’s why it’s important that you have a solid video and sound card for a good web browsing experience. If you notice that your web browser is working slowly after you turn hardware acceleration on, try to turn it off and see if it improves.

What do you prefer – browsing with or without hardware acceleration? Why is that your preferred option? Share your answers and thoughts in the comments below.

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