How to View GPU Usage in macOS via Activity Monitor

Posted by Jim Tanous on December 31, 2018
mac gpu usage history

Many Macs include multiple GPUs, pairing the integrated graphics found on most Intel processors with more powerful dedicated graphics processors from NVIDIA or AMD. And now, thanks to inclusion of Thunderbolt 3 across Apple’s Mac lineup and support in the latest versions of macOS, almost any new Mac owner can add a GPU to their Mac via an external Thunderbolt enclosure.
When dealing with multiple GPUs, it’s often helpful to know which one is working at any given moment, and how much each one is being utilized. There are many third party apps and utilities that can provide this information, but if you just need basic data on GPU usage, the Mac’s built-in Activity Monitor utility is here to help.

Mac GPU Usage in Activity Monitor

  1. To view the GPU usage in macOS, first launch Activity Monitor. You can find it in its default location (Applications > Utilities) or by searching for it with Spotlight.
  2. With Activity Monitor open and selected as the active application, choose Window > GPU History from the menu bar at the top of the screen, or press the keyboard shortcut Command-4.

    gpu history activity monitor
  3. This opens a new window called GPU History, which displays a utilization history for each GPU currently available to your Mac. You can click and drag on the small dot between each graph to change its size.

    mac gpu utilization in final cut pro x
  4. The GPU usage window will remain always on top by default, but you can toggle that behavior by selecting Window > Keep CPU Windows on Top from the menu bar.

    activity monitor gpu history always on top

The GPU History window isn’t the only handy display available via Activity Monitor. Similar windows are available for showing both current CPU usage (Command-2) and CPU usage history (Command-3).
activity monitor cpu gpu history
As with the GPU History window, you can toggle the “always on top” status of these windows via the Windows drop-down in the menu bar.
The ability to monitor GPU usage in macOS is not only handy for seeing how work is being divided between multiple GPUs, it can also help troubleshoot issues. For example, it can show you when your GPU is being taxed when it shouldn’t be based on the applications currently running.
Third party tools like iStat Menus can show more information about your GPU’s status, such as graphics memory usage and temperature, but for simple monitoring, look no further than the Activity Monitor.

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