Chrome Hardware Acceleration Explained

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.

Chrome Hardware Acceleration Explained

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, or often times it’s enabled by default, the apps are allowed to use more of your device’s hardware to improve the overall performance of it. 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 beco me 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.

The need for increased security when browsing the internet and greater video, sound, and streaming performance capabilities has caused many companies to build additional features into their web browsers. These features include running the browser and its tabs in containers, limiting and monitoring the actions a web page is trying to make, and more. As you can guess, this means increased demand for system resources such as the GPU for greater video quality.

How to Check Hardware Acceleration in Chrome

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

  1. Open Google Chrome, type “chrome://gpu” in the address bar on the top, and then press Enter. Chrome Search bar - chrome-gpu
  2. 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.
    • 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.
graphics feature status

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 and select Settings from the drop-down menu.
    Chrome Menu - Settings
  2. Now, click the Advanced menu on the left-side and then click on System. Chrome System Menu
  3. Then, toggle on Use hardware acceleration when available under the System section.
    use hardware acceleration when available
  4. If Chrome notifies you that it needs to be restarted, just close all the tabs and relaunch it.
  5. Now, to check that it’s working, type “chrome://gpu” in the address bar again and hit Enter.
  6. Check if most of the items under the ‘Graphics Feature Status’ have the 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 within Chrome

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. Next, click on the drop-down menu beside Override software rendering list and switch the status to Enabled.
    Chrome Menu - System Settings
  3. Then, click on the Relaunch button at the bottom of the window to restart the browser. Chrome Relaunch button
  4. Now, 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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