How To Turn Hardware Acceleration On and Off Within Chrome

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What Is Hardware Acceleration?

Chrome browser

There are a number of components that determine how well each computer performs. 

For instance a central processing unit (CPU) handles all the processes running on your computer and deals with the interaction between the software and the hardware. The more processors your computer has and the quality of those processors largely determine how fast your computer will work. 

The CPU isn't the only important factor. Whilst the CPU governs the running of the processes on your computer the Random Access Memory (RAM) determines how many processes can be running at once.

When you run out of memory there is usually some form of swap file on your computer which is used to store idle processes. Disk swapping is bad because the slowest component on your computer is your hard disk drive. Recalling items from a swap file is bad for performance.

This brings me on to the next device which in recent years has really helped boost performance and that is the solid state drive (SSD). An SSD enables you to store and read back data much faster than a standard hard drive.

The main point of this article however is to do with hardware acceleration within Chrome and what this refers to is graphics processing.

Most modern computers have a graphics processing unit (GPU). The quality of your GPU is usually determined by how much you paid for the computer. Gamers will spend a lot more for there computers in order to get a really good graphics card as this device is used to perform mathematical calculations and heavy duty graphics processing tasks such as 3D rendering. Quite simply the better the graphics card the better the experience.

Hardware acceleration within Chrome passes most of the graphical intensive tasks within the browser to the GPU which means it makes the most of your hardware. This is good for two reasons. The GPU is designed to handle these tasks and so your browser will perform much better and by using the GPU it frees up the CPU to do other tasks.

You would be right in thinking therefore that in 99.9% of cases you will want to have hardware acceleration turned on.

What about the other 0.01% of the time? Why would you want to turn hardware acceleration off? 

Some people have reported that they get better performance with hardware acceleration turned off. The reason for this is likely to be because the graphics card isn't working properly or they might have the wrong driver installed.

Another reason for turning hardware acceleration off might be to reduce power usage when you are using a laptop running on its battery.

A final and more cynical reason would be the placebo affect. Somebody wants to believe they have improved their computer's performance by turning off the hardware acceleration. This is probably not really the case.

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Is Hardware Acceleration Already Turned On In Chrome?

 The best way to check whether hardware acceleration is turned on is as follows:

  1. Open Chrome
  2. Within the address bar type chrome://gpu

That really is it.

A whole host of results will be returned but the bit you are interested in is the section titled "Graphics Feature Status".

There are 12 items listed under this section:

  • Canvas
  • Flash
  • Flash Stage3D
  • Flash Stage3D Baseline profile
  • Compositing
  • Multiple Raster Threads
  • Native GpuMemoryBuffers
  • Rasterization
  • Video Decode
  • Video Encode
  • VPx Video Decode
  • WebGL

The important thing to look for is to the right of each of these items. You should in the main see the words "Hardware accelerated".

Do not worry if a few of them show as "Software only, Hardware acceleration disabled". This is quite normal.

The majority such as canvas, Flash, compositing, multiple raster, video decode, video encode and WebGL should be turned on however.

If all of your values are set to disabled then you should read on to find out how to turn hardware acceleration on. 

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How To Turn Hardware Acceleration On In Chrome

The first place to go in order to turn on hardware accelerations is the chrome settings page. 

In order to do this follow these straight forward instructions:

  1. Open the Chrome web browser
  2. Within the address bar enter the following: chrome://settings
  3. Scroll to the very bottom of the page 
  4. Click on the advanced settings link
  5. Further options will now be displayed. Scroll again to the very bottom of the page
  6. Under the "System" heading there is an option called "Use hardware acceleration when available". Place a check in the box
  7. The words "requires Chrome restart" will now appear. Click on the restart link
  8. When Chrome re-opens enter chrome://gpu again and check that the words "hardware accelerated" appears next to most of the items in the "Graphics Feature Status" heading

If you see that the "Use hardware acceleration when available" checkbox already has a check in it but your GPU settings showed as disabled then follow the next step.

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How To Force Hardware Acceleration Within Chrome

The final thing to try if your hardware is still not showing accelerated is to override one of the many system flags.

Follow these steps in order to do this:

  1. Open Chrome
  2. Type chrome://flags into the address bar
  3. Find the section called "Override software rendering list"
  4. If the hardware is disabled then there should be an "enable" link. Click on this link.
  5. A blue button appears at the bottom of the page with the words "Relaunch Now". Click on this button.
  6. Within Chrome enter chrome://gpu into the address bar

At this point the words "hardware accelerated" should appear next to most of the items under the "Graphics Feature Status" heading.

If the items still show up as being disabled it could signal a problem with your graphics card or the drivers for your graphics card. This guide shows how to update the drivers on your computer

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How To Turn Off Hardware Acceleration Within Chrome

To turn off hardware acceleration in Chrome you just need to follow the steps for turning on hardware acceleration but remove the tick from the "Use hardware acceleration when available" checkbox.

Follow these steps to turn off hardware acceleration:

  1. Open Chrome
  2. Enter chrome://settings into the address bar
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the "advanced settings" link
  4. More options will appear. Scroll down again to the bottom of the page
  5. Under the "System" heading there will be an option called "Use hardware acceleration when available". Remove the tick from the checkbox.
  6. The words "requires Chrome restart" will appear. Click on the "restart" link
  7. Enter chrome://gpu into the address bar

All of the items under the "Graphics Feature Status" heading should now show as having hardware acceleration disabled.

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How To Test Hardware Acceleration

Click here to see whether hardware acceleration works better on or off. The site is provided by Mozilla who are the people behind the Firefox web browser.

The page provides a number of links which will show how well your browser performs. 

A very simple demo is provided by this animated blob but there are further examples including this fireworks animation and this 3D Rubik's Cube.

If you have a decent graphics card try finding websites with high end Flash animations and games to see whether there is any stuttering. 

Also try watching high definition videos on Youtube and make sure the video is crystal clear. 

Unfortunately, hardware acceleration can't help with buffering (this has to do with your internet connection). However, you might find that other features of Chrome perform far better than before.

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