How to Lower a Video Card's Hardware Acceleration in XP

Turn down (or disable) hardware acceleration through Display Properties

Picture of a graphics card
Evan Amos/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Most video cards are as powerful as many complete computer systems were not too long ago because they need to process huge amounts of information from advanced games and graphics programs.

Sometimes the processing power in the video hardware that helps accelerate graphics and improve performance can cause problems in Windows XP. These problems can range from strange mouse issues, to problems inside of games and graphics programs, to error messages that can stop your operating system from running at all.

Follow these easy steps to lower the hardware acceleration supplied by your graphics card hardware.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Lowering the hardware acceleration on your video card usually takes less than 15 minutes

How to Lower the Hardware Acceleration

Adjusting the hardware acceleration settings for a video card can be accomplished through the Display Properties applet in Control Panel.

Screenshot of the Windows XP hardware acceleration settings
Hardware Acceleration Settings (Windows XP).

Tip: To move through these steps a little quicker than the "normal" way, you can open Display Properties from the desktop by right-clicking the desktop and choosing Properties. If you go this route, skip down to Step 4.

  1. Click Start and then Control Panel.
  2. Click Appearance and Themes.
    1. Note: If you're viewing the Classic View of Control Panel, double-click Display instead, and then skip down to Step 4.
  3. Click Display under the or pick a Control Panel icon section.
  4. Click the Settings tab.
  5. Click Advanced.
  6. Click the Troubleshoot tab.
  7. Move the Hardware acceleration: slider to the left.
    1. We recommend moving the slider two positions to the left and then testing to see if this resolves your problem. If your problem persists, step through this guide again and lower the acceleration even more.
    2. Tip: See the section below on what each of the different levels mean if you're curious what will happen as you lower the hardware acceleration more and more.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Click OK again on the Display Properties window.
    1. Note: You may be prompted to reboot your computer. If you are, go ahead and restart your PC.

You can now test for the error or malfunction again to see if lowering the hardware acceleration on your video card resolved the issue.

Hardware Acceleration Levels

If you're not sure which level of hardware acceleration to use in Windows XP, you're provided with a description of what each setting will do if enabled.

There are six levels of hardware acceleration that you can toggle between, and each one will do something different. Like we mentioned in the steps above, you'd be wise to lower the acceleration little bits at a time to confirm whether or not you should go lower.

  • Full: Leaving hardware acceleration at the "Full" level will, of course, keep hardware acceleration running at full capacity.
  • Reduce by One: Reducing hardware acceleration just one position to the left of "Full" will disable cursor and bitmap accelerations. You might use that level of hardware acceleration if there are problems with your mouse or with images.
    • You'll immediately notice that when this level is enabled, the mouse moves a bit slower than it normally does.
  • Reduce by Two: Moving to the left one more tick disables all cursor and advanced drawing accelerations. Use this setting when you're having issues with images or videos displaying on the screen.
  • Reduce by Three: One more position to the left of "Full" disables DirectDraw and Direct3D accelerations, plus all of the above (cursor and advanced drawing accelerations). This is where you need to be if you're having difficulties using programs that are accelerated using DirectX.
  • Reduce by Four: Everything but basic accelerations is disabled as you go one more level to the left. This setting should be reserved for critical problems only.
  • None: The "None" setting disables all hardware accelerations for the Windows XP video card, and should be used only if your computer is at the point that it quits responding to normal interactions.

Another option below the hardware acceleration slider (in the Troubleshoot tab) is for write combining. This setting, when enabled, is supposed to improve performance, but because increased performance means there's a greater chance of instability, you can disable write combining to help stop your computer from freezing due to hardware acceleration.

Disable this feature by removing the check in the box next to Enable write combining. You'll have to restart your computer for it to take effect.