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What Is Hardware Acceleration and When Should You Use It?

Have you encountered the term «hardware acceleration» and wondered what it means?

Read on to find out what hardware acceleration means, what it does and its advantages, and why you may want to enable or disable it.

What Is Hardware Acceleration?

Hardware Acceleration
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Hardware acceleration is a process where applications offload certain tasks to hardware in your system, especially to accelerate that task.

This gives you more performance and efficiency than if the same process used only your general-purpose CPU.

While hardware acceleration can be defined as any task offloaded to something other than your CPU, hardware acceleration typically refers to handing tasks to GPUs and sound cards. As specialized hardware, they are better suited to perform certain activities.

What Does Hardware Acceleration Do?

As above, hardware acceleration helps to shift processing from the CPU to other specialized hardware.

For example, if you play a game on a computer that doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, you will be able to play it, but the performance won’t be the same as a system with a dedicated GPU.

A discreet GPU is built to handle high-performance graphics processing, unlike the CPU. Furthermore, a dedicated GPU reduces the CPU processing load, freeing it for other tasks it can complete more efficiently than a GPU.

What Is Tethering Hardware Acceleration?

Tethering hardware acceleration is one of the many types of hardware acceleration systems available.

For example, you can use tethering hardware acceleration to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, offloading tasks related to tethering onto a dedicated Wi-Fi chip that handles it more efficiently, reducing the system workload.

Tethering works over Bluetooth, wireless LAN, and by a physical cable.

When to Use Hardware Acceleration

Hardware acceleration is applicable in many different fields, including but not limited to:

  • Computer graphics via Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)
  • Digital signal processing via Digital Signal Processor
  • Analog signal processing via Field-Programmable Analog Array
  • Sound processing via sound card
  • Computer networking via network processor and network interface controller
  • Cryptography via cryptographic accelerator and secure cryptoprocessor
  • Artificial Intelligence via AI accelerator
  • In-memory processing via network on a chip and systolic array
  • Any given computing task via Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA), Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), Complex Programmable Logic Devices (CPLD), and Systems-on-Chip (SoC)

Related: Best Free Media Players for Windows

If you have a powerful and stable GPU, enabling hardware acceleration will allow you to utilize your GPU to its full extent in games and all supported use cases.

Using hardware acceleration in Google Chrome allows you to consume media and browse through your daily routine much smoother. That’s another thing: if it starts causing freezing and crashing issues and you may need to disable hardware acceleration.

While editing and rendering videos in software like Adobe Premiere Pro, or when streaming on Twitch or YouTube using software like OBS, enabling hardware acceleration allows you to use the specialized hardware, which typically is your GPU, to give you faster export times and a better user experience with your streaming software.

If you have the latest drivers and your GPU is decently powerful, always enable hardware when you see the option. You’ll have a much smoother experience with that application after enabling hardware acceleration.

How to Disable Hardware Acceleration in Google Chrome

Although hardware acceleration speeds things up and is a great feature to have, it sometimes may do more harm than good.

For example, in Google Chrome, hardware acceleration can sometimes cause issues like crashing or freezing in Chrome and to fix these issues, you may need to disable hardware acceleration.

To do so, go to Menu > Settings > Advanced and disable Use hardware acceleration when available near the bottom of the list.

Chrome Use Hardware Acceleration

Another way is to go to Menu > Settings and search hardware acceleration in the search bar, and it’ll highlight the hardware acceleration settings for you.

Chrome Hardware Acceleration

The process of disabling hardware acceleration varies between programs and operating systems, so it’s best to complete an internet search to find out how to switch it off in other situations.

There are several other reasons you may want to disable hardware acceleration:

  • If you have a relatively powerful CPU compared to the rest of your computer’s components, hardware acceleration may be ineffective for certain tasks.
  • If your PC is overheating, especially the GPU, you may not want to use hardware acceleration.
  • The software that manages your hardware acceleration settings may not be doing a good job or may not be as stable when working with your CPU. This is another reason you may not want to use GPU or hardware acceleration.

Hardware Acceleration vs. Software Acceleration

Software acceleration is only beneficial in a limited number of special-purpose applications. Conversely, hardware acceleration is useful for a wider variety of common, graphically intensive tasks.

Let’s look at a few questions related to hardware acceleration and their answers.

Is Hardware Acceleration Good or Bad?

Hardware acceleration is good because it boosts performance for certain tasks.

But sometimes, it may cause issues such as freezing or crashing in Google Chrome or other browsers, forcing you to disable the feature to fix the issue.

Should I Turn Off Hardware Acceleration?

Unless you’re facing an issue that you know is because of hardware acceleration, you shouldn’t turn off hardware acceleration. It’ll generally do more good than harm, but when you see it is causing you more harm instead, that’s when you should turn it off for that one specific app.

Does My Computer Support Hardware Acceleration?

If you have a dedicated graphics card, your computer supports hardware acceleration. All you have to do now is install an app that uses hardware acceleration and see if you can enable it in its settings.

Does Hardware Acceleration Use More Battery?

Turning on hardware acceleration improves your battery life, performance, and responsiveness. Hardware acceleration offloads certain tasks from the CPU to the GPU or any other specialized hardware that can do it more efficiently, resulting in faster processing times and longer-lasting batteries.

Hardware Acceleration Speeds Up Task Processing

You probably know more about hardware acceleration at this point than the average Joe. If something’s acting up when playing games or watching videos in your browser, you now know that hardware acceleration could be the culprit.

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