The bottleneck has always been our great enemy when we updated our PC little by little. It is very important that we have a balanced team that has strength in all its components, not just a few. So, it is very important to know what it is and how we can solve it.
Surely, you have all seen what causes a bottleneck in an unbalanced team. The consequences of this are usually suffered in video games , which are the applications that demand the most resources from various components simultaneously. We always try to make you enjoy your teams as much as possible, so we explain what this phenomenon is and the solutions that exist.
What is a bottleneck on the PC?
To begin with, you may wonder where the expression “bottleneck” comes from and how it came about. Curiously, it is a concept that is extrapolated in various areas of life, such as a production process, a data transfer or in the demographics of a population. For example, in a company the bottleneck means that the activity or production phase is being slower than normal, which translates into more costs. However, we are here to explain what a bottleneck is on a PC.
In the case of our PC, the bottleneck arises when there is a component that slows the overall performance of the system because its specifications are out of balance. Typically, bottlenecks are caused by the CPU providing significantly lower performance than the GPU , or vice versa. To give you an idea, we would see this phenomenon of this type in an i3 combined with an RTX 2070, for example.
The GPU alone can handle a huge graphics load, but the CPU can’t keep up with it because it’s low-end and doesn’t have the right technical specs. In this way, we are facing an unbalanced team . However, bottlenecks do not only originate between CPU and GPU, although they are the two main components and the decompensation of one of them causes the greatest impact on the system.
The other two components that have the most impact on final performance are RAM and hard drives . Starting with the first, there are very demanding video games that ask for 16 GB of RAM in their recommended specifications. If we have a good CPU and GPU, but our RAM is 8 GB, you are going to experience a lot of “jerks” while playing because the RAM is insufficient.
We are seeing that hard drives are really important when it comes to reading a lot of data. As time goes by, video games get heavier and heavier, reaching almost 100 GB per install . Obviously, all this data must be read when we are playing, so we will need a high speed. For this reason, HDDs can cause anomalies derived from a bottleneck in certain games because their reading speed does not exceed 140 MB / s . This forces us to have to buy a high-capacity SSD because: we need 400-500 MB / s of reading and video games take up more and more.
Lastly, special mention to low-quality heatsinks , such as poorly ventilated PC cases. Its impact is much less than other components, but poor dissipation will lead to thermal throttling . This will cause the CPU to slow down to cool down; furthermore, it limits your overclocking options. In short, we will not be able to get the maximum performance out of our processor, making it work below its maximum performance
How to know if we have a bottleneck in the PC
There are several ways to find out if our PC has a bottleneck. We will know this fact through symptoms or by other means, which we are going to observe below.
First of all, I usually recommend a very interesting calculator that illustrates a bottleneck percentage in relation to our CPU and GPU . This calculator is called the ” Bottleneck Calculator ” and it gives us an idea of how well compensated our team is.
We just have to select the processor and the graphics card that we have. In the event that you have overclocked any of these components, you can record it by clicking on ” Advanced settings “. Also, you can reflect that you have several GPUs. When you have filled in the data, hit ” Calculate “.
In my case, I have a Ryzen 5 1600 and an NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super , a somewhat unbalanced configuration because my processor is from 2017 and the GPU from 2019. Likewise, it is not a crazy configuration, nor do I notice a bottleneck that prevents me from playing fluently.
The calculator will give us the result of the bottleneck in 1080p, 1440p (2K) and 2160p (4K). In addition, they will offer us the different options we have to update our components, such as the performance that our team will offer in the most played video games.
We simply recommend its use because it helps us, generally, to check if the bottleneck is important or is not going to affect our performance.
Gaming experience issues
Video games are a great test to see if our PC has a bottleneck. If you wonder how to know if you have a bottleneck while playing, the most common symptoms are usually the following:
- Micro jerks while you play . They usually last 1 second, but they are very noticeable because they are usually constant. They greatly impoverish the experience.
- Delay in loading textures . If you see that your PC takes time to load certain textures, it is because there is a bottleneck. Beware of HDDs here, which are usually the most to blame for this, although the CPU has its responsibility as well. Anyway, it may be a video game bug that is fixed with an update, take it as an example when it happens to you in different games.
- Weird in-game noises . Personally, this was the case in Borderlands 3 and The Division 2. The reason was that my 8GB RAM was insufficient to play on ULTRA graphics settings. Therefore, very unpleasant noises (such as error) were reproduced within the video game that were accompanied by the micro-jerks that we have talked about before. You can see an instant green screen of this type that lasts 1 second.
- Less FPS than other settings. In theory, if we have a great graphics card, we should have access to a good gaming experience. On the other hand, the processor has a very important role. So, if you see that your FPS are low, take a look at the graphic settings of the video game, as well as the technical specifications of the equipment in relation to those recommended by the developer.
This check is much more useful when the bottleneck is caused by the hard drive or RAM. With the task manager we can see the load assumed by the components (CPU, GPU, RAM and hard drives), which will help us to detect what is failing.
Our advice is that you open the game, or the program that gives you performance problems, and use it as usual. After spending 5-10 minutes playing or working , you open the task manager by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + ESC or CTRL + ALT + DEL .
Go to the ” Processes ” tab and look at the ” CPU “, ” Memory ” or ” GPU ” columns. In case you see the CPU at 90%, worry and try to find out why this is happening. If it is the RAM that is around 90% (it will be shown in red), take a look at the processes that are consuming the most RAM to kill them.
Lastly, if it’s the hard drive, find out what’s making it 90%. Normally the hard drive goes to 90% temporarily, it is not a situation that you see continuously.
Another way that allows us to find out the existence of a bottleneck in our PC are benchmarks. The key is that, normally, we can record the result obtained in the test to compare it with other similar configurations. It is true that you have to find a benchmark that uses CPU and GPU .
However, if we benchmark each component, we can collect information on individual performance. This will allow us to get an idea of which component is bottlenecking our PC. For example, on a Ryzen platform it is important that the RAM memory is clocked at a minimum of 3200 MHz. Simply swapping a 2,666 MHz memory for a 3,200 MHz memory can have a huge impact on overall performance.
How to fix the bottleneck
Unfortunately, you will not like some of these solutions because it involves investing money. That said, you may just need to make an adjustment to help fix this bottleneck. Obviously, depending on the component that is causing the bottleneck, the solution will be different.
As you may have guessed, the CPU can cause a bottleneck for various reasons. Therefore, the logical thing is to give you a solution for each reason. It could be summarized as follows:
- Lower performance due to thermal throttling . The solution would be to clean the inside of the case (including the components) well and change the thermal paste of the CPU. Monitor the temperatures to see if the problem has been fixed. If it’s still warmer than normal, reprogram the case fans and heatsink. The CPU may overheat because the fans are not spinning fast enough.
- Graphics settings that load the CPU . There are graphics options that load the CPU, so we recommend that you go to the video game settings and lower the quality of shadows, reflections, particles, distance, NVIDIA PhysX, vegetation, population density, viewing distance or environmental occlusion.
- Processes that load the CPU . Open the task manager and check that there is no process (other than the video game) that is loading the CPU with work. If there is, finish it to free the processor.
- Increase the resolution in the game . Although it seems crazy to you, there is the possibility of balancing the load between GPU and CPU. If we raise the resolution of the game, the GPU will have more load, which can free up the processor of work. There have been cases where this solution has helped, but it doesn’t have to always be this way.
- Overclock . This solution is not so general because not all processors can be squeezed in this way. In fact, many motherboard chipsets do not support this practice. If you find yourself in the case that your processor is unlocked and your motherboard is compatible with overclock, try to do it.
- Upgrade the processor . The last solution we can give you is the purchase of a processor that does not bottleneck the graphics card. These usually involve a large investment because you may have to change the motherboard as well.
On the other hand, we have the graphics card as another of the great components that cause this phenomenon. As with the CPU, there are different solutions paired with different cases.
- Lower performance due to Thermal throttling . In the case of graphics cards it is more complicated for this situation to occur, but monitor the temperatures to make sure. The solution is to clean your heatsink well and program the fans so that they rotate at certain RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) when the GPU reaches a certain temperature. You can do it with MSI Afterburner , for example.
- Download graphic options . Graphics cards support rendering tasks, so we recommend that you lower the resolution, the quality of the textures, the shadows, anisotropic filter, antialiasing, lower smoothing to FXAA, SSAO ambient occlusion (if it can be disabled), movement effect deactivated or tessellation, among others.
- Overclock . Beware of overclocking graphics cards because you may experience certain instabilities that prevent you from enjoying your games. If you are going to carry it out, do it knowingly.
- Update . Unfortunately, it is something that neither of us want to get to because it is a very expensive component. However, it is usually considered as the best solution, as long as our GPU is making a major bottleneck.
RAM memory can have a lot of impact on our gaming experience. Normally, the important thing about a RAM memory is its frequency, capacity and latency. If we have balanced memories, we will not have any problems. However, we can see ourselves in the case that memory is the bottleneck. The solutions are these:
- End background processes . I suppose you already know the amount of RAM that web browsers consume. If the problem is that you have little RAM, you must end the processes that consume certain MBs. Although it may seem silly, it is more common than it seems.
- Download the graphic configuration of the video game . You may find yourself at a crossroads because your GPU and CPU are very good, but your RAM prevents you from enjoying the video game as you want. The solution we propose is that you lower the quality of the graphic options because the consumption of RAM memory shoots up when we play in Ultra quality.
- Overclock . It is one more solution that you can take into account, but I anticipate that the results are not groundbreaking. For example, if you are going to overclock from 2800 MHz to 3.000 MHz, you will not notice the difference.
- Update RAM memory . This solution is the most recommended, especially when we have 8 GB or less. Remember that frequency, capacity and latency are important. Check that the motherboard supports a higher frequency.
Finally, hard drives tend to pose fewer problems, which means fewer solutions. Mainly, the most practical solutions are 2:
- End processes that are using the unit . You can do it from the task manager, looking at the “Disk” column. It is worth mentioning that this column represents the hard disk on which we have installed Windows. If you install the games on a secondary HDD, you have to go to the “Performance” tab to see a breakdown of the load on each hard drive.
- Change hard drive , or install the game on the SSD . Personally, I don’t know of anyone who has had to buy an SSD because they have not been able to play normally on a HDD in good condition. However, it is true that the difference in loading times is abysmal.
In most cases, the bottleneck of our PC is solved after updating the components that cause this phenomenon.