How to easily monitor CPU and GPU usage when gaming

Updated: June 7th, 2020By: BrantonGuides6 Comments

monitor cpu and gpu usage

Monitoring your CPU and GPU usage when gaming is something we all want to do from time to time. Whether you’re trying to find a bottleneck, or you’re just curious, knowing how hard your computer is working is never a bad thing.

But, how do you get a performance overlay like all of your favorite benchmarkers are using? That’s the real question.

In this post, we’re going to show you one of the easiest ways you can get an On-Screen Display (OSD) to monitor your GPU and CPU usage when gaming. You’ll also be able to monitor things like RAM and pagefile usage, average FPS, 1% and .1% low FPS, and more.

Afterburner and RTSS

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to be using MSI’s Afterburner and Rivatuner Statistics Server (RTSS). This combination of programs is generally the quickest and easiest way to get an overlay working and are awesome tools. If you want something more professional then you can look at this article about hardware monitor tools from VSS Monitoring.

Step 1 is downloading MSI Afterburner. It’s bar-none the best GPU tuning utility you could use and just so happens to come packaged with Rivatuner Statistics Server (RTSS) which we’ll need for the OSD. Not only can you use Afterburner for the OSD, but you can also use it to change things like your GPU clocks and GPU fan speeds – but those are topics for another article.

Once you’ve downloaded Afterburner, you’ll want to run the installer – obviously, right? When you’re installing Afterburner, you’ll get to a page that prompts you to “Choose Components”, make sure both MSI Afterburner and Rivatuner Statistics Server are checked before moving on.

afterburner install

Once the install is done, run both MSI Afterburner and RTSS. Make sure you turn off any other GPU tuning utility you might be running while Afterburner is on.

Step 2 is configuring the OSD settings. First, you’ll want to open Afterburner and click the Settings icon (the little cog below Fan Speed (%)). In the Settings window, navigate to Monitoring – it’s the 3rd option in the top tabs.

msi afterburner

Once you’re in Monitoring, you’ll notice a ton of various settings and options. The section we’re most interested in on this page is “Active hardware monitoring graphs”. That’s where you’ll be enabling (or disabling) the statistics you want to be displayed on your OSD.

To add/remove graphs from your OSD, you can either go through 1-by-1 and tick/untick “Show in On-Screen Display”. Or, the better way would be select multiple and add/remove them with a single click. You can do that 2 ways, either by holding Ctrl and selecting multiple graphs individually or by holding Shift and selecting them in a group from the first click to the next. Then, just like adding a single item, all you have to do is tick “Show in On-Screen Display”.

If you want to add multiple items that are grayed out (unticked in the graph list) you can use Ctrl+click on the checkmark and it’ll activate/deactivate everything you’ve selected.

Once you’ve added everything you need, navigate to “On-Screen Display” (top tabs again, 4th option) and set up a custom hotkey for the “Toggle On-Screen Display” option.

Step 3 is setting up Rivatuner Statistics Server. This part is pretty simple as there’s not much that’s required. There are a lot of settings you can change, but all you really have to do is make sure “Show On-Screen Display” and “On-Screen Display Support” are both set to On – they already should be by default.

rivatuner statistics server

Beyond that, you can customize how your OSD is displayed within RTSS. You can change things like overall zoom, colors, which corner it shows up in, and even the font. You can also set up custom profiles per application if you really wanted to (or needed to).

As long as the 2 settings I mentioned previously are set to “On”, there’s nothing you absolutely have to change in RTSS for your OSD to work. Once your settings are how you want, feel free to minimize RTSS.

Step 4 is starting a game and testing your On-Screen Display. Both RTSS and Afterburner must be running for your OSD to function.

performance overlay

Most settings that we’ve gone over can be changed while a game is running, so if something isn’t exactly right you can often make changes on the fly.

Assuming your OSD shows up correctly, you’re done! You’ve successfully set up your own On-Screen Display and now you can effectively monitor your GPU, CPU, and RAM usage in games, as well as see things like 1% and .1% lows for FPS, and even frametimes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I check my CPU and GPU performance?

To check your CPU and GPU performance using MSI Afterburner and install it, as well as Rivatuner Statistics Server. (same installation wizard). Then, configure monitoring and on-screen settings.

Is 100% GPU usage bad?

100% GPU is not bad. Your PC should be using 100% for any modern game. If it’s not, it means the game either isn’t very demanding or your CPU can’t keep up.

Can CPU affect FPS?

CPUs does affect FPS. Even though it’s primarily the graphics card that affects FPS, CPUs can play a role in lag spikes.

Can a bad CPU cause low FPS?

Yes, a bad CPU can cause low FPS even if you have a great graphics card. If you are suffering from low FPS and have an updated graphics card consider upgrading your CPU.

Conclusion

Monitoring your hardware usage is never a bad thing to do, it can help you find bottlenecks or it could help you to better optimize your overclocks. With any luck, this article was able to instruct you on setting up your own customized OSD.

To summarize the steps, you have to:

  1. Download MSI Afterburner and install it + Rivatuner Statistics Server
  2. Configure Monitoring/On-Screen Display settings
  3. Customize RTSS’s settings
  4. Launch a game and test your OSD

It could be any easier! Those 4 steps are going to work for practically anyone on pretty much any system.

 

Have a question? Ask in the comment section below!

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Branton

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Hey there! I'm Branton, the founder and lead editor here at PC Game Haven. Since our launch in 2015, we've helped thousands upon thousands of gamers build their dream desktops, find the perfect peripherals, and more. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to get in tough!

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Unwinder
Unwinder
April 24, 2019 5:34 am

> Unfortunately, you’ll have to manually add all of the stats you want one at a time by clicking on one, looking to the “Memory usage graph properties” section, and then checking “Show in On-Screen Display”.

You absolutely don’t have to do it one by one. You may select multiple desired graphs in the list with Ctrl/Shift+ mouse cursor, then tick “Show in On-Sceen Display” for all selected items at once with one click.

Scott Utecht
Scott Utecht
October 28, 2020 4:17 pm

It doesn’t seem to work with Steam or Origin games. Am I wrong? Is there a work around?

Ender
Ender
February 5, 2020 11:44 am

Doesn’t work with most newer games since most game recognise the “osd” as hacking software. Stealth Mode doesn’t work ether.

LexicDark
LexicDark
April 21, 2019 7:47 am

Who wrote this ?

Anonymous
Anonymous
July 18, 2019 4:56 pm
Reply to  LexicDark

Branton, the lead editor and founder of PC Game Haven