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Google Chrome comes equipped with hardware acceleration, a feature which takes advantage of your computer’s GPU to speed up processes and free vital CPU time. However, sometimes driver incompatibilities can cause this feature to misbehave and disabling it could save you a few headaches.

What is Hardware Acceleration?

Hardware acceleration refers to when a program uses a computer’s hardware in support to perform some functions more efficiently than capable in the software. The hardware was designed to perform some functions faster than software running on the CPU alone.

In Chrome, hardware acceleration utilizes your computer’s graphics processing unit (GPU) to tackle graphics-intensive tasks, like playing videos, games, or anything that requires faster mathematical calculations. Passing off specific tasks gives your CPU a chance to work tirelessly on everything else, while the GPU handles processes that it was designed to run.

While this does sound great in most cases, sometimes hardware acceleration can cause Chrome to lag, freeze, or crash—it could even cause your laptop’s battery to drain a lot faster. As everyone’s computer is slightly different, the issue could lie in the GPU or driver associated with it. If you suspect hardware acceleration is the culprit, the best thing to do is to disable it and see if that fixes the problem.

How to Turn Hardware Acceleration On or Off

By default, hardware acceleration is enabled on Chrome, so let’s look at disabling it first.

Fire up Chrome, click the menu icon, and then click on “Settings.” Alternatively, you can type chrome://settings/ into the Omnibox to go directly there.

Click the menu button, then click Settings

In the Settings tab, scroll down to the bottom and then click “Advanced.”

Under Settings, click advanced, located at the bottom of the page

Scroll down to the System section and find the “Use hardware acceleration when available” setting. Toggle the switch to the “Off” position and then click “Relaunch” to apply the changes.

Warning: Make sure you save anything you’re working on. Chrome reopens the tabs that were opened before the relaunch but doesn’t save any of the data contained in them.

Toggle Use hardware acceleration when available to the Off position, then click Relaunch to apply the change

If you’d rather wait to restart Chrome and finish up anything you’re working on, just close the tab. Chrome will apply the change the next time you close and reopen it.

To confirm it has been fully disabled, type chrome://gpu/ into the Omnibox and hit Enter. When hardware acceleration has been disabled, a majority of the items under “Graphics Feature Status” will read “Software only, hardware acceleration disabled.”

List of features that use hardware acceleration. Note a majority of them specify hardware acceleration is disabled

If you’re looking to enable—or re-enable—hardware acceleration, head back to chrome://settings and toggle “Use hardware acceleration when available” setting to the “On” position. Then, click “Relaunch” to apply the change.

To re-enable, toggle Use hardware acceleration when available into the On position, then click Relaunch

Brady Gavin Brady Gavin
Brady Gavin has been immersed in technology for 15 years and has written over 150 detailed tutorials and explainers. He's covered everything from Windows 10 registry hacks to Chrome browser tips. Brady has a diploma in Computer Science from Camosun College in Victoria, BC.  
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