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

What is hardware acceleration?

Hardware acceleration refers to when a program uses a computer’s hardware as a support to perform some functions more efficiently than it is capable of in software. Hardware was designed to perform some functions faster than software that runs only on the CPU.

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

While this sounds great in most cases, sometimes hardware acceleration can cause Chrome to lag, freeze, or crash; it could even make your laptop battery drain much faster. Since everyone’s computer is slightly different, the problem could be with the GPU or the driver associated with it. If you suspect hardware acceleration is to blame, your best bet is to disable it and see if that fixes the problem.

How to enable or disable hardware acceleration

By default, hardware acceleration is enabled in Chrome, so let’s see how to disable it first.

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

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

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

Warning: be sure to save anything you are working on. Chrome reopens tabs that were open before the relaunch, but doesn’t save any of the data they contain.

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

To confirm that it has been fully disabled, type chrome://gpu/ in the omnibox and press Enter. When hardware acceleration is disabled, most items under “Graphics Feature Status” will read “Software Only, Hardware Acceleration Disabled.”

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