Where’d all my GPU RAM go?

I’m usually pretty savvy Aabout Windows and gaming. Something recently has me puzzled though. Hoping to tap the brain trust.

I ran into this out of nowhere. My oldest has been playing Half Life Alyx on our Oculus Quest. Had some jitter and frame rate problems I fixed by adjusting the 3D settings in the NVIDIA control panel. Everything was great!

Went to play the next day and it complained about insufficient GPU memory (GPU RAM or VRAM). I have a 2080 with 8GB so my first thought was the game was broken!

I investigated using Open Hardware Monitor and a couple of other utilities. The agree that sitting at the Windows desktop after boot I’m consuming 6GB+ of that 8GB.

Quitting most of the apps and game launchers didn’t seem to matter. I am running at 4K@60 HDR Desktop resolution. Would running a game in full screen versus borderless windowed help free VRAM? Is there any way I can see what’s causing this?

The desktop typically only uses up a smidge of your VRAM when in borderless, but it does use some. Sure sounds like something else is attempting to render in the background. edit - as an aside, your system will use available resources when idle for cleanup and maintenance activities. I know there are some tools out there which will track usage while it’s under load. Your oldest isn’t streaming, right? Edit 2 - the only reason I’d suggest playing games in borderless on a laptop is if you’re running multiple programs and possibly monitors to better handle flipping between them; fullscreen will always be a better performer. It’s handy on a multi-monitor setup to avoid mouse capture and what not, however.

Perhaps trying slashing and burning your way through apps in the task manager might expose the culprit? Anything look off under the GPU or GPU engine columns?

I’ve found Slack tends to consume ~800 MB of VRAM, for example. Chrome is in that ballpark. Close everything you don’t need, especially stuff that minimizes to the system tray.

We used to occasionally get complaints at work from people play testing at 4K who would say “perf on this build sucks!” I’d tell them to close those two and the problems would go away. That’s the only problem with virtualizing VRAM over the bus, stuff will still work but it runs like a dog. And they player is usually not even aware how much their system resources are being occupied.

Thanks for the feedback. Closing several open applications dropped GPU RAM in use from 76% to 60% so it definitely seems like death from a thousand allocations.

I prefer borderless windowed despite the performance hit because I like to be able to ALT+TAB reliably while playing.

The majority of modern games handle alt-tabbing like a champ these days. Unfortunately, there’s that unfortunate handful which don’t and these include some very popular titles. Assuming it’s internet usage that you’re doing in the background, maybe use your phone to look things up while gaming?

It’s not ideal - but doable. Microsoft UWP games all require borderless windowed and G-Sync supports it. Stats I’ve seen say it’s a 1-2 fps hit so it seemed worth the convenience.

Plus if I run games at 1080p the system sometimes doesn’t quite get the switch back to 4K right. I’ve seen oddly sized tray icons, apps, and the Windows taskbar even staying the wrong size. Probably because of the DPI scale switch more than the resolution.

What I would like is more games to support a downscale multiplier. Then I could stay in borderless windowed but run at 1080p effectively. At least until the 3090 comes out…

I tend to uncheck Hardware Acceleration in most apps like Chrome, Discord and the like which usually have it on by default because most of the time it means “We will tie up gpu resources for very little reason without telling you”.