IE 9 Tip: Using Software Rendering versus Hardware Rendering (for older PCs)

One of my favorite features of the new IE 9 Beta is support for hardware rendering. This feature takes advantage of a modern computer’s GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) in order to render web pages versus the old, less efficient manner of rendering pages virtually or via software rendering. Using hardware rendering, the pages are processed by the CPU and the GPU, taking full advantage of your PCs resources. With software rendering, all of the processes (including video) were done using only the CPU, which meant that the CPU would be bogged down, while the GPU sat there doing nothing. Ultimately, Microsoft was able to harness the power of the GPU so that pages can load faster in IE 9.

Of course, hardware rendering is a little more intensive on your hardware as it’s using the CPU and GPU combined. (Because it taxes the CPU less and moves much of the work over to the GPU, which means individual hardware components aren’t being used as much, but as a whole are being used the same amount as doing software rendering.) Most modern PCs can handle GPU rendering of web pages; however, some older PCs (five years or more) may not have a graphics card that can render web pages as efficiently as older software rendering engine could.

In fact, trying IE 9 Beta on one of my older PCs (a circa 2002 Dell machine), I noticed that my CPU usage would, in fact, spike up to near 100% and remain there during normal web usage. I figured there had to be a way to be able to use IE 9 Beta without using 100% CPU constantly on an older, dilapidated machine. It so happens, there is. Here’s how:

1. Open IE 9 Beta

2. Click the Tool icon (a gear shaped icon) located in the upper right-hand corner.

3. Select “Internet options” from the drop-down menu.

4. The Internet options dialogue box should appear. From here, click the Advanced tab.

5. Check the check-box under “Accelerated graphics” category, it should read “Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering*

6. Click OK.

7. Restart IE 9 Beta.

It’s crucial that you restart IE 9, as the changes will only take effect after a proper restart. Note, however, you only need to restart IE 9, not your entire PC. IE 9 should now respond much better under normal usage and you shouldn’t notice any major CPU usage spikes, though they may still randomly happen from time to time.

If you have a newer PC, disabling hardware rendering is NOT recommended by me or Microsoft. Hardware rendering should under normal circumstances improve your web browsing experience and disabling it may only lead to IE 9 not loading pages as quickly. This option was more than likely placed here primarily for older GPUs (and, naturally, older PCs).

Microsoft released the IE 9 Beta in mid-September 2010. It’s currently up for grabs from the Beauty of the Web site that Microsoft launched shortly before IE 9 Beta’s release. Microsoft is expected to release the Release Candidate bits for IE 9 sometime late January.

Enjoy surfing the web with IE 9!

(Note: I’m not affiliated with the Windows Team Blog in any way, except for having a commenting account through them, nor am I  promoting them with the screen captures. It is, however, my home page and the realm of where I was taking the screenshots at the time.)

2 thoughts on “IE 9 Tip: Using Software Rendering versus Hardware Rendering (for older PCs)

  1. Oh so many words and in the end I still don’t know if I should use software rendering
    instead of GPU rendering? Can you be less technical and just give a plain answer?

    1. Well, in the end I ultimately recommend that if you are using an older PC (prior to 2010) you should not use GPU rendering. If your PC is > 2010, you should use GPU rendering.

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