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CPU issues when streaming and playing games

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I noticed I was getting lag spikes in game after starting to stream with OBS. It was not because of my internet speed but because my CPU was using 100% of it’s processing power and killing my mad skills in CSGO. This was causing me to have some pretty horrible issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch.

How to fix CPU related issues when streaming and playing games?

The information in this post will apply to all games not just Counter-Strike Global Offensive so if you have a CPU streaming issue please read on.

I didn’t stream on Twitch much since the summer. Mostly because of other projects and because I started hitting the gym a few times a week! I formatted my PC and put Windows 10 on it plus bought myself a brand new BenQ XL2430T 144Hz monitor and I had taken my green screen down to have a huge sort out in the room I use to stream. All of these things combined meant I had destroyed my streaming setup! Putting things back together takes time but I started to do that this week.

Starting fresh

So previously I guess I had tweaked my CSGO game and my streaming settings, something I must of totally forgot about.

I tried to stream the other day and my CPU was running at 100% and causing CSGO to stutter which made me play really badly. I had to make a some tweaks again and now my CPU is running at around 90% which is perfect in my opinion because I have almost maximum performance from my PC and no issues while streaming and playing games.

Before we start tweaking

If you understand a few simple ideas then you will be able to make choices that work for you rather than just plain copying me. We all have different gaming rigs and stream different styles of games so the fixes are down to you to makes choices.

Understanding the streaming process

When you stream your capture software usually XSplit or OBS is recording your screen at the number of frames you specify, then it is resizing the dimensions of the capture as you specify and then it tries to compress it to the size rate which you specify (1800 KB/s in my case) then it sends it down the wire to Twitch.

So the more frames you have and the larger your screen resolution the larger the amount of data your CPU has to crush in order to meet your specified streaming KB/s.

On top of that CSGO is known to be a very CPU expensive game, the source engine that runs Counter-Strike uses the CPU more so than other games. Newer games pass much more of the graphic processing work to the GPU.

So in my case both CSGO and OBS are using my CPU.

You can check this by going into Task Manager, on Windows by pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

CPU issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch

Analyse CPU issues when streaming and playing games on Twitch!

Reducing your CPU usage is easy

You have to make some choices as to what works best for the style of games yo pay and what software and hardware you use. I outline 5 fixes below.

You may have to use all 5 of them.

Fix 1: Free up valuable CPU processing power

Press CTRL+ALT+DEL and go in to Task Manager. The first unexpected thing I noticed in Task Manager was a little program called “RzStats.Manager.exe” I saw that is was using between 10-12% of my CPU when I moved my mouse. This is because I have a Razer DeathAdder 2013 gaming mouse and when I installed the Razor Synapse 3.0 software it asked me if I would like to turn on statistic tracking for my mouse. At the time this seemed like a great idea. I soon realised that all it really does it create a heat map which is in my opinion completely useless. I disabled statistics tracking in the Razor Synapse software and then the CPU usage disappeared and I gained an extra 10% free processing power.

Analyse what is going on under the hood of your machine using Task Manager and work out what programs are hogging CPU and decide if you need them or not.

Fix 2: Reduce the amount of CPU used by the game you play

In my case CSGO is using my CPU. I like to have all my graphics settings on maximum and I still get over 150 FPS. Reducing the screen resolution of CSGO can give you more CPU if you combine that with lower graphics settings you can free up a lot of CPU power. I play 1080p and I prefer gaming in full quality so I won’t be reducing my settings in CSGO. This is my personal choice.

Adjusting the game quality settings and resolution of your game can sometimes free up CPU power, especially if your game is known for hogging CPU.

Fix 3: Stream at a lower FPS

Reduce the the number of frames per second that you record in. This is what I mentioned earlier. If you are capturing in 60 FPS you are capturing twice as much data as someone who is streaming at 30 FPS and you may have to reduce this. If you are streaming a game like Hearthstone you can probably go as low as 24 FPS without much visual concern. CSGO is a fast paced FPS and I choose to stream at 60 FPS. I can’t sacrifice this.

The lower the frame rate you stream the less CPU will be needed.

Fix 4: Downscale your stream

Downscale effectively throws away some of the data so the CPU handles less data. The less data being used the less work it does. I record my screen at 1080p and I downscale to 720p. I don’t believe many of my viewers watch my stream at full screen and even if they do 720p is still classed as HD.

The more you downscale the less CPU you will use.

Fix 5: Spend some money!!

If you have tried all of the above and still you find your games unplayable it’s time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I am serious, If you think you can be a streamer on a cheap old laptop you are probably wrong. Have a real hard look at your setup, is it really a gaming setup, more importantly can it even stream…

If all else fails go and spend some money on some new kit! 

My crappy old gaming rig

Yes I want to upgrade, I consider my setup a little old now because I have to make sacrifices to stream! I am waiting for the release of the Oculus Rift before I do any thing major with my rig. I want to be an early adapter of the VR technology that is coming and I want to stream that sh*t! Yeaaahh Buddddyy!

Motherboard: ASUS – P8P67 Deluxe
Processor: Intel Core i7-2700K CPU @ 3.50GHz
Cooling: Antec Liquid Cooling KÜHLER H2O 920
RAM: 32 GB Geil Evo 2.400 MHz DDR3 RAM
OS Hard Drives: 2 x Kingston 240GB HyperX SATA III SSD
Data Storage: 2TB Western Digital HD
Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7800 EYEFINITY 6
Power: AMD Radeon HD 7800 EYEFINITY 6
Case: Akasa Venom Full Tower Yellow

Please look at my gaming rig spec above and if your machine is a lower spec than mine then you are probably going to have to make even more compromises than I did. if compromising is not something you want to do then you will have to simply go and spend some money on buying some better streaming kit.

The Final Word!

I left my CSGO settings on maximum plus I really want to stream at 60 FPS. My compromise comes with fix number 4, I downscale to 720p and this was enough to keep my CPU usage in check. There are some other smaller optimisations that you can make but I haven’t mentioned them because if you can’t fix your issues using fix 1, 2, 3 or 4 then I suggested you go straight to option number 5.



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