So you just got a shiny new graphics card and you want to see how it performs. Or maybe your games are more sluggish than you expected, and you want to try and diagnose the problem. Monitoring your game’s framerate can help, and there are a number of tools you can use to get the job done.
What Is Framerate, and Why Should I Care?
Your framerate, measured in frames per second (fps), describes how smoothly a given game runs on your PC. The more frames you can pack into one second, the more smooth motion will be on-screen. Lower framerates—that is, framerates lower than 30fps or so—will appear choppy or slow. It’s a useful metric for evaluating your hardware’s gaming performance, and often touted by PC enthusiasts looking to boast about their system.
(Image by Marioysikax/PC Gaming Wiki)
It isn’t just about bragging rights, though—knowing your framerate can also help you ensure you’re getting the best performance possible. For example, if your game is running slowly, displaying the framerate can help you figure out which graphics settings to turn down for the most meaningful boost.
Knowing your framerate can help you decide which monitor to buy—after all, there’s no reason to spring for a 144Hz monitor if your graphics card is only powerful enough to produce 60fps in the games you play. Monitoring the framerate alongside other hardware stats, like CPU, GPU, and VRAM usage, can even tell you which component is the bottleneck in your system—and where you’d benefit most from an upgrade.
Convinced? Here are a few ways to measure your framerate, depending on how much info you need.
Quick and Dirty: Use Steam’s Built-In FPS Counter
If you’re launching a game on Steam—even if it’s a game you didn’t buy on Steam—you can use the launcher’s in-game framerate counter to measure performance. To turn this feature on, head to Steam’s Settings > In-Game > In-Game FPS Counter. Select a location in the drop-down to turn it on.
The next time you launch a game, you’ll see your framerate displayed in the corner using dark gray text (though you can check the High Contrast Color box to display it in more readable text).
This option is easy to enable, but it’s pretty basic—there’s no hotkey to turn it on and off in-game, and you don’t have the option to show any other stats like third-party tools may offer. But for something quick and unobtrusive, it’s a perfect solution.
If you’re using a different game launcher, like Epic Games or EA’s Origin, check its settings as it may have something similar.
For More Detailed Info: Install MSI Afterburner
Sometimes, monitoring your framerate isn’t quite enough. Other hardware stats can show you if a component is being maxed out. If your CPU is always at 100 percent in-game while your GPU chugs along at 40 percent, for example, you’re better off putting your upgrade money toward a new CPU. Or maybe your CPU and GPU usage are fine while VRAM usage is maxed out, which would indicate that texture resolution is set too high for smooth performance.
For seeing these other stats, I like using a tool called MSI Afterburner. Technically, its main purpose is overclocking your graphics card, but it also provides an incredibly detailed, customizable overlay with more stats than you can shake a stick at. And it works with any graphics card, not just those manufactured by MSI.
Install MSI Afterburner, making sure you include the bundled RivaTuner Statistics Server application (which is required for displaying performance information). Open Afterburner’s settings and head to the Monitoring tab. You’ll see a huge list of metrics you can display, including framerate, GPU Usage, Memory Usage, CPU Usage, Fan Speed, and more.
Go through the list and click the checkmark next to any stat you want to monitor—then select it and check the Show in On-Screen Display box below the list. After doing this for each stat you want to monitor, click the On-Screen Display tab and assign a shortcut to toggle the on-screen display.
Once you’re done, click OK and launch your game of choice. Strike the keyboard shortcut you chose in the settings, and you should see the on-screen display appear in the corner of your monitor, full of juicy stats about your PC’s performance.
Check Your Game’s Settings
If you don’t want to get involved with any extra software, many games actually have their own framerate monitors built right in. These are particularly useful for online games, since they can show stats like latency. Here are a few popular examples:
- Fortnite: Look under Settings > Video > Show FPS.
- Overwatch: Check Options > Video > Display Performance Stats, and expand the Advanced menu to enable extra stats.
- League of Legends: Press Ctrl+F in-game to view framerate and latency stats.
- Dota 2: Head to Settings > Options > Advanced Options > Display Network Information.
Check your game’s settings to see what’s available. In some cases, it may be hidden behind a console command, like in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and you may need to Google around if a setting isn’t easily accessible.
There are countless other tools if none of the above options suit you. For example, your graphics software also has a framerate monitor built in. Nvidia’s GeForce Experience has a basic one, like Steam’s, while AMD’s Radeon Settings includes one that’s slightly more detailed and customizable.
Third-party tools like Fraps and FPS Monitor are also popular, though they may cost money for certain features. No matter your needs, there’s probably something out there if you’re willing to look around. But for most people, these above options should cover your bases.