Even with one of the best Linux distros for gaming installed, you may still struggle with the performance of your GPU if it isn’t properly configured. Checking the management tool for your particular graphics card could help you determine if there are any problems or issues.
If you have an Nvidia GPU, there are two tools on Linux to help you monitor its performance — NVTOP and Nvidia-SMI.
If you want to monitor the usage of your GPU in real-time, you’ll need to give NVTOP a try. You’ll need to be using the proprietary Nvidia drivers for your GPU to be able to use it.
You’ll start NVTOP from the terminal where you’ll see current GPU and graphics memory usage, both currently and over a longer period, thanks to the visual graph. This updates during use, with currently running processes shown underneath. This can help you track down any overzealous processes using your GPU memory, for instance.
You’ll also be able to see the current temperature and fan usage, as well as data on current power consumption. The latest versions of Ubuntu and Debian have NVTOP included in their repositories. You can install it by running:
sudo apt install nvtop
If you’re running another Linux distro (or an older version of Ubuntu or Debian), you’ll need to compile and install it manually using the instructions on the NVTOP Github page. Once it’s installed, just run it from the terminal by typing:
If you’d like to see additional command flags to customize NVTOP before running it, run
nvtop -h instead.
An alternative to the third-party-developed NVTOP, Nvidia-SMI is official software. It comes pre-packaged with the proprietary drivers that Nvidia provides for Linux users, so you don’t need to install anything extra to use it.
It’s built around the Nvidia Management Library, as NVTOP is, to provide you with current information on your GPU’s performance.
That’s why much of the information you’ll see with Nvidia-SMI is similar, or identical, to NVTOP. You get a snapshot of current power, GPU and memory usage, including a list of running processes.
To run it, assuming you have the required drivers installed, open a terminal and type:
The information will be listed immediately. The benefit of Nvidia-SMI over NVTOP is the clarity of the information. It provides an instant snapshot of your GPU’s performance, rather than the running information you’ll see with NVTOP. It’s also official software, provided by Nvidia for you to use.
You can run the command as many times as you’d like to receive the most up-to-date information. If you’re attempting to report an issue with your GPU, the information from Nvidia-SMI can be easily saved straight to a file using a command like
nvidia-smi > nvidia-output.txt.
You can also run
nvidia-smi -h to see a full list of customization flags.
Monitor and Optimize Your Nvidia GPU in Linux
NVTOP and Nvidia-SMI are the only tools you’ll need to help you monitor your Nvidia GPU in Linux. They offer text-based and visual methods for monitoring your GPU performance, using Nvidia’s own management API as their core. This guarantees that the information you’re seeing is as accurate as possible.
If your GPU isn’t working effectively, it might be time for you to consider upgrading. Our graphics card buyer’s guide should help you find the best new graphics card for you if that’s the case.
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