What is Bottlenecking and Why You Should Never Ignore It

What is bottleneck article cover image

Both in tech and manufacturing, the word “Bottleneck” is common. While the fields might be different, the essence of the word is the same. So what is bottlenecking and why should you pay attention to it when it comes to making your custom PC or choosing the parts to create anything that requires processing. 

In the essence, a bottleneck refers to a slow processing component that is paired or used in a machine with other high-speed processing components. So the efficiency and speed of the entire machine (in this case, a computer) are reduced to the maximum capacity of the bottleneck component. 

The term bottleneck comes from the physical bottle and the way it works. A bottle has a wide, more voluminous body. But since the neck is very narrow, no matter how much the bottle can store, the rate at which water (or alcohol) will be decided by the bottleneck and not the capacity of the bottle. 

A very similar process happens when two mismatching components perform a resource-extensive process. The most common pairing in bottlenecking is the CPU and GPU or the Central Processing Unit and the Graphics Processing Unit.

A graphical illustration of a bottleneck process
Both the high powered RAM and GPU are limited by the slow CPU (Green dotted line)

Understanding bottlenecking in easy terms 

There could be a bottleneck situation in various components but we are going to take CPU and GPU as the example. CPU handles the basic processes like opening programs, using the internet, etc. In the early days, the CPU managed both processing tasks and graphics as well. 

But today graphics have gotten really powerful and while the CPU can handle some basic graphics alone, it needs another processor to handle all the visual aspects (such as games) separately. This enables a smoother and more powerful performance. 

Even though they are separate, both CPU and GPU work very closely. They exchange data back and forth. Now let’s say that a CPU can only process 1 GB of data per second (these are all for a simple explanation, actual processes are highly complicated). 

So the CPU can take 1 GB of data per second. The GPU on the other hand can manage 3 GB of data per second. Let’s say the RAM and the SSD can also manage 3 GB of data per second. This is where a bottleneck occurs. And no matter how powerful or capable other hardware is, the output of the PC will be limited to the slowest of the lot. 

Implication of bottlenecking 

As you saw, one slow component can bring down the performance of a computer with high-end processors. This is why it is important to have a PC with components that match in performance rather than some parts being superfast while others dated.

Instead of getting one expensive and powerful component, you should get components that are equal in performance. Let’s say you get a very fast and expensive GPU but a low-powered, dated CPU. The GPU won’t be able to perform well because the CPU will be the bottleneck. 

Bottleneck also applies to RAM (DDR3 vs DDR4), storage devices (SSD vs HDD), ports, PSUs, etc. To get the best out of your PC, select components that have similar output in performance. This concludes the article. If you liked this article, how about reading some more related to tech? Take a look at these articles:

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