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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Enable Power-Saving Mode on NVIDIA GPUs with Multiple Monitors

A few months ago I pulled an old 17" LCD out of the closet and decided to try out a dual-monitor setup. The extra screen real estate is amazing; I can watch MLB.tv or SC2 streams on the second monitor or check out system temps while I'm gaming. There's one issue that I quickly noticed, however - my 560 Ti wasn't downclocking at all, instead running full blast and idling around 15°C warmer than usual. Nvidia says that this happens with monitors running at two separate screen resolutions and that forcing the cards to run at full power prevents screen flickering.

Thankfully, there's a program called NVIDIA Inspector that includes a handy utility: Multi Display Power Saver. You can download the most recent version (1.9.6.6) here.

After installing and running the program, right-click on the "Show Overclocking" button and run the Multi Display Power Saver. You should see something similar to the following:

Select the GPU you wish to downclock from the list at the top right and you should be good to go. This forces the GPU into a low-power state to keep energy usage and temperatures down. To allow the GPU to switch back into a higher state for games and other programs, you can either set a threshold with the sliders at the bottom or just whitelist each of your games individually. It adds an extra step to the installation process every time you want to play a new game, but it's otherwise pretty easy. To whitelist a game, right-click the area under "Full 3D Applications" and select "Add from File" to manually find the EXE or "Add from running GPU Process" if you have the program running in the background. The right-hand box of "Video Applications" include programs that should be run in a medium power state, so I've got things like media players and the plugin containers for Firefox and Chrome that handle video playback listed here. I threw the included Windows games in there too for shits and giggles; after all, I require premium performance during my Solitaire and Free Cell gaming sessions.

There's an option to start the MDPS utility at Windows startup, but I ran into a conflict with this program and MSI Afterburner, which I use for overclocking. While the MDPS is active for a certain GPU you won't be able to change any of its clocks, so if Afterburner starts up after MDPS you'll run into a problem. If you encounter this issue, the easiest fix is to delay the startup of MDPS by 30 seconds or so to give Afterburner time to start and enable your overclock. There are several ways of delaying startup - downloadable applications, batch files, or the Windows Task Scheduler - and you can find more information here and here.

The same problem I mentioned above exists when you're overclocking, but there's an easy workaround. Simply uncheck your GPU from the list on the MDPS window, tweak whatever needs tweaking in Afterburner or your program of choice, and recheck your GPU in MDPS once you're finished. You can actually use NVIDIA Inspector to handle your overclocking if you want, and it includes voltage control.

As a result of using the Multi Display Power Saver, my idle temps dropped from around 40°C to 26°C. If you're using multiple monitors with Nvidia cards and you're worried about downclocking, definitely give MDPS a look.

Download NVIDIA Inspector 1.9.6.6 from Guru3D: http://downloads.guru3d.com/NVIDIA-Inspector-1.9.6.6-download-2612.html

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