Should You Be Using The Shader Cache? (Expert Tips)

If you’re playing games on your PC, you’re understandably going to want them running in the very best state they can on your hardware.

Should You Be Using The Shader Cache (Expert Tips)

Not every PC gamer will have the knowledge to do this, though, happily playing their games without knowing how much better they could potentially look and run. 

With that being said, there are loads of settings and specifications to understand, and it can be a little intimidating to those looking to learn more.

For example, a topic that you might see coming up again and again is Shader Cache. What is it? What’s the difference between the different Shader Cache size values?

Thankfully, we’ve got the answers you need. In our handy and detailed guide below, we’re going to tell you all about Shader Cache, whether you should use it, and much more.

By the end, you’ll be more knowledgeable of your computer and – hopefully – able to get your games running better. Read on!

What Is The Shader Cache? 

The Shader Cache is the term given to a collection of parsed and pre-compiled shaders. When you’re playing a game, you’ll be moving around a lot, passing through different environments and encountering different dynamics in the game world.

For example, the lighting conditions will be constantly changing, or you might be encountering specific environmental techniques like transparency or fog.

In order to complete these effects, the computer will need necessary shaders with their variables defined, and a game regularly doing this might cause it to run poorly. This is where the Shader Cache comes in.

What Does The Shader Cache Do?

The Shader Cache helps the game run much smoother and quicker by saving certain textures and interactions, so that they don’t have to be reloaded again and again later.

Not all textures are going to be coming back, but there are plenty of aspects of the game that you’ll be encountering more than once, and the Shader Cache can ensure you encounter them smoothly each subsequent time.

Nobody wants their game to be interrupted constantly by stuttering, and that’s what would happen if your computer had to reload the same shaders and textures over and over.

This is especially useful nowadays, since modern games are more graphically intensive than ever, which would mean you’d be suffering even worse stuttering.

In addition to that, it should improve the loading times of your games too, which is especially useful for games that already have long loading times.

We all know how annoying it can be waiting for through a long loading screen, and the Shader Cache should be able to ease some of that.

Does It Affect All PCs?

But what if you’ve got an incredibly high-end PC? Surely that would cope better with any reloading? This actually isn’t really the case, you might be surprised to find out. 

Even gamers who have a PC that’s really powerful, with plenty of impressive specifications, might find their games still stuttering.

This is because the game’s might be suffering from not having a populated Shader Cache, so you’ll always want to make sure that your Shader Cache is at the optimal settings for you and your PC.

Without the Shader Cache properly being used, your games are likely to suffer from stuttering and constant reloading issues, regardless of whether you’ve got a powerful PC or not. 

What Are The Benefits Of The Shader Cache?

As you can tell by now, the Shader Cache is a really useful part of the PC gaming experience, and it’s one that every gamer should know about and embrace.

Every game isn’t going to automatically have the Shader Cache option active, so it’s essential that you turn it on yourself, and understand the benefits it’s going to bring to your gaming experience.

We’ve touched on the general benefits so far, but we’re going to go into them in more depth now in order to really convince gamers to use the Shader Cache! 

There’s nothing worse than having your game ruined by constant stuttering or loading issues, and will repeatedly negatively affect your gaming experience.

This is even worse if you’ve just invested in a top end gaming PC, expecting every game to run smoothly and quickly. 

It Makes Your Loading Times Quicker

There can be nothing more frustrating to a gamer than a long loading time, especially when you’re desperate to play a game.

If it’s your first time playing a new release that you’ve been eagerly anticipating, or you’re returning again and again to a favorite title, you’ll want to spend as little time as possible on the loading screens.

With new games becoming more and more graphically intensive, the loading times are likely to take much longer too, because the game has to load in much higher-quality objects and textures.

In these cases, you’re definitely not going to want to sit through long loading times!

Thankfully, the loading times of your favorite games will be reduced when the Shader Cache is being used.

This will really be useful if you’re playing games that already had significant loading times, such as “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” or “Fallout 4”, both massive open worlds with loads of textures and objects to load anyway.

Keep the Shader Cache enabled for the game and your PC will thank you, too, since long-loading games are hardware intensive. 

It Makes Your Gameplay Smoother By Reducing Stuttering

On top of shortening loading times, having the Shader Cache enabled during games will help to improve your gameplay experience and make it smoother, by reducing the amount of stuttering that you’re likely to encounter.

If there’s one thing that will ruin a video game for you, it’s lag and stuttering. We all want our gameplay experiences to go smoothly, without any noticeable stops or jumps.

Whenever we do experience stuttering like that, it breaks the flow of the game and breaks our immersion of it. 

On top of this, stuttering can throw your game off, too. If you’re in a high pressure situation in the game, fighting away a whole load of enemies, then a brief stutter could make all the difference and cause a Game Over. 

Similarly, if you’re playing a video game online, then you need an absolutely smooth experience.

A second of smoothness can make all the difference in multiplayer games, with a momentary stutter being the difference between you defeating an enemy – and them defeating you.

With stuttering, you could drop to the bottom of the game’s leaderboards.

Stuttering is especially present in the more graphically intensive and hardware intensive games, so it’s extra important that you try to cut it out here.

Thankfully, enabling the Shader Cache will result in your games getting much less stutter, keeping your game experience a lot smoother. 

It Will Convert Generic Shaders To Ones Specific To Your GPU

When you play a new game for the first time, you can expect it to be a rough experience, with a fair amount of stuttering.

For some gamers, this might be enough to put them off, but it’s important that you don’t give up since the experience will be a lot smoother every other time you play it after that.

Why? Well, it’s all to do with enabling the Shader Cache.

If you’ve got the Shader Cache enabled, then it will convert the shaders. When you play a game, the shaders that the developers are providing from it are “generic”.

As a result, they need to be converted in order for the game to run smoothly, with the generic shaders being turned into ones specific to your GPU.

Once the shaders are GPU-specific, it should allow the game to run a lot better and smoother, giving you the perfect gaming experience that you were hoping for in the first place.

What Happens If You Delete DirectX Shader Cache?

When users are cleaning up space in their Disk Cleanup, they might notice that DirectX Shader Cache is taking up more room than they would like. But is it safe to delete it?

Thankfully, it is. If you need the space, or you feel the Cache has become corrupt, then you can delete DirectX Shader Cache.

It’s worth noting, though, that although the folder will be deleted, the Shader Cache will regenerate and begin to fill up again over time. 

With that being said, without the Shader Cache properly implemented, your games will suffer all the issues that we just laid out.

The Shader Cache reduces loading times and lessens the amount of stuttering during gameplay, giving you a smoother experience overall.

When you delete DirectX Shader Cache, your game is likely to take longer to load again, as well suffer frequent stuttering while they try to reload parts.

What Size Shader Cache Should You Be Using?

When using the Shader Cache, you’ll want to choose the right size that’s going to be best for you and your PC hardware.

You’ll be picking from predefined values, rather than picking your own, and we’re going to explain what they mean.

You’ll find the size options in the Control Panel of your GPU, but for our example we’re going to be looking at the Control Panel for NVIDIA. 

How Do You Change The Shader Cache Settings?

Step One: Open The NVIDIA Control Panel

First off, you’re going to want to open the NVIDIA Control Panel window on your PC.

Step Two: Manage 3D Settings

If you look at the left-hand side of the window, you’ll see a task heading saying “3D Settings”. Under that, there are three options. Click the one that says “Manage 3D Settings”.

This will open up new options on the right.

Step Three: Switching The Shader Cache On

From the Manage 3D Settings page, you’ll see two tabs at the top.

“Program Settings” will allow you to create profiles for specific games, while “Global Settings” is going to allow you to set more general settings to be used across all games.

Should You Be Using The Shader Cache (Expert Tips) (1)

On the Global Settings list, scroll down about halfway and you’ll find the “Shader Cache” option. If it’s off, then switch it on.

Step Four: Changing The Shader Cache Size

You should also be able to find an option here to change the Shader Cache size.

What Are The Different Shader Cache Sizes?

From the same control panel, you should be able to change the size of the Shader Cache. When you’re doing this, you’ll be given a dropdown menu of 8 pre-determined values.

This means that you can’t pick a value of your own, you have to pick from a series of predefined ones. 

When selecting from the list, your options will be:

  • Driver Default
  • 128MB
  • 256MB
  • 512MB
  • 1GB
  • 5GB
  • 10GB
  • 100GB
  • Unlimited

Additionally, the option to disable the Shader Cache is at the top of the list

What Size Shader Cache Should You Use?

With all of those options, you might be overwhelmed in wondering what the best Shader Cache size is going to be for your hardware.

Strictly speaking, it’s usually going to be best to leave the setting set to “Driver Default”.

Though the other predefined values might be tempting, unless you know all about your PC and how it runs, then you’re not going to want to risk selecting another option from the list – especially the high ones.

Instead, the Driver Default is going to be the best Shader Cache size for most PCs, so it’s worth leaving yours set to that option.

What is The Unlimited Shader Cache Size?

You’ll have noticed that the Shader Cache values go up in size, going from specific amounts of megabytes to gigabytes. However, the very highest option was “Unlimited”.

As you can guess, this gives the Shader Cache unlimited storage space, which should allow your games to run even quicker and smoother because there’s the potential for so many shaders and textures to be saved – rather than reloaded every time you encounter them again.

With that being said, not every PC is going to be able to use the unlimited Shader Cache size option.

As you would have guessed, you’ll need hardware that is capable of supporting the option, particularly a PC that has enough space in order for the Shader Cache to operate in this way.

How Do You Find Out What Shader Cache Sizes You Can Run?

If you’re not sure whether your PC could run games with the Shader Cache set to unlimited, or any of the higher values, then you can test it out with some trial and error.

The best way to do this is by setting your Shader Cache to one of the predefined size values, then run a game and see how it handles it over time. If it handles it well, then you may want to try the next size up. 

If you make it all the way to the unlimited option without your PC noticeably struggling to support it, then you’ve likely got hardware that is capable of running games with that Shader Cache setting.

Of course, if you do notice the PC struggling with the high settings, immediately switch to a lower value that you know it can handle. 

Is It Worth Enabling The Shader Cache?

As you’ll have guessed by now, it’s worth enabling the Shader Cache. It brings key benefits to your PC games, reducing their loading times and causing less stuttering during gameplay.

If you want a smoother, faster gaming experience, it’s essential to have Shader Cache enabled.

Final Thoughts

Enabling your Shader Cache while playing games on your PC doesn’t really have any downsides.

Instead, it ensures you have a better time playing games, with reduced stuttering during gameplay and shorter loading times to sit through. The Default Driver setting will usually be the best size.

Ashley Newby