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I was browsing through my Steam settings recently when I found the following checkbox:

Enable hardware video decoding, if supported (requires Steam to restart)

What is hardware video decoding, and should I enable it? Would it increase or decrease my performance? What graphics card do I need to use it? (I assume it means my graphics card when it says 'hardware video')

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    Just as a clarification, this setting only applies to the Steam interface, not games. – helrich May 27 '16 at 13:54
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This option will allow your GPU (graphics processing unit) to process certain video data, instead of your CPU doing it.

This is a good thing if your GPU will do a better job than your CPU - it will take load off the CPU and hopefully make the application run smoother.

However if your GPU is old and/or not very good, it may not be wise to enable this option because your CPU could in fact process the data quicker. I'd try it and see if there is a performance difference to decide if you want it enabled or not.

From henryg on the Steam forums:

It applies to all h.264 video content on Windows - certain game trailers, Vimeo or YouTube videos in the overlay browser, broadcast watching, and any other use of streaming video in the client outside of the In-Home Streaming feature.

(Also, this in general is what "hardware decoding" in terms of graphics will refer to, so you can watch out for it elsewhere.)

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  • In cases where CPU or GPU decoding both work fine, GPU decoding saves energy (e.g. battery). – Peter Cordes May 27 '16 at 16:26

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