How to Switch Graphics Cards on Laptop? – Windows and Mac

Last Updated on November 6, 2020

As you see, many laptops today come with both an onboard integrated graphics card and a dedicated graphics card. This is true for Windows laptops as well as Apple’s MacBook Pro line-up. Therefore, like many people you may also like to know how to switch graphics cards on laptop?

In Windows, it involves modifying 3D Settings to switch to the dedicated card for programs and as default on laptops with Nvidia units. On laptops with AMD discrete units, you can set an application to make use of the integrated or discrete unit in the Switchable Graphics section of settings. You can switch between graphic cards on a MacBook Pro by checking or unchecking automatic graphics switching in the Energy Saver section of System Preferences.

A need arises to switch between the graphic units as games and different applications continue to become better and utilize more resources.

Below we look at methods of switch GPUs on Windows and Mac systems.

How to Switch Graphics Cards on Laptop?

Normally the CPU in your laptop comes with an integrated graphic chipset that makes up the onboard graphics card. It’s usually named as Intel HD Graphics that’s integrated into your Intel CPU. The onboard graphics is used for general computing tasks such as surfing the web and those that don’t need a lot of 3D resources.

Your laptop may also have a dedicated graphics card that’s more powerful than the integrated one. The primary purpose of such a discrete graphics card is to support heavy loads such as gaming and video editing. Mostly you will find discrete graphic cards from two manufacturers in your laptop i.e. Nvidia and AMD.

Your laptop can automatically switch between the two units when necessary. However, manually switching between graphic cards is possible and many people would like to determine how to do it.

Some of the ways through which this can be done on Windows laptops and MacBook Pro is as follows:

For Windows Laptops

Before going through the different steps, we recommend you update to the latest drivers for both the integrated graphics card and the dedicated one. You can search for and consult the website of the respective manufactures to find updated drivers.

Switch from Intel Integrated Card to Nvidia Dedicated Card

How to Switch Graphics Cards on Laptop
NVIDIA Control Panel -> Manage 3D settings
  1. Right-click on the desktop and then select Nvidia Control Panel.
  2. Choose “Manage 3D Settings” under 3D Settings.
  3. Choose the “Program Settings” tab and select the program for which you want to select the graphics card from the list. For instance, you can choose a specific game and select Nvidia card for it. Click Apply to save the changes.
  4. Select the “Global Settings” tab and choose High-performance Nvidia processor from the drop-down list. Click Apply for the changes to be made.
  5. Click on Set PhysX Configuration and open the drop-down list that appears. Select your Nvidia card as the PhysX processor. Click Apply to save the changes.

The above method not only ensures that the dedicated Nvidia card is set to default, but you can also choose the graphics card for different programs that are installed.

Also Read: How to Connect Extra Fans to the Motherboards?

Switch from Intel Integrated Card to AMD Dedicated Card

amd radeon settings

  1. Right-click the desktop and select AMD Radeon Settings.
  2. Click on the System tab and look for an option named as “Switchable Graphics”.
  3. Click on Running Applications and then select the option of Installed Profiled Applications”. As a result, all the applications detected by the dedicated graphics driver can be viewed.
  4. If the desired application is not listed, you can also select Browse to find the application and add it to the list.
  5. In the menu of a specific application, select “High Performance”. This will set the application to always make use of the AMD Radeon graphics card.
  6. If you want to make use of integrated graphics for an application, select “Power Saving”. There’s another setting called “Based on Power Source” to switch automatically between integrated and dedicated cards as needed.

Note that the above method is according to the latest interface of the settings provided by AMD for switching the graphics units. There can be variations in the settings you have for your AMD graphics card.

Also Read: Best Chromebooks for Graphic Design

For Apple MacBook Pro

You can also switch between the graphics cards if you have a MacBook Pro. Here are the steps:

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen and then select System Preferences.
  2. Open the section named “Energy Saver”. Then at the top look for the checkbox named automatic graphics switching.
  3. Simply deselect it. This will automatically save, and you can close System Preferences. It will ensure that the dedicated graphics card runs all the time.
  4. To confirm, select the Apple icon and select About This Mac. In the Graphics section, your dedicated graphics card will be displayed ahead of the integrated graphics card.
  5. You can select automatic graphics switching again to switch between the graphics cards.

Why Switch between Graphics Cards on Laptop?

Often you may find that the heavy tasks you are doing (such as gaming and video editing) don’t perform well. There may be instability issues and graphic corruptions that are showing up in games and demanding applications.

Therefore, things can go wrong if your dedicated graphics card is not doing its job. To provide you consistent performance, it becomes necessary to switch between graphics card especially for heavy applications. After switching to your dedicated graphic card, your games will run much faster with better frame rates as compared to running them on integrated graphics.

Keep in mind that by switching to the dedicated card, the battery life of your laptop usually becomes shorter. This is because the card uses more power to bring out the best performance.

You get a longer battery life and usually reduced performance by switching to the integrated graphic card as it uses less power.

Also Read: All in One Computers for Video Editing


Before doing the steps as to how to switch graphics cards on laptop, pay attention to the tasks you carry out on your computer. If you play high-end 3D games or do photo or video editing, then it’s best to switch to the dedicated card.

If you surf the internet, work on Office applications, play 2D games or watch videos, then the integrated unit is more than enough.

We recommend a balanced usage of both the integrated and dedicated cards and not be dependent on the latter entirely.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGearLab. He is a PC enthusiast as well as engineer with a keen interest in PC hardware and all stuff related to tech and games.

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