How To Make Games Use Your Dedicated Graphics Card
"If you've got a gaming computer, it's more than likely that you've got two graphics cards inside it; an integrated onboard graphics card and a much stronger dedicated graphics card. Some games mistakenly use the onboard graphics card instead of the dedicated one, and since the onboard graphics card isn't powerful enough to process games, you're going to end up with very low frames and graphics. That is, if your game doesn't crash first, anyway.
Fortunately, you can manually tell your computer to utilize the dedicated graphics card for specific programs and games. Here's how.
Integrated vs. Dedicated Graphics Cards
The major difference between integrated and dedicated graphics cards is that integrated GPUs don't have their own processors or RAM. Instead, the integrated graphics card uses the resources from the CPU and the computer RAM. So if you have 8GB of total RAM, and 1GB of shared graphics RAM, that's gonna reduce your available RAM to 7GB. All these handicaps reduce the processing power of an integrated graphics card and make it unsuitable for playing demanding video games.
A dedicated graphics card, on the other hand, comes with its own processor, RAM, and cooling system. This gives the dedicated graphics card the capacity to run high-end video games smoothly, but also makes the dedicated graphics card bulky, and a lot more expensive in price. If you want to learn more, read our article on what's the difference between integrated and dedicated graphics cards.
Most modern processors come with an onboard integrated graphics card. So then, if you have a dedicated graphics card along with a modern processor, then you've got two functioning graphics cards. In this case, your computer's software decides when to use each graphics card, to give you better performance or longer battery life.
Sometimes, this software gets confused and uses the wrong graphics card for a program. Now if that program is a high-end video game, and your computer is trying to use the integrated graphics to run and render it, you're going to get terrible performance. The workaround for scenarios like this is to instruct the software to use the dedicated graphics card for that video game, manually.
Related: The Best Budget Graphics Cards for Cheap Gaming
How to Set a Video Game to Use the Dedicated Graphics Card
The software responsible for switching graphics depends on your dedicated graphics card. If you've got an NVIDIA, then it's going to be NVIDIA Control Panel, but if you've got an AMD then it'll be AMD Radeon Software. We're going to cover the steps for both of these softwares in this article. However, the very first step is to identify the program.
1. Identifying the Executable for Your Game
The executable or .exe file that runs the game is usually obvious as it mostly goes like GAMENAME.exe but sometimes that's not the case. The absolute method to find out what process is responsible for running the game is through the Task Manager.
Launch the video game.
Once the video game has fully launched, minimize the game. You can do this by pressing Win + D to go to the desktop.
Press Ctrl + Shift + Esc on your keyboard to bring up Task Manager. Alternatively, you can search for Task Manager in the start menu.
Find the game process and then right-click on it.
From the menu, select Open file location.
A window in Explorer will open to show you the executable file in its location. This is the file that you need to instruct to use the dedicated graphics card.
Related: Do You Really Need a Powerful GPU?
2. Changing the Settings in NVIDIA Control Panel
Now that you know what the file is and where it is, you can add it to the control panel for your graphics card and set it to use the dedicated graphics card all the time. As mentioned before, this is done through the NVIDIA Control Panel for NVIDIA graphics cards.
Right-click on your desktop.
From the menu, select NVIDIA Control Panel. If you're on Windows 11, select Show more options and then select NVIDIA Control Panel.
Inside NVIDIA Control Panel, from the bar on the left, select Manage 3D settings.
Click Program Settings.
Under Select a program to customize, select Add. This will open a limited list of your programs.
In the Add window, click on Browse.
Go to the file location you discovered in the previous section and then select the game file.
Click Open. Now your game will appear on the program list.
Under Select the preferred graphics processor for this program, select High-performance NVIDIA processor.
Finally, from the bottom right, click on Apply.
Your game will now utilize your dedicated graphics card to give you much better performance.
Related: How to Update Nvidia Graphics Card Drivers on Windows
3. Changing the Settings in AMD Radeon Software
If you've got an AMD graphics card, you'll need to add the game to the AMD Radeon Software and then set it to the Gaming profile there.
Right-click on your desktop.
From the menu, select AMD Radeon Software. If you're using Windows 11, select Show more options and then select AMD Radeon Software.
Inside AMD Radeon Software, select the Gaming tab from up top.
Select the three vertical dots on the right, and then click Add A Game.
Select the game file and then click Open. This will add the game and take you to its settings page.
Under Graphics, click on Graphics Profile and then select Gaming.
That's it! The next time you launch that video game, it'll be your AMD graphics card doing the hard processing work and earning you more FPS.
Dedicated to Performance
Though integrated graphics have greatly improved in recent years, with some being able to run demanding games, they're still nowhere as fast as dedicated graphics cards. Now that you've learned to switch to your dedicated graphics card, your games should run smoother and perform better.
However, if even your dedicated graphics card can't handle the games properly, perhaps it's time for a GPU upgrade.
5 Signs It's Time to Upgrade Your Graphics Card
If your GPU is struggling, it's time for an upgrade.
About The Author
Amir M. Bohlooli
(48 Articles Published)
Amir is a pharmacy student with a passion for tech and gaming. He likes playing music, driving cars, and writing words.
From Amir M. Bohlooli
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