If you have a gaming computer, the most likely thing is that you have two graphics cards in it; an integrated onboard graphics card and a much more powerful dedicated graphics card. Some games mistakenly use the onboard graphics card instead of the dedicated one, and since the onboard graphics card is not powerful enough to handle games, you will end up with very low frames and graphics. That is, if your game doesn't crash first anyway.
Fortunately, you can manually instruct your computer to use its dedicated graphics card for specific programs and games. Here is how.
Integrated vs. dedicated graphics cards
The main difference between integrated and dedicated graphics cards is that integrated GPUs do not have their own processor or memory. Instead, the integrated graphics card uses the resources of the computer's CPU and memory. So if you have a total of 8 GB of RAM and 1 GB of shared graphics RAM, this will reduce your available RAM to 7 GB. All of these disadvantages reduce the computing power of an integrated graphics card and make it unsuitable for 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 ability to run high-end video games smoothly, but also makes the dedicated graphics card bulky and much more expensive in price. If you want to learn more, check out our article on the difference between integrated and dedicated graphics cards.
Most modern processors have an onboard integrated graphics card. So if you have a dedicated graphics card along with a modern processor, then you have two working graphics cards. In this case, your computer's software will decide 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. If this program is a high end video game and your computer tries to use the built-in graphics to run and render, you will get terrible performance. The workaround for such scenarios is to instruct the software to manually use the dedicated graphics card for that video game.
Here's how to set up a video game to use the dedicated graphics card
The software responsible for switching the graphics depends on your dedicated graphics card. If you have an NVIDIA, it's the NVIDIA Control Panel, but if you have an AMD, it's the AMD Radeon software. We will cover the steps for these two software in this article. The very first step, however, is to identify the program.
1. Identify the executable for your game
The executable or .exe that runs the game is usually obvious as most of the time it looks like GAMENAME.exe, but sometimes it doesn't. The absolute way to find out which process is responsible for running the game is through the task manager.
Start the video game.
Once the video game has fully started, minimize the game. You can do this by pressing Win + D. to get to the desktop.
Press Ctrl + layer + Esc on your keyboard to call Task manager. Alternatively, you can search for Task Manager in the Start menu.
Find the game process and then right click on it.
Select the option from the menu Open file location.
A window in Explorer will open to show you the executable file in its location. This is the file you need to instruct to use the dedicated graphics card.
2. Change the settings in the NVIDIA Control Panel
Now that you know what the file is and where it is, you can add it to your graphics card's control panel and set it to use the dedicated graphics card all the time. As mentioned earlier, this is done through the NVIDIA Control Panel for NVIDIA graphics cards.
Right click on your desktop.
Select the option from the menu NVIDIA Control Panel. If you are using Windows 11, select Show more options and then select NVIDIA Control Panel.
Select in the NVIDIA Control Panel in the bar on the left Manage 3D settings.
click Program settings.
Under Select a program to customize, choose Add to. This will open a limited list of your programs.
In the Add window, click Search.
Go to the file location you found in the previous section, then select the game file.
click Open minded. Your game will now appear in the program list.
Under Select the preferred graphics processor for this program, choose High performance NVIDIA processor.
Finally, click in the lower right corner Use.
Your game is now using your dedicated graphics card to give you much better performance.
3. Change the settings in the AMD Radeon software
If you have an AMD graphics card, you will need to add the game to the AMD Radeon software and set it to the gaming profile there.
Right click on your desktop.
Select the option from the menu AMD Radeon software. If you are using Windows 11, select Show more options and then select AMD Radeon Software.
In the AMD Radeon software, select the Games Tab from above.
Select the three vertical dots on the right, then click Add a game.
Select the game file, then click Open minded. This will add the game and take you to the settings page.
Under graphic, click on Graphic profile and then select Games.
That's it! The next time you start this video game, it will be your AMD graphics card that will do the hard processing and get you more FPS.
Committed to performance
Although the built-in graphics have improved a lot in the past few years and can run some demanding games, they are still nowhere as fast as dedicated graphics cards. Now that you've learned how 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, it might be time for a GPU upgrade.
5 signs it's time to upgrade your graphics card
If your GPU is struggling, it's time to upgrade.
About the author
Amir M. Bohlooli
(46 published articles)
Amir is a pharmacy student with a passion for technology and games. He enjoys playing music, driving cars, and writing words.
By Amir M. Bohlooli
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