A dedicated graphics card is an exciting feature that maximizes graphical performance, especially for playing games.
However, the system may fail to use the dGPU resources and switch to the iGPU for no apparent reason.
As a result, you’ll experience performance and graphical problems while doing intensive tasks.
You can easily check whether the system is using your GPU and force it to do so if it doesn’t.
Is My Computer Using My Graphics Card? (How To Check)
Your computer is using your GPU if you experience high frame rates in your game and the GPU usage is high in the Task Manager.
You can use the overlay options in Nvidia and AMD graphics cards to check your frame rates and see if they go up when you play a game.
If your computer isn’t using the dedicated GPU for intensive tasks, make sure the dedicated GPU is set as the default graphics card.
Plus, you can force specific games or programs to use the dedicated GPU.
Signs Showing Your Graphics Card Is In Use
Most modern laptops have a switching mechanism that automatically assigns your integrated or dedicated graphics card to specific tasks.
The system uses your integrated graphics card when you perform normal computer tasks, such as word processing or web browsing.
Then, it switches to the dedicated GPU while you perform graphically intensive tasks, such as playing video games.
That’s typically not the case with desktop computers since the monitor will automatically connect to the dedicated graphic card once you set it up.
You can check which graphics card the system is using via different methods.
1. Frame Rates
Modern video games allow you to see their frame rates while playing.
This information lets players tweak in-game settings or computer features to boost their performance.
Knowing your in-game frame rates can help you decide which graphics card the computer is using.
You already know what frame rates your graphics cards can handle, and a dedicated graphics card can always handle higher frame rates.
Observing these frame rates lets you decide if the game is running on the dedicated or integrated graphics card.
You can observe the game’s framerates via different options.
If you play your games via Steam, you can use the Steam overlay to get different numbers about the game.
MSI Afterburner is another tool that can give you many insights regarding your in-game figures.
However, if you have an AMD graphics card, you can find your in-game framerate via its settings.
To access ADM Settings, right-click a space on your desktop and click AMD Radeon Software.
Go to Settings, select Relive and move the Toolbar Hotkey toggle.
Navigate to Performance > Metric Options > Slow Metrics.
Minimize Metric Options and go to Select Metrics to enable FPS.
This way, you can have your FPS counters on overlay while playing a game.
If you have an Nvidia graphics card, you should first ensure that you have the latest drivers.
After updating your drivers, open the overlay and go to Settings > HUD Layout.
Look for FPS Counter from the list of options and select the spot on the screen that’s more convenient for you to see the live counter.
2. Task Manager
If observing the game frame rates doesn’t help you clearly understand your GPU usage, you can turn to the Task Manager.
Right-click a space on the taskbar and click Task Manager.
Go to the Performance tab to see the usage specs for each graphics card.
Check these performance figures while playing a game and see how the usage changes for your dedicated card.
If the values go up, you can be certain the computer is using your dedicated graphics card.
In addition, the GPU should appear the first in the list of the Performance tab because it’s under a high load while you’re playing a game.
If the CPU appears before the GPU, your computer uses the integrated GPU instead of the GPU.
You can also use third-party performance monitoring apps and observe your CPU and GPU usage while playing games and see how these figures change.
3. DirectX Diagnostic Tool
The DirectX Diagnostic Tool is a built-in Windows feature that helps identify and fix issues with audio and video.
You can use this tool to learn about your graphics card and how much of its resources are used.
You can access this tool in different ways.
The easiest one is to open a Run box by pressing the Windows and R keys together.
Type in dxdiag.exe and press Ok.
In the new window that pops up, go to the Display tab to see the information about your graphics card and its drivers.
If the dedicated graphics card isn’t installed and your PC doesn’t use it, you won’t see it listed in the diagnostics tool.
Physical signs also help decide whether a certain app is using the integrated or dedicated GPU.
When you play a game or run an intensive program, the most natural by-product you’ll notice is increased heat.
However, depending on which GPU is in use, the degree of heat will be noticeably different.
A dedicated GPU will produce more heat than an integrated graphic card.
That’s because dedicated GPUs have more robust cooling solutions, and you can feel the heat blowing out of the computer vents.
In addition, since the dedicated GPU doesn’t use system memory and resources, it won’t skimp on game features, running at the highest settings.
As a result, more heat is generated and dissipated.
You can check the heat from the PC vents and decide whether the integrated GPU is in use.
How to Force Your PC To Use The Dedicated Graphics Card
If you have installed a dedicated graphics card, but your system doesn’t use it for intensive applications, you can tweak some settings to force it.
You can select specific programs and force them to use the dedicated graphics card or force the system to do it all the time.
However, before doing so, there’s one thing you can try and see if it fixes the issue.
That’s particularly the case if you’ve already set these settings, but your system still can’t switch between the graphics cards.
1. Update Graphics Card Drivers
Many users have reported that outdated drivers were responsible for the glitches that prevented the system from using the dedicated graphics card.
As soon as they updated the graphics card, the issue stopped.
You can get and install the latest updates via the Device Manager or the graphics card’s control panel.
If you have an NVidia card, you can access Nvidia Control Panel by right-clicking a blank spot on your desktop and selecting the first option.
Once in the Control Panel, you can find the option for updating the drivers under Help > Updates.
Alternatively, you could right-click on the NVidia logo in the system tray and select Updates.
Go to the Updates tab and select Check for updates.
This option will look for updates and install the latest drivers for your NVidia card.
To update an AMD Radeon graphics card’s driver, right-click your desktop and select AMD Radeon Software.
Go to Settings and look for Updates in the bottom left corner.
Check if there are any available updates and select Update now from the dropdown menu next to New.
Follow the on-screen prompts and accept all the requests to complete the update process.
2. Change The Default GPU
As mentioned, laptops are smart enough to switch between the integrated and dedicated GPUs depending on the app’s graphical requirements.
This power-saving feature doesn’t allow the computer to use much power when it’s not required.
If you want your computer to ditch the integrated GPU altogether and switch to the dedicated graphics cards for performing all tasks, you can set it as the default GPU.
Nvidia and AMD Radeon graphics cards have an option in their control panels to set them as the default graphics card.
For Nvidia, open its Control Panel and go to 3D Settings > Manage 3D Settings > Global Settings.
Click Preferred Graphics Processor > High-performance Nvidia Processor.
For AMD Radeon, go to AMD Settings.
Go to the Graphics tab and click Advanced at the bottom of the window.
Find GPU Workload near the end of the list and click on Graphics to set it as the default GPU.
Click Ok to save changes and restart the computer.
3. In BIOS
If changing the settings via the graphics card’s control panel doesn’t help the system run on the dedicated GPU, the setting may be disabled from the BIOS.
Therefore, you should change the default graphics card in the BIOS menu.
Restart your computer and press your manufacturer-specific hotkey upon startup to access the BIOS menu.
It can be F10, F12, F2, F1, or any other key specified by your manufacturer.
Once you access the BIOS menu, you should look for options regarding display or video.
For example, in Dell computers, the setting is accessible via Video Group > Switchable Graphics > Enable.
However, on HP systems, you should follow the Advanced > Built-In Device Options > Graphics > Discrete Graphics Path.
If you can’t find the options for changing the default GPU for your specific brand, you can search online or consult your user manual.
4. Force Apps To Use The Dedicated GPU
Setting the dedicated graphics card as the default GPU makes sure the system uses it to do all the tasks, whether GPU-intensive or light.
However, if your computer doesn’t perform this task effectively, you can change its settings manually for each game or app.
This way, the computer will switch to the GPU while you’re using a specific game or running a GPU-intensive program.
You can select all the programs in the list if you want the system to use the dedicated GPU all the time.
Go to the Nvidia Control Panel and select 3D Settings > Manage 3D Settings > Program Settings.
Look for your intended game among the list of programs and select it from the dropdown menu.
Open the second dropdown menu and select your preferred graphics processor to run the game.
After selecting Nvidia, your graphics card will be labeled High-Performance Nvidia Processor.
You can repeat the same steps for any game or app you want to run on Nvidia.
B. AMD Radeon
Go to AMD’s Settings by right-clicking a blank space on your desktop and selecting Radeon Software.
Under the Preferences tab, select Additional Settings and navigate to Power > Switchable Graphics Application Settings.
Choose your app or game from the list to add it to the list of high-performance apps.
If you can’t see a list of programs, select Add Application and find the .exe file of your intended app or game.
Then, go to the Graphics Settings column and assign High Performance to your intended apps.
Save changes, launch the game or app, and check if it runs with your dedicated GPU this time.
Note. Some users recommend disabling the integrated GPU from the Device Manager to force the system to use the dedicated GPU all the time.
However, disabling your integrated GPU will disturb some of its graphical functions and affect your UI experience.
C. Windows Settings
You can also set your default graphics card via Windows Settings.
Right-click the Start button and click on Settings.
In the new window, select System and then, Display, which is the default option.
Click on the Graphics settings link and expand the menu under Choose an app to set preference.
Here, you can choose the app to run on the dedicated GPU from the list and add it.
Then, click the Options button under the added program and select High performance.
There’s another way to force an app or game to use the dedicated GPU instead of the integrated graphics card.
Open the File Explorer and go to Drive C.
Find your game in Programs and Files, and right-click it to see the list of graphics cards enabled.
If your dedicated graphics card isn’t activated, you can only see AMD Catalyst Control Center.
However, you’ll see the Run with Graphics Processor option if you have two graphics cards.
Click on it and select High-Performance Nvidia Processor or High Performance for an AMD Radeon graphics card.
Fix Computer Using CPU Instead Of GPU
If you’ve set the discrete graphics card as the default GPU, but your games and apps switch to the integrated GPU, there may be something wrong with other components.
You could try the following solutions to make the system use your GPU.
1. Check For Hardware Issues
Sometimes the system can’t recognize your discrete graphics card because it’s not properly installed inside the PC case.
If you’re using an external GPU for your laptop, check all the connections and make sure the GPU is firmly plugged into the USB port.
If you have a desktop computer, ensure the graphics card is tightly connected to the PCIe slot.
Check all the cables and wires and look for any loose connections.
Reseat the graphics card to be 100% certain that the connections are okay.
Reinstalling the GPU will also remove any glitches or unknown issues that prevent the system from recognizing it as a new component.
You may also want to check the fans and ensure they’re working properly.
If the fans don’t work, the system may not switch to the dedicated GPU due to raised temperatures.
2. Update Windows
The system may have trouble recognizing the graphics card if you have an old Windows version.
Updating the Windows can help it run smoothly and eliminate incompatibility issues.
Software issues are the main culprit, especially when your GPU works with some apps but doesn’t show up in others.
After getting and installing the latest Windows updates, install the latest graphics card updates, too.
If a specific game doesn’t use the dedicated GPU while others do, the issue may be within the game.
You could install the latest updates and patches for the game since they develop bugs over time.
These updates can fix the bugs and help with their unknown consequences.
3. Power-Saving Options
One of the main reasons that the system switches to the CPU instead of the dedicated GPU is to save power.
So, if you have enabled power-saving options for your laptop, it may prevent the laptop from using the dedicated GPU as it drains the battery.
Go to Settings > System > Power & Sleep > Additional Power Settings > Change Plan Settings > Change Advanced Power Settings.
Here, you can set the Processor Power Management to the highest settings to force the system to switch to the dedicated GPU and maintain maximum performance.
You can also change the game settings to the highest values.
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