All Windows computers, whether 10 or 11, come with a built-in graphics card also called an integrated graphics card. This is usually lower level and manufactured by Intel. Gaming computers have dedicated graphics cards that are more powerful and made by the likes of AMD or Nvidia. So how do you set the default graphics card for different applications on Windows because you have two now?
Why Choose Default Graphics Card (GPU)
Powerful graphics cards are a resource hog. They will consume more system resources like GPU and battery and sometimes, CPU too. There is a reason why gaming laptops have low battery life. Especially, when you are playing graphics-intensive games like Call of Duty. So setting the default graphics card for different apps can help save precious battery juice while improving overall performance.
Also, the less you use them, the more their shelf life. The more you use them, the more your computer will heat up which can further cause wear and tear. And if you are using a laptop, it can get really hot making it uncomfortable to use on your lap.
Setting Default Graphics Card on Windows
Note that some advanced users have more than two GPUs. While they already have an integrated one from Intel that is used for less intensive tasks like rendering images and videos, they have more than two high-level external graphics cards for specific tasks gaming, video editing, and so on.
There are two ways to set the default graphics card on your computer. One from Windows Settings and the other from the dedicated Nvidia or AMD app. Windows is constantly trying to find a balance between power and performance.
1. Choosing Default Graphics Card From Windows Settings
Windows Settings allow you to choose the default GPU for individual apps like games installed, Photoshop, video editors, and then smaller apps like image viewer.
1. Press Windows+I keys on your keyboard to open Windows Settings directly on any screen.
2. Now select Settings in the left sidebar and click on Display in the right window pane.
3. Scroll a little and click on Graphics under the Related settings section.
4. Scroll a little and you find a list of apps that Windows thinks you might want to set the graphics card for manually. These are mostly gaming, image, and video apps. Select an app and click on Options.
5. In the pop-up that follows, you will find three options:
- Let Windows Decide – Windows will choose which graphics card (GPU) should be used based on performance requirements.
- Power saving – Windows will use the least powerful of the GPUs to save power. That’s the integrated GPU which is normally Intel.
- High performance – Windows will use the most powerful GPU which is usually Nvidia or AMD.
Starting with Windows 11, you will see a checkbox setting called Don’t use optimizations for windowed games. Introduced with Windows 11 build 22557, it improves latency and adds new features like auto HDR and VRR when you are playing games in windowed or borderless windowed games.
Select your graphics card and click on Save.
So you can now set a default graphics card for individual apps. But what if you don’t see your app listed here? You can add them manually too.
1. On the same Settings screen, scroll a little up and click on Add an app drop-down menu:
- Desktop app – apps that were pre-installed or directly using executable (.exe) files.
- Microsoft Store app – apps that were installed from the Store.
2. Now click on the Browser button.
3. In the pop-up that follows, navigate to the folder where you have installed the app and choose the name.exe file that you use to launch the game. Note that we are not talking about desktop app shortcuts here.
2. Choosing Default Graphics Card From Dedicated Graphics Card App
AMD and Nivida have their own dedicated graphics card apps that allow users some level of customization. They give you greater control over which graphics card is used for which app or game. In fact, you can even customize the settings on individual task level that the app or game performs. But that’s for pro users and most of you won’t have to mess with it.
Tip: You can reset the graphics card if it is not working correctly.
1. Press Windows+S to open Windows Search, type your graphics card company name and click to open the app. For me, it is NVIDIA Control Panel.
2. Under 3D Settings > Manage 3D settings, select Auto-select under the Global tab. These are global settings that apply to all apps and will take instructions from Windows Settings for app-level selection of graphics cards.
3. To choose a default graphics card for an individual app, click on Prgram Settings tab. Here you can select an app from the drop-down menu in 1 and then choose the default graphics card in 2. You can also go with the global setting if you want.
4. Don’t forget to click on Apply to save the changes made.
5. In 3, you can also choose the default settings for individual tasks. For example, in the case of Adobe, you can choose settings for image sharpening and filtering.
6. Now under 3D Settings > Set PhysX Configuration, you can select your gaming graphics card from the drop-down menu. Click on Apply to save settings. I would recommend you to let it be unless you know what you are doing.
However, it is not so flexible and you can’t choose on an app level. These are more like global settings and rely on Windows Settings to make the right call.
Choose Your Weapon
Dedicated graphics card apps from the likes of Nvidia and AMD are really powerful. But it is good to see that Windows has also its own settings for choosing a default graphics card for apps and games. What can be confusing is which one takes precedence over the other. I would recommend choosing the same option on both apps so there is no decision-making error that may ruin your gameplay.
Did you know there are many apps that can help you overclock your GPU thereby improving the performance of your graphics card in-game?