How does one run two graphics cards and why

Why Does My Laptop Have 2 GPU’s?

GeForce RTX laptop

As a general rule laptops have 2 GPU’s to be able to handle the graphical rendering power needed to run games, CAD, and video rendering applications and still have increased battery life when these applications aren’t used, so you have a graphics card for every use scenario.

All Intel processors come with an integrated GPU, so the graphics card is part of the processor silicon, this means that it is very efficient with power demands and can have its clock speed reduced down, it is less than 1W in idle mode and 8–10W at full power.

A high-end dedicated GPU will need 5–10W in idle mode, so if you don’t have an integrated card your battery life will be drastically reduced, with the idle power demand of dedicated GPU’s you will have less than 4 hours battery live for a normal laptop.

So you have an integrated graphics card that will handle basic tasks like surfing the internet, whacking Youtube and movies, listening to music, reading books, etc. and a more powerful card which will be switched on when you are gaming, working in CAD applications, are doing video editing or other tasks that demand more graphical rendering power.

You don’t have to worry about how to switch between the two graphics cards, the switch will be performed by your drivers automatically so you enjoy the best performance that your card has to offer.


Changing graphics card settings to use your dedicated GPU

  • Right click on your desktop and select Graphics Properties, or Intel Graphics Settings. This will open the Intel Graphics and Media Control Panel. Click on Advanced Mode and OK.
  • In the next window, click on the 3D tab and set your 3D preference to Performance. [Note: If, at the end of this process, Serato Video still doesn't run, also de-select 'Application Optimal Mode'].
  • Now select the Power tab and set the Power Plans to Maximum Performance. If you sometimes perform with your laptop only running on battery, then select battery in the top right corner and also set it for Maximum Performance.
  • Close the Intel Graphics Control Panel and right click on the desktop again. This time select the control panel for your dedicated GPU (usually NVIDIA or ATI/AMD Radeon).
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    Is it worth using a dual GPU in 2021?

    Sure, two graphics cards can offer you a great performance upgrade, but is it worth it to explore such an expensive concept, which also includes so many liabilities?

    There is no cut and dry answer, but if you are willing to manage with the side effects and ACTUALLY need dual graphics cards running in tandem on your PC – it might be worth it.

    If all things go as planned, you will have a dual-card setup resulting in higher framerates and an even higher ceiling of setting visuals as per your choice. Instead of replacing a card entirely, the addition of another graphics card means that you will also be getting enhanced performance, but the question you need to ask yourself is, do you really need it?

    If you are a hardcore gamer, or your game runs across several displays, maybe at extreme resolutions, using dual graphics cards can greatly enhance your game speed and gaming experience. 

    If you have incredibly intense editing demands, or you use a multi-monitor setup, using two graphics cards will surely benefit you.

    However, if you are a regular OC user with regular, run-of-the-mill usage demands, we will definitely not recommend venturing into hooking two graphics cards on your PC.

    Why and when should a dedicated GPU be used?

    GPU should be used for programs and apps that run several threads and processes and require parallel processing.

    If an app only requires a single processing core to process its data, running it with a GPU will degrade its performance. This is because CPU cores are more powerful than the GPU cores.

    Running apps with a dedicated GPU will also consume more power. If you are on battery life and want to prolong battery usage time, you should consider not using a dedicated GPU for any app.


    The primary benefit of running two graphics cards is increased video game performance. When two or more cards render the same 3D images, PC games run at higher frame rates and at higher resolutions with additional filters. This extra capacity improves the quality of the graphics in games. Most graphics cards render games up to 1080p resolution. With two graphics cards, games run at higher resolutions, such as on 4K displays that offer four times the resolution. In addition, several graphics cards can drive additional monitors.

    A benefit of using an SLI or Crossfire-compatible motherboard is that a PC can be upgraded at a later time without replacing the graphics card. Add a second graphics card later to boost performance without removing the existing graphics card. Manufacturers upgrade graphics cards about every 18 months and a compatible card may be difficult to find after two years.

    How to install two different graphics cards

    Installing two different graphics cards in one computer is a similar process as installing a single card. It’s straight forward and can be done by anyone with basic technical skills.

    NOTE: Before installing your new GPU. Make sure your current power supply supports both units. To check use a PSU calculator.

    Power supplies are cheap and relatively easy to install. If you need a new PSU. Check out my favorite PSU units.

    To install your second GPU:

    1. The first thing you want to do is uninstall all existing drivers. To do this go to device manager. Under the ‘Display adapters’ tab. Select the GPU to uninstall. Right click and select ‘Uninstall device’.
    2. Turn off your PC and disconnect from power source
    3. Open your computer case to access your motherboard and PCI express slots.
    4. Disconnect power supply cable to existing graphics card.
    5. Install your new card below existing card. Align new GPU up with the second PCI express slot and push card gently into place. Make sure the clip closes when the card is correctly in place. Screw the GPU against the computer case. Make sure it is securely in place.
    6. Connect the power supply to existing card and new card.
    7. Close computer case panel
    8. Download GPU manufacturer drivers. Follow the driver installation process outlined below. Depending on the drivers being installed.
    9. Return to Device manager’. Under ‘Display adapters’. Confirm that both GPU’s appears with no warnings or errors.

    How do I Switch Graphics Cards on My Laptop?

    Most of the time you don’t need to switch between graphics cards, this is done automatically by your drivers but if you still want to do this manually you can do this from the NVIDIA Control Panel under the tab 3DSettings->Manage 3D Settings if you have an NVIDIA card.

    If you have a Radeon graphics card you need to do the switch from the Catalyst Control Center, you will find the option under the tab Power->Switchable Graphics but you can do this only after you go to the Power->PowerPlay tab and select Maximum performance on the Plugged In option.

    Can You Use Two GPU’s Without SLI or CrossFire?

    Yes. It is possible to run two graphics cards without SLI. 

    Just keep in mind that this kind of set-up is useful only in a very specific scenario — if you’re running multiple monitors. 

    Sure, it is possible to run more than one monitor using a single graphics card. However, this will severely limit the performance of your graphics card if, let’s say, you’re running a GPU-intensive task, like rendering or playing video games. 

    Running two graphics cards without using CrossFire or SLI is a good solution to this. 

    By connecting each monitor to one graphics card, you’ll be able to effectively split the load between both graphics cards. This means that you can render videos or graphics on one monitor and then play a video game on the other. 

    Some people do this to run multiple instances of the same game or software on one system and output it to separate monitors, as well as keyboard and mouse. 

    Of course, it should go without saying that you need to have a system that supports such a setup. Your processor, in particular, should be able to handle such kinds of workloads if you plan on doing this. 

    Now, if you don’t plan on doing this, then you’re just wasting your time and money trying to run a dual graphics card setup. 

    If you already have an extra lying around though, it should make for a fun and neat experiment. 

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    Is Two GPUs Worth It?

    Not exactly. 

    The thing is, we’ve only been able to finally utilize multicore processors properly. 

    It took years, especially in video games, for developers to properly optimize titles to distribute work evenly across multiple cores. 

    Why did we bring up processors in a discussion for graphics cards? It’s because a single graphics card alone can have dozens if not hundreds of cores.

    This means that getting more than one graphics card to work together properly is a headache that most graphics cards manufacturers and developers would prefer not to deal with. 

    Nvidia has already given up support for SLI as it is in a recent announcement

    This effectively means that they’re passing on the responsibilities of implementing SLI support to the video game and software developers. 

    Sure, as we’ve already mentioned, video game and software developers could take the time to optimize their games for multi-GPU support.

    However, it’s an investment where only a minuscule percentage of gamers would benefit. This kind of effort just doesn’t make any sense for them. 

    TLDR; skip the dual GPU set-up and buy the single fastest graphics card that you can afford.


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