Does Intel Graphics Have to be Disabled for Nvidia?

by Ruri Ranbe

Some technologies, like Nvidia Scalable Link Interface, do allow a computer to use multiple graphics cards at the same time, but only if the cards match. Intel HD Graphics were developed to enable a PC to output video to a monitor at a reduced cost, but the graphics performance just doesn't come close to that of a modern Nvidia card. You can set up your computer to use the expansion card instead of the internal graphics, but both can't be active at the same time.

Basics

Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU, is the technical name for the hardware responsible for rendering images on a monitor. GPUs come in two flavors: integrated and dedicated. Integrated GPUs, or onboard graphics, are built into either the motherboard or the central processing unit, and enable manufacturers to build computers at a lower cost. Dedicated, or discrete, GPUs are independent from other hardware; modern cards install to a peripheral component express expansion slot. These devices, as their name indicates, have their own dedicated RAM and CPU.

Solution

A computer can't use both the Intel HD Graphics and the Nvidia GPU at the same time; it has to be one or the other. Motherboards contain a read-only memory chip installed with firmware called the basic input/output system, or BIOS. The BIOS is responsible for configuring the hardware inside the PC. On most computers, there is an option to disable the onboard graphics or switch control of the GPU from the motherboard or CPU to the PCIe slot. The BIOS menu, as well as the method to access the firmware, however, varies from motherboard to motherboard, so consult your manual or the manufacturer for more assistance.

Comparison

Intel introduced Intel HD Graphics into their CPUs in 2010; prior to that, the manufacturer added the graphics chip to the northbridge, sometimes referred to as the memory controller hub, a component on the motherboard that connects the CPU, RAM and other important hardware. Although chips built into the CPU provide better graphics performance than those installed to the motherboard, most dedicated GPUs from Nvidia are superior. So, if you have an Nvidia card that's compatible with your existing hardware and operating system, you should use it instead of the Intel HD Graphics.

Considerations

Before configuring the BIOS to switch to the PCIe slot for graphics rendering, disable or uninstall the driver for Intel HD Graphics in Windows. To make changes to the driver, find and open Device Manager from Search -- click "Windows-S" -- and expand "Display Adapters." Select the driver, click "Action," and then select "Disable" or "Uninstall." Restart the computer after turning off or removing the card.

Multi-GPU

Nvidia SLI allows a computer to render video to a single monitor using multiple graphics cards. SLI, however, won't work with integrated graphics, and instead requires two to four -- depending on the motherboard -- dedicated cards installed to the motherboard and connected via an SLI bridge. All of these cards must use the exact same GPU or else SLI won't work. As to be expected, a multi-GPU setup provides better graphics performance than a single card, but can be very expensive to configure due to the hardware costs. You can check your system's specifications on the computer or motherboard manufacturer's website to see if your PC can use SLI.

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About the Author

Ruri Ranbe has been working as a writer since 2008. She received an A.A. in English literature from Valencia College and is completing a B.S. in computer science at the University of Central Florida. Ranbe also has more than six years of professional information-technology experience, specializing in computer architecture, operating systems, networking, server administration, virtualization and Web design.

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