A laptop’s graphics card will determine how well your computer display images and videos, and the better the performance of your graphics card, the more tasks you can perform at once without experiencing any lag or slowdowns. This is because higher-end cards usually come with more memory and GPU cores than their lower-end counterparts.
There are a few different ways to upgrade your laptop’s graphics card: one option is to purchase an external device such as an eGPU which plugs into a laptop through USB; another option is to replace the built-in video adapter with one that supports multiple monitors; yet another option is installing a discrete graphics chip on top of or next to your current chipset using either an MXM module connector (typically used in laptops) or a PCI-e expansion slot (typically used by desktop computers).
This article will describe the first option for how to upgrade your laptop graphics card.
Check for Basic Compatibility
Before you start shopping for a graphics card, you should know that you can’t just plug any card into your laptop. First, the memory bus must match the existing chipset. Because many laptops use older chipsets and DDR2 or DDR3 memory instead of newer and faster GDDR5 or GDDR6 memory, this means finding a graphics card with a compatible memory type is essential to ensuring compatibility and performance.
Next, laptop GPU slots might only accept extremely low-profile cards (like MXM modules) which are difficult to find in stock online; alternatively, they may accept standard height cards but require an included riser to fit inside your case; in worse cases (or if both issues exist simultaneously), the laptop’s heat sink may interfere with taller cards and prevent their proper installation.
You should also consider the physical size of your graphics card: while some newer laptops come with an MXM slot which supports a larger length (up to 210mm or 8.3″ for reference), many older laptops only support cards up to 145mm long; this means that if you upgrade your GPU, it may not fit within your laptop case anymore. For this reason, make sure to keep the measurements of your old card and double-check them against any new GPU you purchase before physically installing it into your new rig – otherwise, you may be stuck buying a whole new computer just to accommodate a graphics card upgrade!
Finally, note that even if all these compatibility issues are resolved and the memory bus is compatible, your laptop may still be limited to certain clock speeds – resulting in lower performance than what an external GPU can achieve.
How to Upgrade Your Graphics Card
Once you’ve confirmed that any compatibility issues have been resolved, all that’s left is physically installing the graphics card into your computer by either connecting it through USB or disabling your built-in video adapter and replacing it with a new one.
Connecting Through USB
External GPUs are meant to connect via USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3.0 (which, when using the right cable, offers up to 40 Gbps of bandwidth.) Make sure you purchase a compatible device instead of attempting to make one yourself – otherwise, you may brick your laptop! Note that if your laptop does support an external GPU, it likely won’t have enough power to run high-end graphics cards on its own and will need to be connected to a power source.
Replacing the Built-In Video Adapter
If your laptop doesn’t come with an MXM slot or you’re not comfortable with connecting an external GPU, you can simply purchase a new video adapter that supports multiple monitors. Make sure to get one that is compatible with your operating system – for example, Windows 10 requires adapters with WDDM 2.0 or greater drivers – and check the number of ports it has before making a purchase.
Installing a Discrete Graphics Chip
This option is the most difficult and should only be attempted by those who are familiar with computer hardware. First, you’ll need to open up your computer and remove the motherboard entirely in order to access the built-in graphics card. Next, after removing it, you’ll have to solder in a new one in its place. This is not an easy process so if you aren’t familiar with soldering or don’t have experience working with printed circuit boards, you should instead focus on using either of the first two options listed above.
So… how do I upgrade my laptop graphics card?
First, check for basic compatibility between your existing PCIe slot (or MXM slot) and memory bus; once this is confirmed, make sure that any necessary risers are available (if there’s no room for taller cards). If all these requirements are met, check the physical size of your potential new graphics card and see if it will fit within your laptop’s case. Finally, confirm that your laptop can handle the increased clock speeds a new card would provide by running some benchmark tests. If all these boxes are checked, you’re ready to install!
Just make sure you follow any manufacturer-provided instructions carefully – upgrading your graphics card is a delicate process that, when done wrong, can result in a permanently damaged computer.
When it comes to laptops, most people think that they are limited to whatever graphics processor is built into the system. This may have been true in the past, but with the advent of external graphics cards (or GPUs), there’s no reason why you can’t boost the performance of your laptop with whatever graphics card you want.
Even if your laptop is only compatible with lower-end graphics cards, you can still use an external GPU to increase the performance of your computer. Note that before buying one, make sure it’s either connected via USB or has multiple ports for monitors (depending on how many displays are attached). You’ll also need to confirm that all compatibility issues have been resolved and the memory bus will work properly – making this process delicate so be careful!