Force Nvidia processor on specific programs for laptops with Nvidia Optimus

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Nvidia’s Optimus technology is a pretty awesome power-saving feature for laptops.  You get two graphics cards – one integrated (Intel) and one dedicated (Nvidia). The Nvidia card will stay off or idle when not in use – then turn on when you need it, like if you need to play a movie or a game. Optimus isn’t perfect, however – sometimes it fails to turn on the Nvidia chip when you need it. Here’s how to force the Nvidia chip to turn on for specific programs.

If it isn’t obvious enough already, this guide only applies to laptops with Optimus technology. Not sure if your laptop has it? Look for an Nvidia Optimus sticker. This guide should work on all versions of Windows, but I’m pretty sure all laptops with Nvidia Optimus are loaded with Windows 7. Oh, and this guide also works if you want to turn off the Nvidia chip for specific programs. Just choose “Integrated Graphics” when you come to the drop down menu.

  1. Hit the start button (press your Windows key) and search for “Nvidia Control Panel” and press enter.
  2. On the left, choose “Manage 3D settings“.
  3. Click on the “Program Settings” tab. The window should look like this:
  4. Click on the “Add” button. An explorer window will pop up – choose the program that you want to run the Nvidia chip with.
  5. Under the drop down menu, choose “High-performance Nvidia Processor“.

You’re set! Now every time you run the program you selected, Optimus will enable the Nvidia processor. Don’t know if the Nvidia processor is on or off? Check out Optimus Tools.

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This article has 7 comments

  1. Corey 05/20/2011, 3:45 pm:

    I’m still having issues getting World of Warcraft (WoW) to run properly on the NVIDIA 310M GPU with Optimus. It just defaults always to the Intel GMA graphics chipset and disabled specific graphic options. Such a pain…

  2. Brian Cui 05/20/2011, 3:51 pm:

    Some games will detect the Intel GPU, then as soon as the Nvidia chip kicks in, the game crashes. It happens to me on DEFCON with the newest Nvidia drivers.

  3. koko 12/18/2012, 4:32 am:

    i hate nvidia optimus.They dont have support for linux.I cant run a lot of games on windows also

  4. Brian Cui 12/18/2012, 2:40 pm:

    I do agree Optimus is very frustrating at times. It really needs better OS integration – sometimes it refuses to work for me.

  5. Luana 02/11/2013, 3:45 pm:

    Can’t do it. When VLC is se;ected only intgerated graphics is available. nVidia is availbale globally and on other progrems, but VLC does not use it (well it id once or twice , the video was great, but I cannot make to do it again) Any ideas?

  6. Brian Cui 02/11/2013, 4:26 pm:

    Hi Luana,

    We recently wrote an article about getting VLC to work with Optimus. Try this out:
    http://netbooknetwork.net/2013/vlc-nvidia-optimus/

  7. Trav 04/11/2013, 6:55 am:

    I’m having the same problem as Luana. I came across this here article via the Vlc-optimus article, which doesn’t address this specific issue. What to do if nvidia GPU can’t be selected from nvidia 3d config panel?

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