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How to force your laptop to use the powerful discrete NVIDIA GPU for games

Surface Book and Xbox
Surface Book and Xbox (Image credit: Windows Central)

I'm not entirely sure why this was happening, but it's likely a bug that will be fixed in the future. Since then, however, I've noticed that other UWP games sometimes default to the integrated Intel GPU, both on my Surface Book and other laptops. Thankfully, there's an easy way to fix it.

Here's how to force your Surface Book (or any laptop with an NVIDIA GPU ⁠— check out our best graphics card picks) to use its discrete graphics processing, and check whether your games are using it as appropriate.

  1. Type Nvidia into the Start Menu to find the Nvidia Control Panel.
  2. Click Manage 3D Settings is selected in the left column.
  3. Select the Program Settings tab on the right side.

  1. Find the game you want in the drop down list, or click Add if you can't find it.Note: Often UWP games don't find their way into the list by default, and need to be added.

  1. Click Add Selected Program to include it in the menu.
  2. With your target game selected in the first drop down menu, now select High-performance NVIDIA processor in the bottom drop down menu.Note: The program might lock up briefly while it does the switch over, be patient!

Win32 games seem to have no issues when it comes to defaulting to the correct graphics processor, but sometimes games from the Windows 10 Store seem to get a bit confused. This is the best workaround for now until Microsoft issues a more comprehensive fix.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • I guess it's the way some store games are made... Like the Forza Motorsport Apex from the store will definitely automatically use the d-GPU. Certain smaller games that don't stress the PC won't NEED the extra graphics power at all.
    Although, I agree. HALO not using it might be a bug.. Will be fixed for sure.. :) It could also be a way to save battery but then the performance will be affected.
  • Laptops with two gpus always have annoying issues like this. Why can't the intel chip stay disabled and the NVidia chip use less power when not taxing it? This is why I prefer amd, their inbuilt gpus are much better than intel.
  • Ah, I'd rather waiting for RYZEN processor with their Vega GPU... but will they release it in laptops as well?
  • Some new fx laptops with r7 and r9 graphics are quite powerful indeed,the new ryzens with vega on laptop Will be even more powerful
  • This isn't a Microsoft issue this is a Nvidia issue. This can happen even in Win32 games because either it believes its not a high demanding game, you're running on battery so will default to the intel gpu, or its not detected in the control panel. If you're a gamer and just want the best performance and don't care about battery life, set the default option for all to use the Nvidia chip and don't set it to Auto.
  • Or, set it to use FULL power when it's plugged in and charging.. Best for portable machines. ;)
  • I'm not talking about through the windows control panel settings, as far as I know Nvidias Control panel has no difference between plugged in or not and this isn't through their GeForce Experience either.
  • Hmm, NVIDIA should do that then. Do they use the Feedback Hub? :p
  • Lol no, they have their own forums though. Also another good thing to do is make sure the settings for battery under the control panel is set to high performance as this too can cause it to use intel chip over the NVidia gpu inside as it sees you want to save power and this will also kick performance into full drive. Also yes here you can change when plugged in and unplugged settings to so you can still get good battery life while on the go.
  • I was kidding !! Haha.
  • I know, I saw that sweet emoji
  • LOL... But I'm sure giving feedback to the driver team in the app will be somewhat helpful since they do make changes based on feedback general users give. Nvidia forums is a more detailed feedback.
  • Yep, either method will hopefully work.
  • It is not a msft or nvidia issue. It is software developer fault. Like CorelDraw which is not working at all on Nvidia graphics even when you force it. You can check on Nvidia panel.
  • Interesting
  • Thank you for this! After reading the other article I had planned on researching this more, but you hooked it up for me, Jez. Good stuff!
  • :D enjoy
  • Is it useful too when using this option to render video? I'm curious now, because while After Effects or Premiere Pro supports those graphics, I found the dGPU isn't utilized (well, at all) when rendering videos... or, have I misconfigured the dGPU?
  • I wondered this too. I use Power Director and it doesn't utilize the dGPU. Edit: I can see Power Director in the list of programs, but I cannot change the dropdown to NVIDIA GPU. I am curious if you can change with AE and PP.
  • Even when I go to add and get the expanded list I do not see my uwp apps like halo wars. So odd Jez that you do.
  • They might not be listed as "Halo Wars," they might be listed as a weird file path. Look for the word "Halo Wars" in the file path, rather than just Halo Wars as a file. Also make sure you opened Halo Wars at least once to register it with the control panel.
  • Nice fix. Did you add a feedback to Microsoft regarding the bug? If yes, add the feedback link to the article please. We will also upvote the feedback. If not, you are being a bad boy and go ahead and add the feedback soon. And add the link to the article soon.
  • Haha, I will
  • You should, Jez !!! Come on !
  • where exactly to do look to find UWP games?
  • looking exactly for this.
  • Yea I don't see which folder they're located in
  • I was looking for Modern Combat Blackout. I didtnt had to go to any folder it was in the list
  • I have Halo Wars and it's not in the list like it was for Jez.. So I'm trying to figure out where the Windows Store apps/games are stored so I can use the Browse function to find them and add them to the list
  • Search for a file path with "Halo Wars" in it rather than the phrase "Halo Wars," also make sure you opened Halo Wars at least once to get it into the list.
  • I believe the supported applications list is updated by NVidia whenever they feel like it. Assume it uses GeForce Experience for this. Biggest problem is that the geniuses at NVidia do not use an updated API to populate the applications list. If you want to use it for a UWP app that isn't in their master list, it is a pain to drill down. And to do that, you have to change permissions. You can set the NVidia to the default for everything but then, disconnecting the screen is a PITA. It also ticks me off that I cannot use the dGPU for RemoteFX in Hyper-V. For some reason, it thinks that the NVidia GPU is only DirectX 11. So, the Surface Book is brilliant hardware design that is mitigated by the idiots at NVidia.
  • I use Windows Movie Maker, and that is actually one of the reasons I wanted a Surface Book. Imagine my chagrin when I realized that when I went to the settings above, and selected Movie Maker, the dGPU was not an option. I could not select it. Only the Intel graphics were available for the app. >:-(  
  • I'm not sure I get it. Why would we be changing the 3D settings?
  • I'm still regretting having an AMD laptop and not an Nvidia/Intel one. 
  • That's Gears of war 4 xbox one game shows on the screen. That's an Xbox one game offer by Microsoft offer "Play Anywhere". It needs 58-70Gb which means you need a gaming PC. What is showing is Surface book is powerful enough to be a xbox one. You don't waste a cent.
  • Huh? i didn't understand that at all.
  • Can anyone say why Facebook app,messenger,Instagram crashes every time
  • is that on win 10 PC or mobile?
  • I thought those with systems that are equivalent to gaming laptops already knew how to set the right stuff for their GPUs when in game mode on their laptops =/ (lmao), anyway not a huge issue for me, I already know about these settings on my gaming laptop for years now, it's pretty simple to be fair, nothing complicated.
  • I'd consider myself a pretty techsavy person ( my rig & ) but the necessity of having to tell the System which GPU is the right one for the respective Application is even new to me - Not surprisingly though as normally you'd only have two or more GPU's in a System when running an SLI system which is not the case with the Surface Book.