How to set default GPU for apps on Windows 10?

May 10, 2019 |

greater than 6 minutes

In Windows 10 Version 1803 (Windows 10 April 2018 Update), Microsoft introduced a new section or menu in the Settings app through which users get to choose the GPU a game or application uses.

We have to assume that you are familiar with the graphics controls in applications like AMD Catalyst Control Center or NVIDIA Control Panel. AMD and NVIDIA (the two biggest chips manufacturers for PCs) provided those programs for users with devices equipped with their products to manage the graphics performance preference for games and other applications.

Well, the newly introduced setting is programmed to take precedence over the configuration in those graphics management applications.

Certain preferences are supposed to deliver better app performance while others should conserve battery life. As a general rule, on most computers, the integrated GPU is considered the power saving GPU and the external or discrete GPU is considered the high performance GPU. If you have both a discrete GPU and external GPU on your computer, then you must assume that the external GPU is the high performance GPU.

How to specify your preferred GPU for apps using Settings

Here are the steps you need to go through to set your preferred GPU for apps in Windows:

  • First, you have to open the Settings program:

Click on the Windows Start icon situated at the bottom-left corner of your computer’s screen (or hit the Windows logo button on your device’s keyboard). From the options and programs that show up, you should see the Settings icon. Click on it.

If the Settings icon is missing from the Windows Start screen, then you must type Settings into the text field (that becomes visible once you begin to type), wait for Settings (Desktop app) to emerge as the main item on the results list and then click on it.

  • Go through the options on the Settings main menu screen and click on System. On the following screen (under System), look at the items close to the left pane area and click on Display (if you do not end up in this menu by default).
  • Scroll down a bit, check for the Graphics settings link and click on it.

Windows will now display the list of applications whose graphics configuration you are allowed to change.

  • Choose the app whose settings you intend to work on (by clicking on it).
  • If you want to select a game or a legacy desktop application (that has the .exe extension), you have to click on the drop-down menu under Choose an app to set preference to see the available options and select Classic app.

In that case, you must move on to click on the Browse button, navigate through the necessary directories in the File Explorer window that shows up to locate the program .exe file on your computer (and select it).

The Program Files folder on your system disk hosts most apps’ .exe files. You will have to check its subdirectories for the executable you need.

  • On the other hand, if you want to select a Universal app (based on the new-style Windows application format or state), you have to choose Universal App in the box or drop-down menu containing the options for Choose an app to set preference, and then move to the drop-down menu below to select the application.

You have to understand that Universal apps do not come with .exe files. They are typically installed from the Microsoft Store. They are also referred to as Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps.

  • Once you add an application successfully, it will show up on the Graphics Settings page. There, you must click on the app to highlight it, and then click on the Options button (that recently appeared).
  • Now, you are at the stage where you get to select the specific GPU device with which you want Windows to run the app. A brief description is in order here.
  • System default corresponds to the default GPU that is used for all applications. When this option is in use, Windows is forced to decide the best GPU for your application.
  • Power saving equals the low power GPU or integrated graphics card that is usually close to your processor like Intel Graphics (for Intel chips).
  • High performance, as you might have come to expect, refers to the high power (or more powerful) GPU — for example, a discrete or external graphics card from AMD or NVIDIA.

Well, if your computer is equipped with just one GPU (which definitely corresponds to the integrated graphics card close to your processor), you will see the same GPU name appearing under both the Power saving GPU and High performance options. In that case, there is not much point in you specifying a GPU since there is only one parameter there. Your computer has to use a GPU and it will always use that GPU to run games and applications.

  • You have to click on the radio button for High performance (to select this GPU option). Hopefully, your discrete GPU showed up correctly beside the High performance option.
  • Click on the Save button. Windows will now take note of the new GPU configuration for the selected app.

The changes are unlikely to take effect immediately if the application in view is currently running. In that case, you have to close it first (and ensure that all its processes and services have been terminated) and then reopen it.

If your system continues to run the app with the wrong GPU, then you have to restart Windows. After the recommended reboot, you can check if the GPU configuration changes for the application have become effective.

How do I force an app to use the dedicated GPU in Windows?

In-app settings still ultimately decide the GPU Windows gets to use to run your applications – they override all other settings or configurations applied in the Windows operating system environment.

If there is a graphics screen or menu in the game or application whose GPU preference you are trying to configure, you will need to select your high performance GPU (or discrete graphics card) as the chip it must run with it. If you manage to do the right thing there, then you do not have to bother with other menus or settings (regardless of what they might be).

If the options that allow you to choose the GPU are absent in the application’s settings, then you must specify your graphics card choice for the app in the OS Settings (the procedure above carried out in the Settings program).

Anyway, you are still allowed to control your GPU preferences for apps through the programs provided by your graphics chip manufacturer. You just have to come to terms with the fact that the choices you make there cannot override the configurations in the Settings app or the ultimate in-app equivalents.

How to check the GPU used by an application when it is running?

Even with the right selections or choices, you might still find yourself unsure of whether Windows is running your game or application with the power saving GPU or the high performance unit. Launch the game or program first and then go through these instructions to confirm things:

  • You have to open the Task Manager app.

You can perform this task quickly by right-clicking on your taskbar to see some programs and options and then selecting Task Manager.

Alternatively, you can use the Ctrl + Shift + Esc keyboard shortcut to do the job.

Click on More details (if you see this option).

  • Assuming the full Task Manager application window is now visible, you have to right-click on Name (just under the Processes tab) to see an important list.
  • Click on GPU (if this option is not currently selected). Do the same thing for the GPU engine option on the list.
  • Now, you must locate the GPU engine column. It is one of the tabs in the Task Manager application window, so you might have to scroll leftwards to see it.
  • Once you find the GPU engine column, you have to click on it.

Windows will now sort the list and show which applications are currently using your system GPU the most. The GPU number used by the game or program in view should be visible now. Take note of it.

Your system will show whether the game or app is using the 3D engine or the video decode engine.

  • Here, you can move on to the Performance tab (by clicking on it) and find out which GPU is associated with the number you saw earlier.

Note: In the Task Manager window, you can also view the application’s GPU usage rate or see what percentage of your system resources it is consuming. Windows is configured to show the highest usage the application has across all engines under the GPU column.


Given your concerns in ensuring that Windows is configured to run your games and apps with your dedicated GPU (to maximize performance), you are likely to enjoy using Auslogics BoostSpeed. Through the options and features in this program, you can perform useful repairs, optimization and tweaks so that your computer ends up being programmed to function the best way it can.

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