How to Check Which Graphics Card is Being Used?

There are several methods on how to check which graphics card is being used for a particular game, application or process. So if you have multiple GPUs in your system i.e an integrated and a dedicated graphics, knowing which GPU is being used for what process can come in handy.  

One of the simplest ways to know which graphics card is being used  for a particular task is through the Task Manager. Another method is to use the free third party software such as MSI Afterburner – this is particularly useful for gamers.

In addition to that GPU-Z is another excellent free and light utility that can be used for monitoring what GPU is being used at a given time.

In the following text I will talk in detail about the methods of figuring out a graphics card usage and also talk about why you should check.

How to Check Which Graphics Card is Being Used?

While, there are plenty of ways to know which graphics card is being used for a certain process or application, I am going to talk about four easy ways:

  1. Check Using the Task Manager in Windows
  2. Check Using MSI Afterburner
  3. Check Using GPU-Z
  4. Physically Checking

Video Tutorial

Video tutorial to check what GPU is being used. You can skip the video if you choose to read in detail.

1. Check CPU Being Used Using the Task Manager

The first, and perhaps the easiest, way to check what GPU is being used is through the Task Manager. This method does not require you to install any kind of third party applications.

To figure out what GPU is being used for a particular processor, check the GPU Engine column in Processes Tab

  1. Open Task Manager
  2. In the Processes Tab look for the GPU engine column
  3. In the GPU engine column, you’ll see what GPU is being used for a particular process.

Note that if you have an integrated and a dedicated graphics card, they will NOT be addressed by their name. Instead, they will either have “GPU 0” or “GPU 1” designation.

  • GPU 0 – typically refers to the Integrated GPU. In my case it is the Intel HD 630
  • GPU 1 – typically refers to the dedicated GPU. In my case it is the NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti

Here is a case study.

I am running a game called “Expeditions: Rome” in the background. This process is highlighted as “RomeGame” in the name column.

how to check graphics card is being used
Task Manager showing the GPU Engine Column

You can see above that in the GPU Engine column, the GPU being used for “RomeGame” process is GPU 1, GPU 1 refers to the NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti.

Another important bit of information you can notice here is that you can have both the iGPU and the dedicated GPUs working at the same time.

You can see that for “Google Chrome” process, GPU 0 is being used while for “RomeGame” process GPU 1 is being used – so both GPU 0 and GPU 1, iGPU and dedicated GPU, are working simultaneously. 

2. Check Using MSI Afterburner – For In-Game GPU Usage

Using the MSI Afterburner to check what GPU is being used is particularly helpful for gamers.

MSI Afterburner can allow you to check which GPU is being used WHILE GAMING.

Step 1: Download, Install and RUN MSI Afterburner

Download the utility from the official website, install the utility and then run it.

Note that MSI Afterburner can work for all systems, you do not need to have an MSI motherboard, an MSI graphics card, or an MSI laptop for this utility to work. 

You should see the following main window.

MSI Afterburner

Step 2: Head Over to the Setting 

Click the “Gear” icon on the left-hand side of the screen which should open a new window.

Click Gear Icon
Click Gear Icon to Access Settings

Step 3: Go to Monitoring Tab and Turn on the GPU Usage Sensors

In the Settings Menu, head over the “Monitoring” tab above. 

In the sensors shown under the “Active Hardware Monitor Graphs” turn on all the sensors corresponding to GPU Usage.

In my case, the sensors in question are as follows:

  • GPU 1 Usage – GPU 1 refers to dedicated graphics card
  • GPU 2 Usage – GPU 2 refers to integrated graphics card

To check which sensors refers to what GPU, go to the “General” tab in the Settings Window and under “Master Graphics Processor Selection” drop down menu check what GPU1 and GPU2 refers to.

How to Check What Graphics Card is Being Used
Monitoring Tab to enable GPU Usage sensors.

To activate these sensors, I need to first press the Check Mark next to GPU 1 Usage and GPU 2 Usage sensors.

Then I need to select GPU 1 Usage and GPU 2 Usage sensors individually and press “Show in On-Screen Display” check box in the “CPU Temperature Graph Properties”.

What Does the Check Mark Do?

The Check Mark enables the sensors and allows the particular sensors to records its data on the monitoring graph.

You can access the monitoring graph from Main Screen by heading over to the “Hardware Monitor” section. Press the little “Monitor” icon in the Main Screen of the utility.

gpu usage hardware monitoring
You can see the historical data recorded for the GPU 1 Usage and GPU 2 Usage.

This chart shows the historical data regarding the GPU Usage. Of particular importance are the max usage recorded.

Step 4: Fire Up Your Game

Run your game. On the top left-side of the game, you will now be able to see the GPU Usage for GPU 1 and GPU 2.

If you cannot see the value press ALT+O ; this is default toggle for turning the value ON and OFF.

GPU Usage
GPU Usage

You can see here that my dedicated graphics card is being used quite heavily in this game indicating that primary graphics card being used for this game is the GTX 1050Ti.

Had this game being running on GPU 2, or on the Intel HD 630, then the dedicated graphics card usage would have been close to 0%.

You may also notice that GPU 2 or the iGPU is also being used, but as mentioned earlier, it is being used by different applications and processes, which you can check in the task manager.

3. Using GPU-Z

GPU-Z is another excellent free and light utility that not only enables you to get a comprehensive details regarding the specs of all the GPUs installed in your PC, but also lets you monitor their usage.

Here is how you can use GPU-Z by TechPowerUp to know which graphics card is being used at a particular time.

Download the Utility from the official website. Install and Run it.

In the main window of the utility, you would be able to see a whole lot of information regarding the graphics card. You can select which graphics card you want to check out using the drop down menu on the bottom left..

GPU-z Main screen

To monitor the usage of the selected graphics card, head over the Sensors Tab. Here you will find a list of all the sensors you can monitor including “GPU Load.”

GPU load GPUz
Checking GPU Load in GPU Z

When running a game, you can notice the GPU Load for the dedicated graphics card ramp up to very high values.

In case if a particular game or a process does NOT use the dedicated graphics cards, the GPU Load would be fairly low.

4. Physical Inspection

You can also simply use good ol’ physical inspection to get a rough idea about what GPU is being used.

Specifically, you want to focus on hearing loud fan noise particularly when running heavier applications like games.

You see, dedicated graphics card in laptops and desktops have powerful and loud fans or blowers that ramp up their speeds when running a game or a demanding task.

As such, if when playing a game or when doing something demanding like rendering a video if you start to hear loud fan noise from your  laptop or desktop, then there are high chances that the particular application you are running is using the dedicated graphics card.

This method isn’t conclusive though but it can give you a fairly great rough idea.

Why Should You Check What GPU is Being Used?

In rare occasions you will notice a game or a software not performing at its optimal level despite you having a fairly powerful PC with a powerful dedicated graphics card.

This happens if the default graphics card for a particular game or a software is set to the integrated graphics card.

Running a game or a professional editing/designed software on integrated graphics card can obviously reduce the performance.

As such, running a game on an iGPU can result in lags and stutters while on software this can present with various issues such as higher render times on video editing software, slow timelines scrubbing etc.

In situations like this, it is worthwhile to check what integrated GPU the the game or the software is using.

In case if the application in hand is using the integrated GPU instead of the dedicated graphics card, then one way to remedy this issue is to force the application to use the dedicated graphics card through the dedicated graphics card’s control panel.

If you have an NVIDIA graphics card, you can set an application to use dedicated or integrated graphics card by following these steps:

  1. Open the NVIDIA Control Panel
  2. Go to “Manage 3D Settings” on the left-hand menu
  3. Select “Program Settings”
  4. In step 1, select the program you want to set the graphics card for
  5. In step 2, in the drop down menu, choose dedicated or integrated graphics processor for the selected program.

changing a program to use dedicated graphics card in nvidia

For Rocket League program, I have set this to use “High Performance NVIDIA Processor”, which is the dedicated GTX 1050Ti in my case.

Note that the default setting for NVIDIA Control Panel is Auto which means that the PC decides which GPU to use for the particular applications. In most cases you DO NOT need to set the GPU manually.

Also Read: How to Check SSD Compatibility with Your PC?

Final Words

Here I talked comprehensively about how to check which graphics card is being used using various easy to use methods.

It should be noted that you DO NOT want to use the dedicated graphics card for ALL applications all the time even though it is far more powerful and better performing than the iGPU.

This is because a dedicated graphics card consumes a lot of power. Setting everything to use dedicated graphics card would not only result in higher bills, but would also heat up your PC quickly.

Also Read: How to Monitor GPU and CPU Temperature While Gaming?

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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