A mid-range to high-end PC usually has a dedicated GPU. The dedicated GPU is used by your system to run resource intensive apps (like games) that the on-board graphics card cannot handle. The GPU is usually an NVIDIA or AMD chip and both come with their own dedicated control panel. The control panels allow users to force an app to use the GPU. When an app needs to, or is forced to use the GPU, it means your PC is consuming more power. Normally, your system decides for itself which app should use the dedicated GPU but you can of course force it. Windows 10 is adding a new panel that lets you set graphics performance per app.
This new feature is currently only available on Windows 10 Insider Build 17093. It doesn’t let you choose between the on-board graphics and the GPU. Instead, it lets you set performance defaults for apps. An app can be set to always run in Power Saving mode, or in High Performance mode. Some apps may not be able to use the dedicated GPU and in that case, there isn’t anything you can do about it. You can try to force the app to use the dedicated GPU from your GPU’s control panel but it may not work. As per Microsoft, this new settings panel is a substitute for this very feature in your GPU’s control panel. You can choose to use it or stick to the control panel for your graphics card.
Graphics Performance Per App
Open the Settings app and go to the System group of settings. Go to the Display tab and scroll down to the Advanced graphics settings option. Click it.
Next, select which type of app, UWP or desktop, you want to manage graphics performance for. The list appears to populate itself based on the app type that you select. Select an app, and click the Add button. Once the app appears in the list, click it, and click the Options button.
The Options button will reveal the three graphics performance preferences you can set for the app. The System Default option lets the OS decide what’s best. The Power Saving option will usually mean the on-board GPU will be used while the High Performance one should let the app use the dedicated GPU. Of course there will be exceptions as explained below.
While users would like control over which GPU an app uses, they can’t always have their way. In the screenshot above, the Paint 3D app can only use the on-board graphics though our test system has an AMD GPU. Apps like this simply cannot use the dedicated GPU and there’s no simple way to force them to. Even if you were to force an app like Paint 3D to use the dedicated GPU, it may not necessarily work better.
Likewise, some apps (mostly games) will not be able to use the on-board graphics card. They will always use the dedicated GPU and the options under Graphics specifications will reflect this.
This begs the questions if the setting is useless and it’s not. Even if an app is using the on-board graphics, it can still monopolize on it. Likewise, an app that needs to use the dedicated GPU may still use it in a low power mode. Using these options will not be painless. If you find that changing the graphics performance preference for an app results in poor performance, a slow or glitching app, or app crashes, return it to its default settings or remove it from the preference all together.
There will be quite a bit of trial and error here because there are quite a few different GPU models currently available, system specs differ a lot, and apps have their own settings and capabilities. Microsoft is clearly trying to give better dedicated GPU support to its users and while this new feature might not be perfect, it’s useful nevertheless. It’s definitely one the features users will look forward to in the next update.