Monday, January 27, 2014

How to Upgrade Intel HD Graphics in a Laptop

Intel's integrated graphics become better with each generation but they still compete only with the entry level dedicated video cards. That's why many users at some point begin to look for more performance. If the tips to improve Intel HD Graphics performance do not provide enough graphics boost for you, you should consider upgrading your Intel HD Graphics. Desktop users can do this pretty easy - they simply need to get a mid-range dedicated video card, insert it in a PCI Express x16 slot and voila, they will be able to enjoy games at their fullest. Unfortunately, if you are on a laptop or an All-in-One PC, then this most probably is not an option. Not everything is lost, however, continue reading this article and at the end you will know what are the options for upgrading your laptop's Intel HD Graphics, so that you can decide what's the best option for you.

  1. Attach an external graphics card (eGPU)
    External Laptop Video Card
    If your laptop has an ExpressCard slot or a Thunderbolt port, you may be able to attach an external (desktop) video card to boost your graphics performance. The desktop video card will be bottlenecked by the lack of bandwidth of these ports, but it will still be considerably faster than the integrated graphics. Please, note that this solution requires some technical knowledge and is expensive as you will need a desktop video card, a PCI Express x16 to ExpressCard/Thunderbolt adapter, a power supply and a case to hold all these parts so that you do not have any loose wires on your desktop.

    There are currently two popular ways over the Internet to connect an external video card to your laptop the cheaper being a do it yourself external GPU (DIY eGPY) and the more expensive but easier one being simply purchasing a ready to use housing for an external video card called Vidock. Discussing those solutions goes beyond this article, but if you interested in one of them, simply do a search for it and you will find a lot of information. According to me those eGPU solutions are way too expensive to be worth it, because for the same amount of money an external video card for a laptop would require you can sell your old laptop and get a new one - see option 3.

    As the ports mentioned above are getting more and more rare in laptops, some users may ask: is it possible to connect a desktop video card to an USB port of a laptop? I can give a very clear answer to this question: DEFINITELY NOT. There are 2 main problems with USB ports - they are way too slow and they have way too high latency for a video card. Here are some numbers:

    Port / SlotBandwidth
    USB 2.00.48 Gbit/s
    USB 3.05.00 Gbit/s
    PCI-E 3.0 x16126.03 Gbit/s

    As you see from the table above, the PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, which is currently used on desktop computers for video cards, is about 25 times faster than USB 3.0 and 262 times faster than USB 2.0. That is why you shouldn't even think about using an USB port for connecting a desktop video card. Stick to using it for USB flash drives, external hard disks and card readers and other similar peripherals, which do not require much speed, bandwidth and low latency.

  2. Upgrade the processor
    Intel Core i5 HD Graphics Upgrade
    If your laptop has a Pentium or a Celeron processor, this means that you are with the weakest Intel HD Graphics for your processor's generation. If you upgrade to a CPU from the "Core i" series, i.e. a Core i3 or a Core i5 (I don't recommend an i7, because of the extra heat it generates), then besides much faster processor you will also get an improved version of Intel HD Graphics. The only requirement is that the current processor in you laptop is not soldered to the motherboard, so that you can swap it with the new one. If in doubt, contact your laptop's manufacturer for more information.
  3. Sell the laptop and get a new one
    Last but not least you can sell your current laptop and buy a new one with a new generation of CPU and integrated graphics or even a dedicated video card. According to me this is the best solution. Before getting the new laptop think about whether you really need the portability of a laptop, because for the same money you will be able to get a much stronger custom built desktop that will be able to handle games much better.

See also:


  1. Hi, it depends on your laptop - if the processor is not soldered to the motherboard, you will be able to change it. If you are not sure, refer to your laptop user manual or contact its manufacturer for more information.

  2. Hi i have Gateway NE56R Laptop can i change its processor to core i5.Its processor is not soldered on motherboard.

    1. If the processor is not soldered on the motherboard you should be able to upgrade it to an i5 of the same generation. Just to be sure I recommend you contact your laptop manufacturer for confirmation prior to purchasing an i5 CPU.

  3. Hi, I've a Lenovo G570, and I recently upgraded the processor from a Pentium dualcore, to an I7 quad core. The computing performance is great, but still, the gpu limits the gaming experience. Is there any way yo unlock the Bios, so I can add more dedicated memory to the gpu, or change de processor turbo minium speed? Thanks, and sorry to bother

    1. Increasing the amount of allocated memory won't help you improve your graphics performance! If you want to get the most out of your integrated graphics, take a look at the following article: 4 Ways to Improve Intel HD Graphics Performance.

  4. Hi, I would like your advice on my current standing with game for my laptop. From what I understand it has to do with my graphics card and dedicated memory, or simply with my laptop overheating. I have a tendency to over-think things, and this may be one of those times, thus my uncertainty has prompted me to ask for advice. I am but a novice, and would appreciate any help you can provide.
    I've placed my current specs below according to what I have been able to dig up.

    Windows 8
    DirectX Version: 11.0
    Processor Speed: 2395 MHz
    Processor: Intel Core i7-3630QM CPU @ 2.40GHz 2.40GHz
    Installed Memory(Ram): 8.00 GB (7.89 GB Usable)
    System Type: 64-bit OS, x64-based processor

    Intel HD Graphics 4000
    Total Graphics Memory: 1664 MB
    Dedicated Video Memory: 32 MB
    Shared System Memory: 1632 MB

    I find that I can run games such as Civilization 5, Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, Magicka, Diablo 3(albeit for about 5 mins), and various other games, all on medium to high settings. The only problem I seem to run into is that at such high settings my laptop overheats(sometimes beginning to lag as it overheats), thus forcing me to end my play(ex Magicka, Diablo, and Civ 5), or reducing the settings to as low as possible(ex Fallen Enchantress).

    Is this a problem with my graphics card? Or is it as simple as finding a way to keep my laptop cool(as per my original assumption)?

    I simply want to be able to play a game I plan on buying soon(Age of Wonders 3) but I feel I will suffer a similar experience as I did with Fallen Enchatress where I had to reduce the settings to minimum and still suffer some overheating. With AoW3 having higher requirements than FE, I fear I won't be able to play it at all without it rising to a scalding temperature, regardless of how low the settings are, thus risking damage to my OS(and my skin).

    1. Hi, overheating while gaming is a common problem in laptops. From your description it seems that your laptop overheats, too. Just to be sure that's the problem I recommend you install a temperature monitoring software like HW Info or HW Monitor, run it in sensor mode prior to running the game and check its recordings and especially the MAX temperatures after your exit the game.

      Temperatures above 85°C are a bit high and are not good for your laptop in the long run. If that's the case I recommend you open up your laptop and clean it's fans and also use it on a cooling pad or at least on a hard surface such as a desk or table. Reducing game quality settings will also help keeping your laptop cooler. For example, this article shows the optimal Diablo 3 settings for Intel HD Graphics.

    2. Thank you for the advice.

      I've just downloaded the software you suggested. My observations show that the idle temp(degree Celsius) for my cores seem to be:
      Core 0: Current: 55 c Min: 47 c Max: 85 c
      Core 1: Current: 53 c Min: 47 c Max: 87 c
      Core 2: Current: 53 c Min: 45 c Max: 84 c
      Core 3: Current: 52 c Min: 47 c Max: 87 c

      I tested the temp by playing League of Legends, an online MOBA. I have my settings on medium/low and the temperature seems to gradually rise to 79 Degrees in all cores as I continue to play, although the max core temp seems to suggest it gets higher(assuming I am reading the information correctly).

      The PCH Temp is at it's lowest when idle, at 46 Degrees Celsius, and seems to gradually rise to a maximum of 53.4 Degrees Celsius during my League of Legends gameplay.

      Originally I could play league just fine without it getting too hot; however, about a month or two ago(if i remember correctly) it began to get hotter than usual, which often accompanied high ping and lag. I have a Gear Head cooling pad that provides some air to the bottom of my laptop via two fans, although I am aware it's not very high end.

      I did some research and someone mentioned overclocking. Is that what is causing the high temperature? Or do I need to get a better cooling pad?

    3. Although the maximum temperature for your CPU - Intel Core i7-3630QM is 105°C, the max temperatures of 87°C you have measured also seem a bit high to me. The rise in temperatures may be caused by several reasons - it's summer and the ambient temperature is higher, you laptop's cooling system may have accumulated some dust, which lowers it's efficiency and so on.

      As you can't do nothing about the weather, I recommend you focus on the second reason, open up your laptop and clean its fans. If you cannot do this by yourself or your laptop is still under warranty, I recommend you take it to a service center or to the shop you bought it from and let the people there clean it for you. Cooling pads wont help much in this regard. They may lower the temperatures a few degrees depending on your laptop's cooling system, but this will not solve the problem. Cleaning is the way to go. Laptops are delicate machines and need cleaning from time to time in order to operate at their full potential and to live longer.

    4. Yesterday, August 4, I used a can of compressed air in an attempt to blow out any dust or debris that might have gotten into my laptop, being careful to remove the battery and unplug it. Not much seemed to change. Today, after suffering from significant heat and computer freezing during a game of League of Legends, I started up CCleaner, that I had previously installed some time ago, and attempted to clean up my laptop that way in the hopes that it may help. It was then that I noticed the registry tab in CCleaner and remarked upon the fact that I never paid any attention to it, likely never having used it once since I had installed CCleaner all that time ago. Upon further investigation the tab supposedly revealed over 200 registry errors, which prompted me to use CCleaner to clean my registry via said tab. As I write this I am hoping that might have done the trick, as my idle temp seems to have calmed down significantly compared to before I ran CCleaner, although I am basing my assumption upon the fact that my computer seems cooler when compared to before I ran CCleaner. I have yet to attempt a round of League to assess how hot my computer gets now as I first with to restart my computer after disabling some start-up programs that I know I wont need, being careful to leave the important programs within the start-up list.

      One thing I would like to note is that there seems to be two sources of heat rather than one as I originally assumed, although I do not believed I shared any knowledge as to the supposed sources of heat till just now. Originally I had thoguh the heat to be coming from only the built-in laptop fan. However, I eventually discovered that the panel labeled "HDD/MEMORY" also generates heat, specifically where the giant memory chip "thing" is located(I have previously taken the panel off during my compressed air run yesterday). The memory chip, or what I assume is the memory, have a reflective "foil-like" paper covering it, as does parts of the HDD/MEMORY panel. What is the purpose of this "foil?" Is it comparable to thermal paste? Or does it serve some other purpose that is unknown to me? I have yet to remove this "foil" and do not wish to without knowing what I would be getting myself into. However, if removing said foil and applying any thermal paste I can acquire in the near future would help keep my laptop cool, then I would gladly do so, but not before I get advice from someone who actually knows what exactly it is that I am talking about, since I myself do not.

      I would appreciate any further assistance you can provide, and I am thankful for all the help you have given me thus far.

  5. Hi ok so i have this laptop Asus x551m and i have an old videocard laying around Can i buy a USB thunder stik adapter and Then buy a thing too blug my videocard in and in the thunder stik ? Or no?
    My specs
    Laptop Asus x551
    Intel celeron 2830n
    4gb ram
    Intel hd 4000
    And the old videocard amd radion 6750
    Can i do it please help i need it

    1. Hi, sorry, but you cannot use an USB port to connect a desktop video card. USB ports are simply way too slow for a video card. I've extended the article to explain this in more details and to give some numbers.