How To Check Your Graphics Card in Windows 10
Since its release in July of 2015, Windows 10 has become one of the most popular operating systems in the world, being installed on 43% of all personal computers as of April 2019. Windows 10 is found at just about every level of personal computer, from affordable machines for web-browsing to desktop servers to monster gaming PCs. Even people who build their own computers from parts, you’re likely to be using the the same version of Microsoft’s newest operating system.
However, the actual hardware underneath the OS can vary enormously, and that variety makes a big difference in performance. If you’re trying to coax the maximum performance out of your computer, or if you’re trying to run down a problem somewhere, then it is important to be able to determine the exact components your laptop or desktop PC has. And for many users, it’s the graphics card that is the subject of the most curiosity.
The graphics card is one of the most important components for a high-performance computer, though perhaps second in importance to the CPU. For gamers, the graphics card is usually #1. If you want to play any sort of video game, you’ll find that your graphics card is listed among the most crucial specifications for any game you’ll want to play, powering nearly all the visuals you see on screen. Powerful graphics cards are equally important for video editing, as rendering and CUDA cores are all powered through the graphics card inside your machine. Most Windows games and programs include details of the levels of graphic card support they need in their system requirements, and you might need to check what graphics card you have to see if it matches the requirements–especially if you want to play newer game or software releases. Whether you’re confused about dedicated versus integrated graphics cards, the amount of VRAM within your dedicated card, or what manufacturer created your card, it’s easy to check—even without cracking open your laptop, desktop, or tablet.
Whether you bought your PC without knowing exactly what graphics card is contained inside your laptop or desktop, or you bought your graphics card for your PC so long ago you’ve forgotten what’s inside, we can help. No matter if you’re looking to install a new game, get into video editing, or anything else on your PC, we can help you find out your graphics card information in Windows 10. In this article I’m going to explain what a graphics card is and the role it plays in your computer, and I’ll show you a couple of different ways to find out exactly what card you have under the hood.
What is a Graphics Card?
The first thing to understand is some of the terminology of the modern PC. If you’re a veteran of Windows PCs, you might know plenty of these terms, but for newer users, a quick crash course in understanding just how these cards work is a must.
In a computer, many components work together in order to get work done. From surfing the web, watching videos, and checking up on social media to playing video games and making art, your computer does it with a combination of many different parts, just like a human body. We aren’t going to go into the importance and value of every part of your PC, because you don’t need to understand your entire computer to find out specs about your own graphics card. Instead, let’s quickly focus on three main parts of the PC, and how they interact with each other:
- Motherboard: The motherboard within your computer is the component that allows every piece of technology within your computer, including your hard drive, your CPU, GPU, memory, fans, and more, to communicate with each other. It’s a circuit board that reads and transfers data between components. The motherboard is like the backbone of your device, allowing your machine to operate at its full potential while also allowing for expansions and the addition of new peripherals later (for desktops; laptops typically don’t have space for expanding your device’s capability outside of the IO ports along the sides of the device).
- CPU (or processor): If the motherboard is the backbone of your device, the CPU (or central processing unit) is the brain, in charge of issuing commands and computing the data your system throws at it. The CPU is usually considered the most important part of your system. Everything from how fast or slow your machine runs, how quickly it can switch between applications, and how well it can stream video and other data comes down to your CPU.
- GPU (or graphics card): The GPU (graphics processing unit) is an interesting device. While there are hundreds of dedicated graphics cards out there, running on standards set by either of hte industry giants, Nvidia or AMD, you can also have an integrated GPU with your CPU. Typically, integrated GPUs (you’ll often hear these described as Intel HD Graphics if your machine is using an Intel processor, followed by a number referring to the specific GPU) are included in lower-cost or low-powered devices, including budget PCs and ultrabooks. Because dedicated graphics cards, especially in laptops, are expensive and often overkill unless you’re looking to play some serious games or edit photos or videos, integrated graphics often give the best bang-for-the-buck in laptop machines.
Both the CPU and the GPU plug into the motherboard, with dedicated slots for each device within desktops (laptops typically use custom, sealed motherboards). It’s important to understand just how these three devices work together, because knowing the difference between dedicated and integrated GPUs is incredibly important when looking up information regarding your computer’s internals. It’s also important to keep in mind that some devices, specifically laptops, have both integrated and dedicated GPUs, with the ability to switch between both chips depending on what you’re doing with your PC at any given time. Also note that your computer contains more than just those three parts above that are also important for running your machine, including hard drives, RAM or memory sticks, fans, sound cards, and more.
Looking Up Your Graphics Card Info in Windows 10
With that quick introduction to the world of computer internals out of the way, we can finally get down to business. Looking up your graphics card within Windows 10 is easy, and there are at least three ways to do it. Which method you choose depends on what kind of information you need to find out about your card. Our second method uses Windows’ built-in DirectX Diagnostic Tool, which is used to read the system information of your machine while detailing information on the DirectX components within your system. DirectX, for those not in the know, is Windows’ API for handling multimedia content, including video and games on your platform. The third method uses an outside software tool known as GPU-Z to read the information on your device, often offering more information at the added cost of installing a separate application.
If you’re on a work computer, you might have to use the first or second methods instead of the third in order to avoid installing system and software apps. Most users, however, can have a choice between any method—they all work.
Method one: MSINFO
Longtime Windows users are intimately familiar with MSINFO, the built-in Windows information program that has a great deal of basic information about your computer. With MSINFO you can find out how big your hard drives are, what your software version is, what kind of hardware you have installed – really quite a long list of things. For today, however, all we need to find out is what kind of graphics card you have on our computer, and it’s easy.
To launch MSINFO, hit Ctrl-Escape, or just tap the Windows key, and type “msinfo” in the search box. MSINFO will pop right up.
On the left-hand pane, click on Components and then select Display. A screen with information on all the installed graphics cards on your PC will pop up. This information screen isn’t terribly detailed, though it will tell you things like what resolution each display adapter is running at, how much memory each has access to, and what driver versions are installed. The key information it provides, however, is the name of the graphics card(s). In the example below, there are two graphics cards installed: a built-in Intel HD graphics card, and an NVidia GeForce GT 730.
If all you need to know is the name of the graphics card in your PC, then the MSINFO tool will get that job done. If you need more information than that, read on.
Method two: DirectX Diagnostic Tool
Launching the DirectX Diagnostic Tool is relatively simple. The tool is included in all versions of Windows 10, so regardless of your PC, you’ll be able to access this tool through your Start menu. DirectX is also a pretty old standard, so you should be able to find this on older versions of Windows such as 7, 8, and 8.1 without trouble. Here’s how to access your information.
Start by locating the Windows key in the lower-left hand corner. Click on it with your mouse and type “Run” once the Start menu has opened.
Alternately, you can use a command shortcut by hitting the Windows key and R (Win+R) to immediately open Run. Either way will lead to the same application. Once Run is open on your desktop, enter the word “dxdiag” into the text field and hit “OK” in the box below. You’ll see a dialogue box open with DirectX information shown (if, prior to the application below launching, you receive a box with a Yes or No prompt about launching the Diagnostic Tool, hit Yes).
In the DirectX Diagnostic Tool (shown above) you’ll see a few separate tabs, along with plenty of system information including the current time, date, the manufacturer or your motherboard, the amount of memory within your PC, and your processor. While this is all great information to know, the system tab in DirectX doesn’t display any information about your graphics card. For that, we’ll have to turn to the second tab within DirectX Diagnostic Tool, “Display.” The Display tab, in the upper-left hand corner, has all the generic information about your system’s current display preferences, including the graphics card make and model, the amount of VRAM (video RAM or memory) within your graphics card, and the current resolution being pushed out by your device.
It’s worth noting that, for anyone who has two graphics cards in their system, you’ll have two “Display” tabs open in the window on your display. While some power users and gamers may have two actual graphics cards, you’ll likely run into this issue if you’re using a laptop that has a CPU with integrated graphics and a dedicated GPU that switches on when needed. This is a feature of certain laptops with Nvidia graphics, typically designed in order to automatically switch in order to help assist your laptop’s battery life.
For most people, this is all the information they’ll need to make a decision regarding their graphics card. Whether you’re looking to replace the card, trying to find supported software for your device, or just looking for generic information about your hardware, this is typically all you need to make a choice. That said, GPU-Z can give us some additional information about our graphics card, so if you’re looking for a specific piece of information—clock speed, BIOS version, release date of your processor, or anything else—here’s how to do it.
Method three: TechPowerUp GPU-Z
To install GPU-Z (also known as TechPowerUp GPU-Z), we’ll have to head over to the company’s own website to download the application. This is a totally free utility, with no advertisements or paywalls, so don’t worry about having to pay to use the application on your device. Start by heading to this page to download the utility.
Here you’ll find two separate themes: the standard version of GPU-Z and the ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers, ASUS’s line of gamer-focused equipment) themed program. For our needs, we only need the standard version, but if you’re looking for some visual flash in your utilities, you can grab the ASUS one too. Both applications perform the same basic task.
Once you hit the download button, you’ll be brought to a downloads page asking you to select a server for download. If you’re US-based, either United States server will work for you; otherwise, select the server closest to your home country for the fastest download speeds available. When the download (which weighs in at under 5mb of storage) is complete and you’ve opened your download, you’ll see a popup notification asking you to install GPU-Z. Installation isn’t necessary to use the application; all it does is add a link to the application onto your desktop and startup menu. You can select yes, no, or not-now—the system app will still function the same no matter what.
After making your installation selection, GPU-Z will immediately launch. Upon first glance, this app has a ton of information that you might not know what to do with. If you’re new to graphics cards and computer architecture, a lot of the words and phrases here might need some bit of explaining. Truth be told, for 98 percent of readers, you won’t need to know most of the information here. Instead, here’s what you will find interesting shown through GPU-Z:
- The Lookup button: Next to your graphics card’s name at the top of the window, you’ll see a “Lookup” button. Clicking this will launch your browser to load a page on your specific graphics card, along with an image of the device, dates released, and tons of other information. Much of this is shown within GPU-Z, but if you need to send or share your graphics card info with someone, TechPowerUp’s database of graphics cards is reliable, easy-to-share information.
- Name: This will display the generic name of your graphics card (in the screenshot below, it displays an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, a generation-old graphics card). This won’t display the make of your graphics card, however (this is known as a subvendor within GPU-Z).
- Technology: This shows the size and structure of your GPU, measured in nm (nanometer). The smaller the chip, the less heat outputs from the GPU.
- Release date: The original release date of your specific graphics card.
- Subvendor: The manufacturer that created your card (ASUS, EVGA, etc).
- Memory type and size: The type and generation of the dedicated memory contained within your graphics card (VRAM). The size is shown below type, listed in MB (megabytes). The more VRAM, the more powerful the chip.
- Clock speeds: This is the speed your GPU is set to run at. These can be boosted and overclocked, depending on your card and device, so you’ll also see information on your turbo-boost clock speeds here as well. These are measured in MHz (megahertz).
If you’re confused on what something means within GPU-Z (for example, if you’re unsure what Bus Width or Texture Fill Rate are identifying), you can roll over the text entry fields in each part of the application to view new information and a tooltip on each field, giving a small definition and explanation for each individual part of the application.
Finally, you can also the drop-down menu at the bottom of the application to switch between card information, if your computer has two graphics cards (or, more likely, to switch between information on your dedicated and integrated graphics cards).
Computers have always been fascinating devices for hobbyists, especially as you begin to learn how each individual piece works together to create an experience that has changed the entire landscape of the world over the past forty years or so. If you’ve never dived into figuring out how your computer works, or you need to upgrade or fix a problem with your graphics card, knowing how to look up that information can be a really handy tool to have. Even if you’re just looking to find out whether or not you can run Wolfenstein II or Doom on your PC, you’ll be happy to know that Windows 10 has that graphics information built right into it, and you can get that information either in a simple format via msinfo, or in more detail with the DirectX software.
And, of course, GPU-Z can help you learn the ins-and-outs of just how your device works, if you’ve ever wondered on what a graphics card exactly does. Overall, with graphics cards being as important to running a computer as they are, knowing how to look up the information on your card is one of the most handy tips to know. So, whether you’re troubleshooting your computer or buying new games during Steam’s next sale, you’ll be happy to know just where to find the information you’re looking for.
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