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What graphics card do I have? How to check your GPU and drivers

Here's how to identify your Windows PC or laptop's graphics card (or graphics subsystem) and make sure everything is up-to-date.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on
A woman wearing headphones, using a laptop
iStockphoto/Getty Images

It's important to keep your system up-to-date. Windows Update is, of course, your first line of defense. You always want to make sure your PC is updated, especially as new zero-day security flaws are found and patches released.

But your computer's graphic subsystem often needs its own special attention. Whether you're running a tower PC with a bunch of cards you installed yourself, or a sealed laptop, there's a graphics system inside that powers your screen. 

This system is called the GPU or graphics processing unit, and it's responsible for getting frames on your screen as fast as possible.

Power gamers often spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on GPUs. Some PCs can even run two or three GPUs at one time. For our purposes, we'll focus on learning what GPU is installed and how to keep it updated, assuming it's just one GPU. If you're rocking something more complex or powerful, let us know in the comments below.

Also: The top gaming GPUs from Nvidia and AMD   

One other thing to note: The GPU is often called a graphics card because tower PCs are often built using separate cards. Laptops sometimes have gamer-quality graphics, but rather than having separate discrete cards, these laptops get their graphics from chipsets installed on the laptop's motherboard. In any case, GPUs all make pixels move fast.

And with that, let's dive in.

What graphics card do I have? How to check your GPU and drivers

Let's get started look at what graphics system you're running on your Windows PC. This could be a separate card or the chipset in your machine. Either way, these steps work.

1. Open the Windows Start menu

Tap the Windows Start button, which will give you a search and selection box.

Windows start menu icon with red arrow pointing to it
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

2. Tap the Settings icon

You can also type Settings into the search bar on top if you don't see the Settings icon.

Red arrow pointing to settings icon
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

3. Click the Display selector box

This will give you a bunch of options for managing your displays. From here, you'll be able to find out what graphics card you're using, and update your drivers.

Also: What do you get for the gamer who has everything?

Red arrow pointing to Display button
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

4. Choose Advanced display

Scroll all the way down toward the end of of the Display panel. It might seem like you want to hit the Graphics selector box, but I recommend tapping Advanced display instead. That will give you more options.

Red arrow pointing to Advanced display
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

5. Look for the name next to Connected to

You can choose your display. Some PCs have more than one display system, so you can choose that from the menu marked with the arrow. Each display system will have a graphics subsystem. If you look at mine, you can see it next to the Connected to phrase, which describes the actual graphics adapter you're using. On my laptop, I'm using the built-in Intel Iris graphics system.

Internal display information marked with a red box and arrow
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Updating graphics drivers

Now that you know what graphics system you're running, you can download and update your drivers. We're going to first look at how to do an automatic update. Not all graphics systems will update this way, so we'll show you how to download drivers from some of the bigger vendors.

Also: How to buy a computer for a kid

Staying on the Advanced Display pane, let's get started. 

1. Open Display Adapter Properties 

Click the blue text link (in our case, it says, Display adapter properties for Display 1) to open the first details panel. 

Arrow pointing to Display adapter properties for Display 1
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

2. Open Driver Properties

Next, click the Properties button on the pop-up pane. This will open another pop-up, and here you want to hit the Drivers tab.

Red arrow pointing to Driver and Properties
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

3. Try an automatic update

Click the Update Driver button and then Click Search automatically for drivers. This will cause Windows to see if it can find a new set of drivers.

Red arrow pointing to Search automatically for drivers
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

4. Get driver status

In my case, Windows thinks I have the latest drivers. If I didn't, Windows would invite me to install an updated set. But that's not the only way to get to drivers. Next, we'll look at manually downloading drivers from their support sites.

Driver status popup
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Manually downloading drivers

One of the most effective ways of updating your computer is to go to the vendors' sites and download drivers. I usually recommend going to your PC vendor first, before the maker of the graphics adapter. That's because drivers from the PC vendor often take into account other hardware elements of your computer that the graphics vendor may not know about. In my case, I have an Asus laptop.

1. Visit your vendor's site 

Most PC vendors have a website, and most of those sites have a Support button that usually includes drivers and other downloadable items. Here's Asus' version:

ASUS site with arrow pointing to Drivers and Manuals
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

2. Enter the model information

Many vendor sites have you select a category of product, and then drill down to model. Just follow the prompts and give the site the information it's asking for.

Asus download page
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

3. Visit graphics card vendors' sites 

Alternatively, visit the driver download pages for the graphics card vendors. The big three are Nvidia, AMD, and Intel. Intel offers a support assistant that checks your PC directly and recommends downloads.

Intel Driver and Support Assistant page
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Here's Nvidia's download page:

Nvidia driver downloads page
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

And here's AMD's download page:

AMD drivers and support page
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Also: The best Windows laptops

4. Manually install the driver

Back at the Advanced Display pane, this time choose Browse my computer for drivers. Select the driver file you downloaded and saved to your computer, and let Windows do its thing.

Red arrow pointing to Browse my computer for drivers
Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

And there you go. Two separate ways to check and install drivers on your PC.

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