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What’s a graphics card and how do you check it on your Windows device or Mac?

Are you a passionate online gamer, like to stream videos, or use graphics-hungry programs and applications? Then you’ll certainly know how important it is to have a graphics card that can handle whatever it is you do.

But even if you don’t expect much from your hardware components, it’s good to know what a graphics card is needed for and which one is used on your Windows PC or Mac. Read on to learn how to find out, and more importantly, how to optimize your device’s performance with the right tools like Avira System Speedup for Windows and Avira Free Security for Mac. 


What is a graphics card?

A graphics card is one of the key hardware components in your computer. You need one to process graphics and display visual content on your screen.

Without one, you won’t be able to playback images or videos, play online or 3D games, or accelerate graphics-hungry apps — not to mention use your office programs on your laptop, PC, or Mac.

What types of graphics card are there?

Essentially, there are two types: integrated and discrete.

  • Integrated units are a graphics chip that’s integrated into the processor. These integrated graphics cards are not particularly well suited for gaming PCs as they don’t have enough graphics grunt for games.
  • By contrast, you’ll typically find discrete graphics cards in gaming or creator PCs as these offer far greater graphics performance. You’ll usually see discrete graphics cards attached to the motherboard. So if you’re a passionate gamer or do lots of video or image editing on your PC, choosing a discrete graphics card is a wise move.

However, as a hardware component, a graphics card requires additional resources, such as processors and drivers, to work in the first place.

What’s a GPU?

A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a graphics processor that’s usually located on the graphics card or embedded on the motherboard. In some cases, several such GPUs can even be embedded in a computer.

GPUs are highly specialized processors that are equipped with often very different processor cores and further processing units. GPUs were specially developed to process graphical information, including geometric information, color, shading, and image textures.

Let’s use an example to explain that: In a game, you may see a computer-generated image of a person, a landscape, or a detailed model of a 3D object. Whatever you’re seeing, it’s sort of thanks to the GPU. That’s because video games are complex applications that require many mathematical calculations to be performed in parallel to display images on your screen.

What’s the difference between a GPU and a CPU?

Without wanting to delve too deeply into the depths of a PC, computer systems also use central processing units (CPUs) in addition to GPUs. Both processors complement each other and are used together in modern computer systems to optimize device performance.

These two processor types differ from each other in terms of function, architecture, operation, and storage methods. Here’s how:

Function A GPU specializes in accelerating the processing of graphics and parallel computations, which makes a lot of sense when you want to perform 3D graphics rendering, video encoding, machine learning, or other computationally intensive tasks. By contrast, the CPU is a general-purpose processor that handles a fairly wide range of tasks, such as running the operating system, processing applications, or controlling peripherals (such as the display, printer, mouse, and such like).  
Architecture The GPU consists of hundreds to thousands of smaller, energy-efficient cores, which allow many processes to be processed faster and simultaneously. By contrast, a CPU consists of a few powerful cores (typically 2 to 64) that are optimized for sequential tasks.  
Operation A GPU can run a large number of simple tasks in parallel by using its many cores simultaneously. This allows the GPU to achieve enormous computing power for specific tasks. The CPU is designed to handle more complex tasks.  
Memory The GPU has a smaller onboard memory that is optimized specifically to process graphics data. It usually accesses the computer’s main memory to process larger amounts of data. The CPU has a relatively large onboard cache memory that is used for quick access to frequently used data.  

In short, CPUs are something like versatile interface coordinators that handle a fairly wide range of different tasks. By contrast, GPUs specialize in parallel processing. They are therefore designed to handle graphical content and computationally intensive applications in particular, such as video and image processing, simulations, or machine learning.

Here’s a little light reading on the side: On the subject of clearing your Mac’s cache check out our article in our Avira blog to discover how to empty the cache on your Mac and free up storage space.

How to find out what graphics card is used on your PC

If you — like many — haven’t built your own PC, you may not know exactly which graphics card was installed in your device. However, knowing this can be important such as when you want to install a new game or complex and computationally intensive software and your hardware needs to meet minimum system requirements.

Apart from that, it’s also good to know which graphics card is used on your computer if you want to update your graphics drivers manually.

Speaking of updating drivers: If you have a multi-feature optimization tool like Avira System Speedup on your Windows device, you can have it check for outdated drivers on your device and update them for you without needing to lift a finger.

On top of that, this multi-feature tuning tool from Avira can also help you free up hard disk space and RAM, improving your device’s performance, among other things.

Avira System Speedup for Windows
Optimize your device’s performance with Avira System Speedup for Windows.

Find out what graphics card you have using Windows Device Manager

It’s quick and easy to find out what graphics card is used on your Windows PC. Here’s how:

  1. Right-click the Windows icon and select Device Manager from the context menu.
  2. In the Device Manager window that opens, find Display adapters. If you select the small arrow in front of it, you’ll see the name of the graphics card used on your computer just below.
    Use Windows' Device Manager to find out what graphics card is built into the computer.

Find out what graphics card you have via Windows System Information

  1. In Windows 11, you can open System Information by pressing the Windows and R keys simultaneously, and then entering dxdiag in the Windows search box.
    Windows 11 Run dialog box showing 'dxdiag' command for accessing System Information
  1. Now click OK or hit the Enter key to view your device’s system information.
  2. The DirectX Diagnostic Tool will then open. If you click the Display tab, you’ll be shown all the information about your device’s graphics card.

Find out what graphics card(s) are used on your Mac

Many MacBook Pro laptops have two graphics processors — a discrete GPU and an integrated GPU. The discrete GPU provides substantial graphics performance but uses more energy; the integrated GPU optimizes battery life by using less energy.

To see which graphics cards are used on your MacBook Pro, go to the Apple menu by clicking the Apple icon and then choosing About This Mac. The graphics cards in use will appear next to Graphics.

Perform the same steps if you own an iMac or a MacBook Mini and want to find out what graphics units are used on your device.

How to check the graphics processor on Windows 11

If you want to check the graphics processor of your Windows 11 computer, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Windows icon and select Device Manager from the context menu.
  2. Then click the arrow in front of Display adapters.
  3. Next, right-click this display adapter and then select Properties from the context menu.
    Device Manager with the Display adapters section expanded and the Properties option
  4. You’ll first see the general status of the display adapter. Switch to the Driver tab to check whether the drivers for the display adapters on your Windows computer are up to date or whether they need updating. Everything that’s happened in connection with the graphics card since you started using your Windows PC is listed under Events.Displaying Windows driver details, including the provider, date, and version.

Tune up your PC’s performance

As we’ve already mentioned, you can get multi-feature optimization tools to tune up your computer’s performance.

Avira System Speedup is one such multi-feature optimization solution. Right from the freeware version, it comes with a range of tools to help you take your Windows PC’s performance to a whole new level — just like Avira Optimizer for macOS does for your Mac. Tune-up steps include:

  • Optimizing your PC’s system start up time
  • Freeing up storage space (such as by finding duplicate or dummy files)
  • Boosting performance (including game performance with Game Booster)
  • Managing power usage
  • Maintaining your device (such as helping fix Windows issues).


Another solution we recommend just as highly is Avira System Speedup Pro. With it, you can tune up even more aspects of your computer’s performance.

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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.
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Check what graphics card you have on your Windows device with Avira System Speedup for Windows

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Check what graphics card you have on your Mac with Avira Optimizer for macOS