PC ComponentsGPU

How To Upgrade GPU on Laptop

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Are you tired of your laptop’s constant stuttering or freezing while playing a high-resolution video or high-quality game? This can only mean your laptop’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) is not good enough and is due for an upgrade.

Quick Answer

Except in extremely rare cases, you can’t upgrade the internal GPU of your laptop. However, you can buy an external GPU box and a graphics card to go in the box and connect it to your laptop using the USB Type C Thunderbolt 3 connection. This is usually quite expensive, so buying a new laptop with a significantly better GPU may be the best solution.

This article will guide you on upgrading your laptop’s GPU. It explains how to replace your laptop’s graphics card and the pros and cons of the method. It also discusses the use of external GPUs. Finally, it addresses the things to consider to know if getting a new laptop is the best option.

How To Replace Your Laptop’s Graphics Card With an Upgrade

Several factors come into play before you can consider this option. Manufacturers built the integrated GPUs into the system without considering the need for upgrades. This is why installing a new integrated graphics card into most laptops is impossible. 

Ask yourself a few questions before you try this method. Is there room on your motherboard to accommodate a new graphics card? This is important because most laptops are designed to be sleek and compact. Unlike desktops, laptops are not designed to allow hardware changes or upgrades, and most laptops have no physical space to accommodate an upgrade in GPU. 

Secondly, is the CPU fast enough to handle a GPU upgrade? If you’re using an old model CPU, your new graphics card may not run well. Another question you need to ask is, can your laptop handle the power requirement of the new GPU? Graphics cards require a lot of power to accelerate the graphics. 

Ensure that your laptop has the necessary power and has enough power connectors for the new graphics card.

If you’ve considered all these and your laptop meets the requirement, follow the steps below to install a new graphics card.

  1. Uninstall the old graphics driver. Skip this step if the new driver is also of the same model.
  2. Shut down your laptop.
  3. Remove your laptop’s side panel and disconnect all the necessary cables, including the monitor cable.
  4. Locate the graphics card and unscrew the back plate holding it down.
  5. Unlock the clip that holds the graphics card to the PCI Express slot.
  6. Remove the graphics card from the slot. 
  7. Insert the new graphics card into the slot and make sure the clip locks it in place.
  8. Screw the back plate in place.
  9. Connect the power connectors to the new graphics card.
  10. Reattach the side panel and all the disconnected cables.
  11. Power on your laptop and install the appropriate graphics driver

How To Use an External GPU

If you’re sentimentally attached to your current laptop but want to use it to play high-quality games, you should buy an external GPU. Although the external GPU box is not a very mobile option, you can use your laptop for regular tasks when you’re out of the house and use the external GPU at home where needed.

To connect the external GPU to your laptop, follow the steps below.

  1. Ensure your laptop is USB C Thunderbolt 3-compatible.
  2. Place the upgraded graphics card in the external GPU box.
  3. Connect the power cord to the external GPU and the power source.
  4. Connect the Thunderbolt cable from the external GPU box to the Thunderbolt 3 port on your laptop.
  5. Download and install the latest firmware for your external GPU from the manufacturer’s official website.
  6. Download and install the latest graphics driver for your external GPU.

Why You Should Buy a New Laptop

If you want to choose based on performance without sentimental attachment to your current laptop, getting a new laptop is your best choice. You cannot replace your laptop’s graphics card with a significantly better one and expect it to work efficiently. Even if there is enough space on your motherboard, the CPU might not have the capacity to handle the GPU upgrade.

The external GPU is a good alternative. Since you need a GPU upgrade for games or high-resolution video or photo editing, you can connect your external GPU when required. However, your laptop must be Thunderbolt 3-compatible before you can use the external GPU. 

Additionally, an external GPU would not offer the same performance as an internal graphics card of the exact specifications. And there won’t be a significant increase in performance despite connecting an external GPU if you’re not using a laptop with good specifications.

An external GPU is also expensive. Once you factor in the cost of the external GPU box and that of the upgraded graphics card to insert in the box, you might find out that you’re better off spending that money on a new laptop. 

If you decide to buy a new laptop instead, get one with enough GPU to satisfy all your needs.


Ultimately, you must consider many things before deciding the best way to upgrade your laptop’s GPU. Replacing your laptop’s graphics card is almost impossible due to compatibility and space issues. Also, it doesn’t guarantee a much-improved performance.  

Getting an external GPU may solve your problem, but it also has its problems. You must consider budget, laptop compatibility, portability, etc. If your GPU needs are much higher than your current laptop can support, it would be best if you considered buying a new laptop with a better GPU.

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