PC components are complex. It’s easy to look at a list of the best graphics cards and know which one you should buy, but there are still dozens of lingering questions when it comes to GPUs. We rounded up the most popular GPU questions in Google so you can understand what a graphics card is and how it works.
There are no bad questions here. If you already have your footing with GPUs and want to go a little deeper, make sure to read our guide on how to choose a graphics card. Keep our roundup of GPU prices handy, too, where we check in weekly for the best deals.
What is a graphics card (GPU) in a computer?
A graphics card, or GPU, is a dedicated processor that handles video and graphics. Just like your processor, your graphics card does a bunch of math. But unlike the general-purpose math that goes into all the minute details of making your PC run, GPUs are really good at a specific type of math — the math that goes into images showing up on your screen, from videos to your web browser. You need a GPU for any computer to work, even if you don’t have a dedicated graphics card. There are two types of GPUs:
- Integrated GPU: This is a much less powerful graphics card that’s included right on the processor. The M1 MacBook Air doesn’t have a separate graphics card, for instance, but it has a GPU right next to the processor.
- Dedicated GPU: A dedicated GPU is much more powerful and sits apart from the processor. It doesn’t share resources, so dedicated GPUs can offer a lot more power for gamers and content creators.
Is a GPU a graphics card?
A GPU is a graphics card co-equally, but they’re technically different. GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit, and it’s the actual processor inside a graphics card. A graphics card, on the other hand, is the card itself, which has extras like memory and power delivery components.
That’s the technical answer, but you can use GPU and graphics card interchangeably in the vast majority of cases.
There are a few ways to find which graphics card you have, but the easiest is through System Information in Windows. Search for System Information, expand the Components tab, and select Display. Your graphics card will be at the top by the Name section.
It’s even easier on Mac. Click the Apple menu and select About This Mac. You’ll find your graphics card under Graphics.
If you’re experiencing weird graphical glitches like a flashing screen or discolored windows, you should reset your graphics card. It’s super easy to do. Use the key combination Windows Key + Control + Shift + B, and your graphics card will reset. Your screen will go blank for just a moment, but don’t panic — that’s normal.
It’s important to keep your graphics card up to date with the latest graphics card drivers. We have a dedicated guide on how to install and update GPU drivers, so make sure to give it a read for all the details. For AMD, Nvidia, and Intel, however, the process is straightforward.
Nvidia has GeForce Experience, AMD has Radeon Software, and Intel has the Graphics Command Center, and you can update your driver in each depending on which GPU you have (see above to learn how to check). If you have a new graphics card, go to AMD, Nvidiaor Intel’s website and download the latest driver.