May 16th, 2010

MacBook Pro graphics-card switching

Posted by Ben in Macintosh, Software

Most Macbook Pros in the last two years have had dual graphics cards – one integrated such as the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, and one discrete such as the NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT. This was a good idea – you can use the more powerful discrete card when doing highly video intensive tasks such as video-editing or playing games, or switch to the integrated one for less intensive tasks and gain substantially on battery life.

The problem is that you have to logout of the user account every time you want to switch, which rendered it impractical to switch frequently. The new Core i5/i7 MacBook Pros that came out early this year featuring the new NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M card took a different approach and featured a new ability for the OS itself to switch the graphics processors – on the fly, automatically – according to need. Nice, but no help to those of us with older machines.

Enter the gfxCardStatus utility…


This open-source utility written by Cody Krieger was originally designed to show the status and manually switch which card was being used in the new i5/i7 machines. But somewhere along the way it was discovered it could also be used to manually switch cards in the older generation MBPs – without having to log out.

Support for these older models is currently experimental but from what I’ve seen it works absolutely perfectly. So if you have a recent Macbook Pro and are running Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), give it a try….

gfxCardStatus Homepage
gfxCardStatus page at Versiontracker


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