Can You Upgrade the Graphics Card in a Laptop?

Some laptops will allow for an internal graphics card upgrade, but in most cases, you won’t be able to upgrade the graphics card in your laptop. However, you may be able to add an external graphics card if your laptop computer has a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port.

Throughout the years of using my laptop, there have certainly been times when I would have loved a little bit of extra speed, better graphics, or improved performance. A great way to unlock these benefits in a desktop is simply to upgrade the graphics card, but is this an option in a laptop?

This guide is going to go over the options you have for upgrading the graphics card in your laptop, and how to know whether or not you will be able to do it on your computer.

Key Takeaways

  • Most laptops won’t allow you to upgrade the graphics card in your laptop.
  • Certain expensive models will allow you to make an internal upgrade, but they are few and far between.
  • An external graphics card is an option for those with a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port on their laptop.

Upgrading the Internal Graphics Card

While it would be nice if most laptops allowed you to upgrade the graphics card (also known as a GPU) with ease, this isn’t the case. Whether you have a Dell, an HP, or another brand, the chances are low that you will be able to switch out the graphics card in the computer.

The reason for this is because the graphics card and GPU will likely be soldered or integrated directly into the motherboard of your laptop. It will be adhered permanently, and trying to remove or upgrade it is likely to cause damage to your computer.

However, it is important to know that some laptops do indeed allow for easy upgrading of the graphics card, but the list is not long. The way to know whether or not you can upgrade the GPU in your laptop is if it has an MXM (Mobile PCIe Express Module) slot for graphics cards. 

The MXM standard allows for the upgrading of GPUs in a very simple manner. Unfortunately, only a specific collection of high-end laptops have this feature. So if you want a laptop with a better graphics card, often your only choice is to purchase a new laptop with better specs.

Adding an External Graphics Card

While upgrading your internal graphics card is likely not possible in your laptop, all hope is not lost as there is another option. This is to add an external graphics card. This is exactly what it sounds like, a graphics card that can be plugged into your laptop to provide better performance.

You simply purchase a compatible GPU enclosure and the GPU of your choice, and you will be able to attach a powerful graphics card to your laptop. However, in order for most of these external GPUs to function properly, you need a laptop with a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 port.

These Thunderbolt 3 and 4 ports offer exceptional speed that is multiple times faster than traditional USB ports. It is these blazing fast speeds that are needed to support the external GPU and ensure it works as it should and provide the benefits you desire.

Unfortunately, most laptops with these Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports are high-end and quite expensive, and the GPU enclosure/dock (as well as the graphics card itself) you will need to buy can also be on the expensive side of things.

So unless you already have a high-end laptop that just needs some better graphics, or are really attached to your computer, it often makes more sense to purchase a new laptop than to take these steps to improve the graphics or performance.


Here are a few common questions about computer graphics cards in general, as well as their answers.

How much do graphics cards cost?

A new graphics card will run you anywhere from a few hundred dollars, up to a thousand dollars or more for the best of the best. In most cases, the better the performance of the GPU, the more expensive it will be.

How will upgrading your graphics card benefit your computer?

Upgrading your GPU will improve the graphics and overall performance of your machine, and help you with everything from gaming to editing photos and videos. Your laptop should run better on all fronts with a better graphics card.

How can I see the graphics card that is currently in my laptop?

The simplest way to see the graphics card in your laptop is to go to Settings > System > Display > Advanced display settings. There, you will see not only the graphics card listed, but also information on your refresh rate, resolution, and more.

Final Thoughts

Unless you have one of the very few laptops that allow it, you won’t be able to upgrade the internal graphics card of your laptop. Your best bet will be to use an external graphics card (if it is compatible with your laptop) or simply buy a laptop with better specs.

Have you upgraded your graphics card or used an external graphics card before? If so, we’d love to hear from you in a comment below!

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