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Can you change or upgrade graphics card (GPU) in laptop?

Are you looking to upgrade the graphics card in your laptop? And you don’t know if it’s possible or not? So let’s find out if it is possible to change or upgrade the graphics card (GPU) of the laptop.

Actually, it is not possible to change a laptop’s GPU at the user’s end. But an expert technician can replace it.

replace / Upgrade laptop graphics card or GPU

In my case, my Dell laptop comes with a Radon 4GB dedicated GPU (Graphical Processing Unit), and I looked into upgrading it to a better graphics card. But I found that it was soldered to the motherboard. So simply, upgrading or changing it at my end was not possible.

But the possibilities don’t stop there. And I researched to find out other alternative options of replacing GPU. Let’s find out my findings in this article.

First, let’s talk about laptop graphics.

Know about laptop graphics

Nowadays, the GPU is integrated into the CPU to accelerate processing power. It is known as “iGPU” (integrated GPU). It shares memory with the RAM. All Intel Core processors include it, and AMD calls these processors APUs (accelerated processing units). But still, high end & gaming laptops come with dedicated graphics cards (GPUs). A dedicated or discrete GPU uses its own dedicated VRAM.

Laptop Integrated GPU and dedicated GPU

So what?

Is it possible to change the graphics card in the laptop?

If it is an iGPU (integrated graphics card), then there is no way to change or upgrade a graphics card (GPU). As an iGPU is integrated into the CPU. It can only be changed or upgraded along with the processor.

If it is a dedicated GPU, it is probably soldered to the motherboard, and in this case, we cannot easily upgrade it in the same way that we can upgrade RAM or a hard disk. But it doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed. A laptop mechanic can remove and re-solder the dedicated graphics card (GPU).

But it requires a high level of expertise and will be costly. This process is good if you need to replace a faulty graphics card with one of the same specifications, otherwise upgrading could cause incompatibility issues.

Expert technician can change or upgrade a graphics card (GPU) of the laptop

Choose this option if it really makes sense for you; otherwise, it is better to upgrade the laptop instead of the GPU.

While most laptop graphics cards are not detachable or upgradable, some high-end gaming laptops and some models built for professional usage may offer such a feature. In this case you can easily replace or upgrade GPUs in selected models just like in desktop.

If you are unclear whether the graphics card in your laptop can be upgraded or not, you can read the laptop’s specs.

There is another option instead of replacing a GPU. Attach an external GPU. Using the Thunderbolt port, an external GPU (eGPU) can be connected to the laptop via a GPU docking station.

Attach an external GPU instead of upgrading internal GPU

With the help of a laptop GPU dock, a desktop GPU can be attached to the laptop by using the Thunderbolt cable. Because Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 4 ports use the USB-C form factor, verify if your laptop really supports Thunderbolt feature.

Thunderbolt port on laptop

To make sure your laptop is compatible with Thunderbolt, look for the Thunderbolt symbol or see the laptop’s product specifications. If your laptop supports Thunderbolt, you can indirectly upgrade it.

You just need GPU dock. External GPU enclosures are another name for GPU docks. It is a case with a power supply and a slot for inserting the GPU. A thunderbolt cable is required to connect it to the laptop’s thunderbolt port.

Benefits of external GPU

  • A dock might have extra features like a USB hub, an Ethernet port, an external drive, etc.
  • A dock could provide better cooling for the GPU in high-load conditions.
  • A desktop GPU can be attached to the GPU dock.

Drawbacks of external GPU

  • It is expensive.
  • slower performance than the internal graphics card.
  • It requires more space and becomes less portable.

Best external GPU enclosures for Laptop

Below are some examples of different products that can be used to attach an external GPU to the laptop. Choose according to your budget.

In the end, my conclusion is that changing a laptop GPU is not easily possible. So it is better to use an external GPU if you need it a lot, because it is also not a cheap solution. Otherwise, you should buy a new laptop with better specs.


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