Can You Change the Graphics Card on a Laptop?

Laptops are usually designed for on-the-go computing that most employees and businessmen demand from their computers. However, gamers and graphics designers also expect on-the-go capabilities from their computers, and that is why they are using laptops as well. But the fact is that laptops aren’t always built to have great graphics card due to certain constraints. However, can you actually change the graphics card on a laptop?

You can’t change the graphics card on a laptop because most laptops are built with integrated graphics cards that are already soldered onto the motherboard. Moreover, powerful graphics cards tend to be too large and power-hungry for laptops to handle.

The laptop might be an amazing machine because of all of the things it could do as a portable computer. However, the fact that it is portable is what gives it its limits. As such, not being able to change its graphics card is one of the biggest limits that people tend to look at when it comes to laptops especially when we are talking about hardcore gamers who only want the best graphics from their computers.

Nvidia GPU Graphics chip on a laptop motherboard.

Can you change the laptop’s graphics card?

The laptop is such a terrific machine that has changed the way the computing world is working nowadays. While most households had a desktop in the past, that has already changed today because most people now have laptops in place of desktops. After all, the laptop is much more convenient and portable. And, of course, laptops are only getting more powerful every year as they are beginning to bridge the gap between them and their more powerful desktop counterparts.

While laptops in the past were usually used by people who are always on the go for their jobs or business, this has also changed today because people are now using laptops for gaming as well. That’s because there are some gamers who want to game on the go rather than staying in their homes most of the time.

That said, laptops are now powerful enough to actually have the capability to play high-end games. But that is usually reserved only for the laptops that are on the higher end of the price spectrum. So, in that case, more affordable laptops that are close to about $1,000 or even cheaper might not be able to handle the graphics requirements of some of the best games we have today. What that means for a gamer is that he may want to have an upgrade on his laptop’s graphics card.

But is it even possible for you to actually change the graphics card on a laptop? That has always been a question that has troubled plenty of people in the past as they are usually told that laptops tend to be stagnant machines that won’t have the longevity of desktops due to the latter’s upgradability. While that was in the past, does it hold true even today as technology has evolved?

Sadly, yes, laptops even up to this day are more or less stagnant computers. That means that if you have a laptop with a graphics card that is on the lower end, it might be impossible for you to change or upgrade its graphics card to a more powerful version. In other words, your most likely alternative if you want to play high-end games is to purchase a newer and more powerful laptop or to actually build a desktop with amazing gaming capabilities.

laptop motherboard and card close up

Why can’t you change a laptop graphics card?

Now that we have mentioned that you cannot upgrade or change the graphics card on a laptop, you might be wondering why that is so. In answering that question, we shall go back to the very same factor that has made the laptop so popular—its portability.

If you look at a laptop, it was made to be portable and convenient to carry around. That’s why it comes with a slim clamshell form factor that requires parts and components that are actually small enough to fit its case.

So, because of that, most of the laptops that are on the affordable side of the price spectrum tend to have integrated graphics cards. What that means is that their graphics card is already integrated together with the CPU and is soldered onto the motherboard itself similar to how a laptop’s processor is also most likely soldered onto the motherboard. This makes it impossible for you to remove the integrated graphics card as it requires you to also remove the CPU or even the entire motherboard itself. You would most likely find more success in saving money by buying a more powerful laptop instead.

Meanwhile, even if you do have a laptop with a graphics card that isn’t integrated together with the processor or the motherboard, the graphics card was most likely built and designed to fit the laptop’s form factor and the motherboard itself. As such, buying a different graphics card that was made for a laptop won’t guarantee that it will actually fit your laptop. It might not even be compatible with the motherboard.

Also, you need to consider that powerful graphics cards tend to have higher power requirements that some laptops might not be able to handle. That’s why laptops that are dedicated to gaming tend to be larger and bulkier as they are built to provide the power, space, and cooling system that a powerful graphics card needs to function well enough without taxing the entire machine.

All that said, it now becomes easy to understand why you can’t change the graphics card on your laptop and why some people prefer to buy a new laptop instead if they want to use the machine for hardcore gaming.

How can you play newer games on a laptop?

asus gaming laptop
asus gaming laptop

The fact that you can’t change your laptop’s graphics card does not necessarily mean that you actually have to buy a new laptop for you to be able to play higher-end games that your laptop’s current graphics card might not be able to handle. That’s because there are now eGPUs or external graphics cards that some laptops are designed to use if they want to handle powerful games that require powerful graphics cards.

An external graphics card is basically a dedicated box that is designed to house a GPU. This box can be docked with a laptop to provide the graphics capabilities that some games and processes may need from a laptop. This has become possible thanks to the rise of modern technology and how the Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C port is powerful enough to provide an external GPU with the power, high data, and video bandwidth it requires to function well together with a laptop.

However, most eGPUs are designed to function with only a few laptops that come from the same brand as the external graphics card. For example, MSI’s Gaming Dock comes bundled with an MSI laptop that is compatible with the dock.

Of course, this is still an evolving tech that is trying to gain traction today. Not a lot of people have bought into eGPUs as of this writing but it can be interesting to see what it can do in the future given how it allows the laptop to function both as a computer on the go and as a gaming computer that you can keep at home.


I'm Rob, the founder of I’m a Marine Corps vet with a master’s degree in Information Systems and have been working in the technology field for over a decade.

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