gfxCardStatus is a free utility for Mac that allows the user to see the status and change the settings of the graphics card. This is relevant on newer Macs with both integrated and discrete videocards. Those new MacBooks (currently 15” and 17” MacBook Pros) are able to switch graphics card depending on what’s currently required. That means that the integrated graphics card, which uses least power, runs as default. Then if you start a game or play a movie, it automatically switches to the discrete graphics card.
This helps the computer being more energy efficient and helps to increase the battery life, as the discrete videocard uses a lot more power then the integrated.
With the gfxCardStatus program you become able to see in the menu bar, what graphic card is being used. This allows you to become more aware of what software uses the graphics card. Besides watching which card is being used, you can force the computer to only use either of the two graphics cards. This can be useful if you are low on power and want to maximize how long time you have left on the battery.
Here you can see how the program works. It’s a simple utility that allows you to quickly change settings. The letter in the red circle shows what graphics card is currently being used.
According to the creator of gfxCardStatus, it runs on the following Macs:
- 2011 i5/i7 MacBook Pro with Intel HD 3000/AMD Radeon HD 6xxxM GPUs
- 2010 i5/i7 MacBook Pro with Intel HD/NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M GPUs
- 2009 MacBook Pro with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M/9600M GT GPUs
- Late 2008 MacBook Pro with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M/9600M GT GPUs
Notice that there is no point in installing the application on a MacBook with just a single GPU.