Never buy switchable graphics (manufacturer driver support)

Switchable graphics on laptops essentially works like this , you got a basic intel style gpu for your desktop , and an nvidia/amd gpu for your games. in the nvidia/amd settings you add programs to a list that will enable the graphics card when that specific program is running. this saves you power when you're not gaming , and gives you a performance boost when you are , sounds good right?

The biggest issue with this system

The hardware is proprietary. Meaning that in order for this system to work , the laptop manufacturer makes a driver that will work with their specific hardware. Standard drivers from intel or ati will not function correctly with the hardware. you might get two drivers installed for both gpu's , but the machine will not know that the graphics are switchable and it'll only use one of the two gpu's.

This would be fine , if the manufacturer of the laptop released normal driver updates. But usually you will only get a single driver that was released when the laptop was new , and if you're lucky , a windows 10 driver.

In my case , I have an old dv6 that has more than enough power to run a few modern games , but as we all know ati has released a lot of driver updates since 2011 that are required to play such games. HP however has released no driver updates for the actual laptop. So I'm screwed.

Always buy a laptop with a generic single gpu that can have software updates outside the manufacturer , plain and simple.


Holy shit someone agrees with me on something.


manually selecting a video card is a thing...

Good to know, thanks.

My core i5 laptop also has switchable graphics with an AMD 76xx series gpu.
You can set it in the bios, hower its a pain indeed.
If i enable switchable graphics on mines, then Linux doesnt boot.
So i have set it to intergrated, which means that it now just runs from the igpu.
Not sure if there is an issue with the dedicated amd gpu or not.
If i install windows7 then it works if i have it set to switchable in the bios.
However i can install the intel HD graphics for the igpu without a single problem.
But as soon as i install the AMD driver from the Amd website and reboot the system.
Then its bsod, so yeah for me its kinda a pain in the rear.

I didn't even know this was a thing. That's just stupid.

@SoulFallen not tracking with you- could you elaborate? OP is referring to a lack of long term driver support, it looks like you're referring to the actual day-to-day device selection in the OS, or is there more to it?

@FaunCB hahahahahahaha "I've been shrugging over here in the corner for hours, waiting for someone to look this way!"


You can select the device you want to use for display purposes in the BIOS/UEFI. Most if not all machines that have the option also have the option to completely disable the iGPU upon startup, leaving the dGPU as the only display adapter.

With nVidia it's the Optimus driver that needs to remain updated for switching to work. You can still install nVidia's release drivers without Optimus included. With AMD it can be a bit trickier since there are some laptops sold that had a VLIW4 based APU paired up with a GCN based dGPU, leaving only a select few drivers that work with both architectures. For constant updates that allow the switching option you would need to rely on your manufacturer, but just like with nVidia dGPUs you can simply install the newest driver, disabling acces to any iGPU.


Well, proprietary in the sense that NVIDIA, Broadcom, Canon, Sanyo, etc., etc. are bad corporate citizens that typically only provide binary drivers for their hardware. They consider these drivers to be part of their intellectual property and choose to obscure their "secrets" by only making them available in the form of a binary blob. It is not possible to unwind these drivers, to view, audit, or modify them, so it is impossible to either update them, or adapt them for custom applications. Therefore, if the manufacturer only chooses to release a driver for Windows, for example, then Mac, Linux, BSD and other users are screwed. This is why open source (the code is freely available and can be modified) drivers and operating systems are so important and closed source projects should be shunned (I'm lookin' at you Microsoft!).

Like many new technologies, it takes a while for open source developers to catch up and reverse engineer what the binary drivers are doing. But, if you'll have a look at the System76 site, you'll find new high spec laptops with dual GPUs, the so called NVIDIA Optimus technology, that are working perfectly on Ubuntu Linux. Soon this technology will be incorporated into most open source operating systems and support for these dual graphics configurations will be as trivial as support for keyboards and mice.

Early adopters and users of more obscure hardware should indeed heed your warning, however, and never assume that any given piece of hardware will perform, or can be made to perform in a manner that they desire, no matter how much "common sense" this would make. They must always read and understand the fine print before spending any money.

Another valid point that you make is that laptops, much like tablets and cell phones, are only typically supported by the manufacturer for a very brief period of time. This is another area where open source usually shines. Open source operating systems will offer to install either the latest binary drivers, or open source drivers. While the binary driver may have long ago been abandoned by the hardware manufacturer, the reverse engineered open source drivers will almost certainly be undergoing constant refinement and improvement.

Rather than throwing away those four and five year old laptops, that have been abandoned by the manufacturer, folks should consider installing Linux on them. They'll have a new lease on life and run better than ever.

Not knowing the specific model of your DV6, I can't say for sure how well it is supported by Linux. I saw one account that indicated that a user had his machine switching between GPUs by using the fglrx driver. I saw another account of it working by recompiling the kernel with the vga_switcheroo flag enabled and I also saw several sad stories of failure, but these were clustered around 2011 to 2012 time period. With the march of time, your hardware may very well be supported out of the, but I expect you'll have to try it to be sure.

Its even worse than that. On my w520, I had disabled half the cores, and the dedicated Nvidia GPU to save on battery life. Well, soon I discovered that my Display port wasn't working. What I quickly found out was that I had to have the Nvidia GPU enabled in order to use the Intel graphics. The problem with this was that because the Nvidia GPU was a Quadro, Linux support was terrible, buggy, and killed battery life. This meant I had to dual-boot Windows if I wanted to hook up an external monitor, deal with crappy battery life by only running on the Quadro, or start pulling my hair out trying to figure out Quadro. I am now sadly running Windows on this laptop.

I've come to the conclusion that for a laptop that I truly want to use as a laptop with Linux, I'll only deal with Intel HD graphics, and rely on a desktop for anything that would require a dedicated GPU.

I can't wait for my X1 Carbon to come in so I can sell my w520 JUST because of the GPU/weight issue.

I'm not even sure if that applies in the case of apple but that was one of my thoughts why I went with Intel iGPU only on my macbook pro 2015.

You have to admit that a Quadro equipped laptop is a somewhat obscure hardware combination. We know that the hardware will quickly be abandoned by the manufacturer and Intel and NVIDIA certainly have no pressing motivation to work together on behalf of the five people that bought those machines. So, unless there is an open source developer out there somewhere, who owns and loves one of these machines, long term support will be non-existent, regardless of the platform.

On the other hand, the Dell XPS 13DE laptops, for instance, are ridiculously popular with developers and we also have Dell, themselves, committing open source drivers. You can be assured that this hardware will enjoy superior support for a long time to come. Bleeding edge and obscure hardware will always be poorly supported, unless the manufacturer believes in open source (few and far between), so we must align our spending habits with this reality in mind.

Exactly. Something I wish I would have thought about when I got my w520.

Your hardware is 6+ years old, this is not the case for new products. Nvidia Optimus and whatever AMD has an equivalent is far beyond where your 6+ year old hardware is.

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Also on all relatively modern laptops in my experience standard Intel and nVidia drivers work totally fine and the switching functionality also works.

IDK this thread just seems like another one of the "I have old shit/I don't know what I'm doing/Irrational hatred of Microsoft so I'm gonna bitch" ones.


The good news is that your X1 Carbon should also be well supported. : )

I'm a big ThinkPad fan myself. I've had several from both IBM and Lenovo and I've never had any support, or compatibility issues, whatsoever. However, since Lenovo abandoned the classic keybord and in light of the Superfish dilemma, I'm inclined to go to Dell for my next purchase.

I think the focus has more to do with manufacturers, a) limiting our choices and b) prematurely abandoning perfectly serviceable hardware.

The fact that I may personally dislike Microsoft for their technology and business practices, while true, is only peripherally related to the topic at hand.

Yeah mate the title post is as guy going off about how his graphics card from a manufacture that no longer exists as an independent entity no longer has support. No surprises there. Companies gets eaten by another and your hardware is ancient beyond the normal upgrade cycle, no surprise here when the device isn't getting support.

In the rest of the world, where companies are bought out, or may retire product lines, these companies are still required to stand behind their products. Only in the tech sector and software vendors are the worse offenders, do companies pivot 180 degrees and leave their customers to fend for themselves.

Can you imagine a world where Tesla announces that this whole electric car thing isn't working out for us and starting tomorrow they are going diesel and by the way .... we will no longer service, repair provide parts for, nor honor warranties on existing products. Sound far fetched? Read some of the software licenses. These jokers aren't responsible for anything and for some reason, everyone thinks that it's OK.

Its been 6+ years since this device was new, he's 3-6+ years out of when the product was semi-relevant.

Cars are a $20,000+ investment, this laptop was described as "budget" by Cnet when it was released. A Tesla model S starts at $59,500 after all the deductibles, this laptop had an MSRP of $838. The warranty for a product like this is likely 1 year or at max 2, and these products are not designed with lots of repairing in mind. They are relatively cheap, and meant to be used for a few years before you upgrade. They are NOT equivalent to cars, which are a long term purchase that's not meant to be upgraded every other year. That analogy is bogus.