Apple’s Mac computers, particularly models like the MacBook Pro and iMac Pro, are incredibly powerful machines.
But there are, of course, a number of instances that demand even more graphical processing power. That’s where a device called an eGPU comes in.
What is an eGPU (External GPU)?
An eGPU, or external graphics processor, can give your Mac extra processing power. This can come in handy when you’re running professional or graphically intensive like video games or 3D and VR content creators.
There are even a number of eGPU platforms that have been created specifically with Apple’s Mac in mind — including the Blackmagic eGPU lineup.
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How to Use an eGPU With Your Mac Apps
Before you start, you’ll need to plug an eGPU into a Mac running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 or later.
External GPUs can only be plugged in with a Thunderbolt 3 port. In addition, you’ll want to plug the eGPU directly into your Mac’s Thunderbolt 3 port. Don’t use an adapter or hub.
First, Check Your App
Keep in mind that not all apps support eGPU acceleration. You’ll want to check the app itself or contact the app developer to see further details.
In general, many professional applications, VR apps, and 3D games can use external GPU acceleration — in the latter case, when an external monitor is attached directly into the eGPU.
Some professional apps and 3D games will accelerate the built-in display of your Mac computer (although this must be enabled by the developer).
How to Prefer an App to Prefer an eGPU
Once you figure out if your app is compatible with an eGPU, you can move on to actually setting it as the preferred graphics processing unit.
Do note that not all apps let users set a preferred GPU. Some apps self-manage this process — and will ignore this manual setting.
But in most cases, this is the method you’ll use to set an app to use an external GPU.
- Open a new Finder window.
- Find the app you’d like to use with your eGPU. (Most apps will be in the Applications folder — you can also control-click the app icon and select Show Original.)
- Control-click the app and select Get Info. Alternatively, click on it once and press Command + I.
- In the pop-up box, check the box next to Prefer External GPU.
- Close out of the pop-up box and open the app to use it with your external GPU.
How to Prefer an eGPU-Connected Display
As mentioned above, some 3D games can use an external graphics processing unit when there’s an external monitor or display connected to it (and not directly to your Mac).
In these cases, you have the option of setting that eGPU-connected display as your primary display for all apps. Here’s how.
- Close out of all apps, or at least the ones you want to use with your eGPU.
- Click on the Apple logo in the top-left of the menu bar.
- Select System Preferences.
- Click on Displays and then Arrangement.
- Drag the white menu bar to the box representing the display attached to your eGPU.
- Open the app connected to your eGPU.
How to Disconnect an eGPU
Once you’re done using an external GPU, or you just need to take your MacBook Pro on the go, you’ll want to disconnect it. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to do so.
Just find the external GPU icon in the top menu bar — it’ll be on the right side. Click on it and then select Disconnect in the drop-down menu.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.