MacBook Pro (Mid-2010), Core i5 or Corei7, 15″ and 17″ models automatically switch between integrated Intel (lower power) and NVIDIA (higher power) graphics. On these computers, the “automatic graphics switching” option is turned on by default. So your computer automatically switches to the best graphics system for the applications running on your computer.
Unfortunately, although there is an option to keep the higher-power NVIDIA card on at all times, there is no option to keep it off at all times. This has resulted in significant reduction of battery life for some users, whose MacBook Pros engage the higher-power-usage NVIDIA graphics during seemingly non-GPU-intensive applications.
Which graphics subsystem is being used?
To see which graphics card your MacBook Pro is currently using, download and install the utility gfxCardStatus. This tool offers “i” and “n” icons that signify Intel HD Graphics, and NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics, respectively, and automatically updates when the GPU switches. The utility also shows which apps are currently using the 330M, if the 330M is the active GPU.
Also, as noted in this Apple Knowledge Base article, when the MacBook Pro is connected to an external display, “high-performance graphics will remain on until you disconnect the display. ”
How to turn off the higher-power-usage NVIDIA graphics?
As of yet, the only method for disengaging the NVIDIA graphics card is to quit any processes that currently make use of it. Using gfxCardStatus, you can identify these processes, then quit them.
Applications/utilities that trigger NVIDIA graphics
Here’s an informal list of applications and utilities that appear to trigger the NVIDIA graphics. If you have something to add, please let us know in the comments.
List of apps and utilities that trigger graphics
- Data Rescue
- Delicious Library
- Drive Genius
- Front Row
- Google Earth
- Google Talk applet in Gmail and iGoogle
- Images Transfert
- Little Snapper
- Marine Aquarium (Screen Saver)
- Microsoft Office
- Microsoft Office AutoUpdate
- Parallels Desktop
- Photo Booth
- Photo Booth
- Photoshop Elements
- Screen Sharing
- Skim (after searching)
- The Hit List
- Toast Titanium
- VMWare Fusion
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.