Did your Computer Freeze? It Could Be Your Graphics Switching


Sometimes while browsing the internet, your computer screen will freeze up when you try to play a flash video or listen to an online music stream.

This is mostly common with newer computers through Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox browsers.





If you have a new computer and it freezes when u play a flash video, the problem is that today’s new technology features GPU (graphics processing unit) switching. What is GPU switching? Here’s how it works:

GPU Switching

GPU switching1 is used on laptops and desktops with multiple graphics controllers. It uses an integrated graphics device and a discrete video card (which consumes more battery power but provides better 3D performances needed for gamers). When high-performance graphics are not needed, this dual graphics solution switches back over and enables longer battery times.

Relative to GPU switching, Nvidia Optimusisa3 design process technology was created to save battery life by automatically switching on the power of the GPU when it is needed and switching it off when it is not needed. When the GPU power is off, the driver redirects graphics commands to the integrated graphics chip (e.g. Intel GMA4).

However, Nvidia Optimusisa has multiple issues which refrain it from switching to the more powerful GPU, defaulting to the integrated video card even when the dedicated card is selected. This is a major issue, especially for people with gaming laptops, because it effectively causes their powerful video cards to become useless.

Since flash is a 3rd party program, it will have it’s limitations on the Internet and certain parts of it’s code has not been adapted to some of today’s new technologies.



In the Linux systems, a patch named vga_switcheroo has been added to the newer models of Linux kernel in order to deal with multiple GPU. Here, the switch requires you to reboot the X Window System to be taken into account. You can also switch GPUs with a single command.5


If you own a new Mac, under Energy Saver on System Preferences, it says “Automatic graphics switching.” During GPU switching, it will temporarily power down your USB ports. If your laptop’s power gets interrupted by some accident, it can lead to a drop out or loss of connection with USB devices. To avoid this, go to System Settings, Energy Saver, and disable “Graphics Switching.” The downside to deactivating GPU switching is more consumption of your laptop battery.

Internet Explorer 9:

  1. Click Start, Control Panel, Network and security and then click Internet Options.
  2. Click the Advanced tab, and then browse to the Accelerated graphics section.
  3. Click to check the box Use software rendering instead of GPU rendering.
  4. Click Apply, and then OK.
  5. Close all open Internet Explorer 9 windows, and then restart the browser.

Mozilla Firefox:

  1. Open Mozilla Firefox, click on the orange Firefox button and select “Options“.
  2. Go to “Advanced” tab and disable “Use hardware acceleration when available” option.
  3. Click on OK button and restart the browser.


Additional Questions?

Contact Centennial Arts or conduct additional online research for “GPU switching” for your specific computer’s operating system and Internet browser.



1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPU_switching
2. http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/switchable-graphics/Pages/switchable-graphics.aspx
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_Optimus
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_GMA
5. http://en.gentoo-wiki.com/wiki/Vga_switcheroo

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