I'm used to see this checkbox in the Energy Saver window:

automatic graphics switching checkbox

When I turn it off it will switch to the discrete GPU.

Now I'm using a program (gfxCardStatus) to switch between GPUs as I wish, and when I opened the Energy Saver window again I saw that the checkbox was replaced by this:

graphics radio buttons

Which I saw some saying that was the way it was before the automatic switching feature.

I'd like to know how this second screen can be enabled without using this program, because my discrete GPU has some issues and I'd like to leave it always on the integrated.

Also, I'd like to know if the meaning of "Higher Performance" is the same of unchecking the checkbox in the first screen, that is, to force the discrete GPU.

  • Yes, it means the same. Case 1 if unchecked it will run almost exclusively in "High Performance" mode (if application needs it), but you do not control it. in case 2 you can control it.
    – Ruskes
    Feb 11, 2015 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


On a Mac with dual switchable graphics (iGPU and dGPU) the general setup is as follows: Boot uses usually dGPU with limited, basic capabilities since the drivers aren't loaded yet. Once the GUI arrives the drivers for both iGPU and dGPU are available, full acceleration for both is available and the power management kicks in.

For graphics performance and power management Apple deems fit a rather simplistic scheme: The default checkbox you see without gfxCardStatus means: iGPU is used as default but anything requesting "real graphics power" leads to switching to the dGPU. Depending on the version of the operating system or the application this request could be quite arbitrary (e.g. just a simple Java stub with demanding graphics or a badly written app).

Influencing these settings leads to the following options:

  • checked "Automatic Switching" = defaults to iGPU switchable to dGPU
  • unchecked "Automatic Switching" = defaults to dGPU not switchable to iGPU

  • checked "Better Battery Life" = defaults to iGPU not switchable to dGPU

  • checked "Higher Performance" = defaults to dGPU not switchable to iGPU

So, in effect, yes, "Higher Performance" is the same as unchecking the checkbox in the first screen, that is, to force the dGPU.

Only using hacks – like gfxCardStatus – it is possible to get into the state of forcing more iGPU and better battery life (compared to – sometimes badly working – "Automatic Switching"). All the configs Apple seems to offer are more graphics power: force more dGPU and therefore force worse battery life.

It might be possible with a hack or maybe even to cleanly force the appearance and availability of the choice you seek in SystemPreferences. But for your alluded usage scenario gfxCardStatus is the best and cleanest option available. If your system is still usable.

Alternatives: Cody Krieger's original gfxCardStatus is no longer under active development fot some time now. It is not the only option: A newer/forked version (its development also ceased now) would be Steve Show's forked gfxCardStatus. Please note: these versions of gfxCardStatus are a fine example for wisely choosing which version to use. The versions available have different options, abilities. The newest version might not be the best choice for what you want to achieve.

A seemingly similar desire as yours, avoiding gfxCardSatus, led to the development of gpu-switch So that option might be the part of this answer that comes closest to your question.

Finally some precognizing: the point "because my discrete GPU has some issues" might need a more detailed approach. If it is the AMD RadeonGate dGPU for MacBook Pro 8,2, 2011, I'd suggest lobotomising the dGPU with software out of the system. A complete guide for that would be here: GPU Problem. Further pointers to mitigating hacks for the most common issues for badly designed and manufactured MacBook Pros in the past are listed also in the announcement of ceased development here: https://github.com/steveschow/gfxCardStatus


It seems you have some of your wording backwards. The integrated card is the low power card that is built into the motherboard of your computer. The discrete card is the higher power card that has been added (by Apple) to a socket on the motherboard of your computer. Integrated consumes less power, while discrete consumes more power.

If you are using gfxCardStatus and you choose integrated only mode, will only run on the integrated card. There are some applications that will not work, or will not work well if you select this mode. Also secondary displays will not work in this mode.

If you are choose discrete only mode, this forces the computer to use the discrete, higher powered graphics card. In this mode your computer you can use external displays and run any application. You will be consuming more power then necessary in some cases, and can thus expect shorter battery life.

If you are certain that you have something wrong with your discrete card, and you switch to integrated only mode, you will not be able to run a second display. You probably should have Apple look at the computer and repair the discrete card.

  • I knew all that and you didn't answer my questions. What did I write that made you think I have my wording backwards?
    – Roberto
    Feb 11, 2015 at 0:19

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