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I don't know how to update Nvidia graphic card drivers on MacBook Pro Retina.
I have been a Windows user and a gamer for a long time where we expect frequent driver updates.

My expectations revolve around whether Nvidia releases graphic driver updates for Mac and how to check for pending updates.

Where can I see the versions of drivers on OS X?

  • I tried to make this more about one-question-per-question. Could you perhaps edit the title to reflect what you seek to learn? It seems an odd turn of words to state that an operating system "requires" updates... – bmike Nov 3 '15 at 14:56
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Apple makes its own drivers & they are included in the OS updates.

The way to be up to date on drivers is to always be running the latest OS.

There is debate over whether Apple make the entire driver set themselves, or just take NVidia/AMD's core code & add their own hardware/OS-specific code to it. The latter seems more plausible to me, but either is just speculation.

The end result, though, is that there are rarely issues with Apple graphics drivers & regular software or games; again speculation, but for games I imagine they write to a pre-defined rule-set, rather than try to constantly be pushing the boundaries.

As noted elsewhere, NVidia themselves make OS X drivers for Quadro cards but these are aftermarket cards anyway, not supplied in any Mac build option available directly from Apple.

Apple provides core drivers, currently up to OpenGL 4.1 or 3.3 - depending on your card, of course - plus legacy drivers for OGL 2.1 compatibility. Which one you get to use in any particular game etc is up to the writers of that game.

Traditionally, if your card has full OpenGL support for the first monitor, it will also have it on the second, unlike many PC cards with 'clipped' performance on the 2nd monitor.

Link to OpenGL support by Mac model

After comments & other answers here…
NVidia do have their own release for certain Mac GPUs - this is the current driver as of December 2015
However, they are predominantly for the Quadro series of aftermarket cards rather than default cards supplied by Apple.
There is also support for some cards which have been legacied by Apple - namely the GeForce 680, 285, 120 & 8800
There is mention of beta support for some recent mobile cards, presumably as Apple are dropping legacy support on these in favour of AMD in the current lineup.

  • 1
    To be exact, NVidia supports quite a few different models of Geforce (not just Quadro) video card in the OS X "Web Driver". – Coxy Nov 3 '15 at 2:39
  • Well… there are a lot with a drop-menu… but it doesn't seem to come up with any actual drivers when requested – Tetsujin Nov 3 '15 at 7:35
  • Do you know if the Apple GeForce drivers support OpenGL and pro applications better than the consumer Nvidia Windows drivers do? This was always a pain-point: Nvidia intentionally releasing sub-part OpenGL drivers for consumer cards to make money on the "pro" cards. If Apple were to write its own drivers, it wouldn't have this conflict of interest. – Aleksandr Dubinsky Nov 3 '15 at 11:12
  • Apple provides core drivers, currently up to (about) OGL 4.3, depending on your card, of course, plus legacy drivers for OGL 2.1 compatibility. Which one you get to use in any particular game etc is up to the writers of that game. Traditionally, if your card has full OGL support for the first monitor, it will also have it on the second, unlike many PC cards with 'clipped' performance on the 2nd monitor. (Added to answer) – Tetsujin Nov 3 '15 at 14:07
  • This answer is incorrect; the NVIDIA Web drivers are for various modern GeForce cards that are being included in iMacs and laptops, not just old Quadro cards for Mac Pros. (NVIDIA's docs are misleading.) I just fixed a problem with the game Stellaris by installing the Web Drivers for a 660M GTX-based iMac. – Nelson May 16 '16 at 19:19
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Besides the drivers that Apple bundles with OS X updates, Nvidia also provides their own driver updates for their GeForce cards — yes, even the "mobile" cards that Apple puts in Macs. As far as I know, this is not true of AMD and Intel. In the case of your Retina MacBook Pro with an Nvidia card, there's beta support with Nvidia's latest drivers.

Nvidia's graphics drivers for OS X can be downloaded straight from their website, and as such they're sometimes called Nvidia Web Drivers. They're somewhat hard to find if you just go through Nvidia's driver search feature, but they're an easy find if you just Google "Nvidia driver OS X" + your OS X version (e.g. 10.11.2).

For example, here is Nvidia's current (as of December 2015) driver for OS X El Capitan 10.11.2. As it says in the release notes, support for some newer models of iMacs and MacBook Pros with GeForce cards is in beta.

Note that I don't recommend installing Nvidia's drivers (especially beta ones) unless you know what you're doing, and you have a good reason to switch from the default (Apple-provided) ones that come with OS X. The default drivers are probably more thoroughly tested and stable, less likely to break your Mac, and are supported officially by Apple. If you do install the Nvidia driver, though, you'll always have the option to switch back to the default driver or even uninstall the Nvidia driver via System Preferences. You'll also be able to update the driver from there.

A good reason to try out Nvidia's driver might be if you use your Mac for gaming, or you run any other apps that use OpenGL. On my MacBook Pro with OS X 10.11.2 and an Nvidia GT 650m card, Cinebench's OpenGL test gives a very slight edge to Nvidia's drivers (~52 fps) vs. Apple's (~49 fps).

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To hazard an educated guess, I would say that driver updates are most likely rolled into Mac OS X version upgrades and point updates. If you're concerned about the updates available for your particular card, (especially if it is not original to the Mac you're using,) it behooves you to visit the manufacturer's respective web sites to check. You mentioned NVIDIA: here's the link to the drivers available for download. Looks like plenty of options for many operating systems. (Mac OS X NVIDIA drivers are only available for Quadro-series boards, tho'.)

  • Indeed, this is true even if you're running Windows under Boot Camp... Normally you can only use the Windows version of the video driver supplied by Apple via the Boot Camp drivers, even if (as is often the case) the card manufacturer has released a much more recent driver for Windows. – calum_b Nov 2 '15 at 16:09
  • @scottishwildcat I've always kept my NVIDIA graphics card up-to-date in Boot Camp through GeForce Experience—you're definitely not restricted to Apple's Boot Camp drivers. – grg Nov 3 '15 at 8:53
  • @grgarside Fair enough-- I only have experience with trying to update ATI drivers in Windows 8 and 10, and their own drivers won't install into Boot Camp. The installers just barf with a 'no compatible card found' error. – calum_b Nov 3 '15 at 11:08
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I'll set aside the why and answer some of the what:

  1. Open System Information and go to the software section. Click on Extensions and you can see all the hardware drivers as well as whether it is updated via Apple or via a third party.
  2. Apple updates all come from the softwareupdate command line tool. You can reset any ignored updates and then call for all updates to be listed with this compound command: softwareupdate --reset-ignored ; softwareupdate --list --all
1

It looks like Apple doesn't really bother to update the graphics driver... On a Mid 2014 MacBook Pro, running High Sierra, System Report tells me that the driver was last changed in October (so less than a month ago from when I'm writing this, roughly coinciding with the release of 10.13.1). However, the info text says the driver is based on Geforce 355.11, released in 2015.

I only realized all this because I had massive performance issues after the upgrade to High Sierra (with its brand new graphics subsystem, Metal2), so basically I wondered the same thing, "Do I need to update the drivers?". With the drivers from Nvidia it's now a lot smoother.

So to answer your questions (2 years later, but well):

  • You find the version of the graphics driver under: Apple Menu > About this Mac > System Report > Software > Extensions > Geforce. But don't trust the date, check against the Geforce version.

  • IMHO definitely install the latest Nvidia drivers, especially in High Sierra. Apple seems to touch them on the surface, but you will not get proper updates of the underlying driver.

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