Setting OpticStudio to use an advanced graphics card

OpticStudio can make use of advanced graphics cards.  Many modern computers have two graphics cards: an Intel version that’s part of the motherboard, and an add-on card that’s often an AMD or NVIDIA brand. In the article below, we’ll show you how to find, update, and configure your card so that OpticStudio can make use of it.

Authored By Erin Elliott, Don Dickinson


OpticStudio can make use of advanced graphics cards. Many modern computers have two graphics cards: an Intel version that’s part of the motherboard, and an add-on card that’s often an AMD or NVIDIA brand. 
The add-on card uses more power than the integrated graphics card. Switchable Graphics options are designed to power down the add-on card when a laptop is running on its battery. 
OpticStudio may not default to the most advanced graphics card available due to the Switchable Graphics settings. In the article below, we’ll show you how to find and configure your card so that OpticStudio can make use of it.

Note: We have identified some AMD/Intel combinations that produce black windows in OpticStudio after carrying out the process that follows. See “A note on AMD cards” at the end of this article.


Step 1: Find your graphics cards

You can check how many graphics options you have using the Windows Device Manager. In Windows 7, you can find and launch Device Manager from your Control Panel, or just search “Device” in your Windows prompt:


find your graphics card

Figure 1: In Windows 7 8 or 10, find the Device Manager by searching “device” in the Windows search box.


Once you have the Device Manager open, click on the arrow next to Display adapters. Your available graphics cards will be listed. The system in this example has an Intel card and an NVIDIA card.


find your graphics card 2nd


Step 2: Check that your card supports DirectX 11

Once you know the name of your advanced graphics card, you can look up the specifications almost anywhere online. 

A search for “NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M specs” finds an NVIDIA website with the specifications for the card:


NVIDIA specs


And it shows that the card supports DirectX 11 or higher:



Figure 4: The card does support DirectX 11 or higher.


Not all websites list the DirectX level for the card, so you might want to check multiple sites before you conclude that your card doesn’t support DirectX 11.

If your card does NOT support DirectX 11, you can disable the DirectX 11 option. See the article What to do if the graphics windows in OpticStudio are black for instructions.


Step 3: Check which graphics card OpticStudio is using

Now that you know which graphics cards are available on your system, you can check which card OpticStudio is using. Go to the “Help” tab and choose “System Diagnostic”.


system diagnostics

Figure 6: Finding the System Diagnostic button under the Help tab.


In the top left of the window displayed, the active graphics card is listed. In this example, an Intel and an NVIDIA card were both available in the Device Manager. OpticStudio is choosing to use the onboard Intel card.


system diagnostics 2nd


Scroll down further in the System Diagnostic window to check that OpticStudio can detect both graphics cards. Under “Display Info,” the total number of available video controllers is listed. In this example, OpticStudio can correctly detect both the NVIDIA and the Intel cards. Note that the driver dates are also listed. In this example, both drivers are quite old and should be updated.

system diagnostics 3rd image


Step 4: Configure the graphics card

To set OpticStudio to route its graphics through the advanced graphics card, instead, the configuration of the card must be changed. This is done in software provided by the manufacturer of the graphics card. Examples for AMD and NVIDIA cards are given below. Your software version may be different and the details will vary, but the general process for configuring the card should be similar.

If you have an AMD card, continue to the AMD example section below. Otherwise, skip to Nvidia Example.

AMD example

I am attempting to combine the instrictions for newer and older releases.  The AMD software on your system may differ in the details, but the general process will be the same. For the latest AMD cards, a general guide to configuring applications is covered on AMD's web site at the following link.

To access the AMD configuration software, right-click on the Windows 7 desktop and choose “Graphics Properties”.

TIP: If you can’t find your AMD software in this way, try searching “AMD settings”, “Catalyst”, or “Radeon” from the Windows Start menu.


graphics properties

This will open Catalyst control Center or Radeon Settings panel. Next, go to the "Power" section and choose “Switchable Graphics Application Settings", "or Preferences / Radeon Additional Settings" or "Switchable Graphics" (depending on the driver release). 

graphics global settings

graphics global settings

graphics global settings

This opens a tool that allows you to specify which graphics card to use for each executable on your system. If you’ve had OpticStudio open recently, the executables will appear in the “Recent Applications” list. Look for “opticstudio.exe” and “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe.” If the programs aren’t listed, click on “All Applications” and look for the .exe files in the lower list. 

If the programs still aren’t shown, click “Add Application”. In newer releases, use the magnifying glass icon to search for Opticstudio. Navigate to your OpticStudio installation folder at “C:\Program Files \ Zemax OpticStudio” or similar. Select “opticstudio.exe” and click “Open”. The file will be added to the list of programs. Repeat for the “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe” file.

finding 'opticstudio.exe' in AMD software

finding 'opticstudio.exe' in AMD software


Once you’ve found the appropriate .exe files, choose “High Performance” from the “Graphics Setting” drop-down menu.  Then click “Apply” Note that only older versions require you to apply settings. 

choose high performancefinding 'opticstudio.exe' in AMD software


When you’re finished, “High Performance” will be listed next to both opticstudio.exe and zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe.


confirm settings


NVIDIA example

If your system has an NVIDIA card, you can probably access the NVIDIA control software in the Windows Control Panel. Alternatively, you can search “NVIDIA” from the WIndows start menu search box to find the software.


finding NVIDIA control panel

The images that follow are from NVIDIA Control Panel version 7.5.760.0. If you have a different version of the software, the images that follow might differ from what you see on your system.
Launch the NVIDIA Control Panel. Choose “Manage 3D Settings” and then the “Global Settings” tab. Set  “Preferred graphics processor” to “High-performance NVIDIA processor.”


Next, choose the “Program Settings” tab.  From the drop-down, choose “C:/Program Files/Zemax OpticStudio/opticstudio.exe,” or the similar path to your OpticStudio installation.

If you can’t find Opticstudio.exe in the drop-down, click “Add” and navigate to the folder where you installed OpticStudio. Select “opticstudio.exe,” and it will be added to the drop-down list.Once opticstudio.exe appears in the drop-down, select it.  Set the preferred graphics processor to “High-performance NVIDIA processor”. Then choose “C:/Program Files/Zemax OpticStudio/zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe” and set the graphics processor to NVIDIA, again.
If you can’t find the appropriate .exe files in the drop-down list, click “Add” and navigate to the folder where you installed OpticStudio. Choose “opticstudio.exe” and then “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe”, so that they both appear in the drop-down list. 


project settings to choose NVIDIA


Step 5: Check which card OpticStudio is using

Finally, go back to the System Diagnostics to check which graphics card OpticStudio is using.


find system diagnostic under help tab

In this example, OpticStudio is now correctly using the NVIDIA graphics cards. The graphics at the right indicate that the card is properly displaying graphics.


graphics rendering info


Launch OpticStudio and check any graphic window, such as 3D Layout plot. 

If you encounter any problems, please e-mail us at Please attach the log file "zemaxgraphicsinfo.txt" generated by saving the OpticStudio System Diagnostics on the "Help" tab to .


A note on AMD cards and black graphics windows 

We have identified some AMD/Intel combinations that produce black windows in older versions of OpticStudio after carrying out the process above. Version 16 and up have fixed this issue.

If you still have an older version of OpticStudio, and use an AMD card with this issue, the BIOS on the computer may contain a “Switchable Graphics” setting.  If the setting exists, try disabling this setting. The card will often begin to function properly. Consult your IT personnel before attempting to alter your system’s BIOS settings.

Confirmed cases:

Operating system


Intel card

AMD card

Windows 7

Dell Latitude E6540

Intel HD Graphics 4600

AMD Radeon HD 8790M

Windows 7

Dell Latitude E6440

Intel HD Graphics 4600

AMD Radeon HD 8690M

Windows 7

Dell Precision M4800

Intel HD Graphics 4600

AMD FirePro M5100 FireGL V

If you find black windows after activating your AMD card, you can change your graphic card settings back to “Power Saving” instead of “High Performance” so that OpticStudio continues to use your onboard Intel card. See the Step 4 section of this document. Alternatively, see What to do if the graphics windows in OpticStudio are black for other workarounds





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