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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. 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, update, and configure your card so that OpticStudio can make use of it.

Updated 1/4/17 by Don Dickinson
Erin Elliott
OpticStudio

Introduction

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, update, and configure your card so that OpticStudio can make use of it.

Step 1:  Find your graphics cards
Step 2:  Check that your card supports DirectX 11
Step 3:  Update the drivers
Step 4:  Check which graphics card OpticStudio is using
Step 5:  Configure the graphics card
     AMD example
     NVIDIA example
Step 6:  Check your advanced power settings.
Step 7:  Check that OpticStudio is using the advanced graphics card
 
A note on AMD cards

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:


Figure 1:  In Windows 7, find the Device Manager by searching “device” at the Windows prompt.

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.



Figure 2:  Select the drop-down next to “Display adapters” to see which graphics cards are available in your computer system.

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:


Figure 3:  Checking the specifications of an NVIDIA card.

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:  Update the drivers

It’s a good idea to make sure that you have the latest drivers for your card. 
 
First, you can update the drivers from inside the Device Manager.  Right-click on each graphics card, and choose “Update Driver Software....”  Windows will guide you through the update process.  Do this for both your Intel and your advanced graphics card.

 
Figure 5:  Using Windows to update the Intel and NVIDIA drivers.

In some systems, this process may not find the latest available driver for your advanced card.  You may want to go directly to the NVIDIA or AMD websites, look up your graphics card by name, and download and install the most current drivers. 

However, direct download of the drivers is not always advisable.  The manufacturer of your machine might have customized the NVIDIA or AMD drivers to work with your hardware configuration.  Many Dell machines, for example, use drivers that have been modified by Dell.  In that case, it is safest to download the latest drivers from Dell, rather than from NVIDIA or AMD.

Step 4:  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”:

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.


Figure 7:  System Diagnostic output showing that OpticStudio is using the onboard Intel card instead of the NVIDIA card.

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.


Figure 8:  Checking that OpticStudio can detect both graphics cards, and checking the driver dates.

Step 5:  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.

AMD example

The example that follows is for the AMD Catalyst Control Center version 2013.0717 running on Windows 7.  The AMD software on your system may differ significantly in the details, but the general process will be the same.
To access the AMD configuration software, right-click on the Windows 7 desktop and choose “Graphics Properties”:


Figure 9:  Use “Graphics Properties” to access the control software for your AMD card.

(If you can’t find your AMD software in this way, try searching “AMD”, “Catalyst”, or “Radeon” at your Windows prompt.)

Under “Power,” choose “Switchable Graphics Global Settings.”  Set both “Battery” and “Plugged In” to “Maximize Performance.”  This tells the graphics card controller that you want to use the AMD card at all times, regardless of the power source.


Figure 10:  Accessing the Global Settings for an AMD card.

Figure 11:  Setting the global settings to “Maximize Performance” so that the AMD card is used at all times.

Next, go back to “Power” and choose “Switchable Graphics Application Settings.” 


Figure 12:  Setting which graphics card to use for each Windows application for an AMD card.

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.”  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 in the Catalyst Control Center.  Repeat for the “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe” file.


Figure 13:  Finding “opticstudio.exe” and “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe” in the AMD software.

Once you’ve found the appropriate .exe files, choose “High Performance” from the “Graphics Setting” drop-down menu.  Then click on “Apply.” 


Figure 14:  Choosing “High performance” for “opticstudio.exe” and “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe” in the AMD control software.

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


Figure 15:  Confirming the settings for “opticstudio.exe” and “zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe” in the AMD control software.

NVIDIA example

If your system has an NVIDIA card, you can probably access the NVIDIA control software in the Windows Control Panel:


Figure 16:  Finding the NVIDIA Control Panel.

Alternatively, you can search “NVIDIA” at the Windows prompt to find the control software.

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.”


Figure 17:  Under Global Setting, choose “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 appear in the drop-down list. 


Figure 18:  Use the “Program Settings” tab to choose the NVIDIA card for opticstudio.exe and zemaxgraphicsinfo.exe.

Step 6:  Check Your Advanced Power Settings

Finally, check your advanced power settings as shown below for Windows 7. 

From your Control Panel, choose Power Options.


Figure 19:  Finding Power Options in the Windows Control Panel.

Then, find your selected power plan.  Choose “Change plan settings.”


Figure 20:  Choose “Change plan settings” under your selected power plan.

Then choose “Change advanced power settings.”


Figure 21:  Choose “Change advanced power settings.”

Find the Intel Graphics Settings.  Select “High Performance” for the plugged-in state, or for both states, if you like.


Figure 22:  Setting the Intel graphics card to maximize performance.

If you have an AMD card, you might also see options for “Switchable Dynamic Graphics” and “ATI Graphics Power Settings.”


Figure 23:  Additional advanced power settings that may be available for AMD cards.
 

Step 7:  Check which card OpticStudio is using

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


Figure 24:  Finding the System Diagnostic button under the 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.


Figure 25:  System Diagnostic output shows that the computer is now using the NVIDIA graphics card and that plots are displaying correctly.

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

If you encounter any problems, please e-mail us at Support@zemax.com. Please attach the log file "zemaxgraphicsinfo.txt" generated by saving the OpticStudio System Diagnostics to Support@zemax.com .
For help obtaining this log, refer to this document in our knowledge base: How to Report a Problem or Possible Bug to Zemax Support

A Note on AMD cards

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 Laptop 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
       

However, if you find black windows after activating your card, you’ll 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 5 section of this document. Alternatively, see What to do if the graphics windows in OpticStudio are black for other workarounds