Using an external GPU for Laptop is a great way to boost your gaming performance without having to buy a brand new PC. The only issue with external setups is that they are either too expensive or too complicated to use.
In this article, we’ll be guiding you on the second kind: the cheap but complicated method. Our aim is to make it as simple as possible for you to understand. So, without any further ado, let’s get right into it!
First things first, let’s see what we’re going to need:
- A Laptop with an Express Card slot
- A GPU
- An ATX power supply
- Code 43 fix (If you use an Nvidia 10xx or 20xx series card)
- An EXP GDC adapter
- And an external monitor
Anything that has an Express Card slot should work. It’s an old connector that has gone extinct at this point. But, this article is made to support those who are stuck with an old laptop and don’t wish to pay for a new computer anyway.
If you don’t have an Express Card slot, then you could try using the mini PCI-E slot that is normally occupied by your Wi-Fi adapter. The problem with this is that not only you’ll lose Wi-Fi capabilities, but you’ll also have to get access to the innards of the laptop with no guarantee that this will work in the first place.
Laptops with Express Card connectors, on the other hand, simply require you to take off the dummy, plug in the EXP GDC, and you’re good to give it a try after powering it on. Much easier to work with and more likely to work in the first place.
There’s no guarantee that anything will work. But, you can find a list of laptops that are known for working with the adapter over here.
Those of you who own a newer laptop with a thunderbolt connector should be able to use an external dock without any issues. Though, do keep in mind that this is massively more expensive than the EXP GDC beast.
GPU and Error 43 Patch
Anything will do. But, do keep in mind that older laptops have relatively weak CPUs that can’t compete with their Desktop counterparts.
Powerful GPUs are most likely going to get bottlenecked. So, it would be for the best if you get a budget to mid-range GPU like the 750 Ti up to the RX 570 or something similar.
In our experience, we managed to use a 750 ti on a 3rd gen, dual-core i5, with no bottlenecks. And a GTX 1060 6GB on the same laptop with severe bottlenecks in certain titles like Witcher 3, Dirt Rally, For Honor, and F1 2017.
Speaking of which, if you go with a 10xx or 20xx Nvidia GPU, then do keep in mind that you’ll need the Error 43 fixer or you won’t be able to install the latest drivers.
ATX PSU and EXP GDC Adapter
The last thing that we need to complete our inventory is the EXP GDC adapter to plug in our GPU and an ATX PSU to feed both the card and the adapter.
Regarding the power supply, since you are only going to be powering a GPU and the adapter, we aren’t going to need anything too powerful. Something like a CX 550 should be plenty for most setups.
An external GPU with EXP GDC can only work with external monitors and not with your laptop’s display. Some people have managed to get it working without using a monitor, but they ended up reporting massive performance losses anyway.
Now, since a low to mid-range GPU that’s already bottlenecked by the Express Card interface isn’t going to work well with high-resolution or high refresh rate displays, a standard 1080P 60Hz/70Hz monitorshould be more than enough for you. Size is entirely up to personal preference.
1: External GPU for Laptop: Power Setup
First things first, let’s get power out of the way. Make sure that everything is turned off and unplugged in order to avoid any potential damages.
EXP GDC should come with a 24-pin adapter which will allow you to use the PSU. All you have to do is plug the 8-pin end to the adapter, then connect it to the PSU with the 24-pin motherboard connector and the 4-pin CPU connector (Yellow and black cables) like so.
After that, you’ll also need to feed the graphics card. So, plug it into the EXP GDC and connect it with any 6 or 8-pin cables that it asks for (Directly to the GPU – not the 6-pin of EXP GDC).
Some low-end GPUs like the GTX 750 Ti and 1050 can work without asking for any extra power. So, no need to worry if your GPU doesn’t ask for 6 or 8-pin connectivity.
2: Data Connectivity
All that’s left now is to:
- Connect the laptop with the adapter
- Connect the GPU to the monitor
And you should be good to go. To connect the laptop with the adapter, you’ll need to use the HDMI to Express Card cable that came inside the box.
The HDMI goes to EXP GDC and the Express Card cable to your laptop. In order to disconnect the dummy or any EC device that’s connected to the laptop, just push a little bit to the inside until you hear a click.
If you don’t have an Express Card slot, then your only option is to open the bottom of the laptop and get access to a Mini-PCI-E port which will most likely require you to remove the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapter. Do keep in mind that you must pick the appropriate EXP GDC version from the very beginning.
After the connection is done, all that remains is to connect the GPU to a monitor with HDMI, Display Port, VGA, or whatever you’ve got, plug in everything, turn on the laptop (Make sure that the PSU is turned on as well), and hopefully, everything will start working.
Some GPUs and PSUs don’t turn on their fans until they reach a certain temperature. So, do keep that in mind as well.
3: Last Touches to Complete the External GPU for Laptop Setup
If everything works as intended, then the only thing that remains is to install the GPU drivers, launch some games, and see how well they run. So, first things first, head over to either Nvidia or AMD, depending on which card you’ve got, find the appropriate drivers, install them, and then come back.
Again, if you own an Nvidia 10xx or 20xx series, then you’ll need to run the core 43 error fix or you won’t be able to get the latest drivers. And that’s about it. Your whole system should be set up and good to go now.
External GPU for Laptop Setup: Wrapping Up
Do understand that this is not a foolproof method. There is no guaranteed that it’s going to work with all laptops – even if they do come with an Express Card slot.
That being said, let us know how things went on your end in the comments section down below. And if you’ve come across any problems, we may be able to help you out!