Does a PC need a graphics card if it’s not for gaming?

Updated: June 8th, 2020By: BrantonGuides6 Comments

upgrading graphics card

Not everyone builds a computer for gaming, sometimes you just need a good PC to browse the web and maybe do some homework and/or work. But, does every computer absolutely need a graphics card? Or could you get by without one?

Well, I have good news. Not all computers need a graphics card and it’s completely 100% possible to get by without one – especially if you’re not gaming. But, there are some stipulations. Since you still need a way to render what you see on your monitor, you’ll need a processor with an Integrated Graphics Processing Unit (or iGPU for short).

Luckily, finding a processor (we’ll call that a CPU – or an APU – from now on) with an iGPU isn’t half as confusing as it sounds and using it is even easier!

What is an iGPU?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at what an iGPU is and why you need one.

In short, an iGPU is a chip in your CPU with the sole job of turning data into images – basically, everything you see on your monitor. Modern iGPUs are more than capable of playing 4K video and handling ALL basic tasks – they can even tackle some light-duty gaming.

cpu chip

Without some kind of GPU, whether it’s integrated or dedicated, you won’t be able to see anything on your monitor. That’s to say, it’s essential that you make sure your processor is equipped with an iGPU if you’re trying to avoid buying a dedicated graphics card. There are affordable graphics cards under $300 if you don’t want to drop too much on one.

Where an iGPU falls short is where a dedicated graphics card comes in. But, you only need a dGPU (dedicated graphics) if you’re doing things like rendering video, 3D design, gaming, and things of that nature. Luckily, if you find that an iGPU just doesn’t cut it for your needs, it’s really easy to add a dedicated graphics card to any build.

Which CPUs have iGPUs?

Both AMD and Intel have processors in their lineup that are equipped with iGPUs – but not all of them are called CPUs.

On Intel’s side, it’s easy to know which CPUs come with an iGPU because they all do, barring some of their older processors that is. But, anything from the 4th to the 8th generation of CPUs will come with integrated graphics – even the Pentium options.

On AMD’s side, your options are a little more restricted, you’ll need to look at their APUs (Accelerated Processing Unit) like the R5 2400G and R3 2200G; conversely, AMD’s CPUs like the R5 2600 and R7 2700 do not come with iGPUs.

How to use an iGPU

Even easier than finding a CPU/APU that’s equipped with an iGPU is actually using it.

There’s just 1 step here: plug your monitor into your motherboard’s display output. Yep, it’s really that simple!

motherboard rear io connections

If you were to add a dedicated graphics card to your build, the only thing you would have to change is the location of your display connection. Instead of plugging into your motherboard, you’d move the connection to your graphics card.

Couldn’t be any easier!

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you don’t have a graphics card?

If you don’t have a graphics card then you’ll need an iGPU you’ll still be able to see some graphics and movement as the CPU can still help the computer calculate the pixels. However, if you are trying to do graphic-intense actions with your PC then there may be significant lag (such as if you try to play a game that the CPU can’t render).

Is a graphic card necessary for music production?

A graphics card is necessary for music production so that you can properly see the pixels updating in accordance with the notes, beats per minute (BPM), etc. Without it, you won’t be able to run most music production programs.

What are graphics cards used for other than gaming?

Graphics cards are used to display out on your computer and are especially important for high computing applications such as bitcoin mining, video editing, and image editing such as photoshop. The demands for many of these ranges just like gaming but you can use a relatively affordable one effectively.

Can you start a PC without a GPU?

You can start a PC without a GPU, but you won’t be able to see a display unless you have an iGPU. As in without either you can turn it on but won’t be able to see anything.


As you can see, it’s more than possible to run a PC without a graphics card – if you don’t need one. If you’re not going to be gaming or doing some kind of graphical design/video work, why blow hundreds of dollars on something you’ll never use – aka a dedicated GPU? There’s just no point!

Might as well just skip that altogether and buy more RAM + a stronger CPU with integrated graphics instead!

So, if you’re trying to piece together a new “homework/work” computer, rest assured knowing you do not need to blow money on parts you won’t be needing. Modern iGPUs are more than capable of handling all basic tasks and even if you find that it’s not quite powerful enough for what you need, adding a dedicated GPU can be done whenever you want!

Have a question? Ask below! 

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Hey there! I'm Branton, the founder and lead editor here at PC Game Haven. Since our launch in 2015, we've helped thousands upon thousands of gamers build their dream desktops, find the perfect peripherals, and more. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to get in tough!

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July 14, 2020 12:26 am

I have a gtx card gt525m from almost 8 years now
i was able to play games for first 2 years but after i didn’t play till now but the issue is i cant even play most wanted the very first version which used to run very smoothly before

July 22, 2020 11:52 am
Reply to  vaibhav

there is a possibility that the graphics card is approaching the end of its lifespan or something else is preventing the application from running smoothly
you can take a look at forums in order to perform troubleshooting or find the actual cause of the slowdown

the link above might be of use as the user has encountered a similar problem

Im not an expert in this field and if the provided link didint help much then I apologize

April 23, 2020 10:43 am

HI i want to upgrade my PC. Have tight budget.Dont want external Graphic Card bcz IGPU enough for me as i don’t play games. Can you suggest me processor with motherboard and RAM please.
I am going to use my old cabinet , power supply(corsair vs550) 2 SATA hard disk 1TB and 750 GB 5400 RPM.

Caldeen Benedict
Caldeen Benedict
September 5, 2019 6:07 pm

My mouse and computer keep locking up, the screen also flash’s black and then comes on again. I keep having to hard boot it back on. I get a message that my video card failed and recovered. Is it just my card or my whole desktop PC dying?