Guide: How to install a Graphics Card
This is a Techradar article in association with Dabs.com
It seems like PCs can never have enough 3D graphics power. Higher resolutions, more effects, better image quality and film-like post-processing effects seem to keep even the latest cards working hard.
But even upgrading to a modest new card is going to offer much improved speed and, more importantly, access to new DirectX 11 effects that older cards can only dream of.
If the range of PC graphics cards leaves you a little bewildered then worry not, first have a good read of our in-depth buying guide and then have a read of our latest graphics cards reviews so you're fully armed with the best buying-advice.
Importantly with high-end and even mid-range cards it's important to check your PC's power supply (PSU) meets the minimum power requirements. Modern graphics cards are power hungry, high-end models will need a 600W PSU, while mid-range cards will usually require at least a 450W PSU.
It's important to check the specification requirements before buying. The PSU inside your PC will have a sticker on its side stating what its maximum output wattage is.
As always before opening your PC always power it down and disconnect it from the mains power supply and take anti-static precautions. Right, let's get on with the tutorial!
1. Locate your old graphics card
You'll be either installing a card into a brand-new PC or else replacing an existing older card. For the latter option your first job is to locate the old card, they're usually hard to miss, usually being the largest card inside your PC that's closest to the processor heatsink and of course attached to the monitor.
2. Remove everything
Disconnect the monitor cable and undo the backplate case screw. Then stop. Almost all motherboards use some type of physical securing system to prevent the card falling out of its slot. This could be a plastic latch, a spring-loaded pull-out button or sometimes it's just a catch. These can be somewhat hard to see, but gently try to remove the card and feel for a catch at the end of the PCIe slot.
3. Types of card and slots
Modern cards use the PCI Express aka PCIe interface slot. The older and now obsolete slot is called AGP but was replaced by PCI Express around 2004. So if your PC was bought in the last five years, it's likely to be PCIE. Cards come in various lengths and in two widths: low-end up to mid-range cards are the standard single-width, while high-end models are double this width occupying two backplate slots.
4. Power connectors
Modern graphics card can require a great deal of power to work. From mid-range upwards you will find graphic cards require additional power connectors, which your power supply may or may not offer. Older models just used the standard 4-pin Molex connector. This has been replaced by the 6-pin and more recently 8-pin PCIe power connectors. For PSUs that lacks these, your graphics card should come supplied with standard Molex adaptors.
5. Slot it in
Don't force the card, line the connector up with its slot and gently push. Often the bottom edges of the backplate can catch and need a prod for them to drop into place. If your motherboard has more than one large x16 PCIe slot, use the one closest to the processor. Depending on the type of latch on the slot, this may also need you to unhook it before the card will lock into place, but they're designed to automatically snap in.
6. Connect up
Replace the backplate screws to secure the card in place. If you haven't already connected any required power adaptors then connect these to the graphics card. If the card has more than one, they will all need connecting to the power supply with a suitable adaptor.
7. Video output
PCs have a confusing number of video output: VGA (d-sub), DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and that's beside older TV-out options such as S-video, composite and component. The most common is the large DVI connector and most graphics cards will provide two of these, plus adaptors so you can connect older VGA displays. It's also possible to use adaptors to connect HDMI and DisplayPort to DVI connectors.
8. Driver installation
Depending on the OS you're running you may find your new graphics card working after a reboot. However it's advisable to get the latest drivers as these contain bug fixes and speed enhancements for the latest games. Visit Nvidia's site for GeForce cards, while go here for ATI Radeon cards.
Some extra info provided by Fov:
If you are upgrading a bought PC which has come in desktop form factor (not tower) it is worth checking height. Some manufactures offer a desktop form factor which is not as high as a full desktop (HP for example call this small form factor). If you have a shallower PC you can still upgrade your graphics card, you just need to ensure it comes with a low profile face plate.
Another issue you might like to consider is the type of cooling. Some cards come with fans to keep them cool and others use larger heat sinks.
If you are trying to keep your PC as quiet as possible it is worth going of passive cooling as the use of no fan will obviously not make noise. The downside to this is that you often wont be able to get the very top end cards with passive cooling and the mid range card will often need to be duel width to allow for the larger heat sink.
Last edited by Sam_Dabs; 15-11-10 at 12:14.
Reason: Extra info provided by Fov
- Rep Power
Great Guide. Now i have what is possibly a daft question, but i'm looking to upgrade the wifes computer as the onboard graphics card sometimes takes dicky fits and crashes the computer when it has some hard work to do- its not a bog standard on board graphics (ie basic) as such but its now at an age where certain newer games upset its constituition and its not a happy bunny. So, i'm looking for a graphics card that is suitable for her computer, i think its got pci-express slots (but i dont know if its PCIE 1 OR 2- i am presuming as the comps around 3 years old it will be pci-e 1 though) will any pci-e (version1) graphics card be suitable?, i dont need a high end card as the computer isn't used for the really new graphics intensive games (ie COD- black ops) maybe something around the £50-£60 mark. I know in the past when ive been looking for RAM memory the crucial website has a "tool" that ****s your system and advises on which memory is guaranteed to work with your system, does DABs have a similar "tool" that can **** a customers system for the correct type/models of graphics card that will work with the installed motherboard etc etc?? If not is it possible to put such "tools" into place? or are they not really needed? Its just that while i have fitted graphics cards, hard drives RAM, sound cards etc in the past i'm falling behind with technology and hadnt even realised a PCI-Express 2 version had been released, and as the mind wanders into older age, the various hard drive connection types can also be baffling (SATA, E-SATA, SATA 3, IDE etc) even USB 3 has now been launched so the old head is struggling a little to remember it all lol.
- Rep Power
Do you know the name of your motherboard? that should help you work out what pci slot you have
- Rep Power
- Rep Power
- Rep Power
- Rep Power
@ sammydarlo. PCI-Ex is the Industry standard and as such PCI-Ex 2.0 is backwards compatible with the 1.0 interface in nearly all 1.0 motherboards, so you don't really need to worry too much about it being 2.1 or 2.0 if you plug a 2.0 into a 1.0 the card will run at the speed of the 1.0 slot although installing an expensive 2.0 card in a 1.0 slot will just choke the card. The make of motherboard doesn't really matter that much only when you find yourself with a motherboard over 3 or 4 years in that case if you want to install a PCI-Ex 2.0 card you may need to flash and update the bios. On your last note about SATA connections, again industry standard and are all backwards and forwards compatible. So an older SATA drive will work in a newer motherboards but won't transfer data at the higher speeds of a SATA 3.0 or 3.1 compliant drive. So your point about a tool to work out what card your mobo can handle, in the end you just don't need it because the connections are standard(also AGP and PCI connections are basically obsolete with GFX cards as PCI-Ex supersedes them you'll need them if your computer here is 4 + years old) the more important thing to check is the power needed by your GFX card, although in the price range your looking at it wont need to take power from any of the rails coming of the PSU it'll probably be powered from the mobo.
A card like this in and around your price range should work
also articles for your own reading:
Hope this helps
Last edited by thrustfulemu; 26-10-11 at 10:48.
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