Upgrading Graphics on Dell Computers and Other Towers

Can I Upgrade My Video Card?

So you like to play video games on your computer, however your dell computer or similar tower pc, crashes and freezes making you angry and frustrated. Many times game crashes can be fixed by updating your video graphics cards. First of all, you should know that a graphics card is the component that the monitor plugs into on the back of your computer. With the side of the computer case open you can see a small circuit board that plugs into the motherboard. (The mother board is the largest of the computer's circuit boards.)

Video graphics cards come in different styles, in some Dell computers the video graphics card not only attaches to but is a part of the motherboard. Hence is the case with the Dell laptop I'm using now. It has some inexpensive ATI integrated graphics and since it's a laptop there is no extra pci slot on the motherboard. These integrated graphics cards are usually best left alone, because they attach to motherboards that are not capable of running higher end graphics.

However, most dell computers and in fact almost all tower style computer's graphics can be upgraded. Let me take a picture for you, If you open the side of your computer's case and see an empty slot like the one in the picture you can install a video card into your pci slot. If you don't see an extra pci slot on your computer's motherboard, you may be able to simply remove the existing graphics card from the pci slot. These pci slots accept vga type graphics cards.

Other Motherboards are made especially for high end graphics, they come with pci express slots that will accept extremely good graphics cards.  There is another picture below, it shows a pci express slot on a motherboard.  Pci express slots are made especially to accept AGP type video cards, such as the nvidia geforce 7900 that I have.  It is important to check your current type of card, and your available slots when choosing a new card. This ensures that your new card will both be an upgrade and fit into your pc.

PCI Slots on Motherboard

PCI Express Connector or PCI-E

The black slot is a PCI-E slot. Notice the tab at the top of the slot, this must be pushed down to safely remove an old card.
The black slot is a PCI-E slot. Notice the tab at the top of the slot, this must be pushed down to safely remove an old card.

Removing Old Graphics Card From a Dell Computer or Other Similar Tower PC

Removing a graphics card is very simple. First, unplug the computer's power chord from any electric outlet, and then remove the case side. Next, locate the screws that attach the card to the tower and remove these. Next, label the connector chord that run from your power supply to your graphics card and unplug it. Finally, the old graphics card can be pulled easily away from the pci slot on the motherboard, please note if your graphics are plugged into a pci express slot you must push down on the tab for easy removal. The tab is shown clearly in the picture above.

Sabrent SBT-TVFM TV Tuner/Video Capture/FM Radio PCI Card with Remote Control
Sabrent SBT-TVFM TV Tuner/Video Capture/FM Radio PCI Card with Remote Control

This card fits a plain pci slot, but is awesome because you can use it to record your favorite television programs.

BEWARE, you cannot plug your monitor into this card, you will still need a graphics card.


Buying a New Graphics Card: What to Look For

Choosing a new graphics card depends greatly on two factors, your computing needs, and your computer's limitations. You can easily figure your computing needs by checking the minimum system requirements on the video games you play. If, for instance, you want to be able to play a graphic intense game such as World of Warcraft, you could easily check the game packaging and/or website to see the following:

Windows® System XP/XP64/Vista/Vista64 OS:

- Intel Pentium 4 1.3 GHz or AMD Athlon XP 1500+
- 512 MB or more of RAM (Vista requires 1024 MB or more of RAM)
- 3D graphics processor with Hardware Transform and Lighting with 32 MB VRAM, such as an ATI Radeon 7200 or NVIDIA GeForce 2 class card or better
- DirectX® 9.0c (included) and latest video drivers
- 15.0 GB available HD space
- 4 x CD-ROM drive
- Broadband Internet connection
- For voice chat, an SSE enabled CPU is required.

Your computer's limitations can be described fairly consistently in the same manner. If the computer's processor doesn't meet the minimum system requirements it is fairly pointless to upgrade the graphics to exceed that limitation. However if the processor exceeds the minimum system requirements feel free to upgrade in excess of the minimum system requirements.

My personal opinion is that the Nvidia graphics cards are much better than ATI, although I have had no major issues with ATI cards. In fact though, I have replaced a few slow ATI graphics cards with higher end Nvidia cards but that is not to say that the cards were bad just that they needed upgrading. The computer I use for gaming has 2 nvidia geforce 7900 graphics cards that run in SLI mode. One of these cards will run games smoothly two is always better than one though. (more on SLI in later hubs)

Two Graphics Cards Properly Installed In PCI Express Slots

Notice the screws holding the cards in place to the left of the picture, these need to be unscrewed.
Notice the screws holding the cards in place to the left of the picture, these need to be unscrewed.

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Comments 2 comments

Kevin Walker 5 years ago

Hi, this is really good stuff and well put across.

I'll direct the members of my Computer Repair Center to this Hubpage via a link I'll send out to them.

Maybe you would be interested in contributing an article or two to the group?

Many thanks.

Regards, Kevin Walker.



Tara 4 years ago

THANKS I have been trying to figure out for an hour what card I need to add a second network card! this picture told me everything I needed.

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