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How to Install a Graphics Card in a PC

Updated on April 29, 2009

Computers Have Guts too, and They Aren't All That Complicated

 It may seem impossible to learn how to install a graphics card, but it's time to open your mind to the possibillity. To some people the thought of prying open their computers to mess around with the "guts" can seem almost terrifying. What do all those parts do? Where does one even start? Surely the inside of a computer must be like the engine of a car, a complex dance of parts which only an expert can understand. Wrong! In fact, adding new hardware to your computer, like learning how to install a new graphics card, is as easy as sleepwalking (and far less dangerous). If you want better video quality, or just want graphics to run smoother and faster is games and video clips, simply follow this easy guide.

AGP Slot
AGP Slot
PCI-E Slot
PCI-E Slot

First, Buy the Right Kind of Graphics Card

Let me tell you a little story about the day I decided to buy a graphics card while I had the flu. A couple of clicks later and I was thrilled to be the owner of a new, 256 mb graphics card. Yay! Joy turned to frustration though, once the thing arrived in the mail. It didn't fit in the slot, what on earth? This is when I learned my first, and most valuable lesson, there are two kinds of slots on PC motherboards for grahpics cards!

The first kind is dubbed "AGP" and has two slots which are almost of equal length which the card fits into. To get an idea of what I mean please see the top right picture.

The second, and more common in newer computers, is called PCI-E (or PCI-Express) 16-bit and has two slots, one long and one short, which the card fits into. See the bottom right picture for a glimpse at the slot on the motherboard. Before buying your new graphics card open up your computer and check the bottom left corner to see which type of slot you have, then buy the correct card type (unlike me).

Open up Your PC

 Once you have your graphics card the fun really begins. To begin the process of installing your card you must first open up computer. To do this first turn your computer off, then look at the back. There should be large, easily visible screws on one side, take these out and set them aside in a safe place. Now, gently tug on the metal cover on the side you took the screws out of, it should slide backwards and then come off very easily. Voila, you are in!

Install Your Graphics Card

 Now that your computer is open look in the bottom left corner, this is where your AGP or PCI-E slot will be. These slots are locate here so that the output end of your card sticks out of the back of the computer, allowing you to plug your monitor in.

Before you pop in your car card check for a metal strip on the back outside cover of the computer, which may be held on by a small screw. Remove this screw and set aside in a safe place, and the pull out the metal stip. This will allow you to place the business end of your card snugly in place.

Now that all the obstacles are out of the way, it's time to install your graphics card! Before you touch the card touch a grounded source to dissapate any static electricity you may be carrying. Then, slide the card gently into place, with the plug-in end facing toward the rear of the computer. Push the card into the slot until it is firmly anchored. Then replace the metal strip and screw to secure the card in place. Replace the computer cover, and screw back into place as well.

Plug your monitor into the new video card, it should be the blue plug-in, and then fire up your computer.

Video Drivers

 Now you must deal with the software part of the equation. If you have Vista and a newer graphics card you may be in for an easy ride. Vista supports plug-and-play, and with many newer cards all you have to do is pop them in and the system will detect the new hardware and inhstall the drivers for you automatically.

If your system does not support plug and play that's alright. Your video card probably came with a CD containing drivers, simply pp in the CD and follow the installation instructions. Even if you don't have a CD you are still ok. Simply look up your brand name and then the word "Drivers" (like "NVIDIA drivers") in a search engine and you can easily download the correct drivers for your card.

Whoosh!

 Once you play a game or watch a video, or even just navigate your desktop you'll be amazed at how fast and smooth your system runs. Besides, now that you've cracked open your computer once, you won't have any problems with say...installing more RAM, or even a new processor. Trust me, once you start upgrading your computer, it's hard to stop.

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    • profile image

      Gienn 

      8 years ago

      Tnx, and i agree what you have said, "once you start upgrading your computer, it's hard to stop" hehe i just recently upgraded my integrated GPU to 512mb 8400 GS, and i'm lucky because it fitted my slot haha just found out that my slot is a pci-e X16 hehe, now im planning to buy 1gig ram, my MOBO 945GCT-M2 can only support 2gig of ram.. hehe look now i'm addicted in upgrading!

    • profile image

      Gienn 

      8 years ago

      Tnx, and i agree what you have said, "once you start upgrading your computer, it's hard to stop" hehe i just recently upgraded my integrated GPU to 512mb 8400 GS, and i'm lucky because it fitted my slot haha just found out that my slot is a pci-e X16 hehe, now im planning to buy 1gig ram, my MOBO 945GCT-M2 can only support 2gig of ram.. hehe look now i'm addicted in upgrading!

    • chuck98 profile image

      chuck98 

      9 years ago from China

      learning

    working

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