Installing a Graphics card

Guide to how to install a graphics card.

Installing a Graphics Card - Introduction

Installing a graphics card for an upgrade or new build is a very simple task and can be undertaken easily by most computer owners with the minimum of tools and know how.

Installing a graphics card for an upgrade for instance should take no more than 15 minutes or so – all we need is to pop open the case, remove the old card and pop in the new one – one of the easiest of upgrades along with a memory upgrade.

This guide assumes that you are installing a PCI-E bus compliant graphics card but the same basic process applies to older AGP type cards too, you just need to check compatibility of your motherboard for the type you are installing.

Ok, first things first, as always we strongly recommend the use of an anti-static wrist strap. These are not very expensive to buy and come in handy time and again when you work on your PC.

Installing a graphics card

Installing a Graphics Card – Uninstall Drivers

You can skip this step if you are building a new PC but you should always uninstall your old drivers if you are doing an upgrade, even if you are using the same manufacturer’s chipset (i.e. Nvidia or ATI) as otherwise the software may not pick up on all the cards features when you boot up initially with your new card installed.

Simply go to ‘Control Panel’ and double click on ‘Add or Remove Programs’ then look for your current graphic card driver (i.e. Nvidia or ATI), click on ‘Change or Remove Programs’, highlight the old card driver and click on the Change/Remove button to complete the uninstall process.

Now reboot your PC to finish.

Installing a Graphics Card – Out with the Old!

Ok, now you can power down your PC and remove the case side ensuring that you are wearing your anti-static wrist strap of course!

Make sure that you have removed the power cable to your PC or you will still have standby power applied to your PC motherboard!

To remove your old card you will need to remove the back-plate screw (some newer cases may use a plastic locking lever in place of the screw which makes installation even easier) and slowly ease the old card out of its motherboard socket.

There may also be a plastic clip or catch at the rear of the graphic card socket which you will need to disengage.

Installing a graphics card

The latest high end cards are very heavy and require the card to be secured into place at the front and rear of the card.

Put the card in an anti-static bag and place to one side for safe keeping – if your new card doesn’t work (hey it happens!) then you at least have the old one to go back to whilst you are sorting it out.

Installing a Graphics Card – And in with the New!

Time to install that lovely new card of yours!

Make sure you have enough room to install your new card. A lot of the high end cards are quite long and smaller cases may struggle to accommodate these beasts!

Before we install we need to remove one of the case expansion slot blanking plates. The one corresponding to the motherboard PCI 16 X socket and depending upon your case type you will either have to unscrew and remove the blanking plate or there may be a locking latch that needs releasing to remove the plate.

Now carefully line up your graphic card with the slot in your motherboard, hook the tail in first and then push firmly down to seat the card in the motherboard socket – this will require a fair amount of force and you may have to rock the card back and forth a little to get the front plate bottom tab to locate into the case expansion slot correctly at the bottom edge.

Installing a graphics card

Ensure that the clip at the rear of the motherboard socket (if there is one) is locked home properly.

Now you can replace the screw in the graphic card back plate to secure in place (or screw-less plastic locking clip) and then connect up any extra power supply cables as required.

Installing a Graphics Card – Power Supply

You will also need to check out your power supply. A new graphic card may well require an upgrade to that power supply of yours as well!

Again, the high end gaming cards will require multiple power connections.

All cards receive power from the motherboard but the more powerful cards will require one or maybe two extra 6 pin PCI connections direct from your power supply. Some cards will pull maybe 75W from each of three connections totaling 225W just for the graphics card! – better check out the specs for your card and make sure that power supply of yours can handle it eh!

Installing a graphics card

Installing a Graphics Card – Tidy Up

Now tidy up the wires and use plastic cable ties to hold them in place out of the way of any CPU, Graphic Card or Case fans etc.

Pop the case side covers back on and connect up your monitor cable to the graphic card monitor output.

Installing a Graphics Card – Monitor Connections

Depending upon your monitor you may need to fix an adaptor in place.

New cards may come with DVI only outputs and if your monitor only has a D-Sub connector you will need to fit a DVI to D-Sub adaptor to the back of your graphics card.

These adaptors will normally be supplied in your new cards packaging.

Installing a graphics card

Installing a Graphics Card – Install Drivers

Ok, that’s all the hardware side of things taken care of, now on to installing the software.

Boot up your PC which will probably start up with a low resolution screen.

Install the driver disc that came with the card and follow the on screen instructions or go to the manufacturer’s website and download the latest drivers for your card and install these.

Installing a Graphics Card – On-board Graphics

If you are upgrading your motherboard on-board graphic adaptor you may need to go into the BIOS to disable the motherboard on-board graphics after you have installed your new graphics card.

Some motherboards automatically disable on-board graphics when they detect the presence of a new graphics card.

Check your motherboard manual for details or search the BIOS for options.

That about wraps it up!

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