This post introduces how to install a graphics card and related resources.
Notes: When installing or removing a graphics card, handle it only by its edges, not by its connectors or components.
Before starting with graphics card installation, check out the following two things.
Step 1: make sure your computer has the proper hardware to support your new card.
The most common problem that people run into is an inadequate power supply:
- Either it can’t supply enough wattage,
- or it doesn’t have enough available PCI-E power connectors.
As a rule of thumb, your power supply should be rated from double the power consumption of your graphics card. For example if you purchased a R9 290X—a video card that draws 300 watts—you should have a power supply that can provide at least 600 watts of power and has both 8-pin and 6-pin PCI-E power connectors.
To find out how much wattage your power supply pumps out, open your case and look for the standard identification sticker all power supplies have, which lists their basic info. While you’re there you can also identify how many 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-E connectors are available.
Picking the right power supply is even more important if you’re upgrading to a multi-card configuration, because you’ll likely need to buy a power supply rated for one or more kilowatts. For more on multi-GPU SLI and CrossFireX setups, check out PCWorld’s guide to tricking out your PC with multiple graphics cards.
Step 2: is there enough room inside of your case to fit your new graphics card?
Some high-end graphics card can be over a foot long, and two or even three expansion slots wide. You can find the physical dimensions for a graphics on its product page or on the manufacturer’s website.
With all of those questions resolved, it’s time to install the new card.
Installing a graphics card
Installing a graphics card requires three things:
- a new graphics card,
- your computer, and
- a Phillips-head screw driver.
Notes: Be sure to turn off your PC and unplug it from the wall before you begin.
Start by removing the side of your computer’s case, then locate and remove your current graphics card. Some PCs will not have a graphics card installed. Instead, you need to locate the PCI-E x16 slot closest to the heat sink of your processor. This will either be the first or second expansion slot on your motherboard.
You install a graphics card into a PCI-E x16 slot on your computer’s motherboard (the long, blue slots in this picture given below.)
(By Thomas Ryan)
Make sure that there are no loose wires blocking your access to this slot. If you’re replacing an existing graphics card, unplug any cables connected to it, remove the screw from its retention bracket, and then remove the card. Most motherboards also have a small plastic latch on the end of the PCI-E slot that locks the graphics card in place. Make sure you toggle this latch to unlock your old graphics card so you can remove it.
You can now install your new graphics card into the open and unobstructed PCI-E x16 slot. Firmly insert the card into the slot, then push down the plastic lock on the end of the PCI-E slot to hold it in place. Next, use a screw to secure the graphic card’s metal retention bracket to your PC’s case. You can reuse the same screw(s) that held the cover bracket or your former graphics card in place.
Notes: Don’t forget to lock the latch at the end of the PCI-E slot after firmly inserting your graphics card! (This is very important, because your expensive graphics card needs this to secure its positioning. You should hear a “ta” sound when the latch is locked. It should be very firm and steadily locked, if you feel it is loose, that indicates the latch is not locked properly.)
Most gaming-level graphics cards require additional power connectors. If yours does, make sure you connect those PCI-E power cables. Your graphics card will not function correctly without properly supplied power. In fact, if you don’t connect those PCI-E power cables your PC may be unable to boot.
With your graphics card secured and powered up, finish the job by sliding your case’s side panel back into position and plugging your display cable into your new graphics card. Turn on your computer.
Now it’s time to take care of the software side of upgrading your graphics card.
If your new graphics card is the same brand as your old card, this process is simple. Just go to the manufacturer’s website and download the latest driver package for you operating system. Keep in mind that graphics drivers are quite large, generally about 300MB in size, and it may take some time to download depending on the speed of your Internet connection. Install the driver, restart your computer.
If you’re switching manufacturers (from Intel to AMD, from AMD to Nvidia, or vice-versa), uninstall your old graphics driver and restart your computer before installing the driver for your new graphics card. If you don’t uninstall the old driver it may conflict with the new driver.
- How to install a graphics card (Apri. 27,2015 By Thomas Ryan) (pdf)
- How to Install a Graphics Card (with Pictures) (pdf)
- How to Install Dual Video Cards: 11 Steps (with Pictures) (pdf)
- If you intend to use more than one monitor with your video cards, be aware that while SLI is enabled, only one monitor is supported. A workaround for this involves installing additional hardware.
- With Nvidia’s SLI, at least for the time being, you must connect two video cards with the same chipset. Example, 1 bfg 7600 gt and 1 evga 7600 gt can be connected.
- Make sure to ground yourself before handling hardware as ESD (electrostatic discharge) can fry your components. Static electricity remains a threat to all computer components. It is recommended that you wear clothing that does not produce static charges, that you keep in near constant contact with the computer’s chassis, and that you avoid touching the metallic traces of circuit boards inside or out of the computer.
- Always unplug your system before installing any hardware