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Upgrading Your PC’s Video Card

Much like basic vehicle maintenance, there are many ways you can maintain and upgrade your computer with little to no prior experience.

When it comes to increasing your computer’s performance, computer shops and technical support will try to tell you that any attempts to upgrade your computer yourself will end in tears and frustration. This simply is not true.

With a few basic tools, an idea of what to look for and a little free time, upgrading your video card is simple.

If you’re ready to unlock the full potential of your computer and make a noticeable improvement in your computer’s performance, we’ll show you how.

By upgrading your video card, all the fancy graphics and intricate details of your favorite games or movies can be passed from the computer’s main processor to a dedicated graphics processor.

This frees up resources to keep your computer zippy and responsive. Most times, it will also improve the quality of images, movies and games.

Finding Your Card Type

The first step to upgrading your video card is to find the slot type your motherboard uses.

You will find this information manufacturer’s website for your motherboard or computer model. Once you have found the specifications list, refer to the section labeled “Expansion Slots.” You should see a listing for “PCI-Express” or “AGP.” This will be the type of video card needed for your computer.

AGP slots are rare in modern computers. Upgrade options for this slot type are limited. Upgrading your motherboard or purchasing a new computer might offer better results.

The next step is to find an upgrade for your video card. You will find options at most major electronics retailers and popular online retailers, including NewEgg, Amazon and TigerDirect.

If you are unsure of what to buy, PassMark Software has an easy-to-use comparison list of the latest cards.

The Upgrade Process

Once you have found a suitable upgrade for your existing video card, all that is left is to install the new video card into your computer.

Things You Will Need:

  1. Phillips Screwdriver
  2. Flat, Clean Surface
Estimated Project Time: 20 to 30 minutes
As long as you take your time, the process is simple and worry-free.
  1. Unplug any cables connected to your computer and place it on a flat, well-lit surface.
  2. Press the power button to discharge any electricity still stored in the capacitors of your motherboard. Failure to do so might cause damage to your hardware or, worse yet, electrical shock.
  3. Ground yourself to remove any built up static by touching something metal, such as a door knob or your chair or desk railing.
  4. Remove the sidewall from your computer by loosening the screws on the back and sliding the case wall away.
  5. Locate the graphics slot on your PC. This should be a horizontal plastic slot towards the rear of your case. The slot should have a clip at the front-facing end. Many times it is white or blue.
  6. Remove your existing video card by removing the retaining screw, pressing on the clip and sliding the card out with a firm grip.
  7. Place your new video card into the slot until the retaining clip is in place. You might hear a slight click when the video card is seated.
  8. Attach any additional power connectors to the video card. Many gaming video cards will require up to three more power connectors. These connectors often feature an end with 4 or 6 prongs and might be labeled “PCI-E”.
  9. Insert the retaining screw into the holding bracket and tighten it to secure the video card in place.
  10. Replace the computer sidewall.
  11. Reconnect all cables.
  12. Power on your computer.

Testing and Troubleshooting

  • You may need to configure your resolution and other minor settings when the computer finishes booting.
  • If the video card is functioning well, the next step is to download the latest drivers for your card. These driver updates improve performance and stability. Keep your drivers updated for optimal performance. The two most common chipsets manufacturers use are nVidia and ATI. You might also find specialized drivers on your manufacturer’s website.
  • If you turn on the computer and nothing is displayed, disconnect the computer and make sure the power connectors and the graphics card itself are snug in their proper slots. Once checked, try to reboot the computer.
  • Still not working? Many motherboards use an audible tone signal during the start-up process to help troubleshoot any problems. Common error codes can be found in the manual for your motherboard.
  • While uncommon, sometimes you will find that your card is defective. In this case, your only choice is replacing it through the company from which you purchased it. Online retailers often offer free returns. However, RMA processes differ between sites. Most local stores will accept returns within 14 days of purchase as long as you have all the adapters and other parts.
Header image by Dsimic at English Wikipedia [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 ] via Wikimedia Commons

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