How To Install a New PC Video Card

videocard

If there is one constant in the life of a PC gamer it is that video hardware frequently needs upgraded. Maybe your ATI HD 3250 or Nvidia GTX 260 was top of the line when you bought it, but chances are in the next year you’re going to want a new card that handles DirectX 11 capabilities or outperforms your current hardware by 30-50%.

It’s okay, one of the simplest things a gamer can do is replace the video card in their current gaming rig. The process of removing the old card and inserting the new one is pretty painless for most systems. In this how to we’ll talk you through the removal and installation steps and give some guidance on how to prepare your computer for the change in video hardware.

Difficulty: Basic

Tools:

  • A screw driver to open your computer case
  • The video card
  • An anti-static wrist strap (optional)
  • A workspace or clear table that is not on a carpet
  • The new video card driver disk or downloaded driver
  • Plastic zip ties (optional)

Time to Install: Between 10 minutes and half an hour.

Official Disclaimer

Never make a change to your system without first doing a complete system backup.

Windows often acts funny if you change hardware and can even stop running altogether if you don’t take some precautions. If things go wrong you can always reinstall your old video card and restore the operating system from backup.

Step 1: Preparations

Remove/uninstall your current video card driver and control panel software using the Windows add/remove programs before making the change to the new hardware. This allows Windows to work from a generic driver and cuts down on problems if you’re installing a different video card type.

howtoselectbusFor this How To we are assuming a few things:

  • You know what type of video card slot your motherboard has and you have a compatible card. (Most older systems have PCI or AGP slots, modern motherboards use PCI-Express slots).
  • Some systems have multiple PCI-Express slots and this how to details a single video card replacement, not the installation of multiple cards for SLI (Nvidia) or CrossFire (ATI) configurations.
  • You have a power supply capable of powering your new card. Make sure your new card does not require more power than your system has.
  • You are replacing an existing video card, not adding a video card to a system with a video chip on the motherboard.

Step 2: Removing Your Old Video Card

  1. Create a system restore point prior to uninstalling any hardware. (Microsoft’s System Restore help article)
  2. Power down your computer and unplug your power cord.
  3. Disconnect your monitor from the video card.
  4. Take the PC to your workspace or table and open the case.
  5. Take your old card out of the anti-static bag and place it to the side near the PC.
  6. Remove the securing screw or open the latch to release the card from the case. Opening the case may not require a screwdriver. Many “gamer-friendly” cases have thumbscrews for side panels or lever/latches for removal of the side panel.
  7. Once open the PC you should see the component cards. They are usually secured by a Phillips head screw or latch.
  8. Disconnect any power cables connected to the video card.
  9. Push on the card retainer on the motherboard to release the bottom of the card from the slot.
  10. Pull gently up on the card from the bottom and back ( The back is the side without the video connectors).
  11. Slide the card out of the socket and set it aside on your work bench, preferably in the anti-static bag your new card arrived in.

antistaticbagNote: Static electricity can harm sensitive electronics like video cards very easily. It’s important to protect components as you remove and install them.

  • Avoid wearing clothes like sweaters or working on shaggy rugs when handling computer components.
  • Keep components in anti-static bags when storing them.

Step 3: Installing the New Video Card

  1. Take the NEW video card and place it in the video card slot.
  2. Push down on the card until it is firmly seated and the plastic clip engages. You should not be able to pull the card out easily and the video connections on the front of the card are centered and accessible from outside the case.
  3. Screw or latch the card into place.
  4. Connect the power cable from the power supply.
  5. Optional Step: Tie up power cables with a plastic zip tie and tidy up your connections to the hard drives or other internal components away from the video card fan or heat sink. This helps keep your system running cooler and allows air to flow out of the PC. Overheating causes bad video card and/or PC performance.
  6. Replace and secure the side panel of the case.
  7. Move the PC back to its original spot and  connect your monitor.
  8. Plug  in the computer’s power cord.
  9. Start up the PC and wait for Windows to start up.

Step 4: Post Installation Tasks

If everything went correctly with the installation, your system should boot into Windows normally but in a lower video resolution. Windows will now prompt you to install a new driver for your video card.  It is advisable to install the manufacturer provided video driver and utility. Follow the instructions provided by your video card manufacturer to install the driver from the included CD or digital download.

If you do not see Windows start up be sure to check all connections and try again. If this fails, you should  ensure the video card is completely installed in the video card slot. Repeat the removal instructions, attempt to re-seat the video card and close up the PC. If the video card is firmly installed and you still do not see Windows start up you may have a bad video card or another component problem that this how to can’t anticipate. Seek help from a computer technician or skilled friend.

Closing

Make sure you update your graphics card drivers frequently to ensure good performance. Video card drivers often are updated to optimize new hardware and fix specific problems with popular games and applications.

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