Our visitors often ask us: How do I find out what graphics card I have? If you are using a new or undocumented computer, or you have misplaced the documentation and software that originally shipped with your computer, you may not be able to determine the make, model, or details of the display adapter presently installed in your machine. This may be problematic, since many display adapters use proprietary video drivers.
A driver is a piece of software that tells your computer how to access and use a particular piece of hardware. In the case of a display adapter or graphics card, the video driver tells the computer how much memory the card commands, how fast it is, and how quickly it can send images to the monitor.
Improperly installed drivers can lead to a number of computer performance and image quality issues, including but not limited to:
In extreme cases, improperly installed or absent video drivers may lead to the Blue Screen of Death, or a complete crash of the computer operating system.
If the computer is continuously crashing, booting in to Windows Safe Mode and reinstalling the video drivers may fix the problem. If not, the problem may be serious enough that outside assistance from a qualified computer repair technician is required.
The easiest way to determine the specifics of your graphics card in any Windows based operating system is to perform the following:
The DirectX Diagnostic Tool keeps a record various attributes of the graphics card. On the Display tab, the following information about the presently installed graphics card is displayed:
Additionally, this window lists the features of DirectX that are currently active, and will list any problems found with the graphics card.
If typing DXDIAG into the start menu does not bring up the Windows DirectX Diagnostic Tool, it is likely that DirectX is not installed. If this is the case, DirectX is available for download free of charge directly from MicroSoft. (To download DirectX, visit http://directx.en.softonic.com/ and follow the on-screen instructions).
DirectX is a software package developed and distributed by Microsoft for use in a Windows environment. DirectX is designed specifically for multimedia components - video and audio hardware - and optimizes the way in which your computer handles these components.
DirectX enhances many features of sound and video produced by your computer, and improves the overall performance and output of audio and video hardware. Further, many applications produced for Windows, especially video games designed for Windows, will not operate if DirectX is not present on the system.
Installing DirectX is easy, and simply requires downloading and activating an executable file from the MicroSoft website. This executable automatically queries the computer and downloads any necessary DirectX updates directly from MicroSoft.
Testing the speed, stability, or power of a graphics card is a process known as benchmarking. Benchmarking usually requires a specific piece of software designed especially for this purpose.
Benchmarking a graphics card will thoroughly test all the image production functions of a graphics card, including:
Benchmark utilities will often provide a final score on the overall performance of the graphics card which can be compared to other similar cards on the market.
The Two most popular benchmarking utilities can be found below:
Passmark, which is available here: http://www.passmark.com/products/pt.htm and 3DMark, which is available here: http://www.futuremark.com/ Additionally, there are a number of other benchmarking utilities available from sites like download.com.
Please note: Many available benchmarking utilities do not provide an adequately comprehensive test of a graphics processing capability. For this reason, it's best to stick with one of the two options linked above.
These benchmarking utilities are often updated, and different version may be available for different types of operating systems and graphics cards. Please follow the directions on these websites carefully to ensure that your benchmark is accurate.
Keep in mind that many factors may affect the benchmarking process. To achieve the most accurate results while running any Benchmark utility, it is highly recommended that all other programs be closed, that no active downloads are taking place, and that any virus or firewall software be temporarily disabled.