Install Graphics Card - How to Install a Graphics Card

Purchasing a new graphics card is one of the most cost effective ways to boost the graphics output of any computer. Since the graphics card is responsible for the majority of all functions associated with image quality and 3D processing, upgrading the video card does more to enhance visual output than upgrading the system RAM, hard drive, or even the processor.

Before Beginning

Make sure the power is off! It is always best to unplug the computer from the wall socket or UPS system before cracking open the case for any reason. While the voltage of electricity running through computer circuits is not lethal, shorting a connection can damage many of the fragile components inside, erase valuable data, and send a nasty jolt through unwary fingers! At the very least, the power switch should be set to the "off" position.

Additionally, it is crucial that the installer knows the precise make and model of the graphics card being installed, and that the drivers for the graphics card at the ready. Graphics cards are always shipped with a CD that contains all necessary drivers, and may contain one or more optional proprietary graphics applications.

This guide covers essential driver installation - please read the graphics card manual for installation instructions of any additional proprietary software

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Most computers can be opened with a mid-sized Phillips screwdriver or bolt driver. If possible, it is best to utilize an antistatic wrist strap or a touch a grounding pad prior to opening the computer case.

Step 1: Getting Inside the Computer

Desktop computers are designed to be opened regularly, and most computer cases are constructed with this in mind. While the size and shape of the computer may vary, the process is the same: find the screws that hold the outer case in place, unscrew them, and slide off the outer case.

Be aware that any external fans or lighting may be plugged in to the power course, so any power cords attached to the external case should be carefully unplugged before setting the outer case aside.

Step 2: Find the Old Graphics Card

Finding the old graphics card is quite simple - just look for the place the monitor plugs in on the rear of the computer. This plug is part of the graphics card itself.

Once the graphics card has been located, remove the screw holding it in place against the inner case, and gently ease it out of the motherboard slot. Some graphics cards will have an arm attached near the base of the card that increases stability - if present, this must be removed as well.

If the graphics card is especially snug, rocking the card back and forth to loosen it is better than attempting to force it out.

Step 3: Installing the New Card

From here, we essentially follow the last two steps in reverse. Make sure the card is seated snugly in the motherboard slot, re-attach the stability arm (if present), and replace the screw that holds the card in place against the inner case.

Once this is complete, carefully reattach the outer case (including reattaching any unplugged components to the power source), and replace the screws to hold the outer case firmly in place.

Step 4: Booting With the New Graphics Card

When you boot in to windows with a new graphics card, Windows may or may not recognize the graphics card, and may or may not be able to find the appropriate drivers for the card.

If Windows recognizes the graphics card: Windows will automatically download and/or install the appropriate drivers, and prompt for a computer restart. After restarting, Windows will install the drivers automatically during the boot-up process. Presto! Installation is complete.

If Windows does not recognize the graphics card - windows will either: 1. Not know the name of the graphics card, and will install temporary generic video drivers; or 2. Know the name of the graphics card, but not have access to appropriate drivers. In either scenario, simply install the driver CD for the graphics card and follow the driver installation instructions. Once driver installation is complete, Windows will prompt for a computer restart. After restarting, Windows will install the drivers automatically during the boot-up process. Once again, presto! Installation is complete.

Technical Issues

Any of the following events happening during or after the installation process may signify a defective or incompatible graphics card:

In the unfortunate event of a defective or incompatible graphics card, it is recommended that the old graphics card be reinstalled and the product be returned for a replacement.

Alternatively, the user may attempt to install the card in another computer (if possible) to determine whether or not the card is defective:

In the event of a defective card, simply return it to the manufacturer for a replacement or refund. In the event of an incompatibility, it will be necessary to contact the support department of the manufacturer of the card.