How To Install A Graphics Card

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A personal computer can display decent graphics with the integrated chips built into its motherboard. If you want or need better quality graphics, such as for playing video games, editing videos or graphic design, then you want to install a dedicated graphics card in one of your computer's expansion slots. Installing a graphics card is fairly easy:), but it does take time and care. Here's how to install a graphics card on Windows and Macintosh desktops.


Installing in a Windows Desktop


Uninstall any old graphics card drivers you may have. To uninstall the drivers, find Windows' Device Manager. In Device Manager, double-click your graphics card's name to display its Properties window. Click the Driver tab and then the button for uninstalling the driver.

To find Device Manager in Windows XP and earlier, right-click My Computer and select Properties to display the Properties dialog. Click the Hardware tab, then click the Device Manager button.

To find Device Manager in Windows Vista and later, click the Start button in the Taskbar to display the Start Menu. Look for the Search box (a field with a magnifying glass icon to its right) and type "Device Manager" into the field. (Uninstalling the driver is an Advanced function but may not be necessary; check the documentation for your replacement graphics card to confirm the need to uninstall the old drivers.)

If you do not have an old graphics card, ignore this step.


Turn off your computer. Disconnect the power cord from the back, or unplug it from the outlet it's connected to. If the computer was running for a while before you turned it off, you may want to give the components time to cool before proceeding.


Open the computer's case.


Ground yourself. Either touch a metal part of the computer case or put on an anti-static wrist strap. This will prevent you from getting an electric shock and from damaging the electronics in your computer by giving it an electric shock.


Locate the slot your old graphics card is in or the slot your new card is going in. Depending on the configuration of your PC and its motherboard, you may need to lay the unit on its side.


Remove your old graphics card. You'll first have to remove a small screw attached to the back plate before you can take the card out.


Install the new graphics card. Press the card straight and firmly into the slot. Make sure the card is firmly in the slot; your computer won't start up if the card isn't fully in place.

AGP slot cards are a bit fussier about this than PCI slot cards.
Be sure to insert the appropriate power cables from your power supply if your video card requires it.


Replace the screw in the back plate.


Replace the computer case cover. Plug the computer back in.


Install the drivers for your new graphics card. If you are installing in Windows Vista or later, Windows should automatically detect the presence of the card and install the new drivers for you, but do not count on this, all graphics cards come with a driver disc. insert this disc once you boot up and install from the disc.

You may also want to check the graphics card manufacturer's Web site for more up-to-date drivers, which you can download and install.


Restart your computer. This completes the driver configuration process and lets your computer recognize and work with the new graphics card.
If you hear a beeping sound, turn off your computer, open the case, remove the card and clean the slot with compressed air. Then reinstall the card. If this does not resolve the beeping, contact
technical support for your card.

Installing in a Macintosh Desktop


Follow the steps under "Installing in a Desktop PC" from turning off your computer to locating the slot the graphics card goes in.


Remove the bracket holding the old graphics card. Macintoshes use a PCI slot for their graphics cards, and the cards are held in place with a bracket secured by 2 screws. Unscrew the bracket and remove it.


Release the locking clip that holds the card in place. The clip is located at the front of the card's logic board connector. Push the clip up toward the media shelf to release it.


Remove the old card from its expansion slot.


Install the new graphics card. As with a PC desktop, press the card straight and firmly into the slot.
Test how firmly the card is installed by gently tugging on it. If it doesn't move, and you can only barely see its gold connectors, it's properly installed. Attempting to run a Macintosh without all its components in place will damage it and may cause injury.


Replace the PCI bracket and screw it back down.


Close the case. Replace and secure the access panel, then plug the Mac back in.


Restart the machine.


Some hardcore video gamers may install 2 or even 4 graphics cards in their desktop gaming machines to enhance their gaming experience. Doing so requires a larger power supply to run the cards and also takes away expansion slots that could be used for other purposes.
One thing to remember is, if you are not sure how to install a graphics card, it's better to let a technician handle it.


When installing or removing a graphics card, handle it only by its edges, not by its connectors or components.

Things You'll Need

Graphics card
Small, non-magnetic screwdriver (either regular or Phillips-head, depending on how the screws are slotted)
Anti-static wrist strap (optional)
Rubber mat or clean, non-static cloth (optional)