1. Determine Your Needs (pg.2)
1. HDCP (pg.2)
2. RAMDAC (pg.2-3)
3. Analog Resolution (pg.3)
4. GDDR (pg.3)
5. PCI-E (pg.3-4)
6. Core Clock (pg.4)
7. Boost Clock (pg.4-5)
8. Overclocking (pg.5)
III. Ports (Connectivity)
1. HDMI (pg.5)
2. DVI (I/D) (pg.6)
3. Display Port (pg.6)
1. Description (pg.5-6)
2. SLI (pg.6)
3. Crossfire (pg.6-7)
V. Installation Procedure
1. Current GPU Determination (pg.9)
2. Device Manager (pg.10)
3. Display Adapter(s) (pg.11)
4. Uninstallation of Current GPU (If Necessary) (pg.12)
5. Clean Installation Procedure (pg.12)
6. Power Disconnection (pg.12)
7. Proper Grounding Techniques (pg.13)
8. Removal of Old Graphics Card (pg.13)
9. Installation of New Graphics Card (pg.14)
10. BIOS Setup (pg.15)
11. Reboot Procedure (pg.15)
12. Accessing Multi-GPU Controls (pg.16)
13. Enabling Multi-GPU Settings (pg.17)
14. Completion (pg.17)
Hello all, if you are reading this then you are looking for information about installing a modern day graphics card into your system. I thought it would be good to also include descriptions of some of the more technical terminology associated with graphics cards today for everyone’s benefit. I will cover some of this before introducing you to the step-by-step process involved for installation.
1. First and foremost it is imperative to have an understanding of what you want to achieve with a new graphics card. Are you looking to play graphic intensive games, are you focused on something simply to play your HD movies, or possibly a little video encoding? There are many processes that can be performed on your graphics card and the previous scenarios are just a few out of many. You will need to decide for yourself what your main use of the graphics card will be before deciding on a specific model.
There are a few basic terms, and some advanced, that you will benefit from learning. Some of these you may have heard of while looking at certain GPU’s or from web sites that review computer components. Whether or not you know what they mean you may have a grasp on how they relate to each other.
1. The first term I’d like to start with is HDCP. This stands for High bandwidth Digital Content Protection. In essence this refers to a security measure put in place to eliminate any possibility of intercepting digital data between the source and display. This is normally only an issue where HDTV’s are involved. If you have an HDTV currently and are thinking of using it as a display for your computer then make sure your TV is compatible with this HDCP technology or it will not display an image to that TV. This is due to a specific key being shared between the two devices, television and graphics card, which has to be authenticated for data transmission to take place.
2. Next we have RAMDAC. This stands for Random Access Memory Digital-to-Analog Converter. Yet another string of terms in their own right placed together to convey a simple process. This serves to a combination of three fast DACs (Digital-to-Analog Converters) with a small SRAM (Static Random Access Memory) used in computer graphics display adapters to store the color palette as well as generate the analog signals used to drive a color monitor. All GPU’s seen on the market today share a similar RAMDAC frequency of 400MHz which is the current standard. Not to be confused with GDDR frequencies. One specification to note is that DAC’s can have many different Analog Resolutions.
3. An Analog Resolution relates to how the digital signal is divided into ranges of either analog voltages or currents. This information is hardly ever provided about the graphics card’s DAC’s and shouldn’t be a large determining factor in choosing a card though knowing the differences can help. How Analog Resolutions work is there will be a number of bits specified by the manufacturer of the DAC. That number of bits determines the resolution. Let’s say the manufacturer states that the DAC’s are 4 bit (Analog Resolution) and have a range of 0 to +10V (Analog Voltage). To determine the divisions of your Analog Resolution you would take 2^4, which equals 16, then take your range of 10 and divide it by 16 which informs you that your divisions are every 0.625V; Meaning that the digital signal coming in will be divided into 16 ranges with each range totaling 0.625V. The higher the Analog Resolution the more accurate your RAMDAC performs.
4. GDDR can also be labeled as the more expansive acronym GDDRSDRAM. The last three letters indicate to you that it is Random Access Memory. This should allude, to you, as to what it does as part of the GPU. In all it stands for Graphics Double Data Rate Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. Now that’s a mouthful. All you need to know about it is that it is not dissimilar from your system RAM found on your motherboard; instead it handles data for the GPU specifically. Higher end graphics solutions now support GDDR5, meaning the 5th revision of the GDDR model. This allows your graphics card to better comprehend and process data compared to the previous versions. This is known as your Memory Type.
5. Now we get to our next term that deals with how your graphics card will connect to your motherboard. This interconnectivity is known as the PCI-E slot. For a long time now (at least 6 years to date, 9/10/2012) the way computer builders have chosen to connect their graphics cards along with many other devices is by this slot. It stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. There have been five different versions to come to market during that time. We are currently on version 3.0. I know, I said five versions, well we started with what is called version 1.0a. From this we went to version 1.1, though no enhancements were made to increase the data rate. Then came version 2.0 which provided us with double the data rate of its predecessor along with improvements to its software architecture and more. This was fully backwards compatible with the previous versions. After this was version 2.1, I like to consider this a prelude to version 3.0 but lacking many of the advantages. A thing to note about PCI-E 2.1 is that it is not fully backwards compatible with versions 1.0a/1.1 as extra power supported by the slot provided us with this issue. On to the current version, 3.0; a great enhancement to data rate bumping it up another 60% and allows for much faster encoding of data. The next generation, no pun intended, comes to us in the form of version 4.0 which has yet to be released (9/10/12). Full details on its enhancements are yet unknown but speculation has rumored another doubling of the data rate from version 3.0 as well as greater power optimizations.
6. Core Clock is another term found on just about every graphics card out to date. This simply refers to the clock speed of the cores residing in the GPU. You can compare clock speeds between similar cards such as the NVidia 600 series lineup as they are all of the same processor architecture but you cannot compare them to dissimilar architectures such as from AMD’s Radeon lineup as they will not yield similar results due to their inability to process information in the same manner. The Core Clock is vital to your GPU functioning properly. This clock sets the rate at which the waveform cycles, telling the other components how to operate. Scientists have been able to measure time as accurately as 10-18 or 1 quintillionth of a second. This helps to keep your Core Clock speed accurate over years of continuous use. A quick tip: To determine the period of your GPU’s Core Clock take the frequency given and invert it. So if your GPU states it has a 400MHz core clock speed then to figure out the cycle time you would take 1/400,000,000; giving you a single cycle period of 2.5nS (Nano Seconds) or 2.5 x 10-9.
7. Boost Clock is a recent addition to the terminology attached to graphics cards. What this means is that it takes the Core Clock we previously spoke of and “overclocks” it to a higher speed therefore providing you with greater performance in stressful applications (typically PC games). It is very important to note that many graphics cards come from the manufacturer with this enabled and if you end up overclocking you can run into problems with the Boost Clock speed being too high for the voltage being supplied to the card and can easily cause a blue screen of death (BSOD), increased temperatures, and overall instability.
8. Overclocking is a wonderful way to achieve greater performance with *no additional cost*. With the correct software, mainly MSI Afterburner for NVidia graphics cards, you can easily increase the clock speeds of your GPU with a click of a mouse button. Know this; when and if you choose to overclock your graphics card pay close attention to the idle temperatures, 100% load temperatures, and all in-between. Also never overclock your graphics card to the extreme (I normally say over 100MHz) without thinking about increasing the voltage to the card. Even then you have to be very careful in incrementally step up both the clock speed and the voltage so as to not make your graphics card inoperable. *If done improperly this can and will effectively make your graphics card an expensive paper weight. Always seek advice or research before attempting to overclock anything.
There are many different connections that can be made between your graphics card and a display such as a monitor/TV/projector/etc. There are three standards that are widely used today. These three are: HDMI, DVI both I and D, and Display Port.
1. HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface. Many of you may know this from your home’s HDTV. It is a great way to transfer uncompressed data from your computer to a display. It will transfer audio to your TV as well as video. They can be used for viewing 3D images/movies through supporting devices with version 1.4a or higher in most cases. Another good thing to note is that NVidia’s 3D Vision is only supported on a limited number of displays with this connection. Most 3D Vision displays utilize a DVI-D connection/cable to support the 3D feature.
2. DVI (I/D) – This has been and continues to be a standard connection for high definition monitors. There are two main types of DVI connections; Integrated and Digital. DVI-D sends only digital signals to the displays and cannot process analog data. This is incremental when using a DVI to VGA adapter as it will not work across the DVI-D port and you will have to use the DVI-I port to do this. DVI-I will allow you to send both digital and analog signals through the same connection, thus how it supports the VGA adapter.
3. Display Port – Another digital display connection. While other connections can allow only one display per interconnect a Display Port allows multiple displays to be interlinked. A great tool for anywhere you want to have more than one display and not have multiple cables for each.
I received many replies asking me to cover SLI and Crossfire configuration, so here we go. I will provide some detailed information about this here, the setup instructions have been added to the installation steps for reference.
Well, what is it? Both SLI and Crossfire are terms created to describe the utilization of multiple graphics cards, interlinked, in a single computer to boost the performance of graphic intensive programs. NVidia coined the term SLI and ATI/AMD coined the term Crossfire. Even though they are effectively describing the same thing there are differences between them and sometimes downfalls to using graphics cards in this manner. The first very important detail to note is that while you are using multiple graphics cards this does not mean your frame rates will double. The performance provided by the extra card(s) installed in your computer isn’t perfectly linear and sometimes they’re downright non-existent. This is due to how each game/software has been programmed. If the game/software was programmed with multi-GPU capabilities in mind then that specific software has the ability to utilize the extra performance provided. The other side of that coin is if the software company didn’t take multi-GPU into account then there is a good possibility that all other graphics cards beside the primary will not be used at all to displace the processing load. The only way to know for sure is to go to the software manufacturer’s website and check or give them a call. If you want to know if a game supports multi-GPU utilization then you can check either NVidia’s or AMD/ATI’s websites as they provide an up-to-date list of all supported game titles and possibly some supported software.
1. SLI – NVidia’s version of multi-GPU interlinking
a. Currently only able to be used with two or more of the same graphics card model. If you purchase an NVidia 660ti and you want to upgrade to SLI then you are required to purchase another 660ti for SLI to work. Don’t confuse this with PhysX requirements. With PhysX you can use any graphics card that has an SLI port on the top of the card to connect to your primary card but it will only be used to displace the processing load of rendering PhysX aspects of games and not the bulk of the processes associated with running a game. Meaning you can hook up an old 8800GTS type graphics card to your newer 660ti for rendering PhysX in games and this could provide you with slightly increased performance by freeing up resources on your primary card.
b. Also requires at least one SLI “Bridge”. This is the small, flat cable linking your two or more graphics cards together.
c. Can drastically increase frame rates in “SLI supported” games.
d. Some NVidia graphics cards support up to 4 cards in SLI.
e. Know that by adding additional graphics cards to your computer you will have increased its total power requirements as well as it creates excess heat that will need to be dissipated.
2. Crossfire – AMD/ATI’s multi-GPU solution
a. Can be used with different graphics card models as long as it supports crossfire and is an ATI card. Meaning you can have an ATI 7950 in crossfire with an ATI 7870 with full utilization of both graphics cards.
b. Requires at least one “Crossfire Bridge”. This is the small, flat cable linking your two or more graphics cards together.
c. Can drastically increase frame rates in “Crossfire supported” games.
d. Know that by adding additional graphics cards to your computer you will have increased its total power requirements as well as it creates excess heat that will need to be dissipated.
V. Installation of Your Graphics Card
Finally the time has come to discuss the procedures involved in upgrading/installing your new graphics card. Now that you are equipped with some of the standard terminology you should be able to correctly analyze and determine which graphics card would fit your needs. Once you purchase it what do you do? Well besides bragging about it to all your geeky friends you need to install it into your system. As long as you follow the steps I am providing then your installation should be smooth and painless. From this point I will assume you are running a Windows operating system versions Vista 32/64-bit or 7 32/64-bit. If you need this information for an older OS then let me know and alter this where needed. After selecting your desired graphics card make sure to visit the manufactures web site for the latest drivers. This is a necessity for you installation to work.
1. The first step in any upgrade is to determine what is currently installed in your system. You can do this by holding down the Windows key on your keyboard and pushing the Pause/Break button. This key combination will take you to a screen that looks like this next image.
2. From here click on Device Manager. You should now have a window that looks like this next image.
3. Single click on the Display adapters tab. I’ve highlighted where it specifies what your current graphics solution is below.
If you have something listed as the Intel® HD Graphics 4000 or similar then your current graphics solution is built into your processor or is permanently attached to your motherboard (If this relates to you then go skip to step 7). If you have something similar to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660Ti as stated above then you have a dedicated graphics card already installed in your computer and it will require you to uninstall it prior to installing your new GPU (If this relates to you then go to step 5).
4. Un-installation of current graphics card drivers. From the Device Manager window right click on your graphics card. Select the option “uninstall”. You should get a window that looks like this next image.
5. Click the static button to select “Delete the driver software for this device”. This will allow a clean installation of the new graphics cards driver software. Now shut down your computer as it is time to physically uninstall the old graphics card to make way for your new one.
6. After your computer is completely shut down remove the power cable from the back of your computer, located at your power supply. Also flip the switch located directly above the cable.
7. After successfully removing the power cable from the computer proceed to press the power button located on the front of your case. This is done to expel any left over power still in the system. Once this is completed the go ahead and remove any other cables from your system so you can turn it on its side. It’s good to place the computer on a non conductive surface if at all possible. The worst thing you can do now is shock your components with static electricity as it can easily peak at over 1kV (1000 Volts). That is plenty of static discharge to damage your computer’s internal components. So doing this on carpet is not suggested. If you have access to a wrist ground strap then by all means wear it. It will dissipate/reduce the static charge built up on your body through moving with clothes on (yes you build up static just from this, normally it’s not in volatile amounts to us but to components it’s a bad nightmare). If you don’t have access to a ground strap, and I’m assuming most of you don’t, then be sure to hold/touch one side of your computer case as you pull out your old graphics card so as to not cause harm to it or anything else. Touching the side of your case will help to dissipate the static buildup through your case and not your components.
8. Take a Phillips head screwdriver and undo the screws holding your current card down. See Below. Be sure to remove any power cables going directly to your graphics card. If you have no current graphics card then skip this step.
9. Take your new graphics card(s) and install it back into one of the PCI-E slots on the motherboard making sure not to apply to much downward pressure as this can over stress the motherboard and can dissect the traces located in the layers of the PCB (Printed Circuit Board, your motherboard). You should hear and feel it click into place when it is seeded properly. Make sure you connect any extra power cables required for your new graphics card. See image below.
10. From here you can put the side back on your case and place it back in its normal location. It is ready to be hooked back up to all your cables. Make sure to push the button on the power supply once again, allowing it to flow power to the computer. After reinstalling all the cables go ahead and start up your computer. Right after you push the power button on your computer press the delete button a multitude of times until a blue screen comes up. This is called the system BIOS. This stands for Basic Input Output System. This is where you can change how your hardware communicates with your motherboard. You will need to find the section that allows you to change your PCI-E connection settings. Normally located in the North Bridge Configuration location. Change your “Primary Graphics Adapter to PCI Express. Leave everything else alone. See below image. Go to “Save and Exit” under the Exit tab. This will allow your computer to restart, implementing any changes you just made.
11. Now Windows will boot and after you log in it should run the found device wizard. Close this as it will inhibit your driver installation from proceeding. Go to the location on your hard drive where you saved your graphics driver at and run it. Your screen should flicker and your resolution might change. After this is installed correctly reboot your system.
You now have your new graphics card installed and setup without paying someone else ridiculous amounts of money to do it. Enjoy! If you have multiple graphics cards installed continue onto step 12.
12. From the desktop, right click and scroll down to NVidia Control Panel if it’s an NVidia graphics card or click on CCC (Catalyst Control Center) if it’s an AMD/ATI graphics card. It should look similar to this next image.
Once you click on that you should get a window that looks like this next image:
13. Click the static button to enable the “Maximize 3D performance” feature under SLI configuration, which really just enables SLI.
For those of you with AMD/ATI cards it will look something like this:
Make sure to check “Enable CrossFireX” and apply the settings.
14. After the multi-GPU settings have been enabled you may be asked to restart your computer. Other than that you are DONE! Go tear up some enemies and have fun with your advanced graphic solution!