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How To Install a Video Card in Your Computer

One of the easier things you can do to make your PC run games, graphics editors, and movies better is to upgrade your video card.  PCs with Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 should have beefier video cards in order to support the Aero interface.

Deciding what type of video card to purchase and install can be a daunting proposition, so let’s see if this article can help make upgrading your video card a smooth little project.

Step 1: Decide What Type of Video Card You Want

The first step is to decide what video card you want, which is based on what you are going to do with it. A video card for gaming purposes will be powerful, power hungry, and noisier than a video card for a media PC hooked up to your T.V. A video card for gaming should probably have at least 256 megs of RAM and contain a NVidia GeForce or ATI Radeon chipset.

The next step is to find out what type of video card your PC will support.  Two main areas of concern here are video card interface and power requirements. The most prevalent video card interface on PCs today is called PCI Express x16, or PCIe. Some PCs may have an older interface standard called Accelerated Graphics Port, or AGP. Your PC manual should be able to tell you what kind of video card interface your PC contains.

The next thing that might be a concern is your PC’s power supply. If you are going to add a new separate video card to your PC when you didn’t have one before, you should have at least a 250 watt power supply (as a broad, general rule.) A tool such as the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator Lite v2.5 can help you calculate close to the exact power supply needed, provided you can fill in all the PC hardware specifications as accurately as possible.

Finally, you need to choose the type of video card you want. As was mentioned earlier, you will need to choose between a video card that has an NVidia GeForce chipset or an ATI Radeon chipset. If you have a target price range in mind, Tom’s Hardware Guide has a recent article called “Best Graphics Cards For The Money” that will help guide your decision.

Step 2: Purchase the Video Card

I recommend that you check out my recent post, How To Find the Best Gadget Deals Online, to find the best price on the video card you are looking for. If just want to buy the video card without agonizing over the price, I recommend the online retailers Newegg or ZipZoomFly.

Step 3: Install the Video Card

Once you get the video card in hand, it is time to install it.  A good thing to do is to first read your PC or motherboard manual to get the manufacturer’s recommended steps for installation.

Barring any nuances that your PC might have, here is the play-by-play for installing your new video card:

1. Go in the Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, and uninstall the drivers for your current video card. Depending on what you currently have installed, the drivers might be called something like Intel Graphics, ATI Catalyst, or NVidia.

2. Next, turn off your PC by going to Start, and selecting “Shut Down.”  Do not select Restart, Sleep, or Hibernate, as the PC needs to be in a true shut down state.

3. Open up your PC case.  Some PC cases have screws that have to be removed, and others just have latches that have to be unfastened.

How To Install a Video Card in Your Computer4. Locate your current video card.  You may have to move some other computer components out of the way first.  Note how things were before you move them around.  You may even want to take some pictures along the way in order to review.

5. Remove old video card, if necessary.  To do this, remove any screws or connectors holding the video card in (usually located near where the end of the metal plate of the video card, and near the slot where the video card plugs in.)

How To Install a Video Card in Your Computer6. Insert the new video card. You will need to line up the notches in the video card with the large bumps in the video card socket.  Press evenly and firmly near each end of the video card until it fits snugly in place.

How To Install a Video Card in Your Computer7. Now hook up any power connectors to the back of the video card. Some video cards will have one, two, or none, depending on how powerful the video cards are and how much cooling they require.

How To Install a Video Card in Your Computer

How To Install a Video Card in Your Computer8. Boot up your PC.  You may see some BIOS messages noting that the video card has changed.  Don’t worry about the messages unless there is an error.

If for some reason your PC will not boot up, note any error messages, remove the new video card, and put the old video card back in the PC (if you removed one.) Search for the error(s) in the support sections on the web site of your PC or motherboard manufacturer, or search for the error message on Google to find out how to resolve it.

9. Now insert the CD or DVD with the new video card drivers. Run the install process requested by Windows. Just follow all the prompts.

10. If you’ve made it this far without any errors, then “Rejoice!”

Hopefully this post has helped you upgrade the video card in your PC.  Don’t hesitate to comment if you need any help or can suggest how to make this post better.

(By) JP Thompson sometimes blogs at his own blog disRupTions.  You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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