Upgrading your video card in your computer will improve overall graphics, loading speed, and lower the resource load while running applications or playing high end games.
The first thing you want to do is determine the type of video card currently in your computer. You can do this by looking it up in the manual that originally came with the computer, going to your computer manufacturer’s website to look up your computer specifics, or physically open your computer and remove the card.
TIP: If you remove the card, do so when the computer is powered down and unplugged from an electrical outlet.
If your computer has onboard/integrated shared video, there will be no card to remove, but it may still be able to be upgraded, I will address that in a later article.
The video card is very easy to locate in your computer, once you open it up, it’s the component that your display monitor is hooked up with. Disconnect the monitor cable, sometimes there’s a screw to take out or a clip, and simply pull firmly up and the card will pop out of the slot.
On the card there will be a label or two. It will tell you the make, model, and type of card that it is. You want your new card to match the same type. Or in other words, one compatible with that now empty slot in your computer.
Types of video cards:
PCI Express 8x and 16x
AGP 1x, 2x, 4x, and 8x
The above types of cards are all compatible with a different size slot, you cannot put a PCI card in an AGP slot and vice-versa.
The card, manual, or website will also list it’s memory amount on it. 32MB, 64MB, 128MB, and so on. When upgrading, go with a minimum of 256MB for your new card.
For the sake of this article, let’s just say you have an AGP 8x, 128MB video card.
Now that you determined the type of video card you have, let’s go shopping. The two main manufacturers of video processing chips are ATI and NVidia. I highly recommend buying a card with either one of those manufacturer’s chips on the card. Personally, I prefer ATI products, but that’s just me.
Now the price, how much should you spend? I know from experience, that buying cheap cards is not worth the trouble. Sometimes they don’t install correctly, nor does the software. If money is no object, go high-end for sure. I would say somewhere in the middle is probably a good bet. Gamers and graphics designers go for the high end cards for faster performance and high end graphics.
Ok, so you selected your card and purchased it. Now, let’s go home and install. I know, I know, you are very excited.
If you haven’t already removed your old video card, do so now following the directions above. I can’t possibly explain how to remove a card from every type of computer case, but it’s really pretty easy and usually quite obvious. Just handle everything with care. If you happen to drop a screw into the computer case, get it out carefully and NEVER USE A MAGNET, it will damage the computer.
Note: It’s not necessary to remove the software for your old video card beforehand, computers running Windows XP or above will know that you installed a new video card and will remove the old cards data automatically when the new card is in and detected. You may have some startup software that can be removed from the add/remove programs section in the control panel.
Now, line the new card up evenly with the appropriate slot, then push down firmly, but carefully until it’s fully seated and looks level. There may be a green clip on the computer’s main board, slide that towards the card until it clicks. Replace the screw or whatever item holds the card permanently in place, sometimes it’s a plastic clip.
Close the computer case, plug in the power cord and turn it on. As the computer comes up, it will detect the new video card and may install some generic software drivers to run the card. If it does, great. If not, insert the CD that came with the card, it will auto run for you and just go through the wizard that installs the software for your card.
Another option is to go to the manufacturer’s website, either ATI or Nvidia and download the latest software for the card you purchased. That will guarantee you have the newest software for your video card. Usually by the time the cards are sold, they have newer software out there anyway, it’s free, so go get it.