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Installing a video card upgrade is the easy part of the upgrade process.  Selecting the right card for your own particular needs and budget from top rated video cards was the hard part.  Your card most likely came with simple directions to enable quickly installing the video card.  For those wanting additional guidance on installing a video card, written instructions are provided below followed by a YouTube video showing how it is done.  The video provides helpful guidance on installing a video card, but does not include all of the steps listed below.

Choose any of the items below if you would like to know more about it before you start installing a video card.

+   Alert about Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)

First a primer on ESD for those not familiar with the subject. As you know, the human body can build up an electrical charge that causes a small spark, or electrostatic discharge, when you touch a metal surface, like a doorknob. This is an ESD.  Even the small charge that results is enough to damage sensitive electrical circuits on computer components – both on the video card and on other components inside the computer. But there is no need to worry when installing a video card. By following a few simple steps and working with care, the likelihood of a problem is remote. To prevent ESD:

  1. Pick a work area that is not carpeted if possible.
  2. Touch a metal surface such as a doorknob or metal frame of the computer before starting to install a video card, and occasionally while working.
  3. Always hold the video card by the edges, avoiding direct contact with its electrical circuits and components.
  4. Wear an anti-static wrist strap connected to a grounding source such as the metal frame of the computer. This is optional but strongly recommended for those not accustomed to working on computers.  The strap is inexpensive and can usually be purchased wherever you purchase your video card.
  5. Don’t touch the other circuit boards inside the computer or any exposed electrical connections while installing a video card.
+   Video Card Drivers

Video cards have drivers or software that tells the operating system how to work with the card. The drivers also generally provide tools for configuring, or selecting and setting, card features.  Video cards normally come with a CD or DVD that contains the driver. However the card designers, nVidia for Geforce cards and AMD for Radeon cards, make frequent driver updates to fix bugs and improve performance, especially for new cards.  Thus the CD or DVD boxed with your card may not have the latest drivers.  While simply loading the driver provided with the card is the easiest way to go, it is better to download the latest driver from the website at nVidia or AMD when installing a video card. It is recommended that you downloard them ahead of time, before starting to install the video card.

Click to visit the AMD or nVidia site to select the latest driver for your graphics card. Download it to a place that has convenient access for later, usually to the desktop or a downloads folder, carefully noting the location for easy navigation later.

The AMD page also has separate videos on downloading, uninstalling, and installing drivers for AMD video cards.  The video on uninstalling drivers shows how to use their special uninstall tool.

It has long been recommended that you uninstall the old driver before turning off your computer to remove the graphics card. nVidia now recommends that if your old and new cards are both nVidia, you can install the new driver over the old. The driver installation program will automatically save the settings from the old card and apply them to the new one.

+   Changing from integrated video

If you are installing a video card in a computer currently using integrated video, check the Owner’s Manual to see if it automatically recognizes a video card or if the integrated video must first be disabled in the BIOS settings.  If the latter, follow the manual’s instructions for disabling integrated video.  If you don’t have a manual, you may be able to download one directly from the manufacturer.  Note: most manuals also have pictures or diagrams showing where to install the video card.

Step by Step Procedure for Installing a Video Card Upgrade

Double check before starting that you have:

  1. The new video card and the new driver, either one you downloaded or one on the installation CD or DVD that came with the upgrade card.
  2. Verified that your power supply unit is strong enough to handle the new upgrade video card, and, if a power cable is required, your PSU has an available connector of the right type to connect to the video card you are installing.
  3. A medium-sized Phillips screwdriver, which should be the only tool you need.

Removing Old Video Card Driver

Before turning off the computer, uninstall the old video card driver, unless your old and new cards are both from nVidia and you choose to install the new over the old as discussed above.  In which case, skip this section and go to “Preparation”.  If you have an AMD card, you might prefer to follow their video instructions for installing drivers that are linked above.

  1. Navigate to Device Manager – the path to get there is slightly different for different operating systems and settings, but it is generally through the sequence of Start/Settings/Control Panel.  Alternatively, you can right click on the “My Computer” icon and elect the Device Manager tab.
  2. Double click on “Display adapters” then the name of  the video card
  3. In the new window that pops up, select the “Driver” tab and then click the “Uninstall” button near the bottom.  Note that if the uninstall button is grey and cannot be clicked it means you don’t have the right privileges to make the change and need to log in as administrator.

You system will continue to operate using a standard driver provided by the operating system. However your graphics card will not have all the functionality that is provided by the driver made for the card nor use all the capabilities of the card until you install the appropriate driver.

Preparation for Installing Video Card

Man working on computer
  1. Select a good, stable work surface (such as a table, desk, or counter) that will allow you to lay the computer on its side, have easy work access, and ideally not require you to stand on a carpet while working.  If possible, select a location that is near enough to your computer’s regular location so that you can reconnect the power and monitor cables to test the system before closing it up again.
  2. Ensure the computer is turned off and disconnect the power cord.
  3. Disconnect the monitor from the back of the computer.
  4. Disconnect any other devices connected to the computer that would otherwise prevent you from taking the computer to the selected work surface.
  5. Lay the computer on its right side (right side when viewing computer from the front) on the work surface.
  6. Remove the retaining screws for the left panel (now on top). There should be just two or three short screws on the back (now the left side) of the computer that hold the panel.  Save the screws.
  7. Lift the panel off the computer, sliding it up and back a little if necessary.
  8. Be careful not to touch and exposed circuit boards or electrical connectors inside the computer while installing the video card.

Removing the Old Video Card

  1. pictlure showing video card over inside of computer case
    Connect your anti-static strap or ground yourself to protect the computer from ESD as described above.
  2. Locate the old video card.
  3. If the video card has a power cable running to it, disconnect the cable at the card, placing it over the side of the computer so it does not come in contact with interior components.
  4. Remove the screw from the bracket connecting the card to the case. If the computer has some alternative mounting bracket to hold the video card in place, release it.  If the computer does not have a video card, remove the bracket adjacent to the video slot you will be using.  In either case, save the screw to secure the new card.
  5. Check to see if your motherboard has a locking clip on the video card slot, which is usually on the edge away from the bracket.  If so, release the clip.
  6. Using two hands, grasp the card near the mounting bracket and opposite side and gently lift it straight up.  Hold the video card by the edges if possible, avoiding circuits and components on the card.  If necessary, alternate the pressure a little, pulling a little harder with the left and right hand, and rocking it out.  Do NOT apply pressure toward the top or bottom of the case.  Set the card on a safe, non-metallic surface.

Installing Video Card Upgrade

  1. Remove the new card from its anti-static bag, again being careful of ESD and holding the upgrade by its edges.
  2. Insert the upgrade video card, generally in the same slot as the old unless you have chosen to use another slot, aligning the card bracket with the case.  Apply gentle pressure straight down to seat the upgrade card.  If the motherboard has a locking mechanism, ensure that it is fully engaged.
  3. Insert and gently tighten the screw securing the bracket of the upgrade to the computer frame.
  4. If the upgrade requires a power cable, attach it to the connector on the top or back of the video card.  If necessary, see the information on the home page about power connectors. Make sure the power cable is clear of the CPU fan.
  5. Place the old video card in the anti-static bag that came with the new one.

Finishing Up the Installation

  1. woman showing thumbs up while working on computer
    Reinstall the side panel on the computer, replacing the screws in the back.
  2. Reconnect the power cord, monitor and any other cables that were disconnected at the start.
  3. Start up the computer.
  4.  When the system loads, the “Found New Hardware” wizard should pop up.  If you decided earlier to follow the easy path and load the drivers from the CD or DVD that came with the video card, then insert it now and when prompted for drivers, navigate to  the drivers on the CD or DVD and then finish running the wizard.  Alternatively, if you downloaded the current drivers, don’t use the wizard to install drivers, skip that section. Instead, after the wizard is finished, click on the download you saved.  It is a self contained program that automatically loads the drivers.
  5. Follow the video card’s instructions for configuring its settings.
  6. Congratulations - installing video card upgrade is complete.

Video on Installing Video Card

The video below shows the general process for installing a video card. Again note that it does not include all of the detailed steps for installing a video card listed above.

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