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Six Steps To A New Video Card

On most work computers, the video card does relatively little to render word processing software or customer databases. However, professional gamers, video editors, and photographers all need far more powerful graphics rendering solutions. Installing the latest version of Photoshop or Vegas Pro to complete your daily work will backfire if your system simply doesn’t have a graphics card that can support those programs. If you are ready to upgrade to the best graphics card within your budget, learn about the necessary steps to avoid mistakes and frustration.


Even Beginners Can Do It


Unlike motherboard replacements, video card upgrades are relatively easy. If you feel comfortable adding or removing RAM upgrades, you can definitely handle your own installation. Even if you have never opened your case, you should be able to do it with the right guide. However, the ease of the process greatly depends on your ability to choose a card that will work with your system. Many users struggle unnecessarily when attempting to upgrade video cards because they simply don’t take the time to pick a model that matches their computer. Grabbing a card at random from your local electronics dealer will only leave you confused and could potentially damage your system. Most of the newest models don’t have Windows XP drivers available, so you may have to settle for a high end model from a few years ago if you aren’t willing to change your operating system.


Step One – Finding The Right Equipment


Your first step in upgrading your video card should involve plenty of research. Start by consulting your owner’s manual for your computer, or check with the manufacturer’s website for the specifications of the system. You need to find out what type of expansion slots and bays your computer has for accepting graphics cards. A desktop could have PCI, PCI-e, AGP, or PCI-e2.0 ports that all accept various types of video cards. There is no reason to buy an AGP card for a system that only has PCI ports.


Step Two – Comparing The Options


Check the requirements for a computer power supply as well when considering cards. If your favorite model lists that it needs 800 watts and your laptop only has a 300 watt computer power supply, you are headed for trouble. Once you have ruled out power requirements and port incompatibilities, head to a video card comparison website to see which models are worth the money. You should be able to enter the games or programs you want to run and receive a list of devices tested to work with them. This is a crucial step when you are investing in a graphics card upgrade specifically for a work project or a new game release. Reading through the reviews and benchmark tests should give you a good idea of the best graphics card for your needs.


Step Three – Opening The Case


Once you have made your purchase and your card has arrived, it is time to begin the actual upgrading process. This begins with the opening of the computer case. Each laptop and desktop has a different configuration of screws, clips, and other fasteners that should be removed in a specific order. Try searching for your computer’s model name and the words “open the case” to find video and photo tutorials. Many manufacturers, like Dell and Gateway, produce these tutorials themselves and keep them available as part of their customer support service. You will likely need a flathead and Phillips head screwdriver, a small dish to hold the fasteners, and a soft place to set the computer as you work on it. You may also need a hex head Allen wrench or other specialty tools to access your computer’s innards. Be sure to disconnect your computer from all power supplies before opening one screw, and consider using an anti shock wristband every time you work on the interior of the system.


Step Four – Removing Existing Cards


Most users choose to remove their old graphics card and insert the new one in the same slot. However, many computers have integrated graphics cards that are a part of the motherboard. In this case, it is perfectly fine to leave it in place and use an empty slot instead. You can also arrange to use more than one graphics card at once with the right drivers, or disable the older card through the Device Manager after installation is complete. This step is optional, but it will provide the best results for most users.


Step Five – Start It Up


Close up the case after you are sure that your new video card is properly seated in its corresponding port. Follow the opening instructions in reverse, ensuring that each fastener goes in without too much tightening. You need to be able to get the case open again right away if you have issues during start up.


When the case is closed, reconnect the power supply and turn the system on. The new graphics card should be recognized as soon as Windows XP is finished loading. If it isn’t, head to the Device Manager and look for issues there before opening the case again and re-seating the card.


Step Six – Install Your Drivers


Insert the disk provided by the video card manufacturer to immediately start the final step of installation. Video card drivers are often updated multiple times after release, but the first version should at least get the card working properly enough that you can connect to the Internet for updates. If there was a known issue with your system configuration, you may need to retrieve the fixed driver files with another computer to complete your work.


If you have another graphics card installed that you didn’t remove, you should be able to use that card until the new device is properly recognized. Switching to the newer model is as simple as visiting the Device Manager and disabling the old or weaker card. A full restart may be needed in order to let the other card become the primary device.

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