How to upgrade your desktop PC’s graphics card

How to upgrade your desktop PC’s graphics card

You can’t upgrade the graphics on your laptop, but you can replace your desktop PC’s graphics card

Upgrading your graphics card can improve your PC’s performance in a number of ways, but you’ll notice it most when watching or editing HD video and playing games.

Once you’ve chosen a new graphics card, you’ll need to install it. It’s a relatively pain-free process. But if the idea of opening up your PC’s case to fit your new graphics card doesn’t appeal, you can always take advantage of KNOWHOW’s Hardware Install & Check service instead, for a fuss-free upgrade.

If you’re happy to install it yourself, however, our step-by-step guide will make sure you don’t get stuck. 

Note: if you purchased an Advent desktop PC with Windows 8 pre-installed, please click here for further information on upgrading your graphics card before you follow this article.

1. Choose your card carefully

Having picked out a new graphics card, make sure it will physically fit inside your computer’s case before you buy – some newer cards are longer than standard, so check the length on the manufacturer’s website (under specifications). Next, measure the inside of your case where the card will go, just to be sure, and to check that it won’t block existing cables or ports on your computer’s motherboard. Finally, check the power requirements of your new card against your existing power supply (you can check inside the case for a rating in watts if you don’t already know it).

2. Remove existing graphics driver

Before you start, make sure you’ve created recovery discs and updated your backup . Type ‘restore’ into the Start menu’s Search box and click ‘Create a restore point’ under Control Panel. Next, check you have the driver CD provided with your new graphics card, or visit the manufacturer’s website to download the latest version from there.

Once done, click ‘Start’, type ‘Programs’ and click ‘Programs and Features’ under Control Panel. Locate the existing graphics driver in the list – look for an entry beginning NVIDIA, ATI, AMD or Intel. Select it, click ‘Uninstall’ or ‘Change’ and follow the prompts to remove the driver – make sure you only remove the graphics driver if a choice of drivers is presented. Once removed, shut down your PC.

3. Remove the old card

We recommend leaving your PC plugged into the wall, but switched off at the socket, to provide an earth. Touch a bare metal part of the case to earth yourself, then open up the case. If the monitor cable is connected to a card that’s plugged into the motherboard you’ll need to remove it.

Start by unplugging the monitor cable and any cables connecting the card to your motherboard. Next, remove any screws connecting the graphics card bracket to the case. Then look for a latch at the rear of the card’s base that might be holding it in place. Unhook it if necessary.

Finally, carefully pull the card out of its slot and away from the case. If space is tight, you may have to remove other components first. Make a note of what you do so you can replace them once you have fitted the new graphics card.

4. Locate the correct slot

If you’re replacing an existing card, simply plug it into the slot left by the old card. If you’re upgrading from integrated graphics to a dedicated card, you’ll need to identify the correct slot – it’ll be a long, thin blue or yellow slot called a PCI-Express (or PCI-E) slot. If there’s more than one, use the slot marked PCIE-X16 on the motherboard.

5. Fit new card

Press the new card gently, but firmly, into the PCI-E slot. If there’s a latch, it should click into place when the card is fitted correctly. Attach any power cables to the motherboard, making sure they don’t interfere with any cooling fans, then secure the card’s bracket to the case with a screw. Finally, plug the monitor cable into the correct port on the new graphics card. Carefully place the cover back over your PC. The fitting process is complete.

6. Power up and set up

Switch on your PC’s power. You should see the screen appear, indicating the graphics card has been recognised. Windows should boot normally, and your new graphics card should be detected. Don’t panic if the screen appears rather large and cramped ­–­ this will improve once the drivers are installed.

You may find Windows is able to locate and install the required drivers automatically. If not, insert the driver CD or run the setup file you downloaded to install the drivers manually. Once done, reboot when prompted, to complete the installation.