How to install the graphics card

Not every system needs a dedicated graphics card (discrete GPU), but if you’re building a gaming PC, it’s a necessity.

Intel processors mostly come with integrated graphics, so if you’re not gaming, you don’t need a separate graphics card. Look out for processors with an “F” at the end, though — they don’t include integrated graphics.getintopc

Step 1: Modern graphics cards use a PCI-Express (PCIe) x16 slot. It’s a long, thin connector located on the rear of the motherboard, below the processor. For the vast majority of motherboards, you’ll want to use the top PCIe x16 slot.

To seat the card in that slot, you’ll need to remove one, two, or, in some cases, three rectangular backplates from your case. It’s one of many thin metal brackets lined down the back of the case to keep it sealed up. Do this by removing the screw(s) that secures the backplate(s) to the chassis. Once removed, the plate should slide (or fall) out freely.

Keep the screw, as you’ll need it in a moment.

Step 2: Grab your graphics card and, making sure the ports are aligned to the rear of the case and the PCIExpress connector is facing down, carefully slot it into the motherboard. You should hear a click when the motherboard locks it into place, but that’s not always the case on every motherboard.

You don’t need excessive force, so if you encounter a great deal of resistance, take another look at the backplate and PCIe slot to make sure both are clear and the motherboard is properly aligned. Also take note if there is a pushpin that locks the card in like your memory slots, as some motherboards use it as a safety measure.

Step 3: Use the screws pulled from the metal brackets to fasten the back of the card into the same spot in the case. Again, they don’t need to be extremely tight — just enough to hold the card firmly in place.

Step 4: Most graphics cards need more power than the PCIe slot provides. If your card needs extra juice, you’ll see one, two, or even three PCIe power connectors on the card’s side facing away from the motherboard or, in some cases, on the top of the card. This can be a traditional six- or eight-pin PCIe power connector or a new mini 12- or 16-pin design for new Nvidia GPUs.

Find the appropriate connector on your power supply, sometimes labeled VGA, and slot it in. The connector’s design prevents improper installation, so if the connection isn’t easy, double-check your alignment to make sure it’s correct. If your PSU doesn’t have the required native connectors, you may need to use an adapter, which should have come with your graphics card.

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How to install expansion cards

Graphics cards aren’t the only components that use PCIe slots. Other add-in cards include wireless networking, sound, video capture, and even storage. Their installation is no different than adding a discrete GPU.

There are a few different types of PCIe slots. Many expansion cards use the “PCIe 4x” slot, which is much shorter than the full PCIe slot used by video cards. A quick check of your motherboard’s connectivity, and the size of the connector on your card, will make it obvious which slot is appropriate. If in doubt, refer to the expansion card’s manual.

Step 1: Remove the metal bracket at the back of the case that corresponds with the PCIe or other expansion slot playing host to your add-in card. Keep the bracket screw handy so you can use it to secure your new card.

Step 2: Line up the row of contacts on the card with the slot and firmly push down. If the card requires any additional power from SATA or four-pin Molex connectors, find the right cables and plug them into the card.

Step 3: Secure the card in place by screwing it into the back of the case.

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