Upgrading Graphics/PCI Cards
It is critical that you ensure, before you buy any add-on card, that not only does your motherboard support the connector used by the card (-e.g. PCI, PCIex16, PCIex4, etc) but also that you have a free socket of that type available!
If you have a suitable socket but it is already occupied, then you need to consider if you can do without the existing card in favour of your new card
If you have a suitable socket but it is already occupied, then you need to consider if you can do without the existing card in favour of your new card. If the new card is a just an uprated version of the existing one (-e.g. faster graphics card, better RAID support) then a straight swap makes perfect sense. If the boards have different functions, then you need to decide which one(s) you can do without before you begin.
If you cannot identify the slot types by opening the case and examining the slots or cards, then it is best to search for your PC product/motherboard number using a search engine to try and see if you can find the original specifications. If your PC is relatively new this should work but the older the PC, the less likely the specs will still be available.
The removal of a PCI/PCIe card is straightforward: the only complication is ensuring the module or computer is not inadvertently damaged by static electricity:
Before starting work, deploy anti-static controls and ensure the power is off
Prepare an anti-static bag or box to place the old card in once it is removed (-to avoid static damage)
Remove the access panel(s) from your computer case: these are located on either side of the case and will either be secured with screws or thumbwheels
At the back of the case, you should a number of blanking plates and/or where any ports for installed cards project through the rear of the case. Each card is secured to the back panel here - normally by a screw but sometimes via some other sort of screwless mechanism. Locate the securing screw/device for the card that you want to remove and unscrew/release it. This should allow the rear of the card to become loose.
The photo below shows the back of a tower case, showing six blanking plates and a single card installed in the second slot (-with two USB ports):
Back, inside the case, grasp the card by the edges (-as you would a CD/DVD) and pull it upwards (-perpendicular to the motherboard) and out of the case
Place the removed card in the anti-static bag or box prepared earlier
Repeat the above steps for any other card that requires removal
Installing a new card is simply the reverse of the removal process:
Before starting work, deploy anti-static controls
Remove the access panel(s) from your computer case if not already done: these are located on either side of the case and will either be secured with screws or thumbwheels
Locate a free slot for the card in the motherboard. In the photo below, three types of slot are shown which are (-from top to bottom):
- PCI Express (PCIe) x1 (dark blue, top left)
- PCI Express (PCIe) x16 (dark blue, middle)
- PCI (light blue, bottom)
If necessary, remove the blanking plate for the slot from the rear panel (-usually by removing a screw on one side of the case)
Remove the new card from it's packing; holding it by it's edges (-like you would a CD/DVD), insert it in the desired slot on the motherboard. Ensure the notch in the connector lines up with that in the socket before proceeding -and that the ports line up with a blanking plate at the rear of the case. If you cannot match the notch to the socket, then the card is for a different type of connector (-e.g. you are trying to insert a PCI card into a PCIe slot, etc)
Place your fingers on the top edge of the card and push down towards the motherboard reasonably firmly: the card should slide home fully. Do not apply excessive force here: if you are having to push hard then verify that the notch in the connector is correctly aligned with the ridge of the socket. The photo below shows a card correctly seated in an PCIe 2.0 x16 slot:
Screw in or secure the port end of the card to the rear of the case chassis, using the screw/mechanism originally used to secure the (removed) blanking plate
Some high-power graphics cards require a PCI power connector from the PSU to be attached to the card, as the connection to the motherboard does not provide enough Watts. If this is the case, look for a spare one of these (-a black, square, 4 pin one - normally marked "PCI-E") in the tangle of spare PSU wires -and connect it to the matching socket on the card
Repeat the above steps for any additional card that requires fitting
Refit the access panel(s) to your computer case
Often, you will need to install one or more drivers in order for the new card to talk to the computer. These are normally supplied on a CD/DVD, but if this is missing, you can always download the latest ones from the card manufacturer's website.
Commonly, manufacturers assume you will be running Windows and will not supply a Linux alternative on any CD. However, suitable Linux drivers can usually be found on the Web using a Search Engine without too much trouble -normally on the manufacturer's or your Linux Distro's site.
The good thing about using the more heavyweight Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, is that they will generally detect any new hardware (-such as PCI cards) and pick a generic driver suitable for accessing it. Normally, this is sufficient for most users: for those who demand optimum performance, specialized drivers can normally be located via the Update Manager or, manually, via a search engine.