How to Install a Graphics Card

Whether brand new or a replacement, these are your basic steps

If you want to play advanced games or handle graphics-heavy information, consider upgrading the graphics card in your PC. The graphics processing unit (or GPU) allows your computer to run complicated software. Many modern games require a decent GPU to play the games the way they're meant to be seen.

Here's how to install a graphics card in a PC.

What to Do Before You Start

Before you address the new video card, here are a few other things you should keep in mind and take care of when upgrading:

  • PC off: Power down your PC and unplug it before touching the internal hardware.
  • Power supply wattage: Make sure the PC's power supply can handle the power-hungry graphics card. The general rule to follow is the power supply is graded at twice as much power as the graphics card consumes. If a GPU says it runs at 200 watts, the power supply should be able to handle at least 400 watts.

If the power supply can't support the new GPU, installing the new card without upgrading the power supply could cause your computer (including the new GPU) to short-circuit, causing damage to the PC.

  • Helpful tools: You should probably invest in an anti-static bracelet, and you'll need a Phillips-head screwdriver.
  • GPU drivers: Uninstall the old GPU drivers on your computer. How you do this varies depending on the make of the GPU. Most GPUs (including Nvidia and AMD) have programs you can run to take care of this.

When you install the new GPU drivers, it will most likely prompt you to uninstall the old ones. Uninstalling the old one beforehand helps things run a bit smoother.

  • Remove the old GPU: You may also need to remove the old graphics card if there is one. It's hooked into a slot on the motherboard, and you may need to unscrew it from the retention bracket, keeping it anchored to the PC before removing it from the motherboard. This screw is outside of the case, where you usually plug the monitor into the graphics card.

How to Install a Graphics Card

After you remove the old GPU (if necessary), it's time to install the new one. Put on your anti-static bracelet, and unplug your PC.

  1. Remove the side panel of the PC case. There are usually a few screws on the top or bottom securing it, but sometimes the panels slide off.

  2. Find the PCI-e slot on the motherboard. It shouldn't be hard to identify because it's the only place a graphics card will fit. Push the card into this slot until the security connectors click into place.

  3. Screw the rear bracket into place, which keeps the card from moving around as you plug things into the different ports.

  4. Connect any power cables the graphics card requires. The cables connect directly to the power supply.

  5. Screw the side panel back onto the PC case.

  6. Connect the monitor to the graphics card through the open ports on the back of the PC case. The connection might be through an HDMI cable, a DVI cable, a VGA cable, or some other connection. Most monitors (and GPUs) have several options available.

  7. After you reboot the PC with the new card installed, install the new drivers to make sure the computer operating system can communicate with it effectively. Running games before installing the drivers may result in frustration and computer crashes.

    If you bought the card new, there should be software or instructions included on how to install the new drivers. Otherwise, go to the website for the card and find the instructions for how to install those drivers.

  8. After the graphics card and drivers are installed, restart the PC to give everything a chance to get locked in.

    Many GPU companies have software that keeps the drivers updated and alerts you of any issues with the card.