How to Upgrade a Graphics Card

A graphics card upgrade will keep your rig gaming for years to come

This article explains how to upgrade your graphics card and how to know if you can upgrade it.

Can You Put a New Graphics Card in an Old Computer?

Here's how to upgrade a graphics card and give new life to your gaming PC.

If you're going to be working inside your computer, it's always a good idea to use a ground-strap or some other method to discharge any electric current build up in your body. Ground yourself in some way, because even a small 'shock' can damage some internal PC parts.

  1. Turn off your computer and disconnect it from power. Remove all wired connections and move the PC to a clean, stable, flat workspace with good lighting.

  2. Open your computer's case.

  3. Disconnect the PCI-e power connectors from the existing graphics card.

    A photo showing a graphics card's PCIe power connector being disconnected

  4. Remove the old graphics card from its PCI-e slot.

    Most graphics cards are secured by a screw that holds the rear of the card to the back of the case and a lever found on the PCI-e slot itself. Remove the screw and press the lever, then gently remove the card.

    Pre-built PCs from large manufacturers, like Dell and HP, often include extra support for the graphics card. Refer to your PC's manual for instructions on removing these supports.

    A photo of the PCIe slot lever which is used to secure a graphics card

  5. Install the upgraded graphics card in the PCI-e slot. The card should engage in the slot such that you can't remove it without depressing the slot's lever. Install the screw securing the card's rear with the back of the case and reinstall any additional brackets or supports you removed.

    A photo of a graphics card installed in a computer

  6. Connect your power supply's PCI-e connectors to the upgraded graphics card.

    A photo of PCIe power connectors plugged in to a graphics card

  7. Close your computer's case and return it to where you normally use it. Reconnect power and all wired peripherals.

    Double-check all power and peripheral connections. A loose or disconnected wire is the most common cause of installation issues.

  8. Start your PC and install the appropriate drivers.

    Modern video cards don't come with drivers in the box. You should download and install drivers from the company that makes the GPU on your upgraded graphics card, which, in almost all cases, will be AMD or Nvidia.

What to Know Before Buying a Graphics Card Upgrade

You should verify a graphics card upgrade is compatible with your computer before you make a purchase. Here's what to consider before you get started.

  • Will the upgrade physically fit inside your computer? Measure the interior of your PC and compare it to the dimensions of the graphics card you want.
  • Does your PC have a compatible PCI-e x16 slot? Most PCs with a graphics card installed have this slot, but it's important to verify by opening your PC.
  • Can your PC's power supply handle a graphics card upgrade? All graphics cards will list a minimum recommended power supply wattage. The wattage of your PC's power supply is on its label.
  • Does your PC's power supply have the required power connectors? Modern graphics cards use one or more PCI-e power connectors listed in the card's specifications.

As the saying goes, "measure twice, cut once." Double-check these points. There's nothing worse than discovering your new graphics card isn't compatible with your PC. Graphics cards are especially prone to this because of their size and power requirements.

Troubleshooting Graphics Card Issues

If your PC is now working with the upgraded graphics card installed, you're finished. Enjoy the new card's power!

Should you encounter problems, however, these fixes could resolve the issue.

  • Make sure the video card is connected to the power supply and evenly seated in the PCI-e slot.
  • Double-check that you've connected your PC to power.
  • Verify you've connected the monitor to the video card.
  • Try a different video connection or video cord. If using an adapter, try swapping it for another adapter.
  • Check your monitor has the correct video input selected.

Are you still having an issue? Please read our guide to troubleshooting a computer that turns on but doesn't display video.

  • How do you upgrade a graphics card in a laptop?

    Generally, laptop graphics cards are soldered onto the motherboard and aren't designed to be removed and upgraded. So, the best way to upgrade is to either buy a completely new laptop with a better card or buy an external graphics card that connects to the laptop via a cable.

  • How can you see what graphics card you have?

    On Windows 10, open Device Manager and look under Display Adapters. On a Mac, open the Apple menu and select About This Mac. It will give an overview of your computer's specs, including the GPU.

  • What is the best graphics card?

    Lifewire recommends the Nvidia RTX 3080 or the MSI GeForce RTX 2080 overall. A good "budget" pick is the Sapphire RX580.

  • How do you update your graphics card?

    The easiest way to update your graphics card drivers is via the manufacturer's software. For example, Nvidia owners can use the GeForce Experience app to download and install patches, while AMD owners can use Radeon Software.

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