Well, you can upgrade most PCs to add that extra punch and efficiency in performing the required tasks. In most cases, gaming PCs are the usual candidates for such improvements. As such, one of the best ways of adding an extra punch to your gaming PC is through a GPU upgrade. Since upgrading your GPU is an easy task, let's look at how to install a graphics card into your PC.

Ideally, this guide will help you replace an old graphics card or, better still, install a new graphics card where there was none before. In particular, a new graphics card or an upgrade will prevent even the cheapest gaming PC from being choked by punishing visuals. Indeed, this process might be easy for professionals, but we're not dispelling first-time builders' possible fear and uncertainty. Therefore, here are installation instructions on upgrading your graphics card or adding this new hardware.

Considerations to Make Before Installation

New graphic card models sometimes come with attractive specs that make unnecessary upgrades tempting. Nonetheless, despite the very attractive specs, you need to be objective about your PC upgrades. Notably, a new graphics card isn't cheap, even for entry-level cards.

Even when sure you need a graphics upgrade, you might still be left with the dilemma of which is the best between Nvidia and AMD. Feel free to skip this step for those who have done their due diligence. Nonetheless, we want to ensure every builder can install a new graphics card without mishaps as you run the latest games.

Compatibility Check

First, start by identifying your existing graphics card. You can do this by opening the run field (Win + R) and searching for 'dxdiag'. A tab will appear, in which you will go to the display section and look for your graphics card name. Subsequently, you will have a point of reference as you compare it to the current models in the market.

Also, always go for new graphics cards that match your interests. Luckily, most cards are versatile to a range of functions. Overall, your compatibility check should consider the aspects of the motherboard, power supply (PSU) and computer's case.

1. Motherboard Compatibility

Fortunately, most of the current graphics cards in the market are PCI-E. So, you have to ensure there is a PCI express slot on your motherboard. Normally, this slot is located next to the processor. Alternatively, you can check the layout diagram in your motherboard's documentation to understand the location of PCI-e slots.

If your motherboard doesn't have any PCI-e slot, you may need to install a new motherboard before learning how to install a graphics card. Also, you might need to buy a new motherboard if the existing one doesn't support upgradability. If you have to replace the motherboard, you will have to reinstall the operating system. Eventually, ensure you get graphics cards that are compatible with your new mainboard.

2. Power Supply Compatibility

When seeking powerful graphic cards, you need to ensure your CPU's power supply is adequate. Worth noting, if you have many components drawing power or your PC has an old power supply, your PSU might not cut it. Therefore, upgrading your power supply as you install a new graphics card is a possibility.

If your new graphics card requires more power, you should consider revamping your power supply rather than reducing the power consumption by other components. Ideally, the more efficiency you seek from your PC, the more components run. Accordingly, you can know the power supply requirements by analyzing the existing hardware together with your new card.

3. Computer Case Space Compatibility

Having ensured that the unseen specs match your PC build, don't forget to check the physical size of your new card. Most modern graphics cards are fairly large, with many requiring two PCI slots. In line with their large size, some may be fairly long or wide, depending on the model.

Therefore, ensure your preferred card has an adequate horizontal and vertical clearance before buying it. To do so, you can check the measurement specs both in your CPU and the new GPU. If unsure of how to check the measurements, you can use a tape measure to be sure before purchase.

Balancing Between Efficiency and Price

Besides knowing how to install a graphics card, you should know they don't come any cheap. Not to say expensive is bad, but the most expensive GPUs are meant for serious overclocking, especially for users who target quad or dual configurations. So at a certain point, a graphics card that meets your needs is more than enough.

From this premise, you'll be able to optimize your spending without being over-ambitious. For instance, you can invest in the EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 6 GB KO GPU for high definition gaming. Moreover, check the suitability of your target card to your favourite games. Notwithstanding this balance, always ensure your spending guarantees you a sufficient number of game upgrades before requiring graphics upgrades.

Installation Process

Step 1: Uninstall Old Graphics Drivers. 

The best and recommended way of starting a new graphics card installation is by uninstalling the old drivers. Negligence on this part will probably lead to errors and new GPU driver incompatibility despite previous due diligence. You can quickly uninstall your drivers from the device manager window.

Under Device Manager, expand the Display Adapters menu. Then, right-click on the listed current display adapter and choose Uninstall. You will then follow the subsequent prompts for the uninstallation process. After uninstalling, you will notice your display will become low quality: blurry text and large icons, then power down your computer.

Alternatively, you can opt for Display Driver Uninstaller software to simplify this first step. Moreover, you should run this software in Safe Mode for optimal outcomes. Nonetheless, this alternative software isn't necessary if your new graphics card is from the same manufacturer as the existing one. Therefore, this alternative is essential while switching from AMD to NVIDIA or vice versa.

Step 2: Ground Yourself 

This step is paramount while working on sensitive PC components like upgrading your graphics card. In particular, your body can hold an electrostatic discharge that can damage components in the circuit boards when discharged. Accordingly, we recommend wearing an anti-static wrist strap attached to an external metal surface.

An Anti-Static Wrist Strap

Image Credit: glinkster.com

Alternatively, you ground yourself by standing on linoleum, tiles or a rubber mat when working on the internal computer parts. Also, you can occasionally touch a metallic frame like a water tap to discharge any static charge. Furthermore, always ensure that you don't open your PC on a carpet.

Most importantly, ensure your computer is unplugged from the power source before working on its internal components. In addition, have a bowl or a magnet to secure any rogue screws. After these precautions have been met, hold down the power button for 10-15 seconds to discharge the static, and you'll be set to remove the GPU.

Step 3: Remove the Old Graphics Card

This step might seem like a daunting task for a first-time builder since it requires opening the computer case. But, not to worry, it will be easy since we will detail every step you need to remove your existing card. First, identify the old card inserted in the AGP (for old computers) or PCI-e (modern PCs) slot on the mainboard. Also, most graphics cards will likely be the largest cards in your system, and they have fans and heatsinks.

In some cases, there might be no card to remove if your PC has integrated graphics. This feature means your monitor is directly connected to the motherboard. Even so, the higher probability is that you will find a card to remove from your CPU.

Next, remove your existing graphics card power connectors, which would be located at the card's end and have a push-pin for releasing. Proceed to loosen and remove the screws holding the retention bracket connected to the PCI Express backplate. Ensure you securely put the screws away since you'll need them while installing the new video card.

Finally, press to release the clips found on most motherboards to hold these cards in place. Alternatively, you can find clips that require pulling to the side. Avoid straining the PCI-e slot by letting your fingers explore the card's surroundings to know its clip mechanism. After the card is safely out, place it on a surface that cannot conduct electric charges or put it in an anti-static bag.

Step 4: Remove PCI Backplate(s)

After your old card is out, ensure there is space for the new graphics card in the PCIe backing plate. This precaution is particularly important when your new GPU is larger than the previous one. Accordingly, you might need to remove one or two extra backplates to create space.

To know whether you need more space, hold your new GPU over the PCIe slots. If you need more space, you can use a screwdriver or your fingers to remove the neighboring panel and the necessary PCIe backplates. Moreover, ensure you keep the removed backplates safely as you might need them in future. Fortunately, these plates are removable in most PCs.

In addition to creating space, this step will also help clean out any dust. You can use compressed air to gently clean dust from the PCI slot and other crevices on the mainboard. Any dust build-up can cause overheating, which can, in turn, damage your new card. Also, you can avoid overheating by using the best RGB case fans.

Step 5: Install the New Graphics Card

Installing a graphics card will be a straightforward process, having paved the way on your CPU. Primarily, you'll be installing your graphics card in the PCI-e slot. In some cases, this process might be intricate due to the size of the PC case and if there are components obstructing your view. Nonetheless, you'll need to apply a slight angle for the card's I/O plate at the back to fit correctly.

Furthermore, before installing your new card, ensure its PCIe clip is open to slot it smoothly. Remember, you shouldn't force your card to fit besides clipping it in position. At all times, we recommend applying pressure on the palm as a way of being firm but gentle.

You will know your new card slots in perfectly in place when you hear a click sound at the end of the PCIe slot. Nonetheless, this sound might not occur on every PC. So in case your new card isn't slotting in, you can check to see if there are any obstructions on the slots.

After the card is clipped in place, screw the backplate to firmly hold it in place. You can move the card slightly for a better view while screwing the plate in position to avoid obstructions. However, the room to shift isn't large for heavy wiggles, only a few millimetres on both sides. Even so, be gentle as you screw down the card to avoid damaging it even before you use it.

Step 6: Connect Power Cables

Most modern GPUs comes with power supply ports at the top back of the card. Also, reconnecting the power supply will require locating the right power cables. Ideally, most power supplies come with six-pin PCIe power connectors. However, if not careful, the wrong power connectors might end up damaging your hard-earned GPU.

Furthermore, you might need an adapter if your CPU has eight-pin connectors and your graphics card comes with a 12-pin connector. Fortunately, most GPUs come with adapters to avoid the hassle of changing the existing power connectors. However, if you don't connect your power supply right, your card will not function properly.

Therefore, you will know the connectors have slotted in perfectly by hearing a click sound. Also, you can tug them slightly to ensure they are well connected. Like other processes, you should be firm but gentle as you plug in the connectors. Luckily, any graphics card come with one correct orientation, reducing the fitting possibilities.

Nonetheless, some might struggle with these connections. In such cases, manage the cables better, so they don't get in the way and allow for more working room. Primarily, ensure that nothing obstructs the ports on the graphics card. Also, keeping your side panel off as you work on the connectors will ensure you have adequate room to fix the power cable.

Step 7: Power Back on Your PC

Before testing out the new graphics card installed on your PC, you need to double-check that everything is put back correctly. First, ensure all the power cables and hardware are correctly in place. Then power on your PC and see if it responds. If it does, you have put back everything correctly.

In some instances, your PC might not power up or show a picture, but this shouldn't worry you if you've taken every precaution. Normally, a lack of power might be caused by a missing power cable. As such, if you lack any signal on your monitor, be sure to check power cables and see if they're connected correctly. Also, this situation might require reseating your GPU properly on its PCIe slot.

You will know the power cables to your GPU are correctly in place when lights shine, and the fans spin. If it doesn't still give any signal, check if the graphics card is seated properly in its slot. If not, you can reseat it while ensuring the connections are right.

Another way of troubleshooting a failed response is by rechecking the compatibility of your new graphics card with the PSU and your slots. Accordingly, reread your PC's manual to ensure you aren't overloading the motherboard. If still there are no improvements, you can try to change the PCIe slot. Finally, in the worst-case scenario, you should seek the services of a professional to know where the problem lies.

Step 8: Install New Drivers

Remember, as we began on how to install a graphics card, we started with uninstalling all the drivers for the old graphics card. Now, install the new drivers for the newly installed GPU. Ideally, not mixing the drivers in the same PC will help with a fluid integration as you reap the maximum benefits of the new hardware.

One way to get the drivers is by downloading the latest drivers, either AMD or Nvidia, from their websites. Alternately, if your card came with a graphics driver disc, insert it and carry on with the setup process. Either way, restart(reboot) your system when the installation process is complete.

After rebooting, if your display is off, troubleshoot the installation process to ensure you did everything right. In some cases, your OS will need adjustments to color depth and optimal resolution due to the new card. Also, if the installation process is done correctly, you can try resetting the BIOS/CMOS for better resolution. Nonetheless, if the new graphics card is installed successfully and display aspects improve, you are now ready to tackle your favourite games.

Frequently Asked Question on How to Install a Graphics Card

1. Can you put a graphics card on any computer?

Yes, indeed. Fortunately, most modern PCs are flexible to hardware changes as you seek more processing power. All you need is to ensure your intended graphics card and CPU are compatible.

Image Credit: custom-build-computers.

About the Author Jack

Anton is the founder of 25pc. He is a huge gaming tech nerd and loves helping people save money. To find out more about him read his about me page.