When it comes to upgrading your desktop PC there are very few hardware components that add as much value as a good graphics card. This can take a sluggishly performing PC with dedicated graphics and can turn it into a gaming rig that will be able to run the latest and greatest games. However, graphics cards are not only handy for the gamers out there, they are also extremely useful for video and photo editors who need that extra performance to quickly and effectively render their final images and video clips. Luckily for us there are no shortages of GPUs to choose from and no matter what your budget is, there will be a card for you.
Desktops That Can’t Be Upgraded
Not all PCs can be upgraded and this is due to the fact that they either rely on laptop-based hardware or they physically lack the slots on their mainboard that will allow them to accommodate a dedicated graphics card. If you have an All-in-One desktop PC then the bad news is that you will not be able to upgrade your GPU and will have to make do with the dedicated or integrated graphics that your PC has been configured with. There are less than a handful of gaming All-in-Ones that can be upgraded, however for their high prices you generally get beefy graphics as is and you shouldn’t worry too much about upgrading anytime soon. There might be some light at the end of the tunnel for some users, well at least those with a USB 3.1 Type-C port. There are external GPU enclosures on the market that will allow you to use a desktop graphics card with your USB Type-C supported All-in-One PC.
Choosing The Right Card
Now I don’t mean choosing the right card as in either NVIDIA or Radeon. What I mean is making sure that the card that you choose will fit into your case and that your motherboard has the correct slot. We recommend that you check the physical dimensions of the card that you want to purchase you will want to check that your case has enough available space to accommodate your new card. For those small form factor PCs, you will be glad to know that there are a great selection of low profile cards that will fit into most small cases. Lastly, you will want to check that your motherboard has the correct slot, the good news is that most motherboards these days feature the widely used PCIe 16x slot. If not, then you will have to purchase a PCI-based graphics card. However, they are generally less common and the cards are less powerful than their PCIe counterparts. We would rather recommend upgrading your PC if it still runs standard PCI.
Buying A Graphics Card
With so many graphics cards on the market, it can be quite a daunting task to choose a good upgrade. The names AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce should be known to most of you. If not then they are the leaders in dedicated GPUs and while they are the GPU chip manufacturers, they do not manufacture all of their own graphics cards. Instead you will find household names such as EVGA, ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte and Zotac graphics cards when you search Amazon or your local PC store. And, yes, there are performance differences between each of these different cards. The next step is to choose a card for your needs. We would all love the top of the range card in our PCs, however spending over $700 on a graphics card will not suit everyone’s budget. Luckily there are great budget friendly cards on the market that will suit your bank account. If you need a more powerful graphics card for work, then we recommend saving up and buying the card that you need instead of settling for a cheaper option.
Do You Have Enough Power?
This is a very important topic that needs to be covered and is a topic that is very often overlooked by many first time PC buyers and new comers to the world of gaming. Not all power supply units are the same and the wattage of your power supply is extremely important when upgrading your PC. All of the different graphics cards feature different wattages and this will mean that you will have to check your current power supply unit and the power requirements needed by the new card that you are looking at installing in your PC. If the wattage needed is too high for your PC then we recommend picking up a new power supply to avoid performance issues or damage to your hardware components. If you are not sure what power supply to order, then you can use an online calculator to work out if your current power supply will be enough to run your system after you upgrade.
The Actual Install
This is far easier than it sounds and can easily be done in the comfort of your home. The task will only require one tool, a Philips head screw driver. This will be to remove the case screws and to remove the retaining screw that will hold your graphics card in place. The first thing that you will want to do is to power off your PC and remove the power cord. The second step will be to remove the case screws and remove the side panel giving you access to the internals of your PC. If you have a dedicated graphics card pre-installed, then you will want to remove this carefully so as not to damage the mainboard or the connectors from your power supply unit. There will usually be a plastic tab at the end of the PCIe slot that you will have to push to release the back of the installed graphics card. Do not forcefully remove the card as this can lead to damage to your mainboard.
If your PCIe slot is ready to accept your new card, then the next step will be to simply insert your new graphics card into the slot and firmly push it into the slot, until the plastic locking tab clicks back into place. The next step will be to install the locking screw that will firmly fix your card to your case. This step is important as you want to avoid damaging your new card. The next step will only be relevant if you are installing a gaming graphics card. You will need to plug in the additional power connectors that are required for your new card, however, you might need an adapter if your current power supply does not feature the correct connectors. You can now put your side panel pack in place and plug in your PC back in. You can plug your monitor’s cable into your new graphics card and power up your system. Once your PC starts up, Windows should detect your new graphics card and depending on your version of Windows it will find suitable drivers online. However, we recommend going to either the AMD or NVIDIA website and downloading the latest available graphics driver for your new card. We only recommend using the drivers supplied by the manufacturer in the box if your PC does not have an internet connection.
Wrapping It Up
Now that your new card is installed, you can finally take it for a well-deserved test drive with your favorite games. As we have demonstrated in this article, installing a new graphics card is not as scary as tech specialists have made it seem in the past. If you are not comfortable undertaking this task, then we recommend that you rather use a professional service in your area to install your new card. Alternatively, if you are in the market for a gaming PC then you might want to have a look at our selection of high-end gaming PCs that come preinstalled with great graphics cards.