Every PC gamer’s favourite upgrade option is the graphics card. We can’t help ourselves in the quest for more power in our gaming rigs, and what better way to get it than splashing out on a new GPU.
First things first you’re going to want to check your power supply (PSU) to see if you’ve got enough voltage running through to get your new beast chugging along. Opening up your case following the instructions in the earlier CPU guide and you should see a pretty large box-like fan blowing out the back of your PC. Check the small-print on the side and it should tell you its total continuous power.
Power draw from GPUs is much more efficient than it once was when it peaked around the Nvidia GTX 8800 days, so if you’re sporting a 500W and up PSU you’ll generally be okay. If you’re not sure then the tools here should help to give you an indication of your PCs power draw.
Now you’ll need to see how much physical space you’ve got in your PC. Beware that some small form factor PCs will obviously struggle to fit some of the larger more powerful graphics cards in.
It’s time for the fun part now, choosing your GPU. If its power draw is going to push your PSU to the max then that’s obviously worth upgrading at the same time.
Now that your monstrous new graphics card has arrived you should be aware that your PC will have existing software known as drivers, that are for your old GPU. These drivers are programs used to get your GPU to run smoothly with all the other hardware in the rig. Normally you will find that by replacing your GPU and then powering your PC back up, your operating system will detect a driver conflict (as there are no drivers now for the newly installed GPU) and then suggest that it should find and load in new drivers for your new GPU. This will be done automatically, as your OS will install the basic drivers to get things looking normal again. If the drivers are not working properly then the desktop will be the wrong screen resolution size and other visible cues will be present. If this auto update does not happen then you may have to uninstall all of the graphics drivers manually to prevent the conflicts. This is beyond the reach of this particular guide though, but it could be as simple as going to the add/remove programs tab in your control panel. But proceed with care, as you do not want to do any unknown damage.
Physically the graphics card only needs to be disconnected from a few items, before you can replace it with your new GPU. These items are the chassis (case), the monitor(s), the power supply unit and the motherboard.
Turn Off Your Power Supply And Unplug It From The Wall
Next open up your PC (again as per the instructions linked above) and find your current graphics card nestled inside. You will also see cables linking your old GPU to your power supply. Unplug those as shown in the image to the left.
Disconnect any monitor cables from the back of your graphics card. The monitor cables will be plugged into the back of the GPU and possibly held in place with screws that should be easily unscrewed with your fingers.
To remove the card from the case you should see that it will have one or two screws keeping it in place to your PC case/chassis. Unscrew them. You may need a screw driver for this. Once you have unscrewed these, remember to support the GPU with your hand so as not to put undue strain on the motherboard, which the GPU will still be plugged into. Some graphics cards are relatively heavy. The final thing is to disconnect from the motherboard - Look for the little connecting lever. You will need to push it to completely release the graphics card from the motherboard. The lever will usually be found on the far right side of where the graphics card slots into the motherboard or towards the top of the graphics card slot. Look at it closely to check if it is a push or pull lever before forcing it to release. If its a push then push it down firmly, until you see it release the graphics card. And then the GPU should come away.
Get your new card out of its anti- static bag and slide it into the now empty PCI slot, pushing it down firmly yet gently until its completely seated in the slot. Make sure the motherboard lever has popped back into place. Screw the motherboard back into the case. Reattach the monitor cables. Then its time to juice the new GPU up, connecting the power supply to the graphics card. Pop everything back together and job done.
Boot up your PC and visit the Device Manager in the control to check its recognised, then go grab the latest drivers from your graphics hardware manufacturer and install them. Now, finally, it’s time for the fun to begin, enjoy your beefed up games!
What's been your latest GPU upgrade?
And do you have any tips you can also share with people below that we may have missed out?