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How To Upgrade Your Video Card

Step-by-step instructions for a safe video card upgrade

Your PC's video card plays a major role in system performance. The video card has to process the video information produced by the CPU (as dictated by the software you're running) and send it to the monitor for display.

If the video card isn't capable of efficiently working with your software, the result is a substantial performance hit. If you use your computer mainly for surfing the web, word processing, spreadsheets, etc., your current video card is probably fine.

If, on the other hand, you play fast-action games or work with lots of photos, videos, or imaging, you need a video card with some muscle.

If you decide to upgrade your video card, here is the recommended video card upgrade procedure:

  1. Decide which video card is best for your needs. There are a couple of things to consider when choosing a new video card:
    • Choose a video card that is compatible with your PC. If it has an open PCI-Express slot (or if your old video card is already in a PCI-Express slot), buy an AGP video card. Otherwise you'll have to get either an AGP or PCI video card (whichever your system can support).
    • Check the documentation that came with your computer or motherboard to
      determine the most up-to-date video card that your system can handle.
  2. Buy a video card with as much video memory as you can afford since more memory translates into faster performance.
  3. After you have decided on a specific video card and purchased it, the first thing you need to do before installing it is create a system Restore Point if you're running Windows ME, XP or Windows 7 (Windows Help can show you how to do this).
  4. Remove the old video card's driver. You can do this from within the Display applet of the Control Panel.
  5. Shut down the system, remove the monitor cable from the existing video card, and remove the cover of the PC.
  6. Attach an anti-static wrist-strap between your wrist and the power supply before touching anything inside the computer chassis. This is perhaps the most important step in the entire procedure.
  7. Remove the old video card from the PC. (Skip this step if the current video card is integrated onto the motherboard). 
  8. Install the new video card in an empty expansion slot.
  9. Replace the cover and attach the monitor cable to the new video card.
  10. Turn on the computer and wait for Windows to load.
  11. Install the driver for the new video card according to the instructions that came with it.

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