What is a video card? It is a hardware expansion, to which a video output device (monitor) is connected. Also known as graphics accelerator, video adapter, or graphics card, its main job is to process, generate and send video or image signals to the monitor display. These days, video cards are equipped with added features like 3D acceleration, TV tuner adapter, multiple monitor connection ability, TV output, etc. Heavy graphic applications like 3D games require a computer to be equipped with a video card. Here's how you can install one in a desktop computer.
1. Select an Appropriate Card
The first and the most obvious step of installing a video card is to buy one. Make sure that you select a video card that not only suits the computer motherboard, but is also compatible with the monitor. You must select a video card that supports either of the two card slots - PCI-E x16 or AGP slot. As far as the monitor is concerned, make sure that the card you select has a video output, that's compatible with one of the monitor's inputs. Also ensure that the monitor supports all the video resolutions supported by the video card.
2. Get Rid of the Old One
Ignore this step if you are installing a new video card for the first time. Also, in case your motherboard has an on-board video card, it cannot be removed. You can only add a standalone card to it. In case you are replacing an old card with a new one, start by uninstalling the drivers of the old card.
A driver is nothing but a software program that facilitates the communication of an operating system and its hardware. Check for the latest version of the video driver on the Internet and make sure that you install the latest one. Now, remove the old video card by detaching all the connections to the motherboard. For an on-board card, just remove the monitor connection from the motherboard.
3. Installing a New Card
Take the new video card and line it up in the appropriate slot. To ensure that the card sticks in its place, press the card using both the thumbs, until you feel the card is fully seated and secured. Do not press the card too hard, as there's a risk of cracking the motherboard.
Now connect the card with the motherboard and the monitor. Simply use the cable removed from the old card and plug it into the new one. For connecting to the monitor, most video cards have multiple output ports on the back. Normally, a video card has a combination of Video Graphics Array (VGA) and Digital Visual Interconnect (DVI) output ports. Check for what your monitor supports and accordingly, make the connections.
5. BIOS Settings
If you have replaced a standalone card with a new one, you can skip this step. But, if your computer has an integrated video card and you are installing a PCI video card, then you may have to report the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to disable or give lower priority to the integrated hardware, so that the new card can be used to its full potential. Most computer manuals show how to modify the BIOS settings. Generally, you need to press the F2 or F8 key immediately after booting the computer.
6. Install the New Card Driver
Most operating systems will detect the new hardware immediately, but will ask you to install a driver software that is provided with the hardware itself. In some cases, if the software has not been provided, the OS provides an option to search for it on the Internet. Follow the driver installation wizard to get your video card working.
7. Personalize the Settings
The last thing left to do is to modify the factory settings, according to your taste and liking. Right-click on the desktop and select 'Properties' or 'Personalize', and use the screen resolution slider to adjust the resolution to a level that suits your monitor. Set the color quality to highest (32-bit) and click 'Apply'. The installation is complete and you are set to scale new heights with your video experience.
Installing a video card in a laptop is much more complex than doing it in a desktop. You need to completely remove the back panel, which puts the other delicate components inside, at risk of getting damaged. The basic process is similar to what is done in a desktop, it is only the hardware complexity that does not make it a do-it-yourself job.