Whether you’re building a brand new gaming PC from scratch or simply upgrading your GPU to improve your frames per second and in-game graphics, you need to know how to install a graphics card. While it may seem daunting, installing a graphics card is like using electronic Lego. As long as you can comfortably open your computer, installing a GPU, along with upgrading your RAM, is one of the easier upgrades you can do.
Before it begins
If you need to remove an old graphics card before installing your new one, the first thing to do is to uninstall your old graphics card drivers. If you’re running Windows 10, press Windows key + I to go the settings Menu, then choose Apps. Use the search function to find AMD or Nvidia display drivers. Select them, then choose Uninstall. Wait for the process to complete and then shut down your PC.
Step 1: Remove the old graphics card
If you have an old graphics card in your PC, you’ll need to remove it before you can install the new one. If you’re starting from scratch, move on to the next step.
You should first remove the power cords, if any. Located at the end of the card, they usually have a push pin that you need to apply pressure to release.
Next, you’ll need to remove the screws that secure it to the PCI Express backplate. Use your fingers (if thumbscrews) or a screwdriver to remove these and set them aside as we will need them when installing the new GPU.
The final step is to release the clip mechanism that most motherboards use to hold a card in place. It is located under the card at the end of the PCIe slot. Take a close look if you can as some need to be pushed while others need to be pulled aside. If you can’t see it because your card is in the way, make yourself comfortable and determine how touching it can be resolved. When in doubt, check your motherboard online to get a good idea of what it looks like.
After releasing it, carefully lift the card out of the PCIe slot. Sometimes a card can get stuck on the PCIe backplane due to the design of the case. So don’t worry about the card wobbling a little to reveal it.
When removing the card, be sure to place it on a non-conductive surface. Ideally, put it in an anti-static bag.
Step 2: Remove the PCI Express backplate (s).
You cannot install a new graphics card without first making space on the PCIe carrier plate. If you’ve removed your old graphics card first, there’s a good chance there is already plenty of room in there. However, if you haven’t – or if your new GPU is larger than the last one – you may need to remove an additional backplate or two as well.
Take a look at your next graphics card and even point it over the PCIe slot you want to install it into (you want the PCIe 16x slot). This is usually the top slot on the board (if you’re not sure, check your motherboard’s manual or an online resource). Find out how many PCI Express slots you need and use your fingers or a screwdriver to remove the number of PCI Express backplates required.
Keep them in a safe place as you never know if you might need them again in the future. While most case manufacturers have removable PCIe panels, some require you to pop out the back. If you have such a case, gently rock the back plate back and forth to break the part off. You can’t put these back on, so make sure you pull the correct ones.
Step 3: Insert the new card
With plenty of room for your new graphics card, it’s time to actually install it. The process is relatively simple, but depending on the size of your PC case and whether your other components are obstructing you at all, it can be a bit cumbersome. Regardless of this, plug your graphics card into the PCIe slot. You may need to step in at a slight angle to make sure that the I / O plate on the back of the card fits properly into the PCIe back plate. Make sure the PCIe clip is open before installing the card.
The most important step to remember is that it doesn’t take a lot of force to install. Be firm but gentle. We recommend using the palm of your hand just above where the card will be inserted into the PCIe slot. Gently wrap your fingers around the cooler with the palm of your hand on the edge of the card, focusing the pressure on your palm.
If you find it is not plugged in, take it out and see if something is blocking the PCIe slot. You should hear the clip at the end of the PCIe slot when it’s installed. However, this may not be the case with every motherboard.
When you are happy with the installation, tighten the backplate screws to hold it in place. If necessary, you can easily slide the card into its slot to better angle the screws. However, do not put any pressure on the card here. There is just enough wobble space for a few millimeters on either side of the screw hole.
Step 4: Connect the power cables
Find the correct cables for the job – it could be one or two six- or eight-pin PCIe power connectors. Make sure you have the correct ones as using the wrong power cord can damage your components. Most power supplies use a 6 + 2 plug (see picture above). If your graphics card requires an eight-pin power supply, use the small tap on the two-pin connector to align it with the six-pin connector before connecting it. In most cases, the clip on the connector should point to the side of the graphics card with the cooler.
When you’re sure, plug them into the appropriate slots on the end of your new GPU. You should hear them snap into place, but you can confirm they are fully engaged by gently pulling them. They shouldn’t move when connected properly.
Step 5: test it out
The moment of truth for any PC hardware change – see if it works. Double check that you did everything correctly before reassembling your entire PC and plugging everything in, plugging in the power cord, your keyboard and mouse, and a single monitor video cable. Then turn on your PC and see if you can get a picture. If so, congratulations! You have installed a new graphics card. Proceed to the next step.
If you don’t see a picture, don’t fret, there may be a simple explanation.
Your first step should be to check that the power cords are plugged in. If this is the case and the card is definitely receiving power (fans spinning, lights are on), repeat the steps above. Remove the card and reinsert it in the slot to make sure it is definitely seated properly. Also check the connection between your monitor and the graphics card. Make sure the cable is plugged in properly at both ends.
If that doesn’t work, you can try resetting the CMOS / BIOS. It’s also worth checking that your power supply is powerful enough to handle your new graphics card as well. RealHardTechX is a great resource for that.
You can try moving the card to a different PCIe slot. However, read your motherboard manual first. Some motherboards have multiple 16x slots. Although you should always use the top slot, you can try another one if you don’t get a signal. However, first read your motherboard’s manual first.
Step 6: Install New Drivers
Once you get to the desktop, some new drivers need to be installed. If you haven’t already, uninstall the ones from your old graphics card. We’d even recommend using a utility like Display Driver Uninstaller to be extra thorough. Then restart your system.
Depending on your graphics card brand, download the latest drivers from the Nvidia or AMD website and run the installer. When it’s finished, restart your system and you’re good to go.