HOW TO UPGRADE YOUR VIDEO CARD
nVidia GTS 450 Video Card
QUICK LINKS TO WEB SITE CONTENTS
- PCIe Technology– technical information about PCIe video card versions, video card connectors, and motherboard card slots
- Criteria– how to define what you want in a video card in terms that match key video card selection criteria and how to identify what cards will work with your computer
- Non-Gaming Video Card Upgrades– inexpensive but top rated video card upgrades for general use, such as using office applications, browsing the internet, viewing movies, operating HTPC systems, and playing low intensity games
- Gaming Graphics Card Upgrades– tools for a more intensive comparison of graphics card capabilities and guide to selecting the top rated video card upgrade for gaming
- Reviews – Online sources for detailed video card reviews, tests, benchmarks, and video card comparisons done by reputable experts
- Brands and Vendors– guides to selecting the best brands and vendors for a video card upgrade
- Install – "How to" instructions for replacing and installing a video card
- AMD/ATI vs. nVidia Video Cards - a description of the two companies that design all video cards and discussion of the differences between them
Upgrading a video card is relatively easy, although some computer users approach a video card upgrade with hesitation because it is done infrequently. This site helps by providing information, guides and links for selecting a video card upgrade and installing it.
- To find specific information, you can use the Quick Guide and navigation bar above to jump to the pages of greatest interest.
- To gain a more general and thorough knowledge about video cards upgrades, you might proceed through the pages in order.
- To first become more familiar with relevant video card terms and concepts, just continue down this page.
VIDEO CARD PRIMER - UPGRADING A VIDEO CARD
- Separate component added to a personal computer to upgrade video or graphics processing capacity.
- “Video card” and “graphics card” are synonymous terms.
- Video cards come with drivers (software to tell the operating system how to work with the video card
GPU (graphics processing unit)
- Specialized circuit that accelerates the processing of visual images for transmission to a display or monitor.
- Required part of every PC and the core component of video cards.
- While “GPU” actually refers to the specialized circuit or chip containing it, many people use “GPU” to refer to a video card.
- Main computer circuit board inside a PC that interconnects the data pathways of all hardware components.
- The CPU, memory, and video card all fit into respective slots on the motherboard.
- To do a upgrade a video card, the motherboard must have a PCIe video card slot which most, but not all, motherboards have
Video options on different motherboards
- “Integrated graphics” or “onboard video” - a GPU soldered directly to the motherboard, or
- Video card slot for a separate or “discrete” video card with the GPU on the card, or
- Both integrated video and a slot for a video card to upgrade video processing capacity
Selecting video options on a motherboard with integrated video and a video card slot
- The “BIOS”, or basic input/output system, is computer code built into the motherboard to enable it to set up the hardware in the computer and start the operating system.
- The BIOS default or initial setting is to use the integrated video.
- When a discrete video card upgrade is added:
- Some motherboards will automatically change the setting to operate from the discrete video card.
- For others, the user must go into the BIOS control panel and select an optional setting to use the upgrade video card (most motherboard manuals provide instructions for how to make this change in the BIOS).
Combined GPU and CPU
- Both Intel and AMD have CPU models that combine the GPU with the processor, essentially taking the integrated graphics from the motherboard.
- Since the largest data sharing on a computer generally occurs between the CPU and the GPU, this decreases the length of the data path and has the potential to speed up processing.
- This provides a performance advantage, and generally a lower cost, over integrated graphics on the motherboard.
- However it severely limits the size of the GPU and the practical performance of most combined units compared to a similar system upgraded with a discrete video card.
- Most but not all configurations allow for upgrading with a discrete video card.
Video Monitor or Display Resolution
- A pixel is the smallest unit of color a monitor can display.
- Video monitor resolutions are expressed in terms of the number of pixels a monitor can display in each of its two dimensions – height and width.
- Resolutions typically come in a finite number of standard resolutions, varying generally from 800x600 to 1920x1200, with some larger resolutions now available for larger monitors. By convention, the width resolution is always listed first.
- Monitors typically have settings that allow it to show different resolutions, with one identified as the native or recommended setting at which the monitor performs best.
- The range of settings a monitor can show is dependent on its size and fabrication.
- As resolutions and the number of pixels increase, the demands placed on a video card increase, making the resolution, rather than actual screen dimensions, the important statistic when evaluating video card performance and considering a video card upgrade.
Video Card Slots
- Older motherboards had slower PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) and AGP (Accelerated Graphics Processing) slots for upgrading video cards. Video cards designed for those slots are not compatible with the new PCIe (PCI Express) slots and vice versa.
- Modern motherboards have PCIe slots with versions ranging from 1.0 to 3.0.
- For more information on PCIe versions, slots, cards, and compatibility, and about upgrading PCIe video cards, see PCIe cards.
- Many modern motherboards with PCIe slots also have PCI slots. However those are intended primarily for non-video cards and PCI cards should not be used when upgrading a video card.
Multiple Video Cards
- Some motherboards have multiple slots to enable upgrading to more than one video card.
- The two card designers, nVidia and AMD/ATI, have different names for running multiple versions of their cards in tandem:
- SLI (scalable link interface) is the brand used by nVidia
- Crossfire is the brand used by AMD/ATI
- Motherboards, depending on model, may support either SLI or Crossfire, both, or neither.
- Running two cards in SLI or Crossfire can increase the performance from 50% to 100% over a single card of the same model, depending on the particular card used and the game played.
- SLI and Crossfire have little effect on applications that don’t tax the performance of a single video card.
The Two Video Card Designers
- Only two companies, nVidia and ATI provide the reference designs and GPU chips for essentially all mainstream video cards produced today.
- The brands or manufacturers mostly follow the reference design, sometimes changing the cooling methods or providing factory overclocked models.
- For more information, see nVidia and AMD/ATI.