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Out with the Old, In with the New

The process of upgrading your graphics card has the following major steps; these are covered in detail in the following sections:

  1. Remove the old card and its drivers or disabling onboard video.

  2. Install the new graphics card.

  3. Install its drivers.

  4. Configure the new graphics card.

Removing the Old Card

Before you open your system, take the electrostatic discharge (ESD) precautions described in Chapter 5, "Preparing for Your Upgrade." ESD can fry your expensive new video card, making it useless, so be careful.

MarkÕs Tip Sheet: Shortcuts to Video Upgrade Success

Want to make your video card upgrade as easy and painless as possible? Try these tips:

  • Before you shut down your system to start the upgrade process, set your video display type to plain old VGA. Why? Deep down inside, every whiz-bang video card on the market is still a VGA card. By telling the system you have a VGA card, you wonÕt get any error messages when you switch one brand for another.

  • If you forgot to take the preceding step and youÕre already booting up the system by the time you read this, press the Ctrl or F8 key and select Safe Mode from the Windows startup menu. Safe Mode runs the system with the usual VGA driver by default. Then, you can go into the Device Manager and delete the old video card from the device listing, restart your computer normally, and let it detect your new video card.

  • If youÕre replacing built-in video with a ÒrealÓ video card, make sure you follow the motherboard or system manufacturerÕs recommendations exactly. Some systems automatically disable onboard video the moment you pop a new video card into an open slot; others might require you to adjust a BIOS setting or jumper block on the motherboard. Do it wrong, and you might be without video when you restart.

  • It usually makes more sense today to install a dual-head video card. But, if you prefer to add a second video card for dual-display support, check your current video card and proposed second card against the compatibility lists available at:

Then, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, System, (Hardware tab in Windows XP), and click the Device Manager tab or button to open Windows' Device Manager. Then, select the existing video card and click Remove to take it off the list of installed devices.

  2. Shut down your system and monitor.

  3. Unplug your system and monitor.

  4. Look at the rear of your system and locate the video cable running from the monitor; it's a heavy cable separate from the power cable. Unscrew it from the retaining bolts and remove the cable from your video connector. See Figure 13.7.

  5. Figure 13.7Figure 13.7 Although both the parallel cable and VGA video cable have thumbscrews, the video cable is smaller. On systems with motherboard-based video, the VGA port is on the same rear panel as the parallel port.

  6. Open the system (see Chapter 4 for details).

  7. If you are not using an ESD ground wire, touch the side of the power supply to avoid ESD damage to your hardware.

  8. Remove the screw holding your video card in place.

  9. Label any cables running from your video card to other devices (such as a sound card or DVD decoding board) with a sticker, and then remove them.

  10. Gently rock the card forward, then back, and then out (not side to side). If you are replacing an AGP card on a motherboard with an AGP locking lever (see Figure 13.8), be sure to unlock the card before trying to remove the card.

  11. Figure 13.8Figure 13.8 An AGP card locked in place (top) and released for removal (bottom).

  12. Place the old card on anti-static material such as an ESD mat you might have purchased with your ESD wristband, or a newspaper. Don't use aluminum foil or the outside of a computer anti-static bag. If you have a spare anti-static parts bag, put the card inside the bag.

Installing the New Video Card and Driver Software

The installation of the new card is generally a mirror image of removing the old card. Any differences occur when you are:

  • Installing a new card in a system that previously used motherboard-based video.

  • Using a different slot for the new video card than the old one used.

Follow these steps to install your new card:

  1. If necessary, remove the slot cover behind the expansion slot you want to use for the new video card.

  2. Slide the video card straight down over the slot you plan to use.

  3. Make sure the card's connectors are aligned exactly with the slot connectors and that the rear bracket is between the rear edge of the motherboard and the case.

  4. Gently push the card into place with a slight front to back rocking motion. Push until the card's gold connectors are firmly inserted into the slot and the card bracket is firmly against the ledge at the back of the computer. See Figure 13.9.

  5. Figure 13.9Figure 13.9 A video card partly inserted into the slot (top) and fully inserted into the slot (bottom).

  6. Use the screw you removed during removal of the old card or in Step 1 to fasten the card into place.

  7. Make sure the card is tightly connected to the slot and the rear of the case.

  8. Reattach the video cable from the monitor to the proper connector at the rear of the case. If the new card uses a DVI-I connector and the monitor uses the standard 15-pin VGA connector, connect a DVI-I to VGA adapter, such as the one shown in Figure 13.4, to the DVI-I port. Then, attach the cable, as shown in Figure 13.10.

  9. Figure 13.10Figure 13.10 A DVI to VGA adapter (left) enables a dual- display video card to use two VGA-type monitors.

  10. Reattach the computer and monitor's power supplies to their power cables.

  11. Turn on the monitor.

  12. Turn on the computer.

  13. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing the video drivers when prompted.

Configuring Your New Video Card

After your video card is installed, use the Windows Display properties to fine-tune its settings. You will normally want to adjust the following settings:

  • Resolution

  • Color depth

  • Vertical refresh rate

To change these settings, use the Display properties sheet. To open it, you can do one of the following:

  • Right-click the desktop (not an icon) and select Properties; click the Settings tab.

  • Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and then Display; click the Settings tab.

For details, see the "Fine-Tuning Your New Display and Graphics Card" section in this chapter.

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