How To Install A Graphics Card (GPU) In Your PC Properly

Waiting for the GPU to arrive is very exciting, but that excitement often turns to anxiety once it’s time to install it, especially if you’ve never done it before. We’ve been there too.

Having said that, the actual installation process is very simple. You just connect the GPU to a PCIe slot on the motherboard.

People have more trouble selecting the right GPU to buy or fixing problems after the installation. As such, we’ll cover the entire process in this article.

GPU Compatibility

You must consider compatibility when purchasing any component for your system, but it’s especially important with graphics cards. Specifically,

  • Make sure the GPU will physically fit in your case. Higher-end graphics cards can be over 300mm long, so it’s important to take GPU clearance into account.
  • GPUs typically come in three sizes; single, double, and triple-slot. These refer to how many PCIe slots the GPU will cover. So, make sure the PCIe slots required for the GPU are available.
  • Similarly, computer cases come in various sizes. If you’re using compact ones like Micro ATX or Mini ITX, large-sized GPUs may not physically fit in the case or may overlap with other components. Check the dimensions of the GPU online to account for this.
  • Also, ensure the GPU is compatible with your PSU. Modern GPUs use 6-pin (75W), 8-pin (150W), or 12-pin (600W) connectors. First, the PSU must support the GPU’s pin connectors. 
  • Second, the PSU wattage should be high enough to handle the GPU’s requirements. Check the spec sheet on the manufacturer’s site or use tools like PCPartPicker for this.

Preliminary Steps

If you’re switching from an NVIDIA card to AMD or vice-versa, it’s good practice to uninstall the current drivers before installing the new card. You can use the driver uninstaller tool provided by the manufacturer, or simply use the control panel for this. If those don’t remove the drivers properly, you can try out third-party tools like DDU.

Also, please keep the following things in mind before starting with the hardware installation:

  • Periodically touch an unpainted metal surface (e.g, the chassis) or use anti-static equipment to ground yourself.
  • Store all the components securely. Smaller ones like screws are very easy to misplace.
  • Taking photos after each step will help you remember which cable or component goes where restoring everything later on.

Installing the Graphics Card

If you have an old GPU already installed, follow the steps listed directly below to remove it first. Otherwise, skip ahead to the next section to start installing the new GPU.

  1. Turn off your computer and unplug the power cable.
  2. Toggle off the PSU switch and hold the power button for around 10 seconds to drain any residual power.switch-off-psu
  3. Now take the case to a clean workspace. You can place it standing straight or lay it on its side as you prefer.
  4. Unscrew the bolts and remove the side cover. Some cases might use buttons instead, or have a sliding
  5. Press the lever and unplug the power cables from the GPU.gpu-power-connector
  6. Unscrew the metal bracket from the back panel.gpu-metal-bracket-screw
  7. Some motherboards use a lock mechanism to hold GPUs in place. Check if there’s a handle, lever, or something similar on or behind the PCIe slot. If it’s present, you’ll need to pull it back or press it in some cases, to release the GPU.
  8. Finally, unplug the GPU from the PCIe slot. Try not to touch the gold connectors when doing so. Grab the fan cover, metal bracket, or the edges of the PCB instead.insert-remove-gpu

Now, here are the steps to install the new graphics card:

  1. If necessary, follow Steps 1-4 from the prior section.
  2. Locate the PCIe slots on the motherboard. We’ll want to connect the GPU to the PCIex16 slot closest to the CPU for the best performance, so look for the PCIex16 label. If you’re unsure, refer to the motherboard manual to locate it.pciex16-slot-motherboard
  3. Look at the back panel now. Unscrew the PCIe slot covers adjacent to the slots the GPU will cover.pcie-slot-covers-chassis
  4. If the GPU has protective covers on the connectors, remove them.
  5. Align the connectors to the PCIe slot so that the metal bracket faces the back panel of the chassis. Unlock the PCIe slot if required.aligning-gpu-metal-bracket
  6. Gently push the card into the slot. If there’s a locking mechanism on the PCIe slot, press or pull it as appropriate to lock the GPU in place.
  7. Now, screw in the metal bracket on the back panel and ensure the GPU isn’t sagging when you’re done.gpu-ports-on-chassis
  8. Grab the power cable that came with the GPU and hold the lever. Connect one end to the PSU and the other to the GPU.unplug-gpu-power-cable
  9. Put the side cover back on and take the case back to the rest of the system.install-glass-side-cover-on-computer
  10. Connect the display cable from the monitor to the port on the GPU.plug-display-port-into-gpu
  11. Re-connect the power cables, switch on the PSU, and power on the PC.
Note: If you want to set up multiple GPUs in SLI, you’ll need SLI-capable components. Then, you can connect the additional GPUs to the other PCIex16 slots and join the GPUs using an SLI bridge cable. The same goes for Crossfire or NVLink. Aside from this, the steps are the same as shown above.

Software Configuration

When you power on the PC after the hardware installation, your PC will use generic drivers for the graphics card. This is fine to start off, but it’s best to update the drivers to get the best performance out of your GPU.

We recommend a couple of ways to do this. First, you could use tools provided by the GPU manufacturer (e.g., GeForce Experience, AMD Adrenalin, etc.) to automatically update the drivers.

Or if you want to install a specific driver version, you could go to the manufacturer’s support site, search for your GPU model, and download the file from there.

GPU Installation Problems

graphics card on motherboard

Can’t Remove GPU from PCIe Slot

People often have difficulty removing the old GPU before installing the new one. If you followed the steps from this guide, you’ll know that this is due to the PCIe slot’s latch holding the GPU in place. Depending on the latch, you’ll need to pull it back or press down on it to release the locking mechanism.

GPU Doesn’t Work After Installation

Reseating the GPU and ensuring you’ve plugged in the power connectors properly fixes this problem most of the time. You should also ensure your PSU can handle the GPU’s power requirements as mentioned earlier.

If these steps didn’t help, we recommend the following troubleshooting procedure:

  • Test the GPU on a different system to ensure it actually works. Manufacturing defects and damage during shipping are more common than most people think.
  • If it works, the problem is with your motherboard’s PCIe slot or the power connector. Although not as common, the monitor or display cable could be faulty too.
  • Sometimes, only specific components might not work. For instance, some graphics cards are designed to not spin the fans at idle temperature. We’ve seen people misinterpret this as a GPU not working before.
  • Other times, the component might actually not be working. For instance, the GPU fan could be physically obstructed by something. Or the HDMI port could be damaged.
  • We’ve even seen niche cases where a dirty HDMI port or a CPU that wasn’t properly locked down caused display problems. If you’re installing an old or second-hand GPU, these could be worth looking into.
  • As stated earlier, you should remove the current drivers when switching from an NVIDIA card to AMD or vice-versa to prevent driver conflict. In rare cases, this can be necessary even if you’re installing the same manufacturer’s card.

Using External GPU w/ Integrated

This one is more of a common query than a problem. Users often ask if it’s possible to use an External GPU if your system already has an integrated GPU.

Yes, you can do this. The system will generally use the dedicated GPU for most tasks, and only utilize the integrated one if necessary. You can also manage such preferences yourself using tools like the NVIDIA Control Panel.

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