Video Cards For Dummies Guide
Video Card Installation Guide
Installing a graphics card is not that difficult. However, if you don't have the proper gear or just don't feel comfortable, pay someone to do it. Incorrect installation of a graphics card can damage both your video card and your motherboard and cost you hundreds of dollars.
Time Required: 30 minutes
The first step is to determine what type of graphics card you need for your system. Check with my previous post on this issue " Video Card Interface Types" or consult a computer manufacturer, vendor or motherboard manufacturer for compatible graphics cards.
After you determine the compatible video cards for your system you need to gather your tools. To install most graphics cards you will need a screwdriver that is not magnetized. Be sure to follow these instructions.
Once you have your tools together, you will need to turn off your computer and remove the left side panel. The left side panel will be the one on your left if you are in front of your computer. Don't touch anything inside the case that you don't have too.
After removing the side panel lay your computer on its side and find the expansion slot you wish to use. Graphics and video cards are available for AGP slots, standard PCI slots, 1x PCI Express slots and 16x PCI Express slots. Be sure you have the correct card for your available expansion slot.
Once opened most graphics cards are non-returnable unless damaged in manufacturing.
Once you locate the expansion slot you plan to use for your graphics card, you will need to remove the IO plate covering the slot on the back of your computer. The IO cover design will vary depending on your case design. Some are secured with screws or tabs, while others require you to twist them off.
Once you remove the cover from the expansion slot you want to use gently remove your video card from its box.Once removed from its box you will be ready to plug your graphics card into the chosen expansion slot.
Gently insert the card into the expansion slot and firmly press it into place. Most expansion slots have a retention mechanism to lock the card in place, however yours may not. Be sure to use a screw or other method to secure your card to the case where you removed the IO cover from the expansion slot you chose, there will be some method of securing your card to the case.
After installing your graphics card you need to verify if it requires power directly from your computers power supply. The instructions included with your video card will tell you if it requires its own power connector and if so what type. Newer PCI Express graphics cards often require special PCI Express power connectors. Most high end card manufacturers include adapters for use in systems without the correct plug for these cards.
Once you have your video card getting power, plug your system back in and turn it on before you put the side panel back on your case. You need to verify that the fan on your video card is working. You don't want improper connections or a bad $2 fan on your card to cause it to overheat and become damaged the first time you turn it on.
After verifying that the fan on the graphics card is working turn your system back off and reinstall the side panel. Once the side panel is back on you are ready to connect your monitor to your graphics card an power up your system.
Once your system is on a running, you will need to install the correct driver for your graphics card. The driver will be included with your graphics card. However, the drive included with your graphics card could be a old version. You will want to update your driver from your video card manufacturer's web site.
Once you have updated your video card drivers, you are done! Congratulations, you installed your own video card!
# If in doubt, get someone with experience to install your graphics card.
# Be sure to verify that your power supply inside your computer has enough power for your graphics card and has the appropriate connector for it.
# Be sure that you buy the correct graphics card for your available expansion slot inside your computer.
What You Need:
Graphics card installation instructions
Graphics card drivers disk
Post #8 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" The "Video Card Installation guide" and Part 9 of the guide.
What To Look For In A Video Card
Hello again! Welcome to Part 7 of the "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" today we will talk about what to look for in a video card, as in the specs and hardware as well as what type of video card would best suit your needs.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VIDEO CARD:
First off, you will have to decide what type of video card best suits your needs. A motherboard with integrated graphics can easily handle e-mail, word processing, web surfing and movie watching. While a mid-range video card is suitable for casual gaming and multimedia work. A high-end card provides more power for gaming enthusiasts and people who do lots of 3-D graphic work.
Most video cards are based on either the Nvidia GeForce or ATI Radeon family of chips. Each has their strengths and both offer state-of-the-art image acceleration and features.
Things To Look For:
- Onboard Memory: Look for a minimum of 128MB of memory although 256MB is probably the optimum level for seamless gaming and 3D work. Video cards can go up to 512MB of memory, although it would be a waste if your software doesn't need it, and if the rest of your machine can't properly use it.
- Memory Bandwidth: The performance of a video card is defined by the speed at which the graphics processor unit (GPU) can get data to and from the memory built onto the graphics card. The greater the bandwidth, the better. Different memory types at the moment are GDDR3 and DDR. The former is the faster of the two.
- GPU clock speed: is the rate at which data shifts between the card's RAM and the card's graphics processor, measured in megahertz (MHz).
- RAMDAC (random access memory digital to analogue converter) is the pace at which the card can take the information it's given and output it to the format of your screen.
- Frame Rate: measured in frames per second (FPS,) Frame Rate is how many complete images the card can display per second. Fast-action games require a frame rate of at least 60-FPS to provide smooth animation and scrolling.
- Resolution: Are the pixel’s that can be displayed on screen at once. Make sure your video card can support the resolution you want, without any downgrading of performance.
- Refresh Rate: refers to the number of times per second that the image on your display is recast. If the refresh rate is too low, you will notice screen flicker. 72-80 Hertz is great for most people.
- Drivers: Well-designed drivers can improve the performance of a video card to the point that a mediocre card with a great driver can outperform a high-end video card with a poor driver. Often, updating your video cards driver is as easy as going to the manufacturer's website and downloading the latest version.
- Pixel Pipelines: is a video card part that transfers pixel information. The more pixel pipelines, the faster the video card can process pixels. Top-end video cards, offer 16 and 24 pixel pipelines respectively.
- Video Card Interface: AGP and PCIe. This depends on your computer's motherboard. See the "Video Card Types! AGP or PCIe?" post for more details.
- Connectors: All video cards come with their own monitor connector. Remember this when you’re wondering why you have a blank screen after installing your new video card. Typically a video card will come with a 15-pin VGA connector and DVI connector. Some video card also support dual monitors as well as TV in out connector.
See how many things go to make a good video card! If you follow this video card guide you will be well on your way to selecting a video card that suits your needs and has the specs that has the ability to do what you want.
NEXT UP: VIDEO CARD INSTALLATION GUIDE.
Post #7 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" Check back for "Video Card Installation guide" and Part 8 of the guide.
Video Card Interface Types
Welcome! Part 6 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" deals with the two common video card types. To start with I will again get into the differences between the two video cards and then explain the pros and cons (if any) of each.
VIDEO CARD INTERFACE TYPES:
The two "types" of video cards are AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) and PCI Express. I say "types" but in reality they are just different ways of achieving the same end result. The choice of video card needed for your computer has already been made for you, as your computer will generally have one or the other depending on the age and price.
Now a quick run down on the two:
AGP is a high-speed point-to-point channel or slot for attaching a video card to your computers motherboard, it's primary goal is to help in the acceleration of 3D graphics, so basically its a slot on your motherboard that is specifically designed to channel data needed for 3d graphics.
The transfer rate of AGP video cards has doubled upon each new release, since the first AGP video card "AGP 1x" was launched in 1997.
- AGP 1x, maximum data rate of 266 megabytes per second (MB/s)
- AGP 2x, maximum data rate of 533 megabytes per second (MB/s)
- AGP 4x, maximum data rate of 1066 megabytes per second (MB/s) (1 GB/s)
- AGP 8x, maximum data rate of 2133 megabytes per second (MB/s) (2 GB/s)
To give you an idea of the quantity of 2GB's of maximum data transfer, it could equal 500 songs or 20 full feature films a second!
PCI Express is a more recent technology that is slowly replacing AGP slot video cards. The maximum transfer rate of the PCI Express x16 slots (the highest so far) can transfer data at 4GBs per second! Almost double that of the fastest AGP video card. It does this by using existing PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) programming concepts but with a much faster network of serial interconnects.
PCIe is becoming the standard in personal computers and there are several reasons for this. The main one being that it was designed to be completely open to software developers so an operating system can boot in a PCI Express system video card without any code modification, saving you a lot of time and hassle.
Other secondary reasons include its enhanced performance, which made almost all of the high-end video cards being released today from ATI Technologies and NVIDIA use PCI Express.
*If you have an AGP slot beware of backwards and forwards compatibility issues as generally 1.5 V cards will not go into 3.3 V slots and vice versa.
NEXT UP: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VIDEO CARDPost #6 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" Check back for: "What to look for in a video card" and Part 7 of the video card guide.
Video Card History
Hello again! Welcome to Part 5 of the "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" today we step back in time to give you a practical guide of the history of video cards. Ok lets take a journey into the past to see how we got to were we are today.
A BRIEF AND PRACTICAL GUIDE TO VIDEO CARD HISTORY:
The year was 1996, the Nintendo 64 has just been launched, the Unabomber is finally caught AND the first of a series Video Cards are released specifically designed for 3d images. The most knowable was from 3dfx called "Voodoo" (you may have heard of this one!) it was the dawn of a new era for Computer graphics and the computer industry as a whole. Followed closely by it's competitors, namely Nvidia which released their own video card named "Riva 128" and ATI which launched the "RAGE!" video card.
During the nest couple of years 3dfx dominated the market with the release of "Voodoo 2" video card which was significantly better then the first. It had massive amounts of memory and resolution (for the time) but it's competitors were catching up with the "Riva ZX" and TNT as well as ATI's "3D Rage Pro" video cards.
"Voodoo 3" was released in 1999, 3dfx featured two types of the Voodoo 3 video card, the low-end (Voodoo 3 2000 and high-end (voodoo 3 3000)...(get used to this format!) In response Nvidia released their video card called the TNT2 it offered great color support, and digital flat panel support plus it had much higher visual quality then the Voodoo 3 video card, so people started checking out the competition. ATI released new video cards as well but their strategy seemed to let the two other companies fight it out, and swoop in at the right time.
The year 2000 was a monumental year for Nvidia. They would pull the biggest coupe in the video card market by releasing the first of the highly successful GeForce series video cards that featured revolutionary new features. With 3dfx missing their release date for the new Voodoo video cards, and pushing back their projects, Nvidia stole their entire market share. When 3dfx finally released their video cards Voodoo 4 and Voodoo 5, the hefty price tag and the lax of revolutionary features meant the video card did not fair well with the consumer. After this failure 3dfx was basically out of the market and was eventually sold to their main rival Nvidia.
ATI was still trying to be a player during this time, and released a video card called the Rage Fury MAXX which, similar to the now defunct 3dfx video cards owed it's performance to the use of multiple GPU's. Disappointingly, ATI's video card could not compete with the GeForce. Nvidia, wanting to capitalise on their video card success, quickly released the GeForce2 and GeForce2 MX video cards. The former almost doubling the speed of the first GeForce video card and the latter downgrading the performance a little to add two new features dual monitor setup and support for the Apple Macintosh. Thus being the video card that Apple chose for the new Apple Power Macintosh G4.
As the years came and went, ATI and NVIDIA kept releasing video cards blow for blow. Each video card an upgrade from the previous but nothing groundbreaking came into the market during this time. Both video card companies had boosted about their next generation of video cards about to be released but ATI beat Nvidia to the punch with the stunning Radeon 9700 PRO video card. Not to be outdone Nvidia released the GeForceFX with much fanfare. The GeforceFX video card was so hyped, that when it came out it couldn't help but be a disappointment. It just couldn’t match the picture quality of the Radeon 9700 PRO video card.
Thus ATI took the lead with the Radeon 9700, and is maintaining the lead with the 9800 series video card. Now with both companies’ going neck and neck in releasing bigger and better video cards into the market only time will tell what will happen next.
To be continued...
NEXT UP: Video Card Types! AGP or PCIe?Post #5 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" Check back for "VIDEO CARD TYPES" and Part 6 of the guide.
How Do Video Cards Work Part 2
Hello, and welcome to Part 4 of the "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" this post will deal with part-ii of the question we asked, which was "how a video card works" (if you havent read part-i of how a video card works - click here for the video card guide
Ok, back to...HOW DOES A VIDEO CARD WORK? PART-II
As i said in Part 1 of "how does a video card work", i explained how exactly your video card, along with your computer's CPU work to produce images from rasterized wire frames with added texture lighting and color. we will now discuss the key components of a video card and there role in this process.
The four main components of your video card are:
- Connectors for recieving data and power from the motherboard.
- A processor to process the data into pixels on the screen.
- Memory to hold the info about each pixel and to temporarily store completed images.
- Monitor connection to send the final product to your screen.
The video cards processor or GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is the CPU of your video card, except it is specially designed and programed to deal with complex mathematical and geometric calculations needed to produce 3d images of high quality. You will normally find the video card processor under the fan or heat sink because of the constent heat generated by the processor.
Now once the video cards processor creates the images it holds the info and the completed images in the video cards memory or RAM (Random Access Memory) Where it can store data about each pixel, such as it's color and location on the screen. Part of the RAM can also act as a frame buffer, meaning that it holds completed images until it is time to display them.
The video cards RAM operates at very high speeds, as you can imagine! and can be Dual Ported (A type of Random Access Memory) meaning that the system can read from it and write to it at the same time (very usefull when playing fast-paced games!).
Once the video cards RAM is ready to send the information to the monitor it does so through the digital-to-analog converter, called the DAC or RAMDAC. It translates the image into an analog signal that the monitor can use and sends the final picture to the monitor through the monitor cable.
Ok thats it for Part 2 of "How Do Video Cards Work"
NEXT UP: A BRIEF AND PRACTICAL GUIDE TO VIDEO CARD HISTORY!Post #4 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" Check back for the "VIDEO CARD HISTORY" and Part 5 of the guide.
How Do Video Cards Work
Welcome! Part 3 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" deals with how exactly a Video Card works. To start with i will again get into some practical knowledge that is true of all Video Cards.
HOW DOES A VIDEO CARD WORK? PART-I
As i said in Part 2 of the "Video Cards For Dummies Guide", your computers CPU (Central Processing Unit) working with software applications such as games or animation software, sends information about the image to...you guessed it, the video card! The video card decides how to use the pixels on the screen to create the image. It then sends that information to the screen through the monitor cable.
Now you may be asking how EXACTLY does the Video Card make these images? well it is a very labour intensive process for your poor little, video card! To make one 3D image your video card takes the binary data sent to it from the CPU and first creates a wire frame made out of straight lines. Once it has finished, it fills in the wire frame with the remaining pixels. This process is called "Rasterizing" Your video card will then add texture, lighting and color which will produce the final image, the quality of which will soley depends on how good your video card is.
For the latest fast-paced games (no, Solitaire doesn't count!), your computer has to accomplish this task about sixty times per second. Without a video card to process the information, the workload would be too much for your computer to handle.
NEXT UP: HOW DOES A VIDEO CARD WORK? PART-IIPost #3 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" Check back for the conclusion to: "HOW VIDEO CARDS WORK" and Part 4 of the guide.
What is a Video Card
Welcome back! To start of the "Video Card For Dummies Guide" we have to get into some practical knowledge that is true of all video cards. The first of these facts is;
WHAT IS A VIDEO CARD?
A practical definition of a video card is a computer system component that enables a computer to output information to a display such as a monitor, but you probably already knew that! I think a little more information is needed to know how exactly a Video Card brings images to your monitors, so we will go a little more indepth in our Video Card guide.
The images you see infront of you are made of tiny dots called pixels. At common resolution settings (ie 1024px x 768px), a screen displays over a million pixels! and your computer has to decide what to do with them all to create an image.
To do this, it needs something to take binary data (ie 0100101) from the CPU (Central Processing Unit) the component that interprets instructions and processes data contained in computer programs, and turn it into a picture you can see. Unless a computer has graphics capability built into the motherboard (ie Onboard/intergrated), that translation takes place on the Video Card.
NEXT UP: HOW DOES A VIDEO CARD WORK?Post #2 of "Video Cards For Dummies Guide" Check back for the answer to "HOW VIDEO CARDS WORK" and Part 3 of the guide.