This guide will help you determine which video cards your motherboard is compatible with so you'll know what type of video card upgrade to buy for your PC.
Video Card Upgrade
You can't just put any video card in any computer. Before you upgrade, you need to determine your motherboard video card compatibility to make sure you buy the right card to fit your motherboard. Several factors must be considered such as the video card slot type, power supply requirements, and whether or not the card will actually fit inside the case. This article will show you how to identify your motherboard slots to determine the best video card to buy for your system and to ensure maximum motherboard video card compatibility.
Motherboard Video Cart Slots
There are three main types of video card slots (PCI, AGP, and PCI Express) and your motherboard will have at least one of them. PCI Express slots are currently the best and fastest available, but not all motherboards support them. AGP slots are an older format, but you can still find video cards that support this type connectivity. PCI slots are the oldest type but are still available with limited options. You should consult your PC or motherboard manufacturer's website or documentation to determine which type is supported by the motherboard installed in your computer. Be sure not to confuse PCI and PCI Express slots, as this is a fairly common mistake.
For more information on determining what fits your computer, be sure to read my detailed guide on how to identify motherboard video card slots.
Once you have determined which video card slot is supported by your motherboard, you need to look inside your PC and see how much room is available to install the video card. Different manufacturer's use different layouts inside the case and this often makes it impossible to install oversized video cards. For example, my personal computer at home is an HP desktop and I put an NVidia GeForce GTS 250 card in it. This is a mid-range gaming card, but it's still large. If it were a half inch longer than it is, the card would not fit inside my case because the hard drive bay would be in the way.
Before you buy a new video card, be sure to check the dimensions of the card and then measure the inside of your case to ensure that it will fit. Even if one particular brand doesn't fit, you may still be able to get a video card with your desired chipset in another size. This is why it is important to shop around and do lots of research before you buy new computer hardware.
Video Card Power Consumption
Another important aspect of motherboard video card compatibility is ensuring that your power supply can handle the video card you wish to install. Some higher end video cards require a minimum 300-400 watt power supply and most PC manufacturer's don't put power supplies that big in their machines. This means that you will need to also upgrade your power supply in order to use that new video card. Failing to provide enough power can lead to a multitude of problems - or computer may simply refuse to start.
For more information, check out this article on how to best choose a new power supply.
(Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons)