Upgrading a Pre-Built Desktop With a New Graphics Card

Upgrading a Pre-Built Desktop With a New Graphics Card

Let’s take the following scenario: you have a pre-built desktop and you see that your brand new game is not running how it should. Let’s also assume that you have a decent enough CPU, not that old (maybe 3-4 years old) but you are running either an underpowered graphics card that you bought with the system and up until now you did not need more, or the GPU is too old to keep up with new games.

So what to do? Well it is time for a graphics card upgrade. We will not talk here about what graphics card you should get, because that is another story for another time. We will talk about the basics, meaning what to look for when you buy a new card.

First Steps Before Buying a New Graphics Card

Let’s start. Most pre-built desktops come with a big enough chassis that can provide enough cooling capabilities to accept a brand new shiny graphics card with no problems, so the first thing you should do before ordering a new GPU is to measure the inside of your chassis to see what size the new card should have such that it can fit.

In some cases, you will have enough space between the far right-hand edge of the motherboard and the hard drive bays, but other chassies might not have this space at all, so you better be sure that your new GPU will fit.

Ok, so you measured and saw that your chassis can fit a normal/lenghtiy graphics card but what about the hight? You will want to close the case after installing it. So make sure you measure the hight of the graphics card as well. Card partners often go off the recommended designs by Nvidia or AMD, making the PCB (think of it as the motherboard of the graphics card) much lenghtier or higher to fit more cooling options, connectors etc.

The next thing you should look for is the recommendend power requirements for the new graphics card. Check if your PSU (power supply unit) can actually power the new card meaning looking at the maximum wattage the PSU can deliver, as some cards can be very power hungry.

This is something that you must take extra care if you are targeting a high-end video card (such as an RTX 2080, or the 2080Ti) and your pre-built system came with a low-end card or no video card at all. Even more if your pre-built desktop was more budget oriented system as these PCs tend to have a minimally provisioned power supply.

Once you checked that the PSU can actually power your new card, you have to take a look at the cables that come out of your power supply. The two most important factors to be aware when looking at these cables is the number of six-pin and eight-pin you have available.

Most modern systems sold by pre-built desktop builders such as DELL, Lenovo or HP use power supplies that include at least one six-pin connector which can be used to power a video card, and some other have both a six-pin and an eight-pin connector. High-end as well as mid-range graphics cards will need a six-pin cable and an eight-pin cable, or some combination of the two to power the card, and lowest-end graphic cards don’t need them as they drw all the needed power from the PCI-EXPRESS slot. So make usre you know what your new card needs in terms of connectors to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Both AMD and Nvidia as well as partner manufacturers mention the recommended power supply wattage as well as the needed connectors for their products. You must take these quides seriusly as they are not just recomendations, these is what you need to make your GPU function. If you see AMD or Nvidia mentioning that you need at least 500W power supply don’t even try it with a PSU lower than this, but don’t think that you need a 850W PSU though as your graphic card will never use this much.

What Connections Should My Graphics Card Have?

There are three kinds of ports that are most common on the rear of a current graphics card: a DVI port, HDMI, and DisplayPort. DVI is starting to fade out in newer generations of GPUs but some monitors still use DVI and if you have an older one make sure to check your monitor to see what connects it to your current GPU. The majority of new graphics card come with at least one HDMI and often three DisplayPorts.

To be noted that some of the very least cards from Nvidia in the GeForce RTX series come with a new port, named VirtualLink. This port looks like a USB Type-C port (and actually can be used as such) and supports DisplayPort over USB-C. It is not that used today though as it is mainly intended vor VR devices but it is nice to have in case you might want to experience some VR in the future. Of course to experience VR you will probably need a full system upgrade but that’s for another day.

So this is it guys. Consider these your first steps into upgrading your PC. As we mentioned we will not talk here about what graphics card you need and in what scenario one GPU is better over the other, as we leave that for another article, in which we will take a more indepth look on graphics, gaming and monitors. We compiled a small list of GPUs that might get you started in your upgrade adventure (see below). Until the next time!

Update: Have a look here for what the graphics card market can offer you.

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