How to install a graphics card in your PC: A beginners guide

There’s never a bad time to upgrade and install a new GPU. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to install a new graphics card.

Installing a new graphics card (GPU) is the single most impactful upgrade you can make to improve the overall gaming performance of a PC. The 2020s haven’t been particularly kind to PC enthusiasts due to the ongoing global chip shortage. While it’s now possible to get your hands on the best graphics cards on the market, they’re much more expensive than they ought to be. Still, upgrading your GPU is sometimes necessary, though thankfully, the installation process is pretty simple. We’ll walk you through it step by step.

What you need to know

  • Graphics card dimensions: It’s important to check the dimensions of the GPU of your choice to know if it’ll fit into your PC case. All PC cases specify the maximum length a GPU can be inside the chassis. Height is also an important consideration and is usually measured in PCIe slots. For example, a three-slot GPU can only fit in a case with at least three PCIe slots at the back, so it’s really easy to see at a glance whether a GPU will fit. We still recommend referring to the spec sheet of both the graphics card and the chassis just to be safe.
  • Power requirement: Check if your power supply unit (PSU) can handle the GPU’s power draw. It’s usually the GPU that demands the most power inside a system, so you may have to upgrade it. We have some recommendations in our collection of the best power supply units if you need options.
  • Status of the PC: The computer will need to be turned off for this completely by shutting it down and flipping the power switch on the power supply to off. If your PC already has a graphics card installed, unplug all cables from it and follow the steps in reverse before installing a new card.
  • Necessary tools: You’ll need a screwdriver to install the graphics card in your PC.

How to install a graphics card

  1. Remove the PCIe expansion slot brackets from the back of the PC. These removable strips of metal occupy the space the graphics card will require. Most PCs secure these using screws, but some cheaper cases use temporary, disposable brackets.
  2. Locate the PCIe x16 slot on your motherboard. For graphics cards, use the top slot if multiple are present. Make sure the latch (under the thumb in the below photo) is pushed down. If you need to undo the latch and have difficulty accessing it, you can use a tool like a screwdriver to press it down, but be careful since this could cause cosmetic damage.
    A reinforced PCIe slot on Aorus Pro Z690 motherboard
  3. Align the GPU’s PCIe connector with the PCIe slot and push down until the graphics card is firmly in place and the latch on the right-hand side is upright.
    An RTX 2080 Super being installed on a motherboard
  4. Once the graphics card is securely installed, you’ll notice that the GPU bracket also aligns perfectly with the expansion slot on the chassis. This is when you’ll need a screwdriver to screw the rear bracket of the GPU on the case to fully secure it in place.
    A screwdriver being used to secure a GPU in a PC case
  5. Connect the required PSU cables on the graphics card to deliver power. These cables are bundled with the PSU, though some GPUs also come with a required adapter.
    PCIe connector slots on an RTX 2080 Super GPU

If you follow these steps, your graphics card should work without any issues. Once everything is in place, all you’ll have to do is download the latest drivers for your GPU. These drivers make sure your GPU operates at full performance and can add useful features, like specific drivers and updates.

You can check out our dedicated collection of the best AMD graphics cards and the best Nvidia graphics cards if you’re particular about the available options from each brand. As always, you can also join our XDA Computing Forums to discuss your build or get more product recommendations.