Choose A Graphics Card

Graphics or video cards are one of the most important elements of any computer. For example, graphics cards with more dedicated video RAM allow games and applications to run faster and more efficiently. Some games and programs have minimum video requirements, so it’s important to know what type of graphics card you need before you purchase new software or attempt an upgrade.


Determine What Type of Graphics Card You Have

1. In Windows, click “Start” on the lower left side of the desktop toolbar, then click “Run.”

2. Type “dxdiag” in the command box, omitting the quotes. Click “OK.”

3. Click the “Display” tab after the DirectX dialog window opens.

4. Locate your graphics card in the “Device” section. The name, type and amount of video memory the card has will be listed.

Determine What Type of Graphics Card You Need

5. Know what you will be using the computer for. Do you play a lot of games? Do you edit video or audio? Is your PC used mostly for office applications and browsing the Internet? Certain tasks like video editing require more powerful graphics cards.

6. Determine the minimum video requirements for the most resource intensive programs you use. Most system requirements will be listed on the packaging that the software came in. A graphics card that has 256 MB of dedicated memory will be sufficient for most basic systems.

7. Set a price range. Prices for video cards range from under $30 to over $500. More expensive graphics cards will be able to render video much faster and will have additional features like FireWire. That being said, don’t spend more than is necessary to meet your computing needs.

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8. Using the information you obtained regarding your existing video card, determine the expansion slot type you need. Most graphics cards are AGP, although some lower-end PCI cards are still available. Refer to your owner’s manual if necessary.

9. Determine the video outputs you need. Graphics cards come equipped with DVI, VGA or S-Video outputs. For example, most newer LCD monitors use a DVI output. Older CRT monitors use a standard VGA output. If you plan to use multiple monitors, choose a card with multiple outputs.