How to Find a Compatible Graphics Card

By Candace Benson

Finding a compatible graphics cards may be a daunting task if you know little about your computer's components and technical specifications. To find a video card that is compatible with your system, you'll need to uncover information about your motherboard and power supply by opening your case and peeking inside. From there, you can perform additional research and make an informed determination of the types of graphics cards compatible with your computer. If your warranty is still in place, consult your computer manufacturer or builder to obtain the information you need.

Things You'll Need

  • Small Phillips screwdriver, if applicable
  • Measuring tape or ruler

Step 1

Physically open your case and examine the number and types of slots on your motherboard. Unplug any cables connected to your computer prior to removing the side panel, but make a note of where your monitor connects. Remove your case's left side panel (when facing the front of the case). You may need to remove screws or to adjust latches. Please see your case or computer manual if you are unsure how to remove the side panel.

Step 2

Locate the current graphics card. By matching the port your monitor plugs into with the graphics card, you should be able to easily locate your video card. If you have an on-board graphics chip, the monitor will not connect with a card but with ports directly on the motherboard.

Step 3

Measure your case interior and the card slot. Make a note of how long the current card is. You must also measure for prospective maximum expansion card length. For example, if you measure 7.5 inches from the slot cover to the nearest obstruction (obstructions may include other slots, chips, or the processor), you will not be able to buy a card that measures 8.5 inches in length. The card you install must not affect any other components on the motherboard. Write down any brand name or model number so that you can verify the measurements by researching the card's specifications.

Step 4

Locate a serial number, brand name or product number for your motherboard and write it down so that you can research the motherboard and its specifications.

Step 5

Locate your power supply. Generally, the power supply will be in the upper-left corner of the case. Power cables connected to your drives, your motherboard and possibly your video card will run to the power cable. Make a note of the wattage, the brand name, and any model number. Perform research to verify the power supply's specs. Replace the side panel, and plug in all cables.

Step 6

Find a graphics card that will work with your motherboard and power supply and fit the motherboard's measurements. The card should both fit into the slot physically and be designed for the type of slot on your computer. Ensure that the card has drivers for your operating system.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have an AMD-based processor, your motherboard is likely geared toward ATI cards since AMD manufactures both CPUs and ATI graphics cards.
  • Newer computers will feature PCI-Express slots. Older motherboards may have AGP or PCI slots.
  • You will need an additional slot space, and ample power if you plan to link more than one graphics card via SLI or Crossfire.