What should you do when you get a brand new video card? Why, install it, of course. But that’s where the troubles begin, right? Video card slots seem to be more difficult for most people than advanced calculus, mostly because of one thing: there is more than one type of slot on every motherboard in the world.
When it comes to any other component, like processors, memories or hard drives, you basically have only one slot where you can fit them and even the fifth-grader can spot the difference between them. But with video cards, you have PCI-Express x16, PCI-Express x1 and AGP 8X.
The next problem is that, while first and third differ from the second visually, both first and third (PCI-Express x16 and AGP 8X, respectively) are almost the same color. The fact that they’re different shades of orange means little when you’re going insane and afraid that you might break your video card by inserting it into the wrong slot (an even crazier fact is that sometimes AGP can be brown and PCI Express x16 can be found in both blue and green versions).
But panicking isn’t going to solve the problem, and there is a rather easy way to ‘spot the differences’ between each one:
- First of all, video card slots are located below the processing unit (which you can identify as the only component usually having a little fan on it). Look bellow it and you’ll see a couple of slots.
- PCI-Express x16 slots are the longest (or widest) slots in use; go with that first. They consist of almost uninterrupted rows of connectors, save for one little slot or a ‘cavity’ on the far left of the slot. On the far right side there is usually the lock switch (make sure it’s in the right position). Compare it to the card you got and visually inspect to check if it can fit. If it can, carefully insert the card into the slot (don’t be afraid to push a little bit if you’ve centered it correctly – remember that it needs to be firmly inserted there).
- It is also important to notice that PCI-Express x16 slots are the most advanced ones; when you’re buying a new or second hand card, make sure it’s labeled as ‘PCI-Express x16’ to get your money’s worth. They have the insane 4GB/s write and read speed simultaneously, which enables you to play your favorite video games (if the card is a good one).
- AGP slots (today only 8X remains on modern motherboards) are a bit shorter compared to PCI-Express x16. It’s an old standard but can still be found all over the place. It’s both shorter and configured differently compared to the PCI-Express x16; it consists of two slots with the right one being slightly shorter/smaller than the left one. Visually check the card you got and see if it can fit into this slot.
- PCI-Express x1 is older and much smaller compared to the previous two, and chances are that you won’t have to deal with it; still, don’t let the little troublemaker confuse you, since it’s only 1/3 the size of others.
The point is, be absolutely certain about the specs you need for the specific motherboard configuration. That way you’ll save the time and hassle associated with missing one of these myriad minute details.