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How hard is it to install a new graphics card?

There is a little computer shop close to where I live. It can't compete with internet pricing for major pieces of hardware but it is a useful source of consumables. He does a pretty good deal on printer ink and on several occasions the ability to nip round the corner and buy a patch cable has gotten me out of a hole.

I was in there this morning buying ink. A customer in front of me was inquiring about a video card  upgrade.

"Can that be done on the spot if I drop the computer in" he asked

Unfortunately the young lady behind the counter was not a technician and "the engineer" as she called him would not be back for a while.

"It has to be booked in It could take a few days" was her reply.

The customer asked

"How hard is it to upgrade a video card? Do you think I could do it myself?"

The assistant was honest enough to admit she didn't know and recommended that he leave the computer with them.

Recognising a potential fellow gamer I ached to interject.

"Its easy" I could have shouted "I have changed dozens of video cards"

I could have given him a five minute crash course in swapping video cards. If he lived nearby I could even do it for him.

But then I thought what if ...

What if he card he has bought in ignorance isn't compatible with his machine? What if it has the wrong interface or is too long for the case? What if his power supply doesn't have the six pin adapter needed? What if there isn't a driver available for his obscure operating system?  And will I really be able to prevent myself from blurting out that the Geforce4mx he just paid €150  is not exactly the bee's knees of graphics cards despite the fancy box and that he really should have gotten a BFG9000 for the same money. An what happens the first time he installs a game that doesn't work properly because it is incompatible with Nvidia or ATI cards and the guy assumes its my fault because I installed it wrong.

Regretfully I admitted to myself that I didn't want the hassle. Thats what computer shops charge installation fees for. Plus I didn't really want to do my local shop out of the few euro they would charge him for the install.


Cap'n John said…
Over the years I've upgraded various components of all our PCs, including building one from scratch. I quite literally bought an empty case w/ PSU, a Motherboard, and a CPU, and put it all together, then pulled the old hard drive from my old PC and dropped it in. Amazingly, it all worked, but it was as scary as all hell doing it the first time.

The most recent upgrade was to my son's new PC which was, in fact, a video card upgrade from the onboard GPU to (IIRC) a 9800GT. I was pissed when I went to install it and discovered the cables from his PSU had the new SATA connectors but there was no 4-pin to SATA adaptor in the 9800GT's box. I had to visit my local Fry's, twice, to get one, when they were out of stock the first time. A week or so later they had them in stock and after shoehorning the 9800GT into a microcase into which it barely fit, I booted up the boy's PC and damned if the thing didn't sound like a jet starting up. Once the drivers were installed the roaring whine of the fan died to muted hum and the boy had himself a kick arse PC. Damned if it's not a better rig than mine.
mbp said…
Hi Cap'n John sadly PCs are not quite as plug and play as we would like. My worst experience was trying to fit a 7900gtx into my Antec Sonata case. The card was extra long and double width. Not only did this require hacksawing a flange off the case to fit it in but it also required me to remove 50% of the cooling fins from the motherboard chipset heatsink. Everything seemed to work OK for several months even with only 50% cooling but then the machine developed an intermittent crashing problem. This turned out to be because the unbalanced heatsink was tilting to one side and lifting off the chip. I managed a crude repair involving a generous dollop of silicon sealant but it wasn't until I replaced the graphics card with something more sensibly dimensioned that I managed to permanently solve the problem. This is not the type of tinkering you want to get into with someone elses PC!

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