How to Install Sound and Video Cards

Installing a sound card or video card is much like adding any other adapter card to your PC. If you’re installing a sound card, make sure that you connect the audio cable from your DVD-ROM/Blu-Ray drive (see Step 5 in the following step list); if you’re installing a video card, make sure that you pick the right PCI Express slot (see Step 7).

Follow these steps:

  1. Cover your work surface with several sheets of newspaper.

  2. Shut down your PC, unplug it from all external connections, and place it on top of the newspaper.

  3. Remove the screws on the back (or sides) of the case and slide the case off, saving the screws for later.

    Find a bowl (glass or wood; not plastic or metal) to sequester your screws. Nothing worse than a runaway, AWOL screw.

  4. To dissipate static electricity, touch a metal surface before handling any cards or touching your PC’s motherboard.

    For example, touch the PC’s metal chassis.

    To you, it’s just a momentary shock. To your PC hardware, however, that static electricity can zap components into oblivion! Always ground yourself by touching a metal surface before handling any hardware, including adapter cards and memory modules!

  5. If you’re installing a new sound card, check for a thin audio cable connected from your old sound card (or a connector on the motherboard, if your PC has an integrated sound card) to your DVD-ROM or Blu-Ray drive; if your existing sound card has such a cable, disconnect the cable from the old sound card or motherboard connector.

  6. Remove the screw holding the adapter card you’re upgrading, and pull upward to remove it.

    Don’t forget to put the screw in your spare parts box and put the old adapter card in an antistatic bag for safekeeping. (I use the bag left behind by the new card.)

    Some video card slots have plastic tabs that act as a locking mechanism. Just bend the tab gently with your finger, and you should be able to remove the existing card.

  7. Locate the adapter card slot that matches the card you’re installing.

    A PCI Express video adapter requires a dedicated PCI Express 16 slot. On the other hand, a standard PCI sound card should fit in any open PCI slot. Naturally, if the upgrade card uses the same type of slot as the card that it’s replacing, use the empty slot you just opened up.

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  8. Pick up the adapter card by its top corners and line up the bottom connector on the card with the slot on the motherboard.

    Make sure that the card’s metal bracket aligns properly with the opening in the back of the PC.

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  9. After the card is aligned, apply even pressure to the top of the card and push it down into the slot.

  10. Place the screw in the corresponding hole in the bracket and tighten it.

  11. If you’re installing a sound card and you disconnected an audio cable from the old card (or a connector on the motherboard), reconnect the cable from your drive to the new card.

    Check the manual for the card to determine where the optical drive audio connector is located; this is a standard connector, so it should be easy to track down.

  12. If you’ve installed a video card with a TV tuner, connect the cable from your satellite or cable box to the card.

  13. Place the cover back on your PC and replace the screws that you saved from Step 3.

  14. Plug your PC back in, reconnect all those cables, and turn it on.

    For video cards, you should immediately be able to gauge the success of your work — if there’s an image on your monitor, the installation was a success! However, don’t be alarmed if the resolution is completely wrong, and don’t adjust your monitor yet — Windows will likely be able to return to your previous resolution once you install the drivers for your new card.

  15. Run the installation disc that came with your upgrade card or load the driver disc when prompted by Windows.

    For sound cards, you’ll likely hear nothing until you install your new card’s drivers. Reboot after the installation is complete, and listen for Windows to make sure it greets you with its welcome sound.

    You can also run Windows Media Player and play an MP3 file to verify things are working. Your sound card should also come with an audio configuration program that you can use to test and fine-tune your new ear candy — check your documentation to see what free stuff you got, and where it was installed!

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