How to Insert an Expansion Card in Your PC - dummies

How to Insert an Expansion Card in Your PC

By Dan Gookin

If you are going to install a new device like a drive or a display adapter in your PC, that device will have an expansion card that inserts in an expansion slot. Expansion cards are almost tinker toy simple to insert into a computer. Here are general steps for updating your PC with a new hardware feature via an expansion slot.

  1. Study the instructions that came with the expansion card.

    They’re more detailed than what’s written here, or they may have important notes such as whether to install any needed software and when to install the software (before or after adding the expansion card).

  2. Opening computer case.

    Don’t forget to back up your data and set a system restore point!

  3. Locate an available expansion slot.

    Hopefully, you’ve already done this, or are at least aware of where the open slot is and that it’s available and you’ve further purchased an expansion card designed to fit into said slot.

  4. Remove the slot cover.

    The slot cover is part of the console, on the back of the PC. It not only anchors the back half of the card but also provides access for any connectors.


    The slot cover is anchored in a number of ways. Most commonly, it’s a single screw on top. You might also find that the entire row of slot covers is held in place by a swinging latch. Some slot covers are punch-out covers and must be twisted or popped out by pressing with your thumb.

  5. Eyeball the expansion slot to ensure that you can easily place the expansion card inside the console.

    Check for any obstructing cables and gently shove them out of the way or disconnect them temporarily if necessary. You may have to remove another expansion card or perhaps even a disk drive to reach the expansion slot in question.

  6. If the expansion card requires configuration, do so now.

    The manual that came with the expansion card should explain whether you need to configure it further, and how to do it.

  7. Ground yourself.

    Place one hand on the case and the other on the expansion card to avoid discharge of static electricity.

  8. Insert the expansion card into the expansion slot.

    Two things help keep the expansion card in place: the slot itself and the slot cover. Gently press the card into the slot. Only when the slot cover is flush with the back slot is the card fully in place.

    When the back cover doesn’t line up, you most likely removed the wrong slot cover.

  9. Check everything.

    Does the expansion card look right? Is the slot cover flush? Don’t force anything! If the card isn’t inserted properly, you most likely plugged it into the wrong expansion slot.

  10. Reattach anything you disconnected.

  11. Attach the card to the case.

  12. Close the case.

  13. Turn on the computer.

    At this point, installation continues but is different depending on whichever device you installed.

Most likely, Windows starts up and instantly recognizes the new hardware. If the drivers weren’t already installed, Windows installs them automatically or asks for a disc containing the drivers.

  • Watch Video 185 for a demonstration of how to add a new expansion card to your PC:

  • You may need to reactivate or validate your copy of Windows after performing a major hardware addition, such as adding a new expansion card. Windows alerts you to this necessity. As long as you have a legitimate copy of Windows, you can easily activate or verify your copy over the Internet.

  • Discard the old slot cover you removed. There’s no need to keep it.