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The neat thing about this is that you're one step away from a dual-monitor system without really even trying.

Hi, Leo. I have an Acer Aspire X1301 Desktop running 64-bit Windows 7. I have an NVIDIA GeForce 9200 card installed. I bought a BFG Nvidia 9800 GTX (512 MB) graphics card to upgrade. When I took the cover off, I saw my graphics card is not plugged into a PCI slot; it's just a small, metal silver box. It's the same for my sound card, etc. Can I never upgrade?

In this excerpt from Answercast #61, I look at the issues (and opportunities) around adding a new video card to a system.

Upgrading

No, you can upgrade. There's no problem with that.

What you're seeing is that many manufacturers now actually place a video card (although it's not a separate card), they place the video circuitry directly on the motherboard. And that's actually been true even longer for the sound hardware that you're seeing.

So, what you have is a motherboard that has an integrated video card and an integrated sound card.

Adding instead of replacing

That doesn't mean you can't upgrade them. In fact, it gives you a little bit more flexibility than you might expect.

If you have an open PCI slot (in other words, if you've got a place to plug in that new card that you purchased), plug it in.

What you'll find is that Windows will (in all likelihood) detect that it's there - and then let you use it as potentially a second monitor. Whether it becomes your primary (or your only) really depends then on how you configure Windows.

When you right-click on the Desktop and click on (I believe) Screen Resolution, it will let you start to choose which display will be your primary, and how big it will be, and whether or not it's even used - so there's no problem here at all.

Dual-monitor system

You can also (if you want to) disable the drivers for the motherboard-based video circuitry.

You can actually disable it in most computers via the BIOS. But in all honesty, in a situation like this, I'd be really tempted to leave it running. Even if you don't plug anything into it, it's not going to be a drain on your system as long as you've got enough RAM.

The neat thing about it, like I said, is that you're one step away from a dual-monitor system without really even trying. You can have a monitor plugged into both: that one on the motherboard circuitry and the video card that you're adding.

You can use the video card that you're adding for whatever software you're running that has higher graphics requirements. I would assume this is probably a situation where you're about to run a game or so forth. You can use it by itself or if you like, get yourself another monitor and you've got a dual monitor system.

Article C5915 - October 14, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Gordon
October 14, 2012 12:58 PM

He'll need an open PCI Express slot, not a PCI slot, to use that card (despite the similar name, the two are not compatible). According to Acer's website, that desktop has an open PCI Express slot, so that isn't a problem (although the site says "Low profile", which I believe means a big card like the 9800 GTX may not fit inside the case).

A bigger issue is that that desktop also only has a 220 watt power supply, which will not be enough to power that card. Most consumer desktops built by the big companies (Dell, Acer, HP, etc) use as small a power supply as possible, and will not support any decent graphics card if it wasn't included in the original build. Anyone in this situation will likely need to get a new power supply to use the graphics card.

Boozer
October 16, 2012 8:58 AM

OEM machines tend to be upgrade unfriendly, lacking the necessary slots. Don't be tempted thinking that you can get a cheap OEM machine and then upgrade for gaming, 3D video rendering and etc. Lots of people make mistakes by thinking of that route.

Even if you do have the necessary slot, and you changed the PSU to accommodate your beefier card, You have to take in account for ventilation and quality of cases. Cases from OEM manufacturers tend to be poorly ventilated and inferior build to custom build.

Dan
October 16, 2012 10:06 AM

Gordon and Boozer are correct. I put a much better graphic's card on our OEM computer for my son to play his games, and it started hanging. I had to also update the power supply to handle the new power needs. So - these systems can be upgraded, but it may mean you have to upgrade more than just the one item... Power supply upgrades are a little more complex than Video cards, since you have to remove the old and install the new and replace all the connections, but it is doable. If you are worried about connecting it all back the same way when done, use a camera and take a picture of each step you take in removing and connect back in the reverse order. Some jobs are scary the first time you try them - but turn out to be fairly easy to accomplish.

snert
October 16, 2012 11:51 AM

On ungrading your system - there are a LOT of really decent places on the web that will show you how to upgrade any part of your system from bare basics to doing a maxed-out gaming rig. Don't just look at one, check out two or three. Some idiots post their mis-information.

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