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How To Install a PCI Card
Computer internal install


Your computer contains all the required circuits to operate as designed but it does not contain every possible function that it is capable of performing. This is where the add-on or upgrade comes in. You can add functions to your computer by installing an additional circuit card on the motherboard. These circuit cards increase the functionality of the computer. They are called cards, boards, adapters or controllers but all these terms mean basically the same thing.
Before buying a card, make sure your computer motherboard has the proper expansion slots available for the install.

Examples of cards you can add to upgrade your computer are graphics, storage expansion, wi-fi capability, expanded sound capability and more.

How To Install a PCI card in your PC

For those people without computer or electronics experience, the task of opening up their computer and installing circuit boards may seem like a daunting prospect. However the job is really not that hard. If you follow the instructions below and are very careful, you may be surprised at how well you do. If you would really rather not take on this job, then have a professional do it for you.

First some history:

In 1984, IBM marketed its PC AT. At that time the CPU, memory, and I/O bus all shared a common 8MHz clock. This I/O bus became known as the ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) bus. ISA was a 16-bit interface, which meant that data could only be transferred two bytes at a time. More importantly, the ISA bus only operated at 8 MHz and typically required two or three clock signals to transfer those two bytes of data. This was not a problem for devices that were inherently slow (i.e. COM ports, printer ports, sound cards or CD-ROMs), however the ISA bus was too slow for high performance disk access and display adapters.

If your computer is old enough, you may look inside on the motherboard and see ISA slots. They are typically black in color.

ISA Slot

When the ISA bus became mature, other architectures were developed. It was finally the PCI bus that successfully brought the needed characteristics to market. Looking on your motherboard inside the PC, the PCI slots are typically white in color and are shorter than the ISA slots.

32 Bit PCI Slot

Dimensions of the 32 Bit PCI Slot

PCI Express

In 2004, a new bus was introduced, the PCI Express or PCIe. Do not confuse a PCI card with a PCI Express card. There are several versions of PCI Express with varying slot sizes. PCI Express stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect Express and is a standard interface for connecting peripheral hardware to the motherboard on a computer.

PCIe x1: has 1 lane, 18 pins, and 25 mm in length
PCIe x4: has 4 lanes, 32 pins, and 39 mm in length
PCIe x8: has 8 lanes, 49 pins, and 56 mm in length
PCIe x16: has 16 lanes, 82 pins, and 89 mm in length

There have been four versions or revisions of PCI Express over the years 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and in the future there will be more to accomodate faster cards.


What you need is an empty compatible expansion slot in your computer motherboard. There are usually a few PCI slots on the computer motherboard that line up with some brackets on the back of the computer. The motherboard is the largest circuit board in the computer and contains all the required functions for the computer to operate.

Computer Motherboard

To install a PCI card, turn off and unplug the computer. Before handling the PCI card, discharge static electricity from your body by touching a grounded part of your computer chassis. Remove the computer case/cover with a screwdriver and find an available expansion slot. You will want to avoid static shock so work in a room with relative humidity of more than 50% and on a floor without carpeting.

Remove the case bracket that matches up with the expansion slot. These are only there to keep dust out of the internals of the computer. After orienting the card properly (one end has a gap on the edge) carefully push the card firmly into the slot, avoiding touching the components on the card. Some cards are more difficult to insert than others so keep trying but without using excessive force. You can try rocking back and forth just slightly from end to end and if one end goes in, the other end should follow.

Insert the bracket screw, and replace the computer cover. You can then reconnect your computer and turn it on. If your card came with an installation disk or CD-ROM, insert it and go through the installation process. When your operating system loads it should recognise the card and either install the drivers automatically, or it will ask you to provide a driver disk (which should have come with the device). You may need to obtain the driver software from the company by going online to their website. If your computer fails to boot-up and just beeps then power-down the system and once again double-check to make sure the card is perfectly aligned and evenly inserted into the slot.

PCI Card for PC

Always check before you buy your PCI card to make sure you have the proper system requirements that match the PCI card's specifications. For example, the PCI card may need Windows 2000, ME, or XP so if your computer is running Windows 98 you have a compatibility problem. Check inside your computer to make sure you have an empty compatible PCI slot to accommodate the card you are thinking about buying. Cards should explain the system requirements they need such as will run with Windows 10, 8 and 7.
You can look at the card to see what kind of slot they fit in such as PCIe x1 or PCIe x16. Then check if your computer can accomodate the card.

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