February 27, 2012 Leave a comment
This one is slightly off-topic compared to the rest, but felt it’s a better fit here than any other blogs.
Last month, my fairly ancient Nvidia 9400 burnt out, unable to bear the pressure of several hundred hours over the last year of high-end games, days-on-end downloads, and varied voltage fluctuations. Having had some pretty pathetic customer service from my regular dealer, I decided to skip the middleman this time and go straight to the source. So, I present –
How to research and upgrade your GPU.
- Step 1: You need to know your system in exquisite detail. Assuming you’ve lost the original packaging, open up the cabinet and start googling all the product codes you can find. The make should be fairly prominent, but the exact version number will be printed somewhere around the PCI slot. You’ll also need to know exactly what slot you were using – is it an older AGP or a PCI / PCI-e, and which version. Google these as well, sometimes newer cards will have problem with older slots. www.hardwaresecrets.com, www.tomshardware.com will be useful.
- Step 2: Once you know the slot used, start looking up the options for a GPU. Don’t worry about GPU RAM – it’s independent from your system RAM, so you can use DDR3 even your motherboard has DDR2.
- Step 3: Check your power supply. Older systems had 300W, so some of the newer cards – especially the high-performance ones – will have issues. 400W is ok, 450W is good, but allow for a decent margin, especially if you’ve got a lot of stuff running off a single power supply – multiple internal HDDs, DVD drives, and multiple peripherals running off the USBs.
- Step 4: Software compatibility. While most systems have a Windows OS, which will work, you need to check for known issues among your shortlist if you have any other OS – for example, I had a Ubuntu 10.4 which has issues with the ATI/AMD Radeon 6xxx series (and I mention that explicitly is because that’s what I discovered after purchase and installation)
- Step 5: Purchase. First of all, look up the current prices to have an approximate idea. You already know your budget, and you have a shortlist of the models you want – Flipkart and eBay both are good sources for current prices, and knowing the base price here will stop you from getting ripped off. If you’re buying on your own – and I recommend you do – head down to Lamington Road in Mumbai. Google for the good stores before you go, or you’ll be lost – there’s hundred of them everywhere. You won’t find much difference in the prices shop to shop, they’re all networked and don’t undercut each other, but the better ones will be able to help you decide and replace if there’s any issues with the product. This is also where you’ll get the lowest prices. There are other distributors across the city, but prices will be higher, and range smaller. Around (within a 5-minute bike ride) the distributors there’ll be lots of small retail computer stores – these will have the poorest range, the highest prices, will push old stock on you and are probably the most familiar face of your hardware experience, but it’s time to move on, isn’t it?
- Step 6: Actual replacement. Again, just google what you’re about to do (and make sure you have the page open on a laptop / second computer / printed out beforehand) and shut down, open up, remove old card, insert new card, do not force or struggle, tighten the screws, and you’re done. GPU replacements are probably the easiest to do, other than RAM – no cables to manage, as most GPUs run direct off the PCI slot. If it needs an external power supply, make sure you’ve identified where that goes. I’m not going to talk about crossfiring, I don’t know enough about that – try it on your own.
- Restart and let the system detect the new hardware, run the manufacturer disk, and you’re set.
- Emergencies – in case there’s any issues, you can always get a working (non-gaming) system by simply using the motherboard’s own VGA slot for the monitor instead of the GPU slot. You can also use this when your GPU’s about to fail / has failed, leaving you with a blank monitor.