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How to upgrade your PC's graphics card (GPU)

GTX 1070
GTX 1070

It's an exciting time getting a new graphics card for your PC, especially if you are buying one of our picks for best graphics card on the market. Whether you've been hanging on to the same one for years, or you're a fan of the bleeding edge, it's something that always brings new life to your gaming.

Getting a newer, more powerful graphics card means better performance in the latest games, and in some cases, it increases the resolution you can play at. Once you've got your new card, making the switch is fairly straightforward but there are some things you need to make sure you do.

How to save money on a new graphics card

1080 ti

1080 ti

Right now, graphics cards are really expensive. The trouble is that the recent cryptocurrency boom has severely increased demand because there are plenty of currencies you can successfully mine with GPUs.

Our advice is to avoid buying unless you really have to, because let's face it, spending potentially hundreds of dollars more than you need to isn't a good idea. But that's not to say there aren't deals out there worth taking advantage of, and we're doing our best to make sure we're bringing you those deals regularly.

Best deals on graphics cards (GPUs)

Remove the old drivers

Geforce drivers

Geforce drivers

Even if you're going from NVIDIA to NVIDIA, or AMD to AMD, you still need to sort out the drivers. If you don't, you'll most likely have a bad time. trust me, I speak from experience. (Yes, I forgot to do this during an upgrade.) This will remove the drivers for your current card, so you'll also want to make sure you hook up your monitor to the onboard display output for your PC. This way you'll be able to see what you're doing.

Here's how to do it:

  1. In the Cortana search bar type device manager to go there quickest.
  2. Select display adapters.
  3. Right click on your current graphics card.

  1. Select uninstall device.

Install the new card

1080 Ti

1080 Ti

Installing a new graphics card inside your PC is easy, whether you're going inside a pre-built machine or a custom creation. If you built your own PC, you'll already be familiar enough.

What you will need to make sure of is that you have the necessary power connector for your new card. For the sake of this guide, we're going to assume you already have a big enough power supply. But you may still need a different connector.

For example, my old GTX 1070 used an eight-pin connector, whereas my new GTX 1080 Ti (opens in new tab) uses an eight-pin and a six-pin. Your power supply may already have the additional connector attached if it's non-modular. If it's a modular power supply you might need to go back into the box and find another cable.

It's then a simple matter of slotting the graphics card into the now vacant PCIe slot and connecting the power.

Getting new drivers

NVIDIA Drivers

NVIDIA Drivers

To use your new graphics card, you need new drivers. The only thing that differs is where you go to get them. You'll also still need to make sure you're connected to your onboard display output for this, not one of those coming from the graphics card.

  • To download the latest NVIDIA drivers click here (opens in new tab)
  • To download the latest AMD driver click here

Installing the drivers is no more difficult than installing any other program on your PC. They'll be packaged up into an executable that you just open, follow the on-screen directions, and let it do its thing.

These driver packages will also install either the NVIDIA Geforce Experience or AMD Crimson applications on your PC. You can use them or not, but they're not necessary to use the graphics card. Both apps are, however, an easy way to make sure you always have the latest drivers for your card.

That's it. When you fire up your PC, your new graphics card should be off and running for all the gaming you can handle.

The Windows Central ultimate PC build guide

Updated April 24, 2018: We checked through our guide to make sure you still have the best information on upgrading your graphics card.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

13 Comments
  • Genius way to get two articles out Rich - Upgrading to the 1080Ti, so a guide, and if it is worth it. Kind of feel though you posted them in the wrong order 😂
  • I don't do the scheduling ;-) Rule of thumb we have around here though: If we do something (especially dumb things wrong) and we don't have a guide on the site, we have to write a guide for the site. If we do something and we make a mistake, we're not the only people out there making the same mistake :)
  • FYI even Nvidia recommend using DDU to clear out old drivers. Certainly the best way to do it for a new GPU.
  • NVIDIA allow you to do clean installs when upgrading drivers as well.
  • NVIDIA allow you to do clean installs when upgrading drivers as well.
  • I have the 1080ti and it is a great card, but I really wish that Nvidia would stop with the need to create an account to be notified when there is a new driver. And if I do need to create an account, then don't install the software that runs in the background and does nothing but tell me to create an account to make it work.
  • You only need the account if you isntall the Geforce Experience.  Do a custom install and and do not install it that piece.  In fact I only install the graphics driver and physyics driver.  I do not install the 3D stuff or the Gefore Experience.  I also do NOT install the HD audio if I am not going to use audio from my monitor over the display port or HDMI (I don't)....so bascially out of your sound ports on your motherboard or headphones. You only need the Geforce Experienc (account required) if you want to use the built in tools like the recorder or frame counter.  I use other tools for this.
  • Sorry if I missed anything in the article, how do you deal with your old 1070? Do you just simply remove it from PC, or somehow still keep it in another slot? I know you can't SLI with 2 different cards, but I'd like to know if you can still use 1070 some way, e.g., as a physics card, or do kinds of GPU computing?
  • In my case I just removed it. My PC doesn't have the capacity for anything fancy. Selling it pays for about half of my new 1080 Ti.
  • So for NVIDIA to NVIDIA this is how I do it... Download the latest drivers for your new video card. Shutdown the PC and swap out video cards. Boot up and install the driver, choosing the "Clean Install" option which removes the old driver completely and installs the new driver vs just upgrading. I have done this for my self and other many times and never had an issue.  Also you DO NOT need to use the built in video card??  When you install a dedicated video card, most motherboards shut off the interal video card.  Even without a driver NVIDIA video cards will give you a low res (800x600?) display.  This is how I build a new PC with video card already in and no driver.  Windows 10 on a fast computer and fast internet will actually download a driver pretty fast.  Usually an out of date driver but the resolution will go to normal for the screen. I have no idea how this would work with AMD to AMD.  If I was going from AMD to NVIDIA or the other way then I would remove the driver and shutdown.  Swap the cards and power up....get the low res if Windows does not know what it is and then install the new driver.
  • I recently upgraded from one AMD to another AMD and found that it all worked okay without reinstalling the drivers. Then I did a bit of reading on the internet and found that this was not recommended. I also found a utility called Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU) and gave it a go. This might be a little over the top, but if you want to be extra certain that the old drivers are totally gone it's a good tool.
  • Richard kinda glosses over it, but it is VITAL that you check to make sure your Power Supply can handle both the new GPU and the existing hardware.
    I can't tell you how many times people have complained to me about "that crappy video card" (both Nvidia and AMD) and when I check their system they have a woefully underrated power supply for the card they installed (looking at YOU DELL.) Usually they blame the "drivers" when it's their own weak PS that is the issue. Sure it works fine until you start up a graphically intense game, then the blue-screens and freezes start as the card tries to suck more power out of the PS than it can handle.
    Rule of thumb: If you have to use the Molex-to-6 or 8-pin adapter, your PS probably cannot handle the card properly. Every modern PS in the last 8 or so years should have a dedicated 6/8 pin cable on it designed to handle the current a modern GPU requires.
    A lot of smaller OEM PS do NOT have these cables, and thus cannot handle the current these cards require (and that is why they don't have them. Duh!)
    Anything like a GTX1060 (and AMD equivalent) requires at least a 300W PS (500W is best for 1070 and higher.) BTW - almost NOBODY needs a 1600W PS unless you are running Dual-1080Ti cards with 256GB of memory, a highly overclocked CPU and 10 Hard Drives (or a Crypto-Mining rig.)
    Check first, it will save you a lot of headaches later on.
    Trust me on this.
  • I wanted to upvote this but the app doesn't have that. Anyway, I totally agree with your points.