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How to Install an Expansion Card.

An Expansion Card as the name implies is for expanding the functionality of a PC. These cards snap into an Expansion Slot. An Expansion Slot is a slot built into the motherboard of a PC for adding Expansion Cards. Expansion slots are PCI, AGP, PCI-X, Mini-PCI and PCI Express. Most techs follow a four step process when installing an Expansion Card. These steps are knowledge of the expansion card, correctly inserting the card without damaging it, providing drivers so the Operating System can use the card and lastly verifying that the card functions properly.

First step: Know your Card.
It goes without saying that you have to know a lot about the device you plan to install. You should know whether it plays well with your PC and operating system, and if it has drivers for your operating system. If you are running a modern windows operating system, then you’re likely not to have any issues. But if you’re using windows XP or running a Linux rig, then these checks are very important. Also old cards don’t work well with newer versions of windows especially the 64-bit versions. Always check the device documentation and the manufacturers website to verify you have the correct drivers. If you use a windows system you can check whether the Card is compatible with your version of Windows at the windows compatibility center:
Most often Microsoft will list your product, but another check is to look on the box of the device. All windows certified devices will always have a windows logo to show that they work with windows.

Second step: Insert the Card.
An Expansion Card like most PC devices is plug and play, but a lot can happen during the “plug” process. The first thing that can go wrong is an electrostatic discharge (ESD) which can damage both the Card and the Motherboard. ESD means a passage of a static electrical charge from one item to another, while sometimes not noticeable to humans is very dangerous for electrical components. To prevent ESD use an anti-static wrist wrap, if you don’t have one then make sure you touch the PC power supply after removing the Card from its anti-static bag. This will put you, the Expansion Card and the PC at the same electrical potential and reduce the risk of ESD. Another thing that can damage a Card is voltage from the power supply. All modern systems have a little voltage coming into the motherboard even when not powered on as long as they are plugged to the wall outlet. Inserting an Expansion Card when your PC is still plugged to the wall outlet will most certainly fry the Card or your Motherboard or both. Finally, never insert the Card at an angle and don’t touch the slot connectors or any of the components on the board while trying to install.

Third step: Install Drivers.
This normally comes in form of an optical disc that comes with the Expansion Card, but always check the manufacturers website to make sure you have the latest version. You should install the device first then the drivers except explicitly directed to do otherwise.

Final step: Verify.
This is simply making sure that the device is functioning properly. After installing the Card, head over to Device Manager (windows key + R, then type “devmgmt.msc” at the run console) to confirm that windows is seeing the device. At the Device status you should see “This device is working properly.” After this try using the device, make it do whatever it is supposed to do.

Installation of Expansion Cards should be a breeze, but if you are having issues the first place to check is device manager. A black “!” on a triangle indicates that the device is missing, or that windows does not recognize the device or there’s a driver problem. A black downward pointing arrow on a white field indicates a disabled device. If you have the “!” symbol, check the device’s connections. If the symbol remains, then try reinstalling the device with Update Driver Button. To get to the Update Driver Button, right-click the desired device in Device Manager and select Properties. In the Properties dialog box, select the Driver tab. On the Driver tab, click the Update Driver button. If the problem is a downward pointing arrow, right-click on the device and select Enable. If that fails, try uninstalling the driver. Shut the system down and redo the entire installation making sure you have the latest version of the driver. If none of these procedures work, then the card is faulty.

If a device fails to show on device manager, check to make sure it is inserted properly. If it still doesn’t show, run the Add Hardware Wizard (windows key + R, then type “hdwwiz” at the run console) to see if windows will recognize the device. If the device still isn’t recognized, then most likely the device is damaged and will need to be replaced.

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