How to install a PCI card, conventional and PCI Express?

How to install a PCI or a PCI Express Card

Many components use the PCI Express slots in a PC, the most common of which are modems, sound cards and ethernet (network) cards. 

This guide will take you through the installation process with the use of photos and text. Conventional PCI cards are still used, albeit infrequently, so we will cover the installation of those as well.

To install your PCI-type card you will need:

  • Compatible modem, ethernet card, sound card or other PCI-type card.
  • Cross-point screwdriver suitable for your PC case.
  • Fixing screw (usually comes with the case).
  • Anti-static wrist-strap (if available).
note: Disconnect the power & remove your PC's cover,helpwithpcs.com guide.

Installing a PCI Express card


note: If you are installing a video card click here.
There are various form factors (physical sizes) of PCI Express cards however they are very versatile. The current form factors are x1, x2, x4, x8 and x16, each one being slightly different in physical length. 

The versatility comes in with the fact that a smaller form factor card can be installed in a larger form factor slot, for example, an x4 card can be placed into an x16 slot. 

Depending on the model your motherboard may have a variety of different slots to choose from, and as most motherboards these days have many devices built-in you should find that most of the slots are empty and available for expansion cards.
example-pci-express-slots
To the left you can see an example of two different PCI Express slots with the form factors of x1 and x16.

Once you have decided which slot you are going to use you will have to remove the blank (thin piece of metal attached by either a screw or clip which covers the hole in the chassis). Next, take your card holding it by the edges and line it up with the slot. Notice the alignment notch which is used to ensure correct installation (see diagram below).
align-the-card
If you are installing a card of the same form factor as the slot then pull-back the clip (labelled C in our diagram on the left) that is used to lock the card in place. If you are installing a smaller card, for example, an x4 card into an x16 slot, then ensure the card is correctly and firmly inserted. 

Lift the clip, if applicable, back into the locking position and then proceed to insert the holding screw into the card's faceplate and tighten the screw down firmly.

Finally, ensure the card is seated nicely in position and then replace the chassis cover(s), reconnect the mains power supply and peripherals. 

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). 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. If you continue to have trouble check our guide to the beep codes which may give you an idea of the problem.

Installing a conventional PCI card

After the cover is removed the first thing to do is to locate the PCI slots on your motherboard. Different motherboards have a different amount of PCI slots, also you may already have a PCI card installed in which case just choose an empty slot to install your new PCI card. 

you can see an example of a PCI slot in fig 1.1 below:
pci-slot-1  pci-card-with-notches
In fig 1.2 above you can see a typical PCI card, we have pointed out an alignment notch (A), this is used to align the card with the slot. If you take a look at the slot in fig 1.1 you can see how it is aligned with the card. 

Once you have chosen which PCI slot you want to use remove the "blank" from the back of the case to make room for the card. If you are unsure how to remove the "blanks" see your PC case's manual.
What are blanks? 
Blank refers to a small piece of metal that is inserted into the back of the case in alignment with the PCI slots. Most blanks are fixed into position with a screw, but different cases use different methods.

After removing the blank, align the card with the slot and gently but firmly push the card into position.
installing-pci-step-2  installing-pci-screw
Once the PCI card is seated firmly into place fig 1.3 insert the fixing screw fig 1.4, check to make sure nothing has been loosened during installation and then replace the case cover.

Finishing the installation

When you reboot your machine your operating system should find the card automatically. It will then prompt you for the driver disk/cd that came with your card, insert the CD and follow the on-screen instructions. 

If you here a sequence of beeps when you boot your machine back up then the card may not be fully seated in the slot. 

If you encounter a problem with interrupt requests, and/or intermittent problems, try using a different PCI slot or adjusting the IRQ settings in your BIOS.

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