a graphics card
Have the right tools handy, including a Philips-head screwdriver
and something to pick up a screw if you drop it in the case. Make
sure you have your Windows installation disk as well. If you have
a game with DirectX 6.0 or a DirectX SDK CD lying around, make sure
that's handy. Give yourself some space and make sure you can constantly
ground yourself. Better yet, use an anti-static strap. Simply go
to a Radio Shack or computer shop and pick up an anti-static grounding
strap. Make sure you attach it to the chassis of the computer. If
you can't get a grounding strap, you can ground yourself frequently
by either touching the metal computer chassis or some other grounded
Also, if you've got an AGP system and are upgrading to a recent
generation card (RIVA TNT, Banshee, or ATI Rage 128), you might
consider upgrading to Windows 98 if you haven't already done so.
Most of the following directions revolve around Windows 98. However,
I will touch on a few Windows 95 specifics. I won't be covering
Windows NT, Linux, or other alternative operating systems here.
I also won't cover every possible iteration of card connections.
For example, Voodoo2 cards generally connect to a primary (2D/3D)
card via a passthrough cable; the display is then connected to the
Voodoo2 card. Some cards (Canopus) use a reverse passthrough scheme.
If you just got one of those cards, consult the Canopus manual for
connecting up the card. Connector types may vary; Canopus' passthrough
is a DIN-style connector, not a 15-pin male connector. Quantum3D
uses still another passthrough style that works well, but I'm going
to cover the standard connector, which will take care of 90 percent
of the cards out there.
To all you observant readers: you may notice that my choice for
swapping primary cards is a little odd. It's only an example and
not an editorial statement.
Popping Open the Case
Let's take a look at a typical motherboard layout.
Here's the guts of an Intel SE440BX motherboard. Note the AGP slot
on the right. It's offset from the PCI slots.
If you're adding, upgrading, or replacing a primary graphics card
in a Pentium II, Pentium III or K6-2 system, it's very likely that
the new card will go into the AGP slot. Most Voodoo2 cards go into
the PCI slot, though Quantum3D does make an AGP Voodoo2 card.
Adding a Voodoo2 card is about the easiest hardware installation
you can do. However, it still means opening your case and installing
drivers. Additionally, there are issues involved if you are upgrading
over a Voodoo Rush or Voodoo Graphics card.
If you do have Voodoo Rush or Voodoo Graphics, try uninstalling
the drivers. If there's no uninstall procedure, you may still be
OK - most of the more recent Voodoo2 drivers have a built-in utility
that searches your system for old drivers. It's usually under a
button labeled Utility in the Voodoo2 card's control panel.
The vast majority of Voodoo2 cards are added into PCI slots. Here's
a typical Voodoo2 card.
Note the two connectors. You attach your monitor to one connector.
The passthrough cable runs from the other connector to your 2D/3D
You slip the Voodoo2 card into a free PCI slot. Pay close attention
to whatever hardware is next to the Voodoo2 card - particularly
the 3dfx chip side of the board. Voodoo2 chips can run pretty hot
when the action is heavy, so you don't want anything very heat sensitive
If you plan on installing Voodoo2 SLI, make sure you connect the
short SLI cable between the two cards. Screw down the mounting brackets.
Set the system upright if it's a tower and power it up. The Add
Device Wizard (new hardware detected) should pop up when you boot
into Windows. If you had a Voodoo Graphics card, it may not. If
you simply find yourself at the Windows desktop, run the Add New
Hardware control panel. Or, get into the system control panel. You
may see a PCI Multimedia Device with an exclamation point next to
it. You can also install the drivers by going to the property sheet
for the device.
Here's what you should see if your system detects the new Voodoo2
card. follow the on-screen instructions, but make sure you have
the drivers for your card either on the hard drive or in your CD
After the drivers install, you must reboot. At that point, you may
also want to run the sweep utility (the utility that searches for
old 3dfx drivers). Now, you're up and running.
The daisy chain in action.
If you're installing SLI, the card with the highest system priority
should be the one connected to the monitor and passthrough cable.
This is usually, but not always, the PCI slot closest to the CPU.
Note for DVD decoder users: if you have a DVD decoder that uses
an external passthrough (for example, Creative Labs Dxr2), I suggest
connecting the monitor to the Voodoo2 card and daisy chain back
to the primary card.
Replacing the Primary Card
Replacing a primary can be a major headache. A little advance prep
will save a lot of pain.
The zeroth thing you do (in other words, the thing you do before
anything else) is back up any valuable data in your \windows folders!
Sorry I had to shout, but this is important. Sometimes when a graphics
card installation goes bad, you end up having to do a clean reinstall
of Windows by removing the \windows folder. If you use Outlook or
any application that stores information in the \windows folder you'll
lose it if you don't back it up. Internet Explorer places the Favorites
folder in \windows - hey, it's part of the operating system, right?
(My personal philosophy is that no application should store user
data in \windows. But what do I know, I'm just a writer.) Make sure
you have all your application install CDs handy; if you have to
reinstall Windows, you'll need to reinstall your Windows applications.
Lest I scare you off, this kind of disaster only happens rarely.
I have noticed, however, that it almost always occurs if you don't
Here We Go..
The first thing to do is start your system with your existing card
still in it.
Now, go into \windows\inf\other. You'll see a series of .INF files.
They are all simply text files. Find the one for your old graphics
card and delete it. If you don't see it in \windows\inf\other, try
Now bring up the display control panel. Click on the settings tab,
then the Advanced button. Now select the tab labeled Adapter. (Windows
95 users may encounter a slightly different sequence, but it's similar).
You want to swap your current driver for the Windows VGA driver.
Click on the Change button. You'll see the following dialog.
Now, click on the second choice, "Display a list..."
Now, scroll the dialog until you see Standard Display Types on the
left. Click on it and select Standard PCI Graphics Adapter (VGA).
You may get an pop-up telling you this is not the correct device;
Replacing the Primary Card,
In some cases, the system may do a cold boot (that is, boot as if
the system was just powered up). In other cases, you may only see
a Windows restart. If you see the normal hardware startup, just
power the system off at this point. If Windows restarts, go ahead
and let it come up. It will look hideous due to the 16-color VGA
driver. Ignore it and shut down normally.
After powering down, open the case and locate the AGP or PCI slot
you plan on using. Slide the card gently in, making sure it seats
firmly. Note that AGP cards sometimes don't seat properly. Make
sure it's down and tight before and after screwing the bracket down.
When the system comes up, you'll see the Detect New Hardware dialog.
It usually suggests that you load the VGA driver. Go ahead and let
it do that, then reboot. This will ensure a more stable installation.
(Here's a note to people bringing up a new homebuilt system for
the first time: I still like to install the VGA driver during the
Windows setup process. Then, I go back after Windows is up and running
and install the graphics drivers.)
Note that if you're replacing the primary card with something similar
(different brands of TNT boards, for example), be careful that the
system doesn't install the old driver set automatically. For example,
if you're swapping a Velocity 4400 out for a Hercules TNT board,
Windows may automatically reinstall the 4400 drivers. If you've
set the system up for VGA before swapping boards and if you've removed
the old .INF file, you should be OK.
Now, it's time to install the new drivers. There are two types of
driver installations. One uses the Windows 95/98 Add New Hardware
control panel. The other uses a setup program provided by the manufacturer.
I personally prefer the latter, if available. Follow the manufacturer's
installation, using whatever method it suggests.
After one more reboot, you should be good to go.Troubleshooting
Installing a graphics card is fraught with potential peril. Here
are a few typical problems and some suggestions.
Q: Windows boots into what looks like VGA mode. It won't let me
install a new driver (the option is greyed out), but tells me my
card is not configured. What do I do?
A: There are two common causes for this. The first is that you either
didn't remove the .INF file for your old card or you didn't set
up for VGA (or both). In that case, the only solution is to reinstall
the old card and set up for VGA. Don't forget to remove that .INF
The other possible cause is that you have either an IRQ conflict,
or an IRQ isn't being properly assigned to the graphics card. All
new graphics cards use either PCI 2.1 or AGP. In either case, they
require an IRQ to be assigned to work properly. Check for conflicts.
It's very common in some motherboards for the PCI slot adjacent
to the AGP slot to grab the same IRQ. Graphics cards don't like
to share IRQs. You can either manually assign IRQs to individual
PCI slots (an onerous task) or leave the PCI slot empty. Alternatively,
put the Voodoo2 card there, though you've now created a nice hotspot
with two fast accelerators adjacent to each other.
Q: Windows quits with a protection error. When I reboot, the same
A: You may have an IRQ conflict. You may have to boot into safe
mode to fix the problem, but it's a tough one. What usually works
is to boot into DOS and reinstall Windows. Usually, a refresh install
works, but occasionally, you may have to do a clean reinstall. For
help in that area, see Chapter 2: Getting Games to Run Right.
Q: When I power up, I hear a series of beeps and get no picture.
A: Either the card is defective, or the card isn't really seated
in the slot. Remove it and slide it back in again. (Usually, this
Q: Everything seems to turn on properly and don't hear any beeps,
but I don't get a picture.
A: Try the trick of popping out the card and slipping it back in.
Make sure that the system is automatically assigning IRQs. Some
BIOSs have the option to disable IRQ assignments to VGA cards. Make
sure this option is not turned on. As I wrote previously, all current
generation cards need an IRQ to work properly.
It is also possible that if you're installing into an older Pentium
system, the PCI slots are not 2.1 capable. In that case, return
the card for a refund - it probably will never work properly. How
do you tell? Good question. Some BIOS setup programs report the
PCI revision number, or it may be in the manual.
The Price of Glory
These are the really major headaches. You may run into additional
teething problems. If it's a really new technology card, you still
have to go through driver downloads and updates. Such is the price
of high-performance glory. But there is a certain satisfaction to
getting through this process. But it should still be easier than
this. Maybe it will in the PC2002 spec....
IF IN DOUBT DONT!!! get some that can to do it and watch.