Installing and Configuring Expansion Cards – CompTIA A+ 220-801: 1.4

A computer’s expansion cards can provide nearly unlimited upgrade options. In this video, you’ll learn about some of the most popular expansion card types and some of the best practices for installing and configuring expansion cards.

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When you’re working with expansion cards, you’ll find there are many different styles and types. Here’s one that’s common to see if you’re working with a high-end video card. You have a very advanced graphic function. A lot of gamers like to have these types of video cards.

First you can see, they’re very big. Because they have a fan built right into the video card itself. They get very, very hot. It’s not uncommon to see them having their own cooling system built right into the system. And because of that, it uses up quite a bit of room when you plug it into an expansion slot. Of course, you’ll see the interfaces that you’ll plug into. And then the rest of the area is set up to blow air constantly through that particular video card.

Audio cards look a lot different than the video cards. They don’t have the same high-powered CPU processing requirements. So there’s no built-in fan system. It simply uses the cooling system that’s already in your computer. And very often, they’re much smaller cards, because you don’t need a lot of different components on the card itself.

Usually you do have a lot of different interfaces on the back. You might be plugging in a Dolby stereo-type system. There might be a subwoofer. There might even be optical connections so that you could plug in between the audio card and your audio system without any type of electrical interference between those.

A type of card that combines both audio and video, along with a different type of audio and video decoder, is something like a television tuner. This is one where you would plug in, for instance, the coax directly from a video signal. And then you would output that same video signal through other types of interfaces. These generally also have fans on them, just to make sure that that video processing is being cooled as effectively as possible.

If you have a motherboard it doesn’t have SCSI connectors on there for storage, but you have SCSI hard drives, you may need to install a separate SCSI adapter. That’s one that plugs right into your motherboard. It might have memory and CPUs right on the system itself. And then it will have interfaces that you’ll use to either plug into internal hard drives– sometimes the adapters will have interfaces external. So you can plug into external storage systems as well.

If you have a modern motherboard, you may find that you don’t have some of the legacy ports that you used to have on your older computers. And if you have a printer that needs a parallel interface, or you have some type of serial connected device, you may need some of those older ports. This is a good example of an adapter card that provides both a parallel port and a serial port. And it’s plugging into the modern PCI express interface that’s on your motherboard. By simply installing this, now you’ll have those same ports that you used to have on your older computer, now available to you on your modern motherboard.

On my computer, I never have enough USB ports. I have so many different USB devices plugged into my computer. Having an additional card to plug into my PCI bus, might provide me with some additional ports that I can then use to plug in additional USB devices. It’s very common to see this, especially if you have a lot of USB connected devices. You need additional connectivity? Just add another adapter card. And now you have more USB ports.

Occasionally, I’ll run into a very specialized-type application, that is at a location that doesn’t have always-on internet. It only needs to transfer a small amount of information at a time. And we might use something like a modem– a modulator, de-modulator– that plugs directly into a normal phone line. That way you’re able to simply have a very common phone line connection. And then at night, the computer picks up the line, dials another phone number that connects to a modem on the other end, transfers the information, and then hangs up the phone line. It makes it very simple to use an existing telephone line, and not having to pay for an always on internet connection.

Our motherboards, these days, tend to have ethernet network connections built right into the motherboard. But if you need an additional connection, or maybe the motherboard ethernet connection is no longer working, you can get an ethernet adapter to plug into one of your adapter slots. And it will provide you with an ethernet connection right out of the back of your computer. Many servers will have multiple ethernet connections on there, and be able to use all of them simultaneously to improve the throughput, and be able to have some fault tolerance. If you have an adapter card that fails, the other ethernet adapter card will continue to operate. And that server will continue to be available.

If you’re planning to install one of these types of adapters, you need to look at your motherboard itself, examine what type of slots might be available on the motherboard. Because you’ll need to purchase an adapter that’s going to match the configuration of your motherboard. Then look at the adapter documentation itself, determine what type of hardware and software it requires, especially from an operating system perspective. See if there’s any “gotchas.” You might want to go to that manufacturer’s knowledge base and see if there’s any problems with certain versions of drivers, or certain types of motherboards. And you might want to also go to support forums to find out what other people are saying about these adapters. Maybe a certain manufacture’s adapter is easier or harder to install than in others.

Another important consideration is that some manufacturers require that you install the driver prior to installing the hardware. Whereas others may require that you first install the hardware, and then later you will install the drivers. Make sure you check the documentation for your adapter card to see exactly what order that installation should be performed.

The physical process of installing an adapter card onto a motherboard is relatively simple. You have your adapter slots on your motherboard. And you have already purchased a card that you know is compatible with and fits into the slots available. So you would simply place it on top of one of those adapter slots and give it a gentle push down. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to push these in. But you want to be sure that it goes all the way into the slot as far as possible. You want to make sure you’ve got that copper contacts all the way in, as far as they can go inside of that adapter slot. And that way, you ensure that when you power on this system, that that’s going to be working exactly the way you would expect.

When you’re ready to power on your computer, you’ve either already installed the driver prior to putting the hardware into the system, or that you’re about to install the driver inside of your computer, now that the hardware has been installed. Sometimes they’ll ship the driver on a DVD with the hardware itself. I often will go right to the manufacturer’s website and make sure I download the latest driver, so that I know I have whatever the latest and greatest might be.

If there’s an existing driver, it may require that you want to install the driver. The best way in Windows to do that, is through the Windows Device Manager. Sometimes there is a wizard or a set-up executable program you’ll use. You won’t go through the Windows process for installing a driver. You’ll simply run the program that the manufacturer provides. If you do have a simple driver– there is no installation program– then you’ll use something like the Windows Device Manager to install the driver and get everything running.

And once it is installed, once the driver is updated, once you’ve booted the system up or restarted it, you should be able to go to the Windows Device Manager and see the status of your brand new adapter card. If everything has worked properly, it will tell you that that driver is installed, and it’s working perfectly.