Choose the right video card
If you do a lot of gaming, video editing or photo manipulation, a standalone video card is an excellent upgrade. Most inexpensive computers come with a video card that is built into the motherboard, and while this design is fine for light use such as web surfing and email, it might not be suitable for functions such as video gaming or photo editing. There are many standalone video cards on the market, and it is important to choose the right one.
1. Check the hardware compatibility list for your operating system at Microsoft.com (see Resources). Go to the video card section to get a list of cards that are compatible with your operating system.
2. Check the manual that came with your computer to determine what type of connections are on the inside. Some computers have only PCI slots for video cards and other upgrades, while others include AGP slots as well.
3. Determine how much on-board memory you need for your video card. The more processor intensive your programs are, the more on-board memory you will need. For intensive gaming and video editing, choose a card with at least 256MB of memory–512MB is even better.
4. Read the reviews of the video cards you are considering in magazines and websites such as Consumer Reports, PC World and PC Magazine. Look for impartial reviews that are not accompanied by ads.
5. Determine whether or not you need support for two monitors. Look for a dual-head video card if you plan to use more than one monitor.