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How to Install an Add-in Card (Page 2/4)

Written By: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy
Posted: July 9, 2001

Tools Required

Installing an add-in card to your system is not a big deal. You should probably have the following tools handy though:

- Philips-head screwdriver, without a magnetic-tip.
- Flat-head screwdriver (if required... you should know), without a magnetic-tip.
- Drivers CD or floppy disk (or on the hard drive)
- Obviously, the sound, video, or network card (etc.) that you'll be installing
- A clean, flat working area (preferably without carpet)

Okay I set a very bad example. This is a dirty carpet floor, and I am
using a power screwdriver with a magnetic tip. Don't do as Dan does!

Optimizing the Motherboard's Layout

I'm going to jump ahead a tiny bit here, but we'll get back to the installation after that. That's because now is a good time to decide where to put your new add-in card.

In order to really take advantage of the layout of a case and motherboard, one should consider where each add-in card is placed carefully. There are a couple basic rules I follow when doing this. First, make sure the video card (if PCI) is in the first PCI slot, or the most "upper" slot if the tower is vertical. If you have enough extra PCI slots, skip a PCI slot between each add-in card. Keep in mind though that the very bottom PCI slot is often shared with an ISA slot, so it may not support bus-mastering. This can cause problems in itself, so try to avoid this slot.

My preference is to start with an AGP video card, then skip the first PCI slot. Next I put in the next "hottest" card, which in the case of this article is a SCSI controller card. Then I skipped another slot. Next I put in my network card, and finally I put in my sound card. For me this works great and I have no problems. You may need to move things around later.

Installation Safety

Add-in cards are loaded chips that are very sensitive to static. ESD, or electro-static discharge, is often released when a person grabs onto something without first grounding themself. The result of ESD on ICs can often lead to instant death.

Consider the following when installing an add-in card:
- Don't work in a room with carpeting unless it's absolutely necessary. You should be able to work in the garage or outside or somewhere that doesn't have carpet. Carpets are loaded with dust, and as you know from rubbing your feet on the carpet as a child (or even an adult if you're strange enough), carpets build electricity quite easily!
- Before you remove the card from the anti-static bag and before you begin installation, be sure to ground yourself by touching the computer chassis bare metal. If you leave the computer case plugged in (but turned off) while you work on it, you can be sure the earth ground is in-tact. If you don't want to ground yourself, get a ground strap
- Don't drop anything

Tuan sporting his stylish strap in our How to Build a Server article.

Are you ready to install the card now? Good, because I'm tired of writing warnings and checklists.

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