Video card in computers: Video card | Definition & Facts

Video card | Definition & Facts

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction

Fast Facts

  • Facts & Related Content


  • Computers and Operating Systems

What is a Video Card?

Updated: 10/18/2022 by Computer Hope

Alternatively known as a display adapter, graphics card, video adapter, video board, or video controller, a video card is an expansion card that connects to a computer motherboard. It is used to create a picture on a display; without a video card, you would not be able to see this page. More plainly, it’s a piece of hardware inside your computer that processes images and video, some tasks normally handled by the CPU (central processing unit). Video cards are used by gamers in place of integrated graphics due to their extra processing power and video ram.

  • A visual overview of a computer video card
  • Video card ports
  • Video card expansion slots (connections)
  • Can I install more than one video card?
  • Does every computer need a video card?
  • Video card history
  • Related information
  • Video card help and support

A visual overview of a computer video card

Below are two visual examples of what a video card may look like inside of a computer. First is a picture of an older model AGP video card with multiple types of connections and components on it. Second is an example of a more modern PCI Express video card used with today’s gaming computers.


Some motherboards may also use an onboard video card, which means the video card is not a separate expansion card like those shown below.

Video card ports

The pictures above also help illustrate the types of video ports used with video cards. For more information about any of these ports, click the links below.

  • DVI (digital visual interface)
  • HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
  • S-Video
  • VGA (Video Graphics Adapter)

In the past, VGA or SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array) was the most widely-used connection with computer monitors. Today, most flat-panel displays utilize DVI or HDMI connectors.

Video card expansion slots (connections)

A video card expansion slot is where the card connects to the motherboard. In the picture above, the video card is inserted into the AGP expansion slot on the computer motherboard. Over the development of computers, there were several types of expansion slots used for video cards. Today, the most common expansion slot for video cards is PCIe (PCI Express), which replaced AGP (accelerated graphics port), which replaced PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect), which replaced ISA (Industry Standard Architecture).


Some OEM (original equipment manufacturer) computers and motherboards may have a video card onboard or integrated into the motherboard.

  • Does my computer have onboard (integrated) graphics?
  • Can’t add a video card to a computer with onboard video.

Does every computer need a video card?

No. Many computer motherboards have an onboard video card that would allow the computer to work without a video card connected to an expansion slot. Also, many servers do not need a video card because they’re accessed remotely.

Can I install more than one video card?

Yes. Both AMD Radeon (utilizing CrossFire) and NVIDIA GeForce (utilizing SLI (Scalable Link Interface)) cards are capable of running two or more video cards together.

Video card history

While graphics circuitry has been used in arcade games since the mid-1970s, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that the first graphics chips emerged for computers. Developed by NEC, the High-Performance Graphics Display Controller 7220, or NEC 7220, was one of the earliest processing chips for computer graphics, capable of 4 MHz to 5.5 MHz clock speeds. It was a popular and advanced graphics chips throughout the 1980s.

In the early 1990s, multiple developers started integrating 2D acceleration into their graphics chips, with S3 Graphics being the first. Named the S3 86C911, it utilized the ISA slot on a motherboard and featured 1 MB of video memory.

Developed by NVIDIA and released on October 11, 1999, the GeForce 256 was touted as the first video card for consumer PCs with 2D and 3D hardware-accelerated graphics in a single unit. The first GeForce 256 chips featured 32 MB SDR video memory and had a 166 MHz clock speed. Later versions of the GeForce 256 changed to DDR (double data rate) video memory for improved performance. The GeForce 256 helped pave the way forward towards the video cards we know and use today.

  • What video card does my computer have?
  • How to install a computer video card.
  • My video card isn’t working.
  • Computer video card manufacturers.
  • Video card help and support.

Adapter, Connection, CUDA, Dedicated graphics, GPU, Hardware terms, Output device, Processing device, Video accelerator, Video card terms

Video card | Computer for dummies

The video card is a component of the motherboard responsible for processing video data and displaying images on the monitor. You can meet the names: video adapter, graphics card, graphics card, graphics adapter, or in computer slang – “vidyaha”. There are two types of video cards – built-in and external.

  • Integrated video cards
  • External video card
  • How to determine which video card is in the computer
  • Main characteristics of video cards
  • More on the topic:

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Integrated video cards

Integrated video cards are an integral part of a modern motherboard, which is why they are called integrated. In the characteristics of the computer, the built-in video adapter can be referred to as on board (from the English “on the board”).

For its work, the integrated video card takes a part of the total computer resources. Because of this, the performance of both the video card itself and the computer will be lower than that of a computer with an external video adapter. The connector(s) for connecting the monitor is located directly on the motherboard and goes to the rear panel of the system unit. An integrated video card is used, as a rule, in inexpensive computers designed for office tasks. To work in professional video processing programs, 3D modeling, as well as for modern three-dimensional games with high detail, you need an external video card.

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External video card

It has its own processor (graphic processing unit – GPU) and RAM. It is removable and is located on the motherboard in a special connector – slot, which makes it easy to replace it in case of failure or to replace it with a more productive one.

An external video card is much more powerful than the built-in one, which causes its GPU to generate a lot of heat. To avoid overheating and failure, all modern external video cards have a cooling system in the form of a fan installed on the graphics processor.

The external video card has several connectors for a monitor or other video devices that differ in connection interface. With the video adapter installed, they go to the rear panel of the system unit.

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How to determine which video card is in the computer

The easiest way to look is on the rear panel of the system unit. The integrated video adapter connector(s) is located vertically at the top of the panel.

The external video card connectors are located horizontally at the bottom of the panel. Most often, in ready-made system units (which are not assembled to order), both types of video cards are present.

1. Integrated video card.

2. External video card.

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Main characteristics of video cards

Several main characteristics are of interest for a computer teapot.

Video memory size . It is measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). Modern video cards have a capacity of 1 GB or more. If the computer is purchased for games, then the video card must be 2 GB or higher. In the case of office use, up to 1 GB is sufficient.

Video memory type . Video cards use several types of memory – DDR 3, DDR5 or GDDR3, GDDR5, which differ in speed. To make it easier for a novice user, the higher the number after DDR, the greater the performance of the memory, but it also costs more.

Connectors for monitor and video devices. An important fact when choosing a video card. A modern external video card should have several connection connectors.

DVI connector is a digital connection interface that provides better image quality than VGA.

VGA connector is an analog interface for connecting video devices. Morally obsolete and gradually replaced by digital.

HDMI connector is a digital connection interface that transmits sound and images.

It is best to use digital interfaces (DVI, HDMI) to connect a monitor, because analog VGA is more prone to interference and the quality of the output image is worse than that of digital ones.


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Where is the video card in the computer and what does it look like?

Hello everyone! Today we will analyze where the video card is located in the computer: integrated and discrete, what this part looks like, what it looks like and how to remove it.

Integrated video card

This is the name of a graphics accelerator in a computer, which is most often implemented as a separate chip on a processor chip or less often as a chip on the motherboard. In the latter case, it looks like a small chip soldered to a green textolite substrate.

If the video card is implemented on the basis of the processor, it cannot be visually detected.

The processor itself is located approximately in the center of the motherboard and is covered from above with a cooler – a fan and a radiator designed to cool the part. If an integrated graphics accelerator is used on a PC, then the monitor slots are usually blue-marked trapezoidal VGA or white rectangular DVI, located vertically and located at the top of the system unit.

They may be present even if a discrete graphics card is present. You need to look for the appropriate ports.

So, what is an integrated graphics accelerator and how to find out where it is, we figured it out. At the end of this section, I want to add that such chips, as a rule, are not very powerful and can only run old games that do not require high system requirements from the computer.

They will also pull specialized entry-level software. I recommend that you learn more about this in the publication “Why do you need a powerful video card other than games.”

Where is the discrete graphics card in the system unit

This part is usually located at the bottom of the system unit. This is a tower form factor with a vertical layout. For horizontally oriented system units, the arrangement of elements may differ – it depends on the manufacturer of the case.

This is due to the standardization of computer components: almost all models of motherboards have a PCI-E slot, if it is installed vertically on the chassis. Such a slot looks like a long connector with a large number of connectors and is usually marked in blue (but not always, or rather, it can be of any color). It is not difficult to determine the presence of a discrete video card: in this case, one or a pair of limiting bars will be dismantled at the bottom of the system unit and from there the back side of the video card with horizontally oriented ports for connecting a monitor will stick out.

Having removed the side cover, you will not confuse this part with anything, even if you have never seen it with your own eyes or in a photo: it is always located perpendicular to the motherboard and has an impressive width – it almost completely fills the internal space of the case.

As a rule, the graphics accelerator is equipped with a fan, the dimensions of which depend on its power. For weak models, this is a small propeller, for more powerful ones, the cooler diameter can reach 120 mm. The most powerful graphics accelerators are equipped with two or three coolers, as they get very hot during operation and they need sufficient air circulation. As a rule, the “stuffing” of the video card is covered with a stylish plastic casing, on which holes for the fan are made.

An exception is the weakest graphics accelerators, which do not heat up so much and therefore are not equipped with fans. But in this case, there is almost always a large radiator – long aluminum plates sticking out of the case, which can have the most bizarre shapes. As a rule, a plastic casing is not used in this case. You will find more details in the article “What a video card for a computer consists of.”

How to Remove a Discrete Video Card

If this is the first time you have opened the cover of the system unit and are in awe of this marvel of engineering, do not panic: removing the video card is one of the easiest and fastest procedures.

First you need to unscrew the fixing screw that secures the tab on the back of the device to the computer case. Such a component is almost always present – for example, I have never seen a video card that is installed without additional fixation.

After that, you should carefully remove the device from the PCI-E slot – pull the tab on one side and gently pull it out. However, if the movement is sharp, it’s okay: the device is difficult to damage during dismantling. The probability of burning a video card during overclocking is much higher.

If you removed the device not for dusting, but for replacement, then the new part is inserted in the reverse order, preferably evenly along the entire length of the groove.