Buying PC expansion cards are a great way to maximise your system's capabilities by adding components not included within its original configuration.
A desktop computer's motherboard will have one or more expansion card slots, allowing for easy installation of video graphics cards, sound cards, RAID / SCSI controllers, TV tuner cards and USB port / high-speed port cards. Before purchasing an expansion / interface card, check it's compatibility against the available slots on your PC's motherboard.
The number of slots available will depend upon the motherboard age and specification, with the following expansion types (listed in order of preference) being as follows:
PCI Express: also written as PCIe, this is the preferred expansion slot to use in your PC, not least because - for graphic cards especially - PCIe cards communicate up to 40 times faster than cards using a conventional PCI slot.
PCI: the most common form expansion slot for a PC. While PCIe is superior to PCI for dedicated graphics cards, many expansion card manufacturers still utilise the basic PCI standard for cards which would gain no significant performance advantage through PCIe compatibility.
AGP: before the PCIe standard was introduced, AGP was an expansion slot specifically designed for graphics adapters. Short for Accelerated Graphics Port, many older PCs will still carry this expansion slot, but choose PCI Express if your motherboard has the option.
Network adapter cards - help expand the network connectivity on your desktop, laptop or server, with cards to enable or upgrade wired Ethernet connection to a network. Such cards - when used in conjunction with PCI Express (PCIe) offer networking up to 10 Gbps; multi-port functionality (2 or 4-port cards) and Power over Ethernet (PoE) solutions to supply power and network connectivity over the same cable.
Video graphics cards: if your desktop was shipped with an integrated graphics card, or has reached the stage where it struggles to match today's demanding games or image editing applications, then a more advanced graphics card (coupled with the addition of RAM memory) is a great way to give your system a boost.
For games that require a high frame rate to fully enjoy the gaming experience, through to high-definition movies and heavy weight image-editing software, dedicated video cards take over the processing of 3D graphics and other video tasks, allowing your computer's CPU to focus on other functions.
SCSI controllers: not all PCs offer connection ports for connecting devices that use the small computer system interface (SCSI). Using the PCI expansion slot, such controllers allow up to 15 Wide SCSI devices to be connected, including SCSI hard drives and high-speed scanners.
RAID controllers: adding internal SATA ports to a PC through a single PCI expansion slot allows for multiple RAID mode support, giving the flexibility to share or back up data through high-speed connections to SATA drives, including SSD.
USB port cards: although most PCs come adequately equipped with USB 2.0 ports, a multi-port USB expansion card will usually add up to four high-speed ports to your computer - of course, also giving backward compatibility with USB 2.0 devices.
TV tuner and video capture cards: the best cards of this type (again, using PCIe is preferable) feature an internal splitter, giving the option to watch multipe channels, or watch one and record another at the same time. Cards with on-board video encoding lessen the usage demands on a CPU or graphics card. In addition, some cards support FM-radio recording and boast AV breakout cables for easy connection to receivers and set-top boxes without a coaxial input. See also our range of video capture cards.
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