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A Beginner’s Guide to PC Video Cards: Identifying Your Card

Dan from Honesdale, P.A. writes:

Hi, how do you tell what kind of video card you have? Example: If it’s a PCI Express or what if it’s a DDR2 or DDR3 etc..etc..and does it make a difference if its a 512mb memory or 1gb etc…I want a video card that has a HDMI port on it….along with VGA and DVI. One i have now has DVI and VGA. Would like to run a cable from the HDMI port on card to my TV HDMI port. Thanks so much. I get your daily newsletter. Love your site!

The video card is an essential component in a gamer or home theater’s buff’s setup. It can be the difference between mediocre graphics performance and screaming fast high definition goodness! Like most things these days, you often get what you pay for, but how do you know where to begin, and what do you have right now? Let’s find out.

What Do I Already Have?

You could open up the case on your tower or laptop to inspect the card itself, but these things are not known for being all that well labelled sometimes, so a better way is to run a utility on your computer to detect what you already have and get all the specs that you need in case you are considering an upgrade, or are just plain curious!

You could call up the Windows Device Manager, click on Display Adapters, and then click on your graphics card for more details, but the information you get is a little limited. So let’s try something else.

device manager

A better way to see what your video card is made of is to use a utility like Speccy from Piriform. Speccy will scan your computer in a just few seconds and then give you a detailed report of everything that makes your PC tick. Here’s how it works.

1. Download the free version of Speccy from the Piriform website. Click here to go to the Speccy download page [1].

2. Install the program once it has downloaded to your computer, then launch Speccy.

3. Click Graphics on the menu located on the left-hand side and you will see a complete breakdown of the video card that is currently installed on your PC in the panel on the right.

speccy screenshot

In the second part of this series, I’ll look at what you need to consider when buying a video card for your computer.

~ Jonathan Wylie