Knowing how to remove a graphics card is essential, especially if you want to keep your PC up-to-date and capable of playing the latest games. It may seem intimidating, especially if you’ve never handled any internal components, but that’s where our guide will help. Before you know it, you’ll be removing and replacing graphics cards like a pro. Let’s get started.
What You’ll Need
A Phillips head screwdriver is the only necessary tool for removing and replacing a graphics card. You’ll use this to unscrew your graphics card (more on this later) and, depending on your case, undo the screws holding your case side panel on.
A bowl or small magnetic parts tray will also come in handy for keeping track of screws.
Step 1: Remove Current Drivers
This section only applies if replacing or upgrading your current graphics card. You can safely skip this step if you plan to reinstall the same graphics card later.
Replacing a graphics card involves more than just physically uninstalling the old card and dropping a new one in. You must also ensure your system is ready to run the new GPU without any old drivers getting in the way and creating conflicts. That’s why removing your current GPU drivers is so important.
While you can just uninstall your GPU drivers from Windows, the best way to do this is to use a program called Display Driver Uninstaller (better known as DDU). DDU removes every last bit of your current driver, creating a clean slate for your shiny new GPU.
To use DDU, you’ll first want to boot into Safe Mode. Microsoft Support has clear instructions on how to do this in Windows 10 and 11.
Once you’re in Safe Mode, launch Display Driver Uninstaller. You’ll be greeted by a prompt with settings you can enable or disable. We recommend sticking with the defaults. After that, select “GPU” in the right-hand drop-down, then your GPU brand.
After that, click “Clean and shutdown.” DDU will do its magic and turn your PC off once it’s done. Now it’s time to move on to the hands-on part.
Step 2: Prepare Your PC and Remove the Side Panel
Before you open your PC, turn off your PSU and disconnect cables that may get in the way. You’ll want to lay your PC on its side, so you should also clear your desk or move it to a clean work area.
Note that you should keep your PSU plugged into the mains so that you can use an anti-static wrist strap to ground yourself and eliminate potentially dangerous static electricity. Put your anti-static band around your wrist and connect the alligator clip to a PSU screw or other unpainted part of your PC case.
Once you’re safely grounded, remove the side panel. It may attach via thumb screws, traditional screws, or latches; you’ll want to look at the rear of your case to see how the side panel attaches.
For example, the Fractal Meshify 2 uses a toolless latch system. The side panel pulls away if you apply a bit of force to the latch handle in the top rear of the case. Your case may not be this convenient, so be sure to have that screwdriver on hand to undo any screws.
Step 3: Unplug PCIe Power Cables
First, unplug any PCIe power cables connected to your graphics card (if any). These are usually at the side of the graphics card, close to the side panel. Press down on the connector’s plastic clip and gently pull them away, rocking side-to-side if necessary.
These power supply connectors can be tight, so take it slow and gently push down on your graphics card for a bit of leverage if necessary. Once the cables are free, move them aside so they don’t get in the way when you lift your graphics card.
If you’re one of the rare individuals that has a dual graphics card setup, make sure to remove the SLI bridge and store it in a safe place.
Step 4: Unscrew Your Graphics Card
Now, you need to free your graphics card from the case. Look at the back of your graphics card, and you’ll see one or two screws holding it in. Grab your Phillips head screwdriver and unscrew all the screws attaching your graphics card to your case.
Drop these screws in a bowl so that you don’t lose them. You’ll need these when you’re installing your new video card.
Step 5: Release Your Graphics Card
Now, all that’s left is to free your graphics card from the PCIe slot. This is probably the most awkward part of the process, especially if you have a large graphics card.
You want to press down fully on the latch at the end of your PCIe socket. It will likely be underneath your GPU, so it can be hard to get to. Either reach in with your fingers or use a tool (like the screwdriver) to depress it and free your graphics card.
Note that it’s very easy to damage this part by not fully pressing it in before removing your video card. You can also damage it by pressing down with too much force. While damaging the latch isn’t the end of the world, it’s certainly not ideal. So take it slow and carefully press down on the latch, ensuring it’s fully depressed before you pull your graphics card out.
If unsure, look at the other PCIe slots in your system. Most ATX motherboards should have at least one unused PCIe slot. The PCIe latch for your GPU will align with the other sockets and behave the same way.
Now carefully pull your graphics card straight up. It should come away cleanly, leaving a graphics card-sized gap in your system ready to be filled by a shiny new gaming GPU.
If you’re replacing your graphics card with a new one, we recommend storing your old card in an anti-static bag. Your new graphics card should have come in one, so you may as well reuse it. You can also get anti-static bags on Amazon.
Step 6: Reinstall Your Graphics Card
To install a new graphics card, reverse these steps. Firstly, line up your graphics card with the PCIe slot and press in until you hear the latch click. Then, you’ll want to screw in the thumb screws, reconnect the PCIe power cables, and put your side panel back on.
Plug all your cables (including the power cable!) back in, and you should be ready. Boot your system up, install the right drivers, and game on.
So there you have it: how to remove a graphics card quickly and easily. It’s not all that hard, although you will want to be careful to ensure you don’t damage anything. Take it slow the first time around, but we’re confident you’ll soon be swapping graphics cards like a pro.
Want to do some more PC maintenance while you’re at it? Check out our guide to removing thermal paste from your CPU.