Upgrading your Laptop – How to Replace an MXM Video Card

For those into video gaming, being able to take advantage of the latest line of graphics cards means better frame rates, better image quality and, overall, an improved experience in every game. Upgrading a graphics card in a desktop is something anyone can do. All you have to do is buy the new card having checked whether your PC will run it, slot it in and install new drivers.

However, for those with laptop computers, upgrading the graphics card is quite another matter. You hear of people upgrading desktops all the time, with relatively few restrictions. By contrast, for laptops, it is hard to find the necessary parts and harder still to actually install them. Many laptop computers are simply not upgradeable in this respect, but you may be surprised to learn that a great deal of models actually are.

How Do I Know if My Laptop Graphics Card is Upgradable?

The first thing to check is what sort of graphics system your computer already has. If your laptop only has a basic integrated graphics solution as most lower end machines do, then there is no possibility of upgrading. This is because the graphics adapter is integrated into the motherboard of the machine and there is no slot in which to connect a new one. But if your laptop has an NVidia or Ati dedicated graphics adapter (be aware, they also have integrated ones!), your laptop might be upgradeable.

Secondly, the dedicated card needs to be of the MXM standard. MXM stands for Mobile PCI-Express Module and is the interconnect standard for many laptop graphics cards. MXM comes in various different types as well including the 1.3, 2.0, 2.1 and 3.0 specifications. To find out exactly which one your computer uses, you will need to search online for a list of laptop models and their graphics card types. You are not likely to get much help from your computer’s manufacturer regarding this.

Purchasing a Laptop Graphics Card

Of course manufacturers don’t want you to upgrade your existing laptop – they’d much rather prefer you buy a new one. This is because they would rather have you buy a new laptop altogether. MXM graphics cards are normally only sold to corporations. However, there are some sellers out there which do make a point of specializing in laptop cards. You may also be able to find them on the online auction sites. They cost quite a lot more than their desktop counterparts, but can be much cheaper than buying a new machine.

Installing a Laptop Graphics Card

Provided it is of a compatible MXM specification, installing a new card should not be too difficult at all. However, opening up your laptop will most definitely void your warranty – but chances are if you want to upgrade, your warranty is long expired anyway. If you are at all unsure about carrying out the upgrade yourself, you may want to leave it in the hands of a computer professional. Additionally, once you have physically installed the card, you will need to install the correct drivers for your hardware and operating system.

The upgrade isn’t as hard as it may sound, though, and in the end it’s worth it, since you’ll be able to play games better and get a better overall performance out of your old laptop, without having to spend a lot of money on a new one.