Types of expansion cards, slots, and their functions

An expansion slot is a connection point with a computer motherboard where an additional component can be added to the computer. Modern computers are designed in a manner that users can add extra functionality when the need arises. 

The expansion slots type range from PCI, PCI Express, AGP, ISA, CPU, and RAM  slots among others. Their main purpose was to add more computer functionality. The functionality could be a better video display, higher processing speed, better gaming capabilities, higher memory, etc.

Purpose of expansion slots

Different levels of computer users have different requirements that their computers should have. The computer is built by only having basic components but more can be added for advanced users. 

The main function of the slot is to enable the card to interface and communicate with the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and other computer components.

The following is a list of the functionalities that can be added through the slots.

  1. Graphic display capabilities. This can be added for those users that deal with multimedia and gaming application.
  2. TV capabilities. Before the new era of digital TV, users could buy a TV card and enable their computers to watch TV.
  3. WIFI functionality. The desktop computer comes equipped with an ethernet port to connect the network using a cable. To add WIFI capabilities you can get a Network card that supports WIFI.
  4. Processor speed: by adding a CPU that is compatible with the motherboard you can increase the computer’s speed and capabilities.
  5. Increase main memory (RAM) capacity: if the motherboard supports a bigger memory you can add to increase the number of processes in the main memory at any given time.
  6. Sound functionality. Users can add a sound card that can be used to improve sound input and output.

Types of expansion slots in the motherboard

1. PCI Express (PCIe): This is the latest type of slot for input-output device connections. It offers a high bandwidth of data communication between the device and the computer. They offer full duplex data transfer. PCIe is the fastest type of expansion slot that is currently available.

2. PCI Peripheral Component Interconnect: they preceded the PCIe and they were a bit slower.

3. AGP accelerated graphics port: they were designed for video and graphic types of cards. They had high data bandwidth compared to PCI. they support a direct connection between the device, CPU, and motherboard.

4. ISA industry standard architecture: This is the oldest type of expansion slot for old computers.

5. CPU sockets/slots

The slot where the CPU is connected to the motherboard is called a socket. When connecting the CPU to the socket ensure that you align the pins appropriately to avoid damage. 

CPUs are only for a specific socket and motherboard. When you need to get a new CPU first check the type of CPU and ensure it is compatible with your motherboard. There are 2 main categories of CPU sockets available for connection.

Pin Grid Array (PGA): in this type of socket the motherboard has the female connector. The CPU has pins that connect to the female part on the motherboard.

Land Grid Array (LGA): The pins (male) are on the motherboard which connects to the female in the CPU.

6. Memory (RAM) slots 

Most modern computers come with 2 to 4 slots that RAM can be connected. They are 2 pairs that give 2 channels for data transmission. For optimum use of RAM, you can fix 2 RAMs in the same channel. The channel in some motherboard theta re color-coded.

The slots are designed in such a way that they can only accept specific types of RAM from DDR1, 2,3, and currently 4. When buying a new RAM to upgrade your computer ensure you know the type to avoid compatibility issues.

Common types of expansion cards

An expansion card is a functionality card that fits within a slot in the motherboard. The card is bought separately depending on the functionality to be added to the computer. The following are some of the common expansion cards used in modern computers.

  1. Sound card: this is a card that adds all capabilities to do with audio data. 
  2. Graphic/video card: the card supports high-definition video output. Users who deal with drawing, video editing, and other multimedia type of data can use the video card to enhance the output.
  3. Network card (NIC card): it is a card for networking. The most common NIC card has ethernet ports that can be used to connect to the RJ45 connector. The computer comes with a NIC card pre-installed but you can add an extra one. Read more on the types, functions, and components of the network card in this other article.
  4. Wireless /WiFI card: most desktop computers don’t have wireless capabilities. Wireless cards enable the computer to send and receive wireless signals. The card comes with a small external antenna to send and receive signals.
  5. Storage card: it is a card that can be added to allow a solid-state type of storage device to be added to the computer. They are used mostly to add an SD card and flash memories.
  6. Modem card: the card was used in old computers to convert analog signals to digital and vice versa. In most of today’s computers, the capability is inbuilt within the mainboard of the computer.
  7. USB card: this is used to add more USB ports to the computer.
  8. TV Card: the card allows the user to convert the computer into a TV. they were mostly used before digital computers become common.
  9. Interface card: this is a card that carries many types of ports together. It offers an interface to connections such as USB, SCSI, SATA, and HDMI.

How to install expansion card drivers in Windows 10

When you buy a new expansion card it should come with a driver’s CD. Insert the CD into the drive and follow the instructions for installing the software. If you don’t have a driver’s CD then you can download drivers from the card manufacturer.

Updating expansion card drivers

To update the driver from Windows 10 you go to device manager and select your preferred card driver. Right-click on the drivers and click on update. The window below will appear.

Updating expansion card drivers

Select any of the 2 options provided to update your drivers. If you have downloaded the updated version you can use the second option.

Difference between expansion slots and expansion cards

An expansion slot is a port where a card can be fixed while an expansion card is a circuit board that is fixed into a port (slot) to add functionality. The slot is the female port while a card is a male port. 

Expansion slots are fixed within the motherboard while cards are bought separately. A slot can allow different functionality cards while an expansion card comes for a specific function such as network, video, audio, etc.

Similar Posts