For those who are new to PC building and PC hardware, it can be difficult to identify components. To understand what a graphics card is, you may have to first figure out where is the graphics card located.
Basically, the location of graphics a card depends upon what kind of graphics card you have. Integrated graphics card are located within the CPU. Dedicated, or discrete, graphics cards are located on the motherboard on the PCIe slots.
It is highly possible to have both integrated and dedicated graphics cards on your computer at the same time as well.
On laptops a dedicated graphics card is a separate chip located on the motherboard. On desktops, dedicated graphics card plug into the PCIe slots.
In the following text I will talk comprehensively about where the graphics card is located and also how to identify one.
The Two Different Types of Graphics Card
So as mentioned earlier, you have to first understand that there are two different kinds of graphics cards:
- Dedicated Graphics Card (aka discrete graphics card)
- Integrated Graphics Card (iGPU)
You can have either one of these or both in your PC.
Let us talk about each separately.
1. Dedicated Graphics Cards
Dedicated graphics cards, also known as discrete graphics cards, are standalone devices or a completely different chip intended for heavy graphics processing.
A dedicated graphics card is often intended for gamers and professionals.
On desktops, dedicated graphics card connect to the PCIe slots on the motherboard. On laptops, a discrete graphics card is a separate chipset soldered onto the motherboard.
Dedicated graphics card are expensive. So much so that certain high end dedicated graphics card can cost as much as an entire mainstream PC.
2. Integrated Graphics Card
As the name suggests, integrated graphics cards, aka iGPUs, are built-in with in the CPU.
These provide a very basic graphics processing and video output support for your PC. They are not intended for heavier tasks such as gaming or for professional editing/designing work.
The video output ports located on the back I/O panel of your desktop’s motherboard use the integrated graphics card to power up.
It should be noted here that the motherboard itself does not have any graphics processing capabilities.
Also Read: Do Motherboards Have Integrated Graphics?
Not All Desktop CPUs Have an Integrated Graphics Card
While almost all laptops feature a CPU with an integrated graphics card, with desktops not all CPUs have an integrated graphics card.
With AMD CPUs, only the ‘G’ series CPUs offer an integrated graphics card for desktops. With Intel CPUs, any CPU that has an “F” suffix in its name DOES NOT feature an integrated GPU.
Also Read: Does My Graphics Card Support 4K?
So Where is the Graphics Card Located?
So with primer out of the way, let us now talk about how to locate a graphics card.
Where is a Dedicated Graphics Card Located on a Desktop?
A dedicated graphics card is located on the PCIe slot of a motherboard, particularly on the top x16 slot. A dedicated graphics has a physical connector that can ONLY fit into an x16 slot.
A motherboard can have several PCIe slots of different types such as x1, x4, x8 and x16. The number after the letter ‘x’ generally denotes the number of PCIe lanes a slot has. The more lanes, the more demanding add-in card it can support.
x16 is the largest slot and graphics card generate most data. Hence, in ideal cases, a dedicated graphics card plugs into the FIRST x16 slot as it is directly connected to the CPU.
Note that, sometimes what may seem like an x16 slot may only have 4 or 8 lanes. You can see in the image above that the bottom x16 slot actually only has 4 lanes. As such a GPU is rarely connected to a slot with this configuration i.e x16(x4).
Again, ideally a GPU requires the full x16 slot with x16 lanes. The top x16 slot in all motherboards guarantees that.
Read in Detail: Which PCIe Slot for GPU is Ideal?
In the image above you can see a dedicated graphics card connected to the top x16 slot of this motherboard.
This should give you a solid idea about where a dedicated graphics card is located particularly if you are unsure about what they look like.
You an also see that there are two power connectors connected on the top right of the dedicated graphics card. This is because most graphics card require extra PCIe cables from the Power Supply Unit to power up.
So in short a dedicated graphics card is located on an x16 slot on a motherboard. These can be either in the center left or on the bottom left of the motherboard depending upon the form factor of the motherboard.
On Full ATX motherboard, as you see above, the graphics is located on the center left.
On Mini ITX motherboards, the smallest commercial motherboard size, the dedicated graphics card would be located on the bottom, since the only x16 slot they have is located on the bottom edge of the motherboard.
Multiple Dedicated Graphics Card
Some systems can have multiple dedicated graphics cards.
These PCs have motherboards particularly designed to have multiple x16 slots capable of supporting multiple GPUs.
In these PCs, you will find each graphics card located on a separate PCIe slot of its own.
Where is the Dedicated Graphics Located on a Laptop?
On a laptop, a graphics card is soldered onto the motherboard itself. It is NOT detachable unlike on desktops.
On a gaming laptop, the CPU and GPU chips are often covered by a cooling assembly. You have to dismount the entire cooling assembly in order to locate the discrete graphics card chip.
Where is the Integrated Graphics Card Located?
An integrated graphics card is found WITH IN the CPU. People often confuse that an integrated graphics card is located on the motherboard itself.
That is not the case.
You can see a sample dye chart below for the Intel Core i7 4770K that an integrated graphics card, labelled here as “Processor Graphics” is located within the CPU itself.
Unlike dedicated graphics cards, these cannot be removed or upgraded.
So where is the graphics card located? If you are talking about a desktop, then a dedicated graphics card is pretty hard to miss. It is a fairly large component connected directly onto the motherboard itself.
You just need to be sure about what you are looking at.
If you just have an integrated graphics card, then unfortunately, that would be fairly hard to locate since it is built into the CPU itself!