Does a Graphics Card work if you have the minimum supply of power?

Many business-oriented computers ship without powerful graphics systems. You don’t need much horsepower to view an email client or a spreadsheet, after all. If you need to do video editing, computer-aided design, advanced engineering or architectural rendering, however, you’ll need the extra power a graphics card provides. You may run into a second limitation of business-oriented computers — relatively the best low power graphics card.

Graphics Card Power

A graphics card is similar to a computer, as it uses data manipulation power. The chip on a graphics card is optimized to do one thing — create images, unlike a computer which is a general purpose device. Graphics cards usually consume a lot of power, with many using more than the 75-watt supply available through their x16 PCI Express card slots.

Typical Power Supplies

Looking at a few top-rated business PCs, a popular thread emerges — simple desktop computers have no efficient power supplies. For example, Dell ships the Optiplex 3010 with 240 to 265 watt power supplies. The Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 71 ships with power supply of 180 watts. For comparison, a workstation of the business class such as the HP Z420 has a 600 watt power supply.

Computer Power Loads

The amount of power needed by your computer can vary greatly depending on the type of components that it uses. For eg, at least 183 watts should be drawn from a computer with a motherboard, one stick of RAM, one fan, an optical drive, a hard disk and a processor. However, as most power supplies are not nearly 100 percent effective anywhere, it is a good idea to round off the power consumption by 30 to 50 percent, resulting in a real-world draw of between about 235 and 275 watts. With that in mind, many business desktops lack the power to reliably drive even a small graphics card.

Upgrade PSU

If you need to install a graphics card and don’t have a workstation with a high-wattage power supply, you’ll probably need to buy a higher-wattage power supply for the device. One simple way to do this is to take the existing power supply from your computer, add the power draw from your new graphics card and purchase a more powerful 50 to 100 watt power supply. Replacing the power supply is a fairly simple process which requires you to disconnect your old power supply, remove it from the case, slide the new one in and reconnect its wires.

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