Installing a PCI OR ISA Card into a PC Desktop or Tower

These are the basic instructions for installing a PCI card in a desktop or tower PC. Only follow them if you do not have more specific instructions from the manufacturer of your card.

Two things to remember throughout the procedure:

  • Always hold the card by the edges

  • Earth yourself by touching a metal part of your computer case every few seconds


  • Switch off the power to the machine. Turn off at the mains socket but leave the power cable connected (to the wall socket and to the computer) as this will ensure an earth contact

  • Give yourself enough room to work. You will need to move the monitor if it is resting on the system. You will also need somewhere to put the outer casing when you remove it

  • Remove the outer case - Use appropriate tools for the job - never try brute force. Generally there will be a number of screws to remove and all or part of the outer case will slide off. Don't lose the screws

  • You may not have seen inside a computer before, so you will probably find it a bit confusing. There are a number of "slots" into which cards can be fitted. These are long raised plastic rectangles. There may be several cards already fixed in slots.

  • Notice that corresponding to each slot there is a removable plate on the back of the computer case. These are known as blanking plates or back plates.

  • You have to identify which slot you want to put your network card into:

    • First of all this depends on what sort of card: PCI needs one of the smaller white slots; ISA needs a larger black slot. See illustration

    Motherboard showing PCI and ISA slots

    • You need an unoccupied slot (obviously) and if possible one which will give you room to work. If cards are too close together it isn't easy for inexperienced people to fit them in

    • If there is no spare slot you will not be able to install your card now without removing another card, and so losing some functions that you have on your computer. Take time to think about this. If necessary close up the computer and seek advice.


Blanking plate removed

  • Once you have identified the slot, remove the blanking plate and put it somehwere safe

  • Now fit the card into the slot. The card's backplate should fit in the space left when you removed the blanking plate

  • Here are some hints on fitting the card:

    • Press firmly with steady pressure to ensure that the card is fully seated in the slot

    • It may be easier to push one end down, then the other, but don't bend the card

    • The trickiest bit is often the little metal tab on the backplate; make sure this is in its hole

    • When it's fully inserted, you should barely be able to see the gold contacts on the lower edge of the card

    • You might need to remove internal "ribbon" cables that are in the way. If so, be careful, and make sure you remember which way round they fit into their sockets, and put them back when the card is in place.

    • If it really won't fit, the most likely problem is that your main circuit board is in slightly the wrong place, so the card won't fit in the backplate and the slot at the same time. Try a different slot, ideally close to slots that already have cards in, because you know they're in the right place.

  • When the card is in place screw it in with the screws that you removed when you took out the blanking plate (if there were no screws, don't worry)
  • Did you have to move any ribbon cable? If so, have you putit back?
  • Replace the outer casing

You should now be able to connect your computer by running your cable from the socket in the card's back-plate to the data socket on the wall.


You are now ready to install the network drivers, for this you should follow the instructions given by the manufacturer that came with the hardware. Normally, once the machine is started you will be prompted for the drivers. You should then insert the CD or floppy disk that came with your hardware and the computer will load the appropriate drivers for your hardware. Again if you need help with this please see our help pages.