Upgrading Your Computer’s Capabilities With Expansion Cards

What are Expansion Cards?

An expansion card is a circuit board that you can insert in a computer to give extra facilities, functionality or memory. In general, most computers have expansion slots on the motherboard that allow you to add various types of expansion cards. We sometimes call them PCI (peripheral component interconnect) cards.

You may never need to add any PCI cards because most motherboards have built-in video, sound, network, and other capabilities.

However, if you want to boost the performance of your computer or update the capabilities of an older computer, you can always add one or more cards. Below are some of the most common types of expansion cards.

Video Card

The video card is responsible for what you see on the monitor. Most computers have a GPU (graphics processing unit) built into the motherboard instead of having a separate video card. If you like playing graphics-intensive games, you can add a faster video card to one of the expansion slots to get better performance.


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A video card connects to the motherboard of a computer system and generates output images to display.

Sound Card

The sound card—also called an audio card—is responsible for what you hear in the speakers or headphones. Most motherboards have integrated sound, but you can upgrade to a dedicated sound card for higher-quality sound.


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A sound card (also referred to as an audio card) is a peripheral device that attaches to the ISA or PCI slot on a motherboard to enable the computer to input, process, and deliver sound.

Network Card

The network card allows your computer to communicate over a network and access the Internet. It can either connect with an Ethernet cable or through a wireless connection (often called Wi-Fi). Many motherboards have built-in network connections, and a network card can also be added to an expansion slot.


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A network interface card (NIC) is a circuit board or card that is installed in a computer so that it can be connected to a network.

Bluetooth Card or Adapter

Bluetooth is a technology for wireless communication over short distances. We often use them in computers to communicate with wireless keyboards, mice, and printers. It’s commonly built into the motherboard or included in a wireless network card. For computers that don’t have Bluetooth, you can purchase a USB adapter, often called a dongle.


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A Bluetooth dongle is an adapter which you can use on non-Bluetooth enabled computers to connect wirelessly to a Bluetooth device.

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