How To Reseat Expansion Cards

1
Open the Computer Case

Picture of someone opening a computer case
Open the Computer Case. © Tim Fisher

Expansion cards plug directly into the motherboard so they are always located inside the computer case. Before you can reseat an expansion card, you must open the case so you can access the card.

Most computers come in either tower-sized models or desktop-sized models. Tower cases usually have screws that secure removable panels on either side of the case but will sometimes feature release buttons instead of screws. Desktop cases usually feature easy release buttons that allow you to open the case but some will feature screws similar to tower cases.

For detailed steps on opening your computer's case, see How To Open a Standard Screw Secured Computer Case. For screwless cases, look for buttons or levers on the sides or rear of the computer that are used to release the case. If you're still having difficulties, please reference your computer or case manual to determine how to open the case.

Note: These steps show how to reseat any standard PCI expansion card like a network interface card, modem, sound card, etc. However, these instructions should also apply, in general, to other types of cards like most AGP or PCIe expansion cards and older ISA expansion cards.

2
Remove External Cables or Attachments

Picture of someone removing a network cable from a computer
Remove External Cables or Attachments. © Tim Fisher

Before you can remove an expansion card from your computer, you have to make sure that everything connected to the card from the outside of the computer is removed. This is usually a good step to complete when opening the case but if you haven't done so yet, now is the time.

For example, if you're reseating a network interface card, make sure that the network cable is removed from the card before proceeding. If you're reseating a sound card, make sure the speaker connection is unplugged.

If you try to remove an expansion card without disconnecting everything attached to it, you'll quickly realize that you forgot this step!

3
Remove the Retaining Screw

Picture of someone removing an expansion card retaining screw
Remove the Retaining Screw. © Tim Fisher

All expansion cards are secured to the case in some way to prevent the card from coming loose. Most of the time this is accomplished with a retaining screw.

Remove the retaining screw and set aside. You will need this screw again when you reinsert the expansion card.

Note: Some cases do not use retaining screws but instead feature other ways of securing the expansion card to the case. In these situations, please reference your computer or case manual to determine how to release the card from the case.

4
Carefully Grip and Remove the Expansion Card

Picture of someone removing an expansion card from a computer motherboard
Carefully Grip and Remove the Expansion Card. © Tim Fisher

With the retaining screw removed, the only step left to completely remove the expansion card from the computer is to pull the card from the expansion slot on the motherboard.

With both hands, firmly grip the top of the expansion card, being careful not to touch any of the sensitive electronic parts on the card itself. Also, make sure that all wires and cables are clear of where you are working. You don't want to damage something while trying to troubleshoot a problem you're already having.

Pull up a little, one side of the card at a time, slowly working the card out of the slot. Most expansion cards will fit firmly in the motherboard slot so don't attempt to yank the card out in one, brute pull. You'll likely damage the card and possibly the motherboard if you're not careful.

5
Inspect the Expansion Card and Slot

Picture of someone holding an expansion card taken from a computer motherboard
Inspect the Expansion Card and Slot. © Tim Fisher

With the expansion card now removed, inspect the expansion slot on the motherboard for anything inconsistent like dirt, obvious damage, etc. The slot should be clean and free from any obstructions.

Also inspect the metal contacts on the bottom of the expansion card. The contacts should be clean and shiny. If not, you may need to clean the contacts.

6
Reinsert the Expansion Card

Picture of someone installing an expansion card onto a computer motherboard
Reinsert the Expansion Card. © Tim Fisher

It is now time to reinsert the expansion card back into the expansion slot on the motherboard.

Before inserting the card, move all wires and cables out of your way and away from the expansion slot on the motherboard. There are small wires inside a computer that can easily be cut if they come between the expansion card and the expansion slot on the motherboard.

Carefully align the expansion card with the slot on the motherboard and with the side of the case. It may take a little maneuvering on your part, but you need to make sure that when you push the card into the expansion slot, it will fit properly in the slot and against the side of the case.

Once you've properly aligned the expansion card, push down firmly on both sides of the card with both hands. You should feel a little resistance as the card goes in the slot but it should not be difficult. If the expansion card does not go in with a firm push, you may not have aligned the card properly with the expansion slot.

Note: Expansion cards only fit into the motherboard one way. If it's hard to tell which way the card goes in, remember that the mounting bracket will always face towards the outside of the case.

7
Secure the Expansion Card to the Case

Picture of someone screwing in an expansion card onto a motherboard
Secure the Expansion Card to the Case. © Tim Fisher

Locate the screw that you set aside in Step 3. Use this screw to secure the expansion card to the case.

Take care not to drop the screw into the case, onto the motherboard or other parts inside the computer. Besides causing damage to sensitive parts on impact, leaving a screw inside a computer can cause electrical shorting which can lead to all kinds of serious problems.

Note: Some cases do not use retaining screws but instead feature other ways of securing the expansion card to the case. In these situations, please reference your computer or case manual to determine how to secure the card to the case.

8
Close the Computer Case

Picture of someone closing up a computer case
Close the Computer Case. © Tim Fisher

Now that you've reseated the expansion card, you'll need to close your case and hook your computer back up.

As described in Step 1, most computers come in either tower-sized models or desktop-sized models which means there might be different procedures for opening and closing the case.