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Laptop PCIe Cards – All You Need to Know About Laptop Expansion Cards

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Laptops are great PCs; they’re portable, sleek, and come so packed with many features. Whether you’re looking for a new laptop or planning to upgrade your existing one, you need to know about the expansion slots for laptops. Most laptops have PCI Express (PCIe) slots that can be used to expand their functionality with the help of peripherals such as card readers, memory cards, video cards, wireless cards, Ethernet/LAN cards, etc. This guide provides you with all the information you need to know about laptop PCIe cards.

What is a Laptop PCI card?

PCI is the acronym for Peripheral Component Interconnect. It’s a standard that was developed by Intel to help in the connection of external peripherals such as SSD hard drives, wireless network cards, graphics cards, sound cards, etc. These cards can be easily connected through an expansion slot found within the motherboard of your Laptop or computer. A laptop PCIe card is an expansion card used to expand more functionalities and capabilities of a laptop. It’s used to provide additional memory capacity, improved graphics performance, improved wireless connectivity, and other capabilities. Laptop PCI cards come in many different forms and can be easily purchased online or at your local Computer hardware shop.

Laptop PCI cards are sometimes referred to as Add-on cards, PC cards, PCMCIA cards, and expansion cards. They’re small circuit boards that can be easily installed or inserted into a small slot found on one side of a laptop. Most laptops that are PCI compatible come with an expansion slot that’s normally covered by a small plastic door cover that can be easily removed to insert the card. The number of PCI slots in a laptop varies greatly depending on the manufacturer and model of the Laptop. Most new notebook laptops models support between one to three expansion slots in their motherboards.

PCI vs. PCIe what’s New in PCIe upgrade? What’s the difference between the two standards?

PCIe is the most advanced expansion standard that replaced the old PCI technology. It has been adopted by all laptop motherboard and chipset manufacturers over the years. The PCIe expansion card standard has proven to be faster than the old predecessor and provides better performance than the AGP cards (Accelerated Graphics Ports). It’s more flexible and allows multiple devices to share the same bus port without interfering with or affecting other devices’ performance.

Generally, the main difference between the old PCI standard and the new PCIe cards is performance. The newer versions of PCIe cards provide data transfer rates of up to 16GB/s, while older PCI card versions had a bandwidth transfer rate of 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB per second.

How to check what PCIe cards your laptop supports

Suppose you have a laptop that needs some upgrade, the easiest way to find out which PCIe cards it supports is to check out the laptop manufacturer’s website for specifications and hardware features. Each laptop manufacturer brand website contains detailed information about the laptop model and the supported types of expansion cards.

How to install PCIe card in a Laptop

Installing PCIe cards on a laptop is quite easy as long as you’re kin to follow all installation instructions. For most newer models of Notebook laptops, two slots provide PCIe connections;

1. Peripheral side slot – This slot can be found on one side of the Laptop where the PCIe card is inserted and installed.

2. Host side – This option allows the PCIe to be mounted on the notebook system motherboard.

To install a PCIe card using the peripheral side slot, remove the slot cover (if there is, most notebooks pc are not covered) and slide the PCIe card inside the slot until you hear a click sound, meaning that your expansion card has successfully docked into the slot.

If your Laptop does not have a peripheral side slot, follow the steps illustrated below to install a PCIe card on your laptop motherboard.

  1. Shut down your laptop, unplug the charger from the power source and disconnect the laptop battery if it’s not inbuilt. (For a laptop with an inbuilt battery, open the back cover and disconnect the battery power cable from the motherboard)
  2. Open the screws from your Laptop using the right screwdriver, lift up the Laptop back cover gently, and place it aside.
  3. Next, remove all the screws that hold the memory modules, network card, and other components blocking your access to the motherboard.  
  4. Once you access the laptop motherboard, you’ll see some empty slots around the SSD or hard drive and network adapters components. This is not hard to trace on your motherboard, just look for blue or yellow-colored empty slots.
  5. Insert the PCIe cards into an open slot and gently press it down until you hear a click sound, meaning that it has been correctly attached to the motherboard. Then carefully attach internal cables between the PCIe card and other hardware peripherals such as the power supply if required.
  6. After successfully installing the PCIe card on your Laptop, re-assemble the Laptop by returning all components and tightening the screws that you had previously removed.
  7. Lastly, power up your Laptop and run its OS. The system will detect the newly installed hardware PCIe card, and you’ll be requested to install the required device drivers for the PCI card to work. Refer to your PCIe card documentation on how to install drivers and updates for the card. Install the device drivers, restart your Laptop and start enjoying the new functionalities and features that come with your newly installed PCIe card. 

PCIe versions and their data transfer speeds 

There’re four different PCI Express versions that are in use today; PCIe 1.0, PCIe 2.0, PCIe 3.0, and PCIe 4.0 respectively. Every PCI Express version supports almost double the bandwidth of its previous PCIe version. PCIe 4.0 is the most advanced version, however, it’s only supported by AMD motherboards at the moment. Intel is yet to add or offer support for PCIe 4.0 for any of its hardware, so if you’re looking forward to buying PCIe cards for your laptop, consider getting expansion cards that integrate well with PCIe 3.0 version. There are so many SSDs (solid-state drives) that support PCIe 3.0, as well as intel graphics cards and AMD video cards. Make sure you confirm what version of PCIe card your Laptop supports before buying an expansion card so that you can have the perfect match for your Laptop.  

Advantages of Laptop PCIe cards

  1. Provides larger bandwidth – Modern PCIe cards can have up to 16 lanes for transferring data which enables high-performance GPUs such as graphics cards to perform well.
  2. They provide better speeds – PCIe provides faster speeds than SATA, the maximum speed of a PCIe 3.0 SSD is about 16GB per second, while a SATA III drive can only provide speeds of up to 6GB/s.
  3. PCIe provides more utility support – they can be used to add not only graphics cards but also other cards such as SSD drives, WIFI network adapters, etc. hence providing multi-purpose uses on your Laptop
  4. PCIe slots provide you with the flexibility to upgrade your laptop functionality and speed by swapping older cards with new ones – with this capability, you don’t always have to buy a new laptop every time you need better functionality or more power. All you have to do is buy a new advanced PCIe card for your existing Laptop.

Takeaway on PCIe Cards

PCIe expansion cards for laptops are increasingly becoming more popular in the computer tech industry due to some of the high-end functionalities and features that they provide. Most Laptop brand manufacturing companies have been launching new laptop motherboards with advanced PCIe card slots, and this has made their laptops become the preferred choice among IT users and other professionals. If you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to turbocharge or upgrade your Laptop with advanced functionalities, PCIe cards are here to help you not break the bank!

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Pigtou Editorial Team

A group of tech enthusiasts who find pleasure in troubleshooting and resolving various issues. When we're not engaged in writing, we typically enjoy playing table football or spending time with our office dog.
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