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A couple of years ago, introducing a second graphics card to most high-performance rigs often resulted in mixed results. Some computers took the new additions really well while others registered lower performance for games and other demanding software.
NVIDIA SLI architecture has come a long way since then, which means that adding a second or third graphics card will often result in improved performance for even the most demanding games and software.
NVIDIA SLI technology allows a computer to function with multiple graphics cards for breathtaking performance, enabling you to max out the graphics for most demanding games. This basic guide shows you how to set up NVIDIA SLI for your high-performance machine. Note that you need some basic knowledge of PC assembly before you attempt to install the hardware components of the cards.
1. Getting Started
Before you begin, it is important to ensure you have your hardware components at hand. NVIDIA SLI graphic cards require that your motherboard is SLI certified, so the first step is to ensure you have a compatible motherboard with its appropriate SLI connector.
You will also need one or more SLI-capable NVIDIA graphics cards. If you are going to use two or more cards, it is best practice to ensure they are the same model and that they have the same memory capacity.While SLI can work with different models, you won’t get optimal performance.
Lastly, ensure you have a compatible operating system that is supported by the cards. Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, 8, 10, and Linux will typically support more than one card, but Linux draws that line at two cards.
2. Power Requirements
You should always remember that with every card you intend to install on your machine, you should plan for more power via a capable power supply. Your power supply should be capable of bringing in a minimum of 750 watts.
3. Begin Installation
- If you are building your rig from scratch, ensure your SLI-certified motherboard and associated parts are installed before you start with the cards.
- Carefully insert the cards into the respective PCI-E slots according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Where applicable, connect any supplementary power connector to each card you install.
- Always ensure at least part of the card is fastened to the case and held in place by one or more screws. Loose cards are easily damaged by the smallest amount of weight on the card.
- After fastening the cards onto the motherboard, connect the cards to each other using the NVIDIA SLI connector which goes on top of each card. The connector is optional in most setups, but using the motherboard’s bus connections will result in reduced performance.
4. Installing, Updating, and Configuring Drivers
Once you finish the third step, you are done with the hardware portion of the installation. Power up the computer and let the operating system detect and download relevant drivers for the cards. If this fails, you can manually download drivers for your cards from the NVIDIA website or a trusted third party hosting site. Once your drivers are installed, your computer will restart to enact the changes.
5. Enabling and Configuring SLI
Once your drivers are installed and fully functional, you need to activate and configure SLI for your computer. Right-click on an empty space on your computer’s desktop and navigate to NVIDIA Control Panel. The resulting window will enable you to tweak the graphics settings for your graphics cards.
On this window, locate the option with the label, “Configure SLI, Surround, PhysX” under “3D Settings” and select “Maximize 3D Performance.” Your screen will flash a little after you select this option while SLI is being enabled so be ready for that.
Whenever you go into the NVIDIA Control Panel and find that you cannot locate the ““Configure SLI, Surround, PhysX” option, it could mean a number of problems with your drivers or the installed devices. Sometimes the problem can be fixed by reconnecting one or more of your cards and their respective power supply connectors. Sometimes, the problem may require you to uninstall drivers and reinstall them to make your cards active.
6. Power Up SLI For All Your Programs
With SLI enabled, you may want to enable SLI for all your programs. To do this, locate and select the “Manage 3D Settings” option from the left menu bar and click on “Global Settings.” Scroll downwards to locate the option “SLI Performance Mode” and select “Alternate Frame Rendering 2" instead of the “Single GPU” option.
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With that, you have successfully begun to discover the power and might of NVIDIA SLI. Now you can peacefully encode your videos in the background and launch a multiplayer session of Call of Duty: Black Ops III at max settings and enjoy the hard-earned power at your fingertips!
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