076 - Types of PC Expansion Slot

An expansion slot is a socket on the motherboard that is used to insert an expansion card, which provides additional features to a computer such as video, sound, advanced graphics, Ethernet or memory. The expansion slot alternatively referred to as a bus slot or expansion port.

You can expand your PC internally by adding additional circuitry boards. Those boards, or expansion cards, plug directly into expansion slots on the motherboard.

Types of Slots

There are many different kinds of internal buses, but only a handful of popular ones. Different computers come with different kinds and number of slots. It is important to know what kind and number of slots you have on your computer before you go out and by a card that matches up to a slot you don’t have.

PCI • (Peripheral Component Interconnect) is common in modern PCs. This kind of bus is being succeeded by PCI Express. Typical PCI cards used in PCs include: network cards, sound cards, modems, extra ports such as USB or serial, TV tuner cards and disk controllers. Video cards have outgrown the capabilities of PCI because of their higher bandwidth requirements.

PCIE • (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) was introduced by Intel in 2004. It was designed to replace the general-purpose PCI expansion bus and the AGP graphics card interface. PCI express is not a bus but instead a point-to-point conection of serial links called lanes. PCI Express cards have faster bandwidth then PCI cards which make them more ideal for high-end video cards.

PCMCIA • (also referred to as PC Card) is the type of bus used for laptop computers. The name PCMCIA comes from the group who developed the standard: Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. PCMCIA was originally designed for computer memory expansion, but the existence of a usable general standard for notbeook peripherals led to many kinds of devices being made available in this form. Typical devices include network cards, modems, and hard disks.

AGP • (Accelerated Graphics Port) is a high-speed point-to-point channel for attaching a graphics card to a computer’s motherboard, primarily to assist in the acceleration of 3D computer graphics. AGP has been replaced over the past couple years by PCI Express. AGP cards and motherboards are still available to buy, but they are becoming less common.

Tell by Size

The four different PCI Express slot types can be differentiated by their physical size. PCI Express cards use the x1, x4, x8 and x16 sizes, which reflect how many individual data connector lanes the card supports. The number following the "x" in the name is mathematically relevant to the size of the card connector. For example: a x8 slot is twice the size of a x4 slot, and a x16 slot is four times as large as a x4 slot.

Slot Compatibility

PCI Express cards can fit in and work with any slot that has as many or more data connector lanes. For example, a x8 card can fit in a x16 slot, but a x16 card can't fit in a x4 slot. If the card fits in the slot, it works in the slot as long as it's a PCI Express slot -- using a PCI Express card in a PCI or AGP slot can damage the hardware.

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