Card Slot Identification

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OBJECTIVE: Be able to recognize the types of card slots on the motherboard and install and remove them efficiently

Identifying the card slots on a motherboard

There are many different card slot types that you will run in to here at Free Geek, so it can be rather challenging to determine which type you are looking at. An I/O (Input/Output) bus slot allows the user to add components to the computer, increasing the systems capability of performing to the users needs or wants. Below are some guidelines to help determine the slot type on the motherboard and the slot on the card itself.

But before we can discuss these we must talk about the basic motherboard layout. To arrange the board so that you can easily find the card slots, you should take an example board and turn it so that the on-board cluster or AT keyboard connector is facing you. Now you can see the card slots to the right of the on-board connectors.

The most reliable ways to identify them are:

1. Checking the distance between the outside of the box on the motherboard and the beginning of the pins
AGP slot will have about a 2 5/8" (6.7 cm) gap between plate and pins
PCI slot has about a 1 5/8" (4.1 cm) gap between plate and pins
PCI-express (PCI-e) video slot will have approximately 1 3/4" (4.3cm) between plate and pins, slightly farther from plate than PCI
ISA slot will have about a 1" (2.5 cm) gap between the plate and pins
2. Looking at the connector contact openings on the slots themselves
AGP slot has connector openings that are very fine and close together
PCI slot has connectors that are much bigger than either the AGP or PCI-e slots
PCI-e slot has connectors that are very small and fine, similar to the AGP
ISA slot has very large connectors in which the metal contacts can easily be seen

There are standard colors for the card slots: black for ISA, tan for PCI, brown for AGP but that does NOT mean that all motherboard vendors will stick with those colors. So you cannot rely on the colors of the slot plastic to be able to identify them. There are also standard locations for the slots but again, you can't depend on that.

Below is the description and some more technical information about the card slot types for your information.

The PCI slot

The Peripheral Component Interconnect is a bus slot type commonly known as PCI. The PCI slot has a bit rate of 32 bits and can handle a multitude of different card functions from network cards to USB expansion, making it the most versatile of the card types. Physically the card slot starts about 2 inches from the back of the motherboard. The slot itself is about 3 1/4 inches long.

The AGP slot

The Accelerated Graphics Port or AGP is solely for graphics cards, from 32 to 64 bits of video pleasure. This is the card that allowed 3D graphics for gamers to get more out of their game. Physically the card slot starts about 3 inches from the back of the motherboard. The slot itself is about 3 inches long.

The PCI-E slot

The Peripheral Component Interconnect Express card or PCI-E slots can very in sizes from 1 3/4 to 3 1/4 and is found about 1 3/4 in from the back of the mother board. There are two types of this card slot. One is for video card known as a PCI-E 16x slot type and the other is a small slot type known as PCI-E 8x. The 8x card slot is designed to be as versatile as the standard PCI slot in the wide array of cards that can function in this slot. This card slot is 4x faster then the speed of the PCI bus. That means that there is a Gigabyte of information going to and from the card.

The ISA slot

The Industry Standard Architecture slot was first implemented in the early 1980's by IBM. This card was capable of transferring data to and from the computer, opening up a world of possibilities from printing to networking with other computers. The 8 bit technology of the ISA card was soon improved upon and a 16 bit bus was implemented. Increasing the slot and card length allowed for data to transfer much faster. The bright side of the new architecture was that you could still use a 8 bit card in a 16 bit slot, allowing users who could only afford a new computer and not new cards to maintain the usability of their new computer. While the 8 bit ISA slot and 16 bit ISA slot differ in length they both start a little less than 1 inch from the back of the motherboard.

HANDS-ON EXERCISE Using the motherboards in Box B, try installing some cards into the appropriate slots. Note that AGP and PCI-express video cards frequently have locks at the back of the pins.