Can I Plug that in any PCIE slot?

Learn how PCIE can better your experience

Steve Smith answers the question on PCIE slots, and what you can do with most PCIE slots in your computer.

Episode #3-28 released on April 6, 2013

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PCIE, or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express, is an expansion slot technology that is relatively new, we are used to the idea of PCI slots, but PCIE still brings up many important questions about how it can be used correctly. The reason is that for the longest time we were taught not to insert expansion cards that did not have exactly the same size, and specification as the slot of interest. Today, I'm going to answer the question, and demystify this new technology, PCIE, and I hope you will all have learned something new today.

First, the PCIE cards talk using a logical connection called an interconnect which is a point to point channel of communications between two PCIE ports, allowing for ordinary PCI styled requests. A PCIE card can come in lane sizes of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and even 32, with an X prefix. There is no current popular usage of the x32 slot size on consumer main boards. For the moment, most main boards will have at least one x16 PCIE slot and several x1 slots, maybe a 4x or 8x slot.

A lane is comprised of two different signaling pairs, one for receiving data, and one for sending data. This means a signal lane is comprised of 4 traces on a PCIE card. Each lane communicates using full duplex transmitting in eight-bit byte format. By this simple calculation, we can determine a x16 card has 64 traces on the card, while a x8 card will only have 32, and a x4 card will only have 16 traces.

Another fact about the PCIE cards and related slots. A x16 or x8 slot cannot fit inside a smaller slot, unless it has an open end, in which case it will adapt to the fewer available connected lanes at the card's disposal. A x1 card can be plugged into a x1, x2, x4, x8, or higher. And, as long as any PCIE slots have an open end, which you can modify yourself, carefully, you can plug technically plug any PCIE card, into any PCIE slot, it will work, but slower in small slots.

We currently have three versions of PCIE in the wild, so this may naturally lead to an extra question, I will answer today.

If you wanted to purchase a new graphics card that was created for PCIE x16 Version 3, would it work on a previous generation main board?

The answer is yes, in fact, the only issue you may have is speed. Everything else about PCIE is virtually the same with each new generation or version, except that the speed doubles with each new generation released. If you have the money to buy a new graphics card but not a whole new computer, but will have the money to buy a new computer soon, buy the graphics card. The only thing I must stress is power, if you upgrade your graphics card, you may need to upgrade your graphics card. You can determine this by reading both the main board manual, and the graphics adapter manual. In most cases, if you have enough connectors, and very few hard drives, upgrades are possible without issue with power supplies of 500Watts or better, however, please read the manuals for more accurate details in the case of more powerful graphics cards.

Now last week, I was talking about the size of computer fans, and how airflow is important. I received an interesting question about connectivity, thanks to Ryan Ridenour of Youtube, which is asking how to connect his fans correctly in his computer, and the answer is based on the type of fans you use. The fan I showed you last week is a 200mm Coolermaster fan that spins at 700RPM. You may actually prefer to use a fan to molex adapter connecting it directly to your power supply, and not your mother board. Especially for bigger fans. Coolermaster fans don't make that much noise so you can let them spin at a hundred percent all the time. You may, also, want to know that bigger fans at not necessarily fans of fan controllers, so if you wish to use a fan controller, you may have to buy fans designed specifically for that task.

Next week, I will talk about Byte Range, and what it may mean for content providers, podcasters, and the web-site designers.

Remember to like this episode if you were interested in today's topic, share if you think someone else could benefit from the topic, and subscribe if you want to learn more. For the show notes of this episode and others, for more information on other ways to subscribe to our show, to subscribe to our weekly newsletter, and how to participate by submitting your questions, comments, suggestions, and stories, head over to

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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