I am thinking of upgrading my Geforce 5500 FX to a better graphics card, but all I can find are PCI-Express graphics cards. Can PCI-Express card work in PCI slots?
I have a HP home edition.

In a word, no.

Although they share very similar names, they are not compatible, or interchangeable. The slots are physically different, so they wouldn’t fit even if you tried.

Fig 1. Types of slots.

You have to match your new video card to the slot in your motherboard. Since there are likely to be many people upgrading video cards with the holiday season, and the release of some big DirectX 10 game titles, this will likely to be a common question.

The timeline of graphic cards is PCI -> AGP -> PCI-E (or PCI Express). Your GeForce 5500FX is not a PCI, or PCI-E card. It’s an AGP video card. There are still a number of very good AGP graphic cards available in all price ranges. PCI graphic cards are not very common anymore, and are likely to include much slower components. PCI-E is the latest generation, and as you’ve found they are widely available in all the newest models.

There are so many video cards available from nVidia, AMD ATI, and other sources that it can sometimes be difficult to cut though the hype, and determine which cards perform better. I like to recommend a couple of sites for comparison. GPUReview.com has a simple Video Card Comparison page. Simply select the two cards you’d like to compare, and get the results displayed side-by side. TomsHardware.com also has some nice comparison charts, and recently posted a related article: The Best Gaming Graphics Cards for the Money: November 2007.

There are other considerations when planning a video card upgrade. High-end video cards consume a LOT of power. You may find the power supply in your computer is not up to the task. Look at the video card manufacturer’s recommendations for minimum power supply ratings, or consider using a tool to calculate the power needs of your system.

Finally, make sure a video card is where you should be investing your money. As a general rule, memory will speed up a system more than a video card upgrade. Windows XP should have between 512KB and 1GB of memory. Windows Vista between 1-2 GB. There are also other bottlenecks in a system. A system with a 2GHZ Celeron CPU wouldn’t get the full benefit of an 8800GTS video card. A much cheaper video card would perform just as fast on that system.

Have questions about upgrading your system, or even building a new one? Check out our System Building & Upgrading forum.