Introduction: Running 3 Monitors by Installing Second PCI Express Card

Picture of Running 3 Monitors by Installing Second PCI Express Card

I wanted to run 3 monitors on my PC but it only had a single video card slot. That meant I could only run 1 video card and a single video card usually only supports 2 monitors. Some high end cards support 3 or more monitors but of course I wanted to do this on the cheap! I'd heard it was possible to install a second video card by cutting most of the pins off a 16x PCI Express card and installing it in a 1x slot. It sounded like a bit of an internet myth but it turned out to be true and has been running in my PC for many months.

The photo below shows the available slots for my motherboard. The blue one on the left is the 16x PCI Express slot that takes a video card. The next 2 slots are the old style PCI slots. Installing a video card in one of these slots would be possible but I don't have one, they can be hard to come by and tend to be very old cards. The 4th much smaller slot there that is labelled "PCIEX1" is the PCI Express 1x card. This is effectively the same as the blue slot except cut short. A video card won't physically fit in this slot because its pins are much longer. However, it is actually possible to simply cut the extra pins off the card and it will work.

Step 1: Marking the Location to Cut

Picture of Marking the Location to Cut

The first step is to obtain a PCI Express video card. Decent cards can be obtained from ebay for around $10. Before cutting anything it's a very good idea to mark the pins that should be cut off. We want to cut all the pins off the larger section of the card except for the first 7 pins. In the second pic here I've used a marker to mark the 8th pin. This pin and everything to the right needs to be cut off.

Step 2: Cutting the Card

Picture of Cutting the Card

The next step is to actually cut the pins off the card. The best tool for this is a Dremel with the mini angle grinder blade. I guess you could use a full size grinder or maybe a hacksaw but I haven't tried either of those. Note that I have created a notch just near the 7th pin. Without this the card doesn't sit fully down into the motherboard. I have also cut off the lug towards the back of the card for clearance. This may be necessary to clear capacitors and other items that might be attached to the motherboard. After cutting the card use a razor blade, screw driver or kitchen knife to clean up the edges along the cut. I did this to dislodge any pieces of metal that might be hanging around. Then I cleaned off any dust/metal fragments.

Step 3: Install the Card

Picture of Install the Card

After this is just a matter of installing the card into the computer. You can do this with or without the main video card installed. This is really just like installing a standard video card. The only difference is that you should take extra precaution to make sure the card isn't in contact with anything metal. Remember that there will be very small points along the cut that could be live. If metal is sitting close to where you've cut the card then maybe place some electrical tape along the cut.

Now just hook up a monitor to this card and power on the computer. There is no need to install the other video card and no need to run 3 monitors just yet. If you get anything showing on the screen then it has worked. Now just shut off the computer, install the main video card and you're done.

Step 4: The Results

Picture of The Results

The end result is a computer that will run up to 4 monitors quite nicely. In my case I am running 3 monitors via DVI connections. I don't play games but I believe the 3rd monitor will be slower for games because the bandwidth between the motherboard and the card is reduced to 1/16th of it's original speed. This is still more than fast enough for windows though.


Gabse (author)2013-03-16

Oh thanks!!!!! I only have 2 questions:
How can i put the taskbar over three monitors, and does it supports Nvidia SLI?


duceduc (author)Gabse2015-09-18

I just found out about DisplayFusion. I believe you can add taskbar to every monitors with this program.

TheParacorder (author)Gabse2013-03-30

in order to do SLI you need 2 IDENTICAL cards, otherwise further issues may occur

This is not SLI as both cards are been used for monitors in SLI one of the primary things that goes on is Both cards are been used for one monitor in terms or processing.
keeping it very simple.
this is dual video cards used for multiple montor support and this does work, how ever i do not think its wise to cut the PCI-E pins in this manner due to the fact you will have to be very carefull as you will have expossed pins, to avoid this use tape or some insulation especially where you have a board that has a pci-e in front of the a south bridge or other controller that has a heatsink that can short the card.
Best option if you have the money, USB to DVI, its basically a video card on usb and with usb 3.0 i think we might even see one with 3D support.
Or USB Monitors these montiors run directly from USB (including power)
you can also buy a PCI or 1x PCI-E video card.
PCI cards are very cheap second hand if your board has a PCI slot spare.
Most Expesive option is to get a Video card that supports 3 or 4 monitors but the cost can be a little too much due to the fact the cards support 4 monitors and not much else (poor 3D performance).
PS there is also Hybrid SLI never tested it but that allows you to have two different Nvidia GPU's, or you can have a Nvidia Card as Video and the other card set as PhysX card in this you can use 2 different cards. Research.....

I didnt say this is SLI. I said that is Gabse wanted to use SLI, he would need 2 of the same card, and the hybrid way around that, may become an issue

thats where your wrong again hybrid SLI or Crossfire has not been an issue for years.
if your 13 why is your avatar of an older guy and looks like his wife?
i started messing with computers when i was 6. "back in dos"
if you have any problems or want to ask questions your welcome to contact me or this guy who made the Instructable as i agree with him he seems to know his stuff, well apart from the gigabyte heater lol.
Oh here is one thing that many young people don't get or starting to learn Apple makes cheap Devices "as it has limited functions like a DVD player" a Computer does anything you want it to you just have to know how.
also give ubuntu a try in live mode it is a good os and plenty of info to get it running.

Thats my father and me :/ i had very long hair at the time.. I am not new to electronics.. Im slightly new to PC building. I very much agree you have more knowledge than me. This is simply our age difference. I respect you. And i know the stuff i needed to know how to build a PC. Not much more. You are kind enough to help young with technology. But im less in need to be taught. And i am a PC loyalist. I have some knowledge of C++ and arduino programming. Im not a mindless little twerp who says "swag" "yolo" or any
Junk like that. Im in fact the one to be picked on... So please support me.

could not see that detail of the pic until i enlarged it, i have an Arduino as well, not done to much with it other then use it as an invertor controller and L.E.D cube C++ is good to know but i think you should start learning Java as many programmes are writen in java, its good your a pc man. keep in touch and if you have any questions about stuff just message me and that goes to anyone else too. Talk to you later bro.

Thanks mate. Ill keep in touch. See ya

Yes, i am well aware of that. I wont be doing this instructable anyways. (My computer is custom built, and less than a year old) i was actually telling the comment above me how SLI works. My graphics card supports 4 screens. It costed only 300

Gabse (author)TheParacorder2013-03-31

Thanks for your answer. I have decided not to use sli (too expensive :-)) still have a question: what graphics card do you use?

TheParacorder (author)Gabse2013-04-01

No problem! And i currently run two amd radeon 6870's in sli :) i have a video on youtube. Look up FSstudios1 and my video will be under there. Take care

Gabse (author)TheParacorder2013-04-01

Can you send me a link please?

Blackice504 (author)Gabse2013-05-13

I would not take advice from this guy due to the fact he does not seem to know what he is talking about as there is errors and wrong information about things.

First off I use Nvidia due to the fact they have more fuctions then ATI and i like Nvidia Drivers for what i do.

Speed last time i checked it was Nvidia but ATI may take that crown from time to time.
Compatablity. from my years of experience in I.T i would say Nvidia but ATI has come along way since so this may not be such a big problem as it used to be, but many games now days do support Physx or writen with Nvidia cards in mind and i still believe that is the case but i have found some games writen more towards ATI but run on Nvidia cards just fine.
LIFE SPAN i will have to say Nvida wins this due to the fact my oldest Nvidia card that still works is an old Nvidia TNT "2002 ish" my oldest still running ATI is an Radeon 9700 Pro "herc" sure these cards don't play the lastest games but should give you a good idea how long the cards last, but that been said it can vary on who made the PCB which the chip sits on and this i have to say you can never go wrong with ASUS they can cost 10 or 20 bucks more but they last and Peformance is very good, and run nice and cool, also come with a good Warranty i have never had a problem with Asus Warranty Ever, but that has been rarely used.....
Functions: i would have to say one of the reasons i use Nvida is because i have been using multi-monitors for years ( over 15 years ) and found that Nvida has more support for Multi-Display more so then ATI especially when using a TV as second, thus i stuck with Nvida.
Mid Range cards like 660 TI or an ATI mid range will be the way to go as they would support gaming for at leased 5 years and don't have heat issues as most of the High end cards always have from both companies.
Heat = short life, also energy loss.
just a few degrees above room temp and your system will last for years and if you selected the right parts you be gaming for at leased 5 years, then upgrade your graphics and you will have another 5 years. I hope this helps.

Sir, you have to understand im only 14, im still learning. I built my own computer at age 13. Ive built a 16bit computer on a breadboard. Im way ahead of my game already. One thing i noticed is the AMD drivers always cause issues, sometimes my driver quits, my screens black out, and GPU usage spikes up to about 98%. Then jumps back to normal. Ive tried my best to help this person. Please give me respect. I realize you have worked as an IT. So just correct my mistakes.

TheParacorder (author)Gabse2013-04-03

Sure thing! But at the time i only had 1 card

Oops here is the non mobile version

Gabse (author)TheParacorder2013-04-04


TheParacorder (author)Gabse2013-04-04


Just Noticed your talking about Radeon don't have much info on those as i don't use ATI, and SLI is Nvidia thus i thought you ment Nvidia, when you have two video ATI cards thats Crossfire it works similar to Nvidia's SLI but with some less functions e.g no PhysX support, in short before making a statment or trying to give advice know your product.

Yes, my bad, i meant Crossfire X

DarawiesA (author)2015-09-17

I want to know if it really work, because i like to try new things.

Please comment if it work for u.

duceduc (author)DarawiesA2015-09-18

I want to do this to my work pc and the boss said it was ok for me to modify the card.

If you have/done this mod, let me know how it worked for you. If possible can you snap a pix of the card after it was cut? Thanks.

MikeKulls (author)DarawiesA2015-09-18

It worked in my computer for quite a while. I only got rid of it when I upgraded to a motherboard which had 2 full size slots for video.

Jebedai (author)2015-01-19

this is cool, but i could only with good conscience use a 10 dollar card lol, i just could not do this to a mid to high end card. I like this idea and that you got it to work, this would be great for a dvr too

Jebedai (author)Jebedai2015-01-19

I think this board supports hybrid crossfire too.. if thats the case you can use the onboard and pcie card you have for dual / tri monitor and you do not have to perform this cut.. for hobbyist like myself i love this, i just wanted to add that also to my comment above

Computothought (author)2013-02-24

Gosh I miss when computers had a decent amount of slots....

Jebedai (author)Computothought2015-01-19

to be fair this is a micro board so it has alot less slots than a mid atx style board

MikeKulls (author)Computothought2013-05-16

so true!!

mfrontuto (author)2013-08-22

could you put a layer of hot glue where you cut to prevent metal to metal contact?

piratus (author)2013-03-10

did you use any configuration for the 3rd monitor?!
btw good job to find something like that!!

MikeKulls (author)piratus2013-05-16

You just need to install drivers as normal, probably reboot and then go into display settings and setup the three or four monintors there.

bmartin26 (author)2013-05-01

Next time don't tear up your card, just notch out the back of the slot. That way you don't f*up your nice card. :-)

MikeKulls (author)bmartin262013-05-15

That is an option but the card is usually worth a lot less than the motherboard. I also found it a lot harder to cut the motherboard than the card

Blackice504 (author)2013-05-13

Nice work. but please insulate that PCB for any case, and with gigabyte boards + MSI i would change its stock heatsinks as Gigabyte boards always run hot.
Also for good PC building Cable tie.
1 to keep those wires out of your CPU FAN......."got scared when seen how close your cpu fans wires are to its fins"
2 you get better airflow and less noise.
3 everything looks neat and sexy and you can put a clear side pannel on your case to show off your handy work.

A cool Computer is a Computer that is happy and will last a long time.
PS: for the next person that says this can't work i will personally slap them with the MS-DOS book.
This does work. Read up on how PCI-E works to understand and this will work on any PCI-E cards. this can also work on PCI-X as i had a card that was PCI-X and end for extra bandwidth was in the way of a southbirdge and cut the end off + taped.
Card was a Intel Dual 1gb Ethernet was running on my server. "not in use now due to the fact i upgraded".

Keep up the good work and dont get down about the negative comments by wannabe Techs.....LOL.

MikeKulls (author)Blackice5042013-05-14

Thanks for the comments. Insulating the card was covered in step 3. You are right it is definitely worth doing as its easy to forget . With regards the wires this was just for the photos before the PC was complete. I usually just tuck the wires under or around something. I prefer to hide the PC away somewhere than show it off. With regard negative comments I think its been overall pretty positive.

mrworf (author)2013-03-29

This is amazing! :D

liam2317 (author)2013-03-13

I tried this Instructable with an old graphics card I had and it works great! 720p Youtube is even watchable for me on the 3rd monitor, a little choppy here and there but hardly noticeable.
Thanks for the great idea! :)

drawe21 (author)2013-03-08

PCI cards are easy to come by,
Prices from 6 to 60 dollars if money is no option...

sebastianmal (author)2013-03-02

bro u done a wonderful technical research , bravo 2 u

joearkay (author)2013-02-24

There is no way that would work :@

MikeKulls (author)joearkay2013-02-24

I can understand your scepticism but this does work. I've done it with 3 different video cards and had it running for several months. If you install a 1x card in a 16x slot that works no problem because the motherboard knows not to use the other pins. The same is true in the reverse situation. The extra pins just add extra bandwidth.

joearkay (author)MikeKulls2013-02-26

Ok I take it back now that I understand the theory behind it

ImageMaker (author)joearkay2013-02-24

As long as you don't create a short between traces at the cut, this is electrically the same as plugging the card into an old full length PCIEX1, X2, or X4 slot in a five or six year old motherboard -- which works fine. Those older boards have the same connector as a modern PCX or PCIEX16, but most of the pins aren't connected -- and all PCI Express video cards are designed to be backward compatible to the earliest full length PCI Express slots. The extra pins (that are cut off in this instructable) provide a "wider" connection -- the original is 8 bits wide, while the X16 is at least 64 bits wide (same as the memory bus in the last few generations of motherboards).

The card in the X1 slot will be a LOT slower than it would be in the proper X16 slot, but as noted, for email and Windows desktop, even web browsing that doesn't involve streaming video, that barely matters -- and if you run games, you just have to be sure to put the game window on a monitor connected to the card in the PCX/PCIEX16 slot.

BTW, this will work a lot better if you have plenty of RAM in the computer...

I know right

macwhiz (author)2013-02-24

This does work, I've used it to use a PCIE x16 card in a PCIE x8 slot, but i cut the back off the slot. It does limit the bandwith, but with a low end card, it should be fine, for anything up to HD video. I wouldn't use it to game with though.

MikeKulls (author)macwhiz2013-02-24

Cutting the back out of the slot is a good option also. It depends if you value your video card or motherboard more. :-) It's a pity they don't just do this in the factory. Possibly they want to force you to buy a more expensive motherboard with 2 of the 16x slots.

mpilchfamily (author)MikeKulls2013-02-25

Some motherboards come with the PCI-e 1X slot that are open ended and wouldn't need any modification.

MikeKulls (author)2013-02-24

I mentioned this in the article. PCI cards tend to be difficult to come by and are often older and less powerful cards. Most of the time they don't have DVI. PCI bandwidth is also less than that of a PCIe 1x. However, if you happen to have a PCI card lying around that works ok it is a simpler option.

zabolyx (author)2013-02-24

Actually this is a well known and blogged about method. The first set of pins is the same between all PCI-E slots. The rest are only added channels used for bandwidth. So literally you can cut the extra bandwidth from the cards. You can also put a 1x card into any of the larger slots. Nothing new but well done on the instructions.

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