Upgrading videocard. Using a diamond cutting wheel.

Many of you might have heard anecdotes about people using saws and other tools to plug incompatible cards & modules into PC...

This actually happened to me: recently I needed an PCI-E x1 videocard, as all x16 slots were already occupied. PCI-E x1 cards are being sold but they are rare and quite expensive. I decided to try to upgrade (or better say modify) my spare PCI-E x16 videocard nVidia 8400GS to fit into x1 slot.

There are 2 possible approaches to this problem: remove a "wall" on PCI-E x1 slot on the motherboard so that x16 card fits in, or cut the videocard. As motherboard was still on warranty, I decided to cut the videocard.

I was cutting videocard with diamond disks from well known e-shop - cuts FR4 like butter. And don't forget protective glasses and respirator - FR4 dust is quite dangerous.

It was quite surreal feeling - it's supposed to be so fragile and complex, and I am just cutting a piece of it...

You can see via's on the edge. Then I removed some material from the edges at 45' angle so that there is less possibilities to short GND and VCC planes.

After checking that there are no shorts, plugged to computer and turned on... It doesn't work. Bummer. Did I broke it?

It appeared that card indicates bus width it implements by shorting pins on PCI-E slot (so, x16, x8,x4 an x1 have it's specific pin). So I needed to short pins, which tells motherboard that it's PCI-E x1 card. You can see pin locations on the photo.

Note that I am gluing wire to the PCB so that I don't accidentally rip it off along with thin PCB trace.

"x16 present" pin was shorted on the videocard's PCB, but we cut it off along with the rest of x16 connector.

Contact location on another side is marked (wire is soldered a little higher to the PCB trace).

Done and working perfectly :-) No signs of performance degradation, all applications works including Team Fortress 2 :-) Also, you can see the rare case of Gigabyte and ASUS symbiosis (initially card had passive cooling, but running way too hot).

Over the first year of use this videocard worked 24*7 in 3 different computers without any issues.
June 10, 2011