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When you buy a new video card that is different from your current video card, usually you have two options: sell the old video card or leave it collecting dust inside a closet. If your old and new video cards use an NVIDIA graphics processor, a third option is available: install and configure the old video card as a dedicated PhysX processor. Let’s see how this is done.

PhysX is a technology for physics calculations from NVIDIA. In games with this technology and a video card with an NVIDIA graphics processor installed, you can enable it in order to get a more realistic experience inside the game. However, although enabling this technology increases the realism of the game, it also decreases the game’s overall performance. By installing a dedicated video card for these calculations, you can increase the PhysX detail level in your game without seeing any drop in the number of frames per second being generated.

In order for your dedicated PhysX video card to be used, you will need to correctly configure the system (see next page), use a game that is based on PhysX, and enable PhysX hardware acceleration on the game’s configuration panel. Also, your new video card must be installed as the primary video card, and your old video card (the one that you will configure as a dedicated PhysX processor) must be moved to the second (or third, if you have an SLI setup) PCI Express x16 slot. You can use a dedicated PhysX video card together with two or three video cards in SLI mode without a problem.

There are a couple of drawbacks with having a dedicated PhysX video card. The main one is power consumption. You PC’s overall power consumption will increase even when you are not playing games, since you will have another video card hooked up to your PC. The second problem is that the dedicated PhysX video card will only be used with games based on PhysX technology, so only a few games will use this additional video card.

Let’s see how you configure a dedicated PhysX video card.

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Configuring a video card to be a dedicated PhysX processor is very easy to do. Double click the NVIDIA logo that sits beside the computer’s clock on Windows, and click on the “Configure Surround, PhysX” link present on the left panel. The window shown in Figure 1 will be displayed. There, under “PhysX settings,” “Processor,” select the video card that will be the dedicated PhysX processor. In our case, we had a GeForce GTX 670 as our main video card and a GeForce GTX 260 that we wanted to configure as a dedicated PhysX processor.

PhysX ConfigurationFigure 1: PhysX configuration

After selecting the video card, check the box “Dedicate to PhysX,” as shown in Figure 2. Click on the button “Apply” and the configuration will be done.

PhysX ConfigurationFigure 2: PhysX configuration

Now you have your dedicated PhysX video card correctly configured. The next step is to enable hardware-based PhysX acceleration inside your game, which is done through its configuration menu.