If you frequently require additional peripheral devices for your motherboard, you may face limitations with the built-in slots provided by the manufacturer. These limitations can sometimes hinder user performance and prevent them from achieving their best results. To address this issue, PCIe Splitters and PCIe Risers can be employed. These hardware components are designed to provide extra PCIe slots, allowing users to add more peripheral components such as graphic cards, memory cards, and other expansion cards.
However, it’s essential to consider that every solution has limitations and drawbacks when viewed differently. The same applies when adding more expansion cards or hardware devices using PCIe Splitters. In this article, we will briefly explain how to add and configure PCIe slots, along with other relevant information you may need. Before delving into these details, it is essential to understand what PCIe slots are.
What is a PCIe Slot?
PCIe is the abbreviation of Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. It allows you to connect with external hardware components. The earlier version was the PCI protocol; later, they added “express” to form PCIe. PCIe represents an enhanced and standardised version of PCI, incorporating numerous developments and improved features.
Moreover, PCIe slots are the hardware link that provides a medium between your motherboard and the expansion card. It’s important to note that when we mention expansion cards, we refer to various hardware components such as graphic cards, SSDs, HDD cards, or any other components according to individual requirements.
What are the Standard PCIes Sizes?
As discussed, PCIe provides a way to add expansion cards to the motherboard. The latest standards have improved their efficiency, I/O pins, and come in a smaller form factor. Various sizes and PCIe lanes are available in the market, and the size indicates the number of components that can be connected to your PC.
Among the primary standard sizes available in the market, these four are the most popular:
- PCIe x1
- PCIe x4
- PCIe x8
- PCIe x16
When connecting peripheral components, it is essential to ensure that the size of the PCIe slots matches the requirements. For example, smaller graphic cards can easily be connected to higher PCIe slots on your motherboard, but larger expansion cards cannot fit into smaller slots on your PC.
Another related term to PCIe is PCIe lanes. These conductive buses or pins determine the speed of data flow to expansion cards, graphic cards, etc. Normally, the number of lanes in a slot is the same as the slot’s size. For example, an x1 slot will have one lane. The latest PCIe slots have strong and improved lanes, highly tuned to provide high bandwidth speeds, resulting in high performance even in PCIe x1 slots.
Methods to Add More PCIe Slot
If you are fortunate enough to have a motherboard with a greater number of inbuilt PCIe slots that meet your requirements, then consider yourself lucky. However, if you lack PCIe slots, you only have two solutions available to add more to your motherboard.
1. Invest a New and Larger Motherboard
The first option is to opt for the latest motherboard, but this solution may be very expensive for those operating on a limited budget. We do not recommend going for a completely new motherboard, as it is unnecessary when you can use your current resources by spending a relatively smaller amount of money.
However, if your system is outdated and you are actively searching for a new and robust system, then consider this option. Before making a purchase, ensure to check the specifications of PCIe slots and opt for a motherboard with a higher number of PCIe slots.
2. Invest in a PCIe Splitters or PCIe Riser
This option is budget-friendly but has limitations, which we will explore in-depth in our discussion. The fundamental idea behind using a PCIe splitter or PCIe riser is to divide your main built-in primary slot into multiple slots using this hardware device, known as a PCIe splitter. By using this splitter, you can benefit from an extra expansion card and enhance your overall experience.
What is Splitting PCIe?
The Splitting of PCIe involves dividing one PCIe bus into multiple buses. As a result, multiple PCIe Slots become available on your motherboard for connecting additional expansion cards. This division is achieved using a PCIe Splitter. Let’s delve into it further.
A PCIe Splitter is a hardware board with one plug-in slot, which connects to your existing primary slot on the motherboard. On the other hand, it provides multiple additional slots for adding more cards to Connect with your motherboard. In most cases, it is used in the PCIe x1 slot, but other sizes like PCIe x4, x8, and even x16 are also possible without any issues. The compatibility of PCIe splitter versions with PCIe slots on your PC is unrestricted, allowing you to connect any PCIe splitter version.
Moreover, these PCIe splitters are readily available in the local market and can also be purchased from online platforms such as Amazon or other E-commerce websites.
PCIe Splitter Vs PCIe Riser
Both terms, PCIe splitter and PCIe riser, are similar in their purpose but differ in hardware installation and application area. However, ultimately, they both perform similar tasks.
For basic external expansion card connections, a PCIe splitter is all that is required. However, if you are involved in crypto mining, it is not advisable to use a PCIe splitter. Instead, PCIe risers are designed specifically to excel in the crypto-mining environment. They are named “risers” because they elevate your expansion card one layer above the motherboard. This is necessary because older motherboards often lack sufficient space to accommodate additional graphic cards, which are essential for mining. PCIe risers enable the use of multiple graphic cards additionally.
From a broader perspective, this approach offers additional benefits, such as ensuring the cards are in direct contact with the grills, resulting in better and more efficient cooling.
From a design perspective, risers are essentially cables or ribbons connecting the expansion cards to the motherboard while maintaining some distance between them.
Limitations of PCIe Splitter
We have previously discussed that every application has its benefits and limitations. When considering PCIe, the following points should be taken into account:
- Compatibility and Standard: Not all motherboards support additional expansion cards or riser card provisions. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure the compatibility and standard of PCIe before purchasing any external devices.
- Bandwidth Limitations: PCIe does not enhance your bandwidth but provides extra slots to connect peripherals. The bandwidth speed for components or external cards running on PCIe splitter slots depends on the host slot. For example, if you are using a splitter 3.0 and the PCIe x1 slot is 2.0, the component on the splitter will be limited to the x1 slot’s 2.0 bandwidth speed.
- Impact on PCIe Lanes: Using a PCIe splitter does not affect the number of PCIe lanes the host slot provides. However, the lanes on the splitter end will be divided based on the number of components connected. For example, if you split a PCIe x1 slot into 2 PCIe x4 slots, the lanes will be divided from what is available on the x1 slot.
Considering these factors, using a high number of expansion cards can impact your system’s performance and make your motherboard respond slower. Additionally, it will lead to higher energy consumption, resulting in faster battery drainage. Lastly, increased energy usage generates more heat, requiring an advanced cooling system.
Configurations of Splitters
The PCIe splitters are available in various configurations. Still, it is essential to follow a basic rule while setting them up: maintaining a balance between the bandwidth of the expansion card connectors via splitters and the Host PCIe slots on the motherboard. It is crucial to ensure that the total bandwidth demanded by the cards connected to the splitter does not exceed the bandwidth of the host slot. If this limit is surpassed, a noticeable difference in performance will occur.
To illustrate, let’s consider a scenario where four devices are connected to a splitter on the primary PCIe x1 slot, which has a bandwidth of 1GB/s. If the combined bandwidth of the four expansion cards exceeds 1GB/s, various errors and performance issues may arise on the motherboard.
More PCIe Slots – FAQs
Ans: We must always consider the application area of our system and the type of expansion card or additional component we intend to use in those extra slots. The initial step is to check our motherboard’s specifications and compatibility before adding PCIe extra slots. Furthermore, managing energy consumption poses a challenging task when dealing with the cooling system. Additionally, it is crucial to consider the space required to fit the hardware device into our computer.
Ans: The answer is NO. Adding additional PCIe slots to most laptops is impossible since they come with integrated and fixed PCIe slots. However, there are some rare cases where high-end gaming laptops may have the provision of adding PCIe slots. To ascertain this possibility, one must open the laptop’s case and ensure that there is enough space for the hardware device.
In general, adding PCIe slots to a laptop is more challenging compared to a desktop computer.
Ans: Sometimes, adding more PCIe slots to your system can become a nightmare if you fail to avoid these common mistakes mentioned below. The first one is not following proper guidelines during installation. Another mistake to avoid is neglecting to check the earthing before connecting components and handling PCIe cards with excessive power or applying too much force on the devices. Ensure secure insulation of cables and avoid loose connections with hardware devices.
Additionally, confirming that all essential software and adapters are available in the system to utilize the newly added hardware fully is crucial.
4. Are PCIe Splitters Good For Crypto Mining?
Ans: Yes, you can use PCIe Splitters for Crypto mining, but it is always recommended to use PCIe risers. PCIe risers are specifically designed for crypto mining cycles. To perform this task, you always need more GPUs, and both PCIe Splitters and risers can fulfill your requirements.
Ans: Both terms, PCIe splitter and PCIe riser, are similar in their purpose, but they differ in hardware installation and application area. However, ultimately, they both perform similar tasks. For basic external expansion card connections, a PCIe splitter is all that is required. However, if you are involved in crypto mining, it is not advisable to use a PCIe splitter. Instead, PCIe risers are designed specifically to excel in the crypto-mining environment.
In conclusion, this article has offered valuable insights into adding PCIe slots to your motherboard, particularly when facing limitations in physically adding components. In such situations, PCIe Splitters become a vital solution. We have also gained an understanding of various slot sizes and the significance of PCIe lanes.
It is important to consider the limitations, as adding more slots may not necessarily increase bandwidth and could lead to a slight decrease in performance. Nevertheless, the advantage lies in having the ability to connect more peripheral components.
We hope that this guide has addressed all your uncertainties and clarified your decision regarding adding PCIe slots to your system.