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I just received a new Alienware box preinstalled with two nice shiny ATI 6950 graphics cards. My goal is to use both of them to give me really good resolution and frame rate on my single monitor.

There's zero documentation with the Alienware box and nothing I can find online.

  1. Do I just plug the monitor into one of the cards, and expect the two cards to do magic internally?

  2. The ATI Crossfire website indicates a need for an "external crossfirex connection cable". Do I need to buy one of these? If so, what kind of cable is it?

  3. The AMD Catalyst Control Center shows the second card as "Linked" but when I go to the AMD Overdrive section, the second card is at zero temperature, and clock, suggesting it's not actually doing anything. What do I need to do to make use of both cards? Is it something that doesn't kick in until I do something graphically intensive?

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Just hook the monitor up to master card. The frames rendered by the secondary card is moved to the master card internally. You used to have to hook up a cable from the secondary card to the master card for crossfire, but that was a long time ago, and ATI has long since overcome that technological limitation.

Unless you are running a program, usually a game, for which crossfire is explicitly supported, the second card is not used. It is then put to sleep.

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you still have to install the internal crossfire bridge connector between the two cards though! – Jeff Atwood Oct 5 '11 at 5:48

The master card is the topmost card, the one nearest the CPU.

Plug the video cards into that one (assuming you don't need more than 3 monitors, as each ATI card supports 3 video outputs). You can effectively ignore the lower video card when connecting monitors.

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If the motherboard and the graphics cards are recent enough you probably won't need the external connection cable. I think I remember that SLI/Xfire still require a ribbon connector to operate. Regarding temperature etc does the card run in the box? if yes, the software may be just unable to acquire data. try an update maybe.

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just to mention something obvious not mentioned yet, crossfire is for connecting two video cards together not monitors. You still connect the monitor to the one video card. The connection cable is usually a small short cable that attached to the up side west of the back panel ports between the two cards.

here is a good example image

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