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As I can remember, on old systems (Pentium II or III) it was not possible to boot and run the PC if the graphics card was missing (AGP cards were used in those days).

Many years from then, I'm using motherboards with integrated graphics and I have no experience related to this subject, the "graphics card" always was present.

Currently I intend to build a home/private "server" for my purposes and most of the motherboards I want to buy have no integrated graphics (AMD 870 or 970). I can take a normal graphics card from my firends for a few hours/days and use it when installing the necessary software.

The question is: can I boot and run the PC without problems after I install everything I need and the graphics card is removed? if a general answer cannot be given, at least some examples of manufacturers/MB series/MB models will be helpfull

I think it's obvious, but for completeness: I mean cheap desktop components, not real servers.

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Did you try it? My computer boots fine after removing the graphics card. And if you install SecureShell you don't need to shut down the server and install a graphic card to install software. –  Marco Jul 29 '12 at 10:19
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I think he's asking this as a hypothethical question, before buying a system. I'm curious about this too, though sadly i can't seem to find anything i can use to test this. –  Journeyman Geek Jul 29 '12 at 11:06
    
@Marco: no, I did not try yet; I want to buy a MB, that's why I'm asking ... if a graphics card is not mandatory, I could look at those no-IG motherboards, buy one, then borrow a GPU for a few hours and save 50-60$ at leat for the moment (I'm not from USA or another rich country, so 50$ makes the difference) –  ArtM Jul 29 '12 at 11:10
    
Linux can be configured to run headless, that is, without a video console + keyboard; the console is assigned to a serial port. Windows editions for PCs may not be able to run headless like its server editions. And then you need to consider what applications you want to use. –  sawdust Jul 29 '12 at 22:54

7 Answers 7

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Does a modern PC require a graphics card to run?

I believe that many motherboards can boot without a video system. (but I have no actual experience of this)

Wikipedia says

During bootup, some (especially older) PC BIOS versions will wait indefinitely for a user to press a key before proceeding if some basic devices are not installed or connected, effectively halting an unattended system. These can include:

  • a video card;
  • a keyboard.

On more modern systems, the BIOS factory setting will typically be configured to behave this way as well, but this setting can be changed via a BIOS setup facility to proceed without user intervention. Even in cases where a system has been set up to be managed remotely, a local keyboard and video card may still be needed from time to time, for example to diagnose boot problems that occur before a remote access application is initialized.

Certainly many server-grade motherboards are designed explicitly for this - the Wikipedia article mentions this, I have HP and IBM servers that include some sort of Ethernet based "console" support for boot messages etc.


In general I'd download and read the motherboard manual and check that there is an option that allows booting to continue without pressing a key after an erro

e.g. on ASUS UEFI BIOS

Wait for ‘F1’ If Error [Enabled]
When set to [Enabled], the system waits for the key to be pressed when error occurs.

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I stumbled upon this thread, because i tried to do the same - install Win7 x64 and remove PciE GFX card. I hereby confirm, that my board (LanParty DK 790FXB-M2RS) works after removing a graphics card. I was curious how would i log in with Remote Desktop, but i did, and it works like a normal PC. And guess what - power consumption with one 2,5" HDD is just 15Watt! With Cool&Quiet though.

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Yes you can. Turn off the PC, disconnect power and then remove the graphics card and reboot.

Remember to assign an IP address so you can control your PC remotely.

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I assume this is almost impossible to answer as it depends heavily on the specific BIOS implementation that is used on the mainboard. Unless all major BIOS versions behave the same way and I'm simply not aware of it.

But even then, according to Wikipedia, mainboard manufacturers licence a core BIOS from the main BIOS manufacturers and then customize it. So there's no knowing what the final BIOS will or will not do.

Your best bet is to contact a hardware supplier and ask them. Tell them your requirements and let them recommend a valid board to you. If it does not perform as advertised, you'll be sure to return it.

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Thanks, but your answer is too general and unfortunately it's not appropiate for my country (hardware suppliers are just speculators, returnig is a pain, etc.). I still hope for a more specifict answer, better with some examples of manufacturers/MB series/MB models. Anyway, I understand that the question itself has also a general meaning and if nothing better appears, I'll accept this answer. –  ArtM Jul 29 '12 at 11:42
    
@ArtM: Please keep in mind that product or shopping recommendations are off-topic on Super User. Even if someone has a board that behaves like you expect, maybe you buy it and it's a new revision that doesn't work. Hopefully someone else knows of a way to determine if it will work before buying. Good luck :) –  Oliver Salzburg Jul 29 '12 at 11:45

Yes, you can. Many, if not all "off the shelf" motherboard+BIOS combinations have option to ignore missing graphics card. You'd better consult manual for your selected model first though and check out details on how to make your target OS boot with it too.

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As has been mentioned, it depends entirely on the specific motherboard, or rather its BIOS (i.e., it cannot be resolved through software—other than perhaps a BIOS hack). Since you did not specify what board you have or intend(ed) to get, all we can give is general information and suggestions.

Some (few, but more than zero) motherboards do demand that a video-card be installed as part of the POST, though this is somewhat poor programming given that headless systems are nothing new, and in fact most BIOSes include an option to ignore a missing keyboard, and some to ignore a missing video-card, primarily for this purpose.

You can check its manual (pretty much every manufacturer provides them for download on their sites) to see how it behaves. Make sure to also check if it detects and blocks if no monitor is connected to the video-adapter. Few do, but if yours does, then it could end up being a frustratingly mysterious problem since it only manifests when you have no visual cue as to the problem.

You said that most of the motherboards you are looking at don’t have onboard video, but if you are getting a new board, you could get a system with a video-adapter built-into the CPU.

A cheap and easy last-resort option, since you are not using the video-card anyway, is to simply put in any old cheap card. You can get a cheap, or even free, one from the classifieds like Kijiji, eBay Classifieds, Craig’s List, etc.

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I had the same question. Please read my findings http://typingcat.blogspot.com/2013/12/is-it-possible-to-boot-without-gpu.html

Basically, no, but possible.

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