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I have an Alienware machine, so I'm not entirely sure on the make of motherboard, however, I do know it's got nforce on it and allows me to use nVidia cards in SLI.

My 8800GTX has recently died and I'm looking to buy a replacement - I'm considering the ATI 5870, but what I want to know is, if I choose this card, does it mean I will need to change motherboard just to change graphics card vendor or does it not matter?

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It does not matter. There will be no problems in using an ATi graphics card on an nVidia chipset motherboard, or vice-versa. Just be sure that prior to installing the ATi card, you boot into Windows in safe mode, remove the existing nVidia drivers and then install the ATi drivers post installing the hardware to ensure no driver conflicts crop up.

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