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+1They are there for a couple reasons:
Prevent the card from bending
To prevent scratching the back of the card by accident
I imagine if it is decently applied it may act as a small heatsink to transfer heat/cool the back of the card a little bit.
I have only seen a very rare few back plates have a thermal pad between it and the pcb. If it doesn't it won't cool a thing.
Funny how there can be two completely different answers from the same data...The Zotac GTX 780 I have installed there now (in the top PCIe slot) doesn't touch the heatsink, but I think the Zotac GTX 980Ti w/its backplate installed might end up touching the heatsink (a Phanteks dual tower job), which is why I was thinking it might be a good idea to remove it.
You can reach the tab from the 'business end' of the card (front where fans are). I use a small Phillips head to reach it.
I use a long skinny screw driver to pop the tab. That's the easy part.
The harder part is getting it in!
Which can? Your signature is still not updated...(how many times are we going to have to ask for your hardware, )
You are able to reach it with a dual or triple slot card too. The heatsink shroud cant be below the level of the pcie slot. There is plenty of room to slide a small flathead there and reach it. The card I had was dual slot.
As I said, do it from the other side where the fans are.. slide it perpendicular to the board and press it down.