Solve Overheating Graphics Cards (GPU)

Graphics cards these days are amazing at making our games run smooth and look beautiful. They are also amazing at building up an incredible amount of heat which saps their performance and can lead to a burnout. The last thing you want is to have that new three hundred dollar graphics card ruined just because it got too hot. Don’t worry though because there are some simple things you can do to help keep your card running cool and keeping those games running their best.

Understanding Graphics Card Overheating

cartoon person reading a bookIf you’re not that tech savvy you might not even know when your graphics card is overheating. There are some signs to watch out for so you correct the issue right away to prevent permanent damage.

  • Graphical Glitches: When playing a game you might start to notice glitches with the graphics. When a graphics card begins to overheat it starts to get confused about what it’s supposed to display. You’ll start to see colors displayed wrong, items become warped and sometime entire sections of the world disappear.
  • Loud Fans: A sure fire sign that your card is overheating is when the cooling fan or fans become noticeably loud. It’s rare for the fans to run tilt when things are working properly. When the graphics card overheats they will begin to run loudly and continuously. If you notice a significant amount of extra fan noise you’ve probably got a heating issue.
  • Errors & Warning: If your games are crashing and you’ve started seeing errors related to the display you might have an GPU overheating issue. These might be indicative of a bigger problem but you can check for overheating to start to rule it out.
  • Heat: Sometimes things can start to run so hot you can feel the heat coming from your case. If you’re playing games and you can feel intense heat being pushed out from the fans you might have a problem. Warm air is normal but hot air or the case itself becoming hot can mean you have an overheating graphics card.
  • Temperature Monitor: There are programs that will report the temperature of the graphics card for you so you can keep a direct eye on things. You can find the normal operating temperature for your card online and see if it’s running hot.

Solving Graphics Card Overheating

flamesThere are easy things you can do and some that require a little more effort to solve an overheating graphics card problem. We’ll start with the simple ones and work our way up.

Clean Your Case Around the GPU. The most common problem is simply a case of your computer getting dirty. Dust acts like a blanket and a big dust buildup can cook your graphics card. A good cleaning of the entire computer can help solve your graphics card overheating problem. Blow things out with some compressed air and pay special attention to the cooling fans. If you’ve never cleaned a computer before there are plenty of tutorials out there to help.

Rearrange Wires/Cards/Graphics Card. If your case is crowded inside it can choke airflow and render your cooling fans useless. Loose wires from a power supply can get tangled in fans and lead to an overheating graphics card. It’s important to make sure all wires are safely tucked away and there is space around all fans so they can properly suck air away and out of the computer case. Cable ties or velcro straps can help to get wires out of the way and help improve airflow.

Reseat the Graphics Card Cooler. The cooler on the top of a graphics card is just like the cooler of your CPU. Over time it needs to removed, cleaned and reseated. If you’ve ever done this for the CPU you shouldn’t have any trouble but it’s easy to learn if you haven’t. New thermal paste and a freshly cleaned cooler might be just the thing to get your graphics card overheating issue under control.

Adjusting Your Graphics Card Settings. All major brand graphics cards come with software that can be used to manage graphics card settings. You can adjust processor speeds as well as how the fan operates. You can adjust the fan to spin faster and provide more cooling while it’s in use to prevent graphics card overheating. This does put strain on the fans and cause them to wear out quicker so that’s something to consider. Adjusting other settings can decrease performance and possibly cause bigger problems so I wouldn’t recommend doing that without some research.

Computer fans as seen inside a caseAdd more fans.If your case has spots for extra fans that are empty then get some installed. The more airflow you can get through your case the better. Fans are cheap, usually under twenty dollars and you should have plenty of extra power connections for them. You can find a wide variety of computer fans at Amazon.

Get a new case for your computer and GPU. Upgrading a prebuilt computer with a graphics card can add power but many times they don’t have enough room. The tight space doesn’t allow for hot air to be sucked away from the graphics card and overheating happens. If you have GPU overheating problems with a small case maybe it’s time to upgrade. A larger case designed for graphics cards has more venting and additional fans. Fifty dollars, a few minutes and you can easily get your system into a new case.

Get a Water Cooling unit for your GPU. Water cooling is all the rage with performance buffs and it’s no surprise they have water cooling setups for graphics cards. You might think this would be the ultimate solution but don’t go rushing out for one just yet. Water cooling is intended for overclocked setups and requires a serious investment. I wouldn’t recommend going the water cooling route to solve a simple graphics card overheating problem.

Picture of an ASUS GPUGet a New Graphics Card. It’s not what you want to think about but you might need a new GPU cooler or a whole new graphics card. The fans on a cooler might be worn out and no longer be able to cool at full capacity. Many companies sell replacement coolers that are easy to attach. There is the chance the graphics card might need to be replaced. It might be damaged or you may have gotten a card too big for your setup. That top of the line, factory overclocked monster might have sounded great but it there’s chance it was just too much for you. If you’re not into buying a whole new case, power supply and a stack of fans a downgrade might be in order.