How Do I Know If My GPU Is Dying?

Do graphics cards wear out?

There are thousands of forum posts online that claim a graphics processing unit (GPU) – also called a graphics card – is dying because you’re experiencing minor graphic glitches. That doesn’t mean the card has failed – it could be software related!

Even if you’re using a graphics card that is only a few years old, you may be experiencing hiccups with performance, and be convinced to replace the card. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a brand-new GPU or waiting months to receive your card back on its warranty, you can usually fix minor issues at home.

However, to diagnose a dying GPU, you need to do further inspection. We’ll walk you through the process, so you know exactly how to tell if your GPU is dying.

What Causes a GPU to Fail?

You might not find out that your GPU has died until your computer crashes mid-game or when smoke starts coming out of your computer case. If there’s fire, it’s probably not going to be fixable with a software issue. Most of the time, you know that your card has died when you can’t reboot your system. However, you might be able to rule out a dead card if you understand what causes them to fail in the first place.

Here are a few reasons a GPU can completely die:

  • GPU components failing prematurely due to faulty manufacturing
  • Incompatible installation of the graphics card
  • Static overload while installing the graphics card
  • Moisture buildup on the card causing component damage
  • Overheating caused by too much dirt or debris stuck on the cooling-components
  • Overheating caused by broken or worn bearings on the cooling fans
  • Running the graphics card on games with incompatible software drivers

To avoid most issues, you need to make sure you regularly maintain your system, both physically and digitally. You can avoid many of these issues if you keep the GPU clean and make sure the software drivers for the graphics card are up to date. Instead of waiting for your graphics card to die, why not update your drivers first?

How Long Do Graphics Cards Last Before Dying?

Today, graphics cards have several innovative features and cooling-components that protect their hardware during rigorous gaming sessions.

If crucial components inside the video card get too hot, they can fry up and cause the video card to die over time. That’s why the most recent cards include a metallic backplate, two or three cooling fans, and large heatsinks to pull heat away from the card during gameplay.

However, as with all electrical components, some of the components may die prematurely or from poor manufacturing quality. If your card has died prematurely, you can often get them replaced under warranty. Many manufacturers give you replacement fans for free if the bearings wear out, whether it’s under warranty or not.

So long as you maintain it, a brand-new graphics card should last you an average of 5 years. You may only need to replace it when you want to play new games that demand more advanced graphics. Check new game specifications for requirements before you operate them with your video card.

The Main Signs of a Dying GPU

Before we move on to diagnose and fix a dying GPU, we should first identify a few of the telltale signs of a dead graphics card.

1. The Computer Crashes and Won’t Reboot

One moment, your graphics card is running the latest graphic-intense game without a single issue. Then your computer immediately shuts down, and your monitor has no signal. When rebooting, you hear a loud beeping noise, and your motherboard throws up error codes.

Some motherboards are built with sensors to detect faulty computer components the moment they fail. As a result, the motherboard displays error codes that indicate which part is affected.

2. Graphic Glitches While Playing Games

Sometimes when you’re playing video games, the GPU may fail to render graphics correctly. This happens when the card doesn’t support the same software as the game. However, a video card that’s slowly dying starts to show it in a slight graphic defect over time.

You may notice off-color pixelation, screen flickering, strange screen glitches, or random artifacts in different areas of your screen.

3. Abnormal Fan Noise or Performance

Many cards have cooling fans that are designed to spin at a higher RPM only when the GPU is under load. It prevents bearings in the fans from dying prematurely, so don’t worry if one of your fans is inactive while you are browsing the web.

However, when you play games that utilize software that your card isn’t built to support, the bearings in the fans wear out faster. Once the fans stop working under load, the graphics card can quickly die.

How to Diagnose a Dying Graphics Card

There are tons of clues to use when you want to diagnose a dying graphics card, but it saves you more time if you go through the essential steps first.

1. Check Motherboard Error Codes

Many motherboards today completely shut down a component that is no longer working. If your graphics card has died completely, this may be one of the easiest ways to tell. If your motherboard doesn’t have display codes, you can try testing the card in a new system.

  • Open the computer case: Use your screwdriver to remove screws on the side panel and gently slide it back.
  • Locate the error code display on your motherboard: If you have a motherboard with error codes, they should appear near an outer corner.

  • Try to reboot your computer: Record each error number you see after you boot your computer.
  • Consult the motherboard manufacturer manual for error codes: Open the manual and locate the list for your error codes. If the code matches a graphics processing unit error, your video card could have died.

2. Check Hardware for Damage or Debris

A graphics card that has damage or debris on the physical parts might quickly overheat and kill the card.

  • Remove the screws holding the GPU in place: There are typically one or two screws holding the card to a bracket on the case.

  • Unhook the power cords from the GPU and pull the release tab: Remove the power cords from your GPU by pushing in their tabs and gently rocking them out. Once you remove each cord, gently push or pull up on the release tab near the motherboard.

  • Inspect the GPU for damage/debris: Check the card for any dirt or debris buildup and clean it out with a Q-tip. You can replace broken fan pieces from the manufacturer.

With the card now clean and inspected, you can choose to test it on another PC or in your current system.

3. Test Your GPU Under Load

Now we’ll see if your GPU has overheating or graphic issues while running games. First, download GPU stress-testing and heat-monitoring software.

  • With the card installed, run a stress test.

  • As you are running the stress test, run heat-monitoring software: With the stress test running, check your heat-monitoring software for GPU overheating. Any reading over 80 degrees Celsius is too hot.

  • Check device manager for outdated drivers: If your GPU is clean, but still running too hot, your software drivers are not installed correctly. To check, type in “device manager” at the bottom of your desktop and click on Device Manager. Find your display adapter and right-click on it to see if it’s working.

If your drivers are not working correctly, it is indicated here usually. However, the driver may appear to be functioning even if it says otherwise in the properties.

Fix Your Graphics Drivers Before Your Card Fries

When you don’t have the right driver installed, graphics cards can quickly burn up, and their cooling-components may fail faster. That’s why you should always keep drivers updated for each new game you install or play. Older games may also release new software patches, so your GPU drivers should be updated accordingly.

Since it can be especially challenging to get the right driver, consider using Driver Support’s convenient solutions. With Premium Driver Support software unlocked, you get immediate updates when games have new drivers for your GPU.

Are you wondering how to tell if your GPU is dying? Let us help. Never risk your GPU due to late software patches – install the right software instantly. Get Driver Support.

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