5 Signs Your Graphics Card Has Problems and May Be Dying
Graphics cards are a critical component of any personal computer, and a graphics card failure can make a PC unusable.
Fortunately, the graphics card is also a component that is fairly easy to diagnose with problems. Graphics cards can fail in several different ways, but there are usually warning signs that give you plenty of time to line up a replacement.
This article will show you how to spot the signs of an impending problem, troubleshoot existing problems, and figure out what’s going wrong with your card.
How Do You Know If Your Graphics Card is Dying?
If you’re noticing problems with your PC, it’s crucial to figure out which component is causing these issues.
If you’re wondering whether or not your graphics card is the source of the issue, there are five warning signs you can look at to determine if this is the case.
Here are some early warning signs of video card failure.
When a graphics card starts going bad, you might see visual stuttering/freezing on the screen. However, malware, a dying hard drive, and even RAM problems can all cause the same kind of behavior, so don’t jump to conclusions. If you get stuttering along with other warning signs, there’s a good chance it’s your graphics card.
This does not necessarily correlate to needing to replace your graphics card, but keep an ear out for louder-than-normal fan noise. If the fan on the card malfunctions, it could indicate that the card is getting too hot. If it’s getting too hot, you’ll want to stop what you’re doing and try and clean it out as best as possible. Something is likely internally wrong if you can’t get the fan to quiet down.
Screen Glitches & Artifacts
If you’re playing a game or watching a movie and suddenly see tearing or weird colors appearing all over the screen, your graphics card might be dying.
Similar to screen glitches, a bad graphics card can result in strange artifacts all over your screen. Artifacts can be caused by excessive overclocking, heat, and even dust buildup. A restart can sometimes fix this, but once again, if you have a faulty graphics card, expect the problem to come back.
Frame Rate Drops
Another sign that your Graphics Card may be deteriorating is when your FPS drops dramatically. Does your FPS drop during gameplay, and you’ve ruled out other reasons like thermal throttling? If this happens on multiple games and there’s no other reason for the drop, your GPU may be dying.
To check your FPS, click the Windows + G combination on your keyboard. Then, click on Performance. Click on FPS and view your frames per second.
A computer can blue screen for several reasons, whether problems with RAM, hard drives, graphics cards, or other components. But, if the system crashes and/or blue screens when you start doing some graphic-intensive tasks (e.g., playing video games, watching movies, etc.), this could indicate that your graphics card is on its way out.
As we always mention in our troubleshooting guides, finding out what’s wrong and diagnosing a problem is usually a process of elimination. Start with checking your connections. Loose connections can cause many problems, especially with a graphics card. Make sure it’s solidly seated in the motherboard and that any secondary connections are also secure.
In some cases, you won’t be able to check connections. Generally speaking, you won’t have an issue with loose connections in a laptop. With laptops, more often than not, the problem is dust due to them being in such an enclosed space. If you can open it up and clean out as much dust as possible, that would be the first place to start.
The next thing you can do is run some software tests. Run GPU-Z and watch the real-time temperature for any oddities. For actually testing the card, there’s nothing like putting it through some real-world use.
Use the Heaven Benchmark tool to test your card. Run it for a couple of hours — it should be able to handle it without crashing or causing any graphical errors like strange artifacts and stuttering.
It’s also worth noting that if you don’t have a graphics card and are using a motherboard’s integrated graphics, then problems could be a sign of motherboard failure rather than a graphics issue. Be sure to check out our troubleshooting guide for motherboard failure.
Next, ensure the drivers on your graphics card (and monitor) are all up to date. You can also try uninstalling the ones you already have and then re-install them to ensure there aren’t any problems there.
Once uninstalled, Windows will use some very basic drivers to display the video on your monitor, so you won’t actually lose video functionality or cause any harm to the card.
As always, consult your video card manufacturer for specific uninstall/reinstall instructions. You can find some specific instructions from NVIDIA and AMD here and here, respectively. AMD actually has a free cleaning tool to do this for you automatically. Before you make any changes to your driver software, you should save your system state to a restore point. We have a how-to article on how to roll back a driver update if this makes things worse and you need a reset.
One of the easiest ways to see if your graphics card is the issue is to simply swap out the graphics card for another one and see if the problems go away. If the new graphics card works without an issue, it’s obvious the old graphics card needed to be replaced.
While you have your machine open, it’s worth checking for any physical problems. If the fan has stopped working on the video card or you see any leaking or bulging capacitors, it’s time for a replacement. In cases like this, the video card will usually stop working almost immediately.
Another thing to test: disable your sound card. This sounds counter-intuitive (what does the sound system have to do with the video card?), but sometimes interactions between these two systems can make the whole computer unstable. If turning off the sound resolves the problem with your graphics, the problem may be in your sound system and not in the graphics card itself.
If your computer has an AGP graphics card, then you might try slowing down the AGP ports to see if that resolves the issue. For an NVIDIA AGP graphics card, you can use RivaTuner to slow down your card; non-NVIDIA owners can use PowerStrip. Either way, try turning down the speed multiplier on the card from 8x to 4x or even 2x and see if that helps with the problem.
It’s also possible that your video card might be running too fast. Some cards may be rated for a particular GPU speed, but in reality, they can’t consistently run at that speed. You can try underclocking your GPU, which puts less stress on the video card as a whole and may solve the problem.
If you are using an ATI video card, try the ATITool program to slow down your video card. NVIDIA cards can use RivaTuner, and other card owners can use PowerStrip.
What causes video card failure?
Video cards can fail for so many different reasons. Not properly installing the component in the computer can lead to video card failure, but more commonly, dust and lint are the culprits.
Another thing that can cause video card failure is too much overclocking. Overclocking at the stock voltage is safe, but if you push the card to its limits with high voltage, that will kill a card sooner than normal.
Aside from that, the last thing that can kill your video card is the standard electrical outage. Blackouts and power surges can fry your computer’s components — even the graphics card.
In most cases, you can prevent this situation if you have some extra cash to spare. All you’ll need to do is invest in a quality surge protector and an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). As you probably know, the primary role of a UPS is to provide temporary power in case the source is cut off so that you can properly shut down your machine; however, it’s also able to help prevent damage from things like power surges.
Ultimately, the video card is subject to as much wear and tear as anything else. If your card fails, it may have just been time for the card to fail. In that case, a replacement is your only choice.
Replacing your video card
If you’ve identified that your graphics card is the issue and you aren’t able to fix it, then it might be time for a replacement. Fortunately, you have plenty of options.
Depending on the type of work you’re doing, you don’t necessarily need a super expensive video card. If you’re on a budget, we’ve got a great guide on buying a graphics card for almost any price range. However, before going out and buying a new card, there are a few things to look at and find out what you need, such as clock speed and memory size – check out this article on the things you should be thinking about for your own build.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to more of your questions about your Graphics Card.
Are there any websites for testing my Graphics Card?
Yes, there are actually quite a few websites to help you determine whether your Graphics Card is failing or if something else is causing a problem with your computer. Aside from the methods listed above, a simple search for Graphics Card testing will take you to a plethora of websites. Choose one that meets your specific needs and go from there.
Why is my GPU performance low?
There are several reasons that your GPU performance is low that don’t actually indicate a faulty card. Low performance can be related to a Graphics Card that is overheating, outdated drivers, or a dying power supply. Assuming your GPU performance is suffering after an update, it’s likely that the drivers are the culprit.
If it’s overheating or the power supply is faulty, check your fans and cables because they’re likely an underlying issue causing your problems.
Graphics Cards or Something Else?
The Graphics Card is an essential component, and when it fails, it can render your PC useless. Fortunately, there are many ways to diagnose computer problems and replace the card when necessary. Are you having an issue with your Graphics Card? Let us know in the comments below.