How To Tell If Your Graphics Card Is Dying (Easy To Follow Guide)

A bad graphics card can be a real pain, especially if it died when you are in the middle of a gaming session or an important task. Once it fails, expect to see the display die, or it may even shut your system down.

However, there are early signs that you may notice if your card is dying. You can use these signs to your advantage so that you are prepared, financially and emotionally, when the time it dies.

So how can you tell if your graphics card is dying? The most common sign of a dying card is frequent crashing when running graphically-intensive programs. Or sometimes, these applications will crash right away just by launching them.

If you have recently asked yourself “is my graphics cards dying” then you should keep reading because several different indicators will tell that your graphics card is dying, which we will discuss in this article.

How To Tell If Your Graphics Card Is Dying Symptoms

I have been asked a number of times is there any signs of a dying graphics card. The answer is yes there is dying graphics card symptoms, just like any other hardware, it will show early signs before it will die completely. These signs will vary depending on the degree of damage it has.

1. Screen Glitches

Screen glitches occur because of several reasons. It could happen due to bad drivers, a faulty monitor, or worse, an early sign of a dying GPU. In some instances, screen glitches only occur when playing games or running programs that utilize the video card.

But in the worst case, screen glitches occur even when the GPU is idle. If that happens, this may be the time to replace it, although some skilled technicians may be able to repair it.

2. Stuttering

Screen stuttering is another thing to consider to determine if a graphics card is dying. Stuttering happens when the card fails to process the current frame before proceeding to the next one, causing delays that affect the entire gameplay.

Though a weak card, badly coded game, or driver issues, can also cause stuttering, it is still worth checking to ensure that it is in good condition, especially if you think you have a powerful graphics card installed.

3. Abnormal Fan Speed/Noise

A loud fan is easy to identify because you can hear it as soon as it starts to spin so fast. It usually happens when it becomes hotter than usual.

But unlike a loud fan, a video card fan that does not spin is hard to spot since it is installed inside the case in a way that the fans are not visible (in most cases).

I have experienced this myself when I discovered that my GPU fan was not spinning by accident when I peeked into the case to see if it needed a clean.

I did some troubleshooting, but sadly, I wasn’t able to fix the issue and had to replace it.

Luckily, these fans are easily replaceable if that is the only issue with the card.

graphics card and fan of GPU

4. The Computer Crashes and Won’t Reboot

System crashes occur when there is something wrong with either your hardware or software. The worst part here is that it is tough to pinpoint which piece of hardware is causing these crashes.

In this case, the best option is to observe when and how the system crash happens. If your PC crashed while running a program that utilizes the GPU, it is safe to assume that it may be at fault.

5. Strange Artifacts

Artifacts, sometimes known as garbage displays, work the same way as screen glitches. What it does is that it will display distorted images on your screen, and since the GPU is responsible for sending the data to your monitor, it is most likely that the graphics cause this issue.

6. Blue Screen of Death

The blue screen of death is nothing new on computers that run a Windows operating system. A BSOD is a telltale sign there is something wrong with your hardware or system. Naturally, this may happen because of a faulty CPU, motherboard, or RAM.

But when a BSOD happens while you are playing a graphically intensive game, there is a good chance that your graphics card is responsible for that error. A thorough troubleshooting of your PC will help identify the root cause of this problem.

7. Black Screens

Black screens are also a problem with a computer that is hard to fix. Since you won’t see any display on your screen, it will become harder to diagnose your PC.

But in this case, it is most likely that the card is the one that is faulty since it is responsible for sending images to the monitor. You try doing a quick swap from a dedicated GPU to an integrated graphics one when trying to resolve this problem.

8. In-Game Crashes

In-game crashes are also known as early signs of a dying GPU. Especially if it only crashes while playing heavy games, or even light games for that matter, there is a pretty good chance that the graphics card is faulty.

One reason why the game crashes is that it cannot process the graphical images anymore, e.g. faulty VRAM that cannot store graphical data correctly. Another is that in-game crashes also occur when there is an overheating issue.

These crashes can happen either when launching a game or when going full load.

9. Driver Crashes

Driver crashes are among the signs of a dying card that are easy to spot. It typically happens when you launch a game, whether it is a light or heavy game. When this happens, the card will still be able to launch the game but will give low framerates, which would make the game unplayable.

Sometimes, driver crashes also happen because of counterfeit cards, typically found on the Internet, like shady online shopping websites or auction sites.

The issues above are the main ones that will enable you how to tell if your GPU is dying but the ones below are some of the actual causes. By knowing the causes it may help you look after it and it will therefore last longer.

If you do find yourself with a faulty card and are looking for a new one, here are reviews of the very best graphics cards under $300 right now.

What May Cause a GPU to Die?

Now that you know the signs your graphics card is dying, below are the main causes why it might fail.

1. Overclocking

The primary purpose of overclocking is to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of the graphics card. When you have successfully overclocked your GPU, expect it to perform a little better than when you first bought it. But that extra performance you gain from overclocking comes at a price.

Overclocking can be harmful if you are not sure what you are doing. In fact, incorrect overclocking is one of the most common culprits of a dead card.

So if you are planning to overclock, always do thorough research first and make sure that your video is capable of that task.

Even if you have the knowledge and overclock it correctly, you may shorten its lifespan due to the increased stress it will be under.

2. Poor Airflow

Maintaining good airflow inside the computer case is one of the most important basics if you own a PC.

Having poor airflow will significantly affect the overall performance of the computer. The worst-case scenario is low airflow will cause overheating issues, leading to shortened hardware lifespan, including the graphics card.

To avoid this from happening, make sure that your case is well-ventilated by installing enough fans in your computer case.

3. Cheap Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Choosing the right power supply is critical when building a computer. It would be best if you always remember to never cheap out on the PSU.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a power supply are not only the brand but also the right amount of wattage.

This is to make sure that your power supply has enough juice to power up your entire system. Also, cheap PSUs can get overloaded, damaging your parts, such as the CPU, motherboard, and graphics card.

To find out how much power you need, you can use online PSU wattage calculator tools for free, like the Seasonic Wattage Calculator or Coolermaster Power Supply Calculator, to get an idea of the approximate amount of power your PC may need.

Just head on to seasonic.com/wattage-calculator or www.coolermaster.com/power-supply-calculator.

Using these tools is very straightforward. Just fill in the necessary details about your system and hit calculate at the bottom, and it should give you an idea of how much power your system will consume and a suggestion on the recommended power supply wattage needed.

Below is an image of how a wattage calculator looks. You simply fill in the fields with your current computer parts and let the tool do its job from there.

input fields for the Seasonic online wattage calculator for computer parts

Below is an image of the final results from the wattage calculator. As you can see in the image, for the parts we entered into the tool, it states that we need 572 Watts of power and even recommends two PSUs that can handle the job.

final wattage recommendation from the Seasonic wattage calculator

4. Power Surge

A power surge is dangerous for all electronic components. It happens when there is a power outage for a couple of seconds, and then power returns suddenly. There are ways to protect your parts, such as your GPU, on occasions like this.

You can first invest in a good UPS (uninterruptible power supply) instead of using the traditional AVR (automatic voltage regulator). A combination of UPS and an anti-surge power strip is also ideal.

5. Poor Capacitor Quality

Having poor capacitor quality can also cause it to fail. To determine whether it has good capacitors or not is to always buy from reputable brands. So to save you from all the trouble, avoid purchasing those shady, cheap, and unknown brands.

6. Other Overclocked Components

Overclocked components may also damage your graphics card if your PC doesn’t have good airflow, as the excess heat will get trapped inside the case causing it to overheat. So if you are a fan of overclocking, make sure to also invest in good fans and heatsinks.

Troubleshooting

Since buying a graphics card can be a real pain and costly, luckily, some guides will determine whether it is faulty or not and some remedies that would provide a quick fix.

1. Update or Rollback Your Graphics Driver

One of the most common fixes that you can find on the Internet is a graphics update. It is easy, quick, and free. Just head on to your card manufacturer’s website and download the latest official driver for your particular model.

When you download a new driver, make sure to choose the Game-ready driver for Nvidia models and Recommended driver for AMD models, not the Beta ones. Beta drivers are the latest editions but contain bugs and are still under development, unlike the game-ready and recommended drivers, which are more stable.

GEFORCE game ready driver screen showing a driver ready for download

recommended driver for a Radeon GPU on the official website

Or you can visit this page to follow my guide on how to update the graphics card drivers through the AMD Adrenalin Software or GeForce Experience.

But if updating your drivers does not fix your issue, you can also roll back to older drivers, especially those who are still using older cards that have reached their end-of-life support since older cards tend to be more incompatible with newer drivers.

2. Cool it Down

Sometimes, the reason why it acts abnormally is also because of abnormal temperature. With that said, GPUs are designed to throttle automatically to prevent any further damage.

If throttling doesn’t solve high-temperature issues, it may lead to system crashes. If this happens to you, try to turn off your PC and let it cool down for a while. After this, try turning it on again to see if the problem persists.

3. Visibly Check Over the Card

Physical damage on the card can easily be overlooked since it is installed inside the system’s chassis. We hardly ever look inside once we get our computer up and running. If the above steps did not solve your problem, try to check on your graphics card by removing your case’s side panel.

See if there are any signs of burns since it is also one of the most common causes of a faulty card.

While the PC is still on, try to look under the card just enough to see if the fans are still spinning. It’s possible where a graphics card dies due to overheating caused by broken fans, so it is important to check it.

4. Swap the Video Card

If you have an extra card just lying around, you might as well use it to test and see if your current GPU is faulty. Even the slowest card would come in handy in this case since it is just for troubleshooting purposes.

 

But if you don’t have a spare one, remove your graphics card and directly plug your display cable directly into the motherboard slot. If your PC starts to work again after removing the card, I’m afraid that you may have a faulty GPU that needs replacing.

But if the problem still exists after swapping, other hardware might be causing the issue, and it may need thorough troubleshooting to diagnose the root cause.

5. Check the Cables to See If It Is Connected Properly

Having loose or unconnected cables is a common rookie mistake that every tech-support faces regularly. Imagine having a friend or a client complaining about their computer that is not working and finding out that the culprit is only a loose cable. Or the 4-pin or 8-pin CPU power that they forgot to plug on the motherboard.

When I fix a computer, one of the first things I check is the cables. Though it may sound stupid, it is quite common, especially for beginners, to miss loose cable issues.

So while you’re at it, double-check to see if there are any loose cables on your system, and if so connect them securely. This simple step may save you money from buying parts that you don’t actually need in the first place.

6. Make Sure the Card Is Seated Properly

When you turn on your PC, and there is no display on the monitor, check to see if the card is seated properly.

If not, reseat it until you hear the click that holds the graphics card in your motherboard. And since you are already doing this task, you may also reseat the other parts such as the memory.

7. Check and Swap Monitors

After spending hours trying to diagnose your PC, it might not be the GPU’s fault after all. With this, other hardware might be at fault, such as your monitor. When you turn on your PC, one of the first things that will turn on first is the monitor.

It will usually light up for a couple of seconds along with the logo, depending on which brand of monitor you own. If your monitor has failed to do this, try to borrow a monitor from a friend, or you may also use your TV if there are any compatible slots available.

8. Check Device Manager

Check your device manager to see if your computer detects the graphics card driver. To do this, just type “device manager” in the windows search bar found on the bottom of your screen as seen in the image below.

how to open device manager on a Windows PC

After clicking on the Device Manager, another window should open. Here, you can find all the devices and hardware attached to your PC.  You can also use this feature to see if any drivers are not installed properly.

If drivers are not installed, your PC will not recognize that hardware and will be marked as an Unknown device. See the screenshot below.

device manager showing a unknown device

To see if the driver is installed correctly, look for “display adapters.” Under this option, you should see your graphics card model, as shown in the screenshot below. If you can’t see your card under the list, you may fix this by updating the driver.

a PCs current GPU showing under "display adapters" in device manager

9. Check Startup Functions

When you have a faulty GPU installed on your PC, you will experience different weird things, such as a blank screen, even when you power up your system.

If this happens, try to use your computer’s startup functions. If you see that all the fans are spinning, but the monitor is still blank, try to listen to the beeps produced by the motherboard. These beeps can be used to diagnose particular faults with a system.

Also, on your keyboard, there are usually three sets of small lightings. These are for Num Lock, Scroll Lock, and Caps Lock. Try pressing these keys and see if the lights blink. If they blink it means that your PC is running but has no display.

If they don’t blink even after pressing the num lock, scroll lock, or caps lock keys; then it means that the PC is frozen. If this is the case, other hardware might be at fault other than the GPU.

10. Check Motherboard Error Codes

For some modern mid-range to high-end motherboards, you don’t need to listen to beeps to diagnose issues as you can see the error codes directly on the motherboard itself. Follow the steps below to check if your motherboard has a built-in display code.

1. Open the computer case

To check if your motherboard has a built-in display code, all you have to do is open your case by carefully removing the screws that hold the side panel.

2. Locate the error code display on the motherboard

Locating the motherboard’s error code will be easy since it is usually displayed by the use of bright red LED lights. But it is worth noting that not all motherboards have a built-in error code display LED screen.

3. Try to reboot your computer

After locating the error code display, save it for future reference and try to reboot your computer.

4. Check the motherboard manufacturer’s manual for error codes

Each code tells a specific error depending on the type of motherboard. An example of this is Asus’ Q-Code, which can be found on the link below. If your computer doesn’t boot, it might be worth checking on these codes. https://www.asus.com/support/FAQ/1043948/

ASUS Q-Codes showing motherboard errors

11. Check Hardware for Damage or Debris

Damage on the card can be easily spotted if you look at it carefully. You can do this by also following the steps below:

1. Remove the screws holding the GPU in place

A GPU usually has 1 or 2 screws that hold it depending on the type of bracket the graphics card has. They can be easily removed by loosening the screws using a screwdriver.

2. Unhook the power cords from the GPU and push the release tab

This step should be done carefully as you can damage other parts if you are not careful. You can do this by pulling the pin connector attached to the GPU (if there’s any), push the cards release tab, and remove the card carefully.

If possible, avoid holding it directly on the mainboard or the fans. Proper handling should be done by holding the edges and brackets.

3. Inspect for damage/debris

Check on the mainboard and see if there are any physical burns. Also, check if there is any clogged dust on the card itself. If there is, simply blow it off, or even better use canned compressed air to do the job.

12. Test Your Graphics Card Under Full Load

Another way to test the stability is by making it work to its full capacity. Several utilities are available on the Internet, both free and paid.

1. Run a stress test

In this article, I used FurMark, an excellent lightweight tool used for graphics card stress testing. You can get this for free on this link: https://geeks3d.com/furmark/downloads/

Once you have installed FurMark, launch it by clicking on the icon. You can start on the stress test right away by clicking on the GPU Stress Test button.

FurMark GPU stress test tool

Remember that these tests will bring your GPU to its knees, which may be harmful. Do this at your own risk.

FurMark proceed at own risk warning

The below image is a picture of the FurMark stress test in action.

FurMark stress test taking place screen

2. Run heat monitoring software as the stress test is running

As the stress test is running, run heat monitoring software to monitor the temperature. I would highly recommend using GPU-Z as it is free and very easy to use. You can get this tool on their website or by following this link: https://www.techpowerup.com/download/techpowerup-gpu-z/

Once you have the GPU-Z running, click on the Sensors tab as seen below.

TechPowerUp GPU-Z interface

 

In the sensors tab, you can monitor the temperature as well as the clock rates and fan speed. As soon as you start the stress test, you will gradually notice the temperature rise.

GPU-Z sensors interface showing the GPUs stats under stress test

I hope that you found this guide useful and that you now know how to tell if your graphics card is dying.

If you have any questions about a dying GPU don’t hesitate to email and I will do my best to help.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take for a graphics card to die?

The life expectancy will depend on several factors. But on average, they should last for at least 5 years on regular usage. You can read more on the topic in the article “how long does a graphics card last” that I wrote recently.

What causes a GPU crash?

The most common causes for crashes are usually because it’s either faulty or bad drivers. Updating the cards drivers would answer this question. If you update your drivers and the problem persists, chances it’s faulty.

Do graphics cards increase FPS?

Definitely. That’s the whole purpose of this part – to increase the graphic processing power of your computer. Meaning, the powerful it is, the higher the FPS.

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