Video cards are an essential component of any personal computer, and failure of a video card can render a PC unusable.
Luckily, the graphics card is also a component that is fairly easy to diagnose problems with. Graphics cards can fail in a variety of ways, but there are usually warning signs that give you enough time to pick up a replacement.
In this article, I’ll show you how to spot signs of an impending problem, how to fix existing problems, and how to figure out what’s wrong with your card.
How to know if your graphics card is dying?
If you start noticing problems with your PC, it’s important to find out which component is causing these problems.
If you’re wondering if your graphics card is the source of the problem, there are five warning signs you can look for to determine if it is.
Here are some early signs of a bad video card.
- Stuttering: When the graphics card starts to fail, you may see a visual stutter/freeze on the screen. However, malware, a dying hard drive , and even RAM issues can cause the same behavior, so don’t jump to conclusions. If you’re stuttering along with other warning signs, there’s a good chance it’s your graphics card.
- Screen Glitches: If you’re playing a game or watching a movie and you suddenly start seeing tears or strange colors appear all over your screen, your graphics card may be dying.
- Strange artifacts. Similar to screen glitches, a bad graphics card can cause weird artifacts to appear all over your screen. Artifacts can be caused by overclocking, heat, and even dust buildup. Sometimes this can be fixed with a reboot, but again, if you have a faulty graphics card, expect the problem to come back.
- Blue screens. A computer may display a blue screen for a variety of reasons, be it problems with RAM, hard drives, video cards, or other components. But if the system crashes and/or a blue screen appears when you start doing some graphically intensive tasks (like playing video games, watching movies, etc.), it may indicate that your graphics card is failing.
- Fan noise: This is not necessarily due to the need to replace the graphics card, but watch out for louder than usual fan noise. If the fan on the card is faulty, it may mean that the card is overheating. If it gets too hot, you need to stop what you are doing and try to clean it up as best you can. If you can’t get the fan to shut up, there might be something wrong inside.
As we always mention in our troubleshooting guides, figuring out what’s wrong and diagnosing the problem is usually the process of elimination. Start by checking your connections. Bad connections can cause a lot of problems, especially with the graphics card. Make sure it is securely attached to the motherboard and all secondary connections are secure as well.
In some cases, you won’t be able to test connections. Generally speaking, you won’t have problems with a weak connection in a laptop. With laptops, the most common problem is dust due to being in such a confined space. If you can open it up and clean out as much dust as possible, this will be the first place to start.
The next thing you can do is run some software tests. Fire up GPU-Z and monitor the temperature in real time for any oddities. For actually testing a card, there’s nothing better than using it in real-world conditions.
Use the Heaven Benchmark tool to test your map. Run it for a couple of hours – it should handle it without crashes or any graphical bugs like weird artifacts and freezes.
It’s also worth noting that if you don’t have a graphics card and you’re using the motherboard’s integrated graphics, then the problems could be a sign of a faulty motherboard, not a graphics problem. Be sure to check out our troubleshooting guide for a malfunctioning motherboard .
Next, make sure your graphics card (and monitor) drivers are up to date. You can also try uninstalling the ones you already have and then reinstalling them to make sure there are no issues there.
Once uninstalled, Windows will use some very simple drivers to display video on your monitor, so you won’t actually lose video functionality or cause harm to the card.
As always, be sure to check with your graphics card manufacturer for specific removal/reinstallation instructions. Some specific instructions from NVIDIA and AMD can be found here and here respectively. In fact, AMD has a free cleaning tool that will automatically do this for you. Before you make any changes to the driver software, you must save the system state to a restore point. We have an article with instructions on how to roll back a driver update if it makes things worse and you need a reset.
One of the easiest ways to find out if your graphics card is the problem is to simply replace your graphics card with a different one and see if the problems go away. If the new video card works without problems, it is obvious that the old video card needs to be replaced.
While your car is open, it’s worth checking for physical problems. If the fan has stopped working on the video card or you see any leaking or swollen capacitors, it’s time to replace. In such cases, the video card usually stops working almost immediately.
One more thing to check: Disable your sound card. It sounds counterintuitive (what does a sound system have to do with a graphics card?), but sometimes the interaction between the two systems can make the entire computer unstable. If turning off the sound solves your graphics problem, then the problem may actually be with your sound system and not with the graphics card itself.
If your computer has an AGP graphics card, you can try slowing down the AGP ports to see if that solves the problem. For an NVIDIA AGP graphics card, you can use RivaTuner to slow down your card; non-NVIDIA owners can use PowerStrip . Either way, try lowering the map’s speed multiplier from 8x to 4x or even 2x and see if that fixes the issue.
It is also possible that your graphics card is running too fast. Some cards may be rated for a certain GPU speed, but in reality they cannot run consistently at that speed. You can try overclocking your GPU, which reduces the load on the graphics card in general and may solve the problem.
If you are using an ATI graphics card, try ATITool to slow down your graphics card. NVIDIA cards can use RivaTuner and other card owners can use PowerStrip.
What causes video card failure?
Video cards can fail for various reasons. Improper installation of the component on the computer can lead to the failure of the video card, but most often the culprits are dust and lint.
Another reason why a video card can fail is overclocking too much. Overclocking at stock voltage is safe, but pushing the card to its high voltage limit will kill the card sooner than normal.
Also, the last thing that can kill your graphics card is a standard power outage. Power outages and power surges can destroy all of your computer’s components, even your graphics card.
In most cases, if you have extra money, you can prevent this situation. All you need to do is purchase a quality surge protector as well as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). As you probably know, the main role of a UPS is to provide temporary power in the event of a power outage so that you can properly shut down your machine; however, it can also help prevent damage from things like power surges. You can read more about the functions of UPS and surge protection devices here .
Ultimately, a graphics card is subject to the same wear and tear as anything else. If your card is failing, it might be time for it to fail. In this case, replacement is your only choice.
Video card replacement
If you’ve determined that your graphics card is the problem and you can’t fix it, it might be time to replace it. Fortunately, you have many options.
Depending on the type of work you do, you don’t necessarily need a very expensive graphics card . If you’re on a budget, we’ve got a great video card buying guide for just about any price range . That said, before you go out and buy a new card, there are a few things to look out for and figure out what you need, like clock speed and memory – check out this article on the things you should think about for your own assembly . .
Frequently asked Questions
Are there websites to test my graphics card?
Yes, there are actually quite a few websites that will help you determine if your graphics card is failing or something else is causing a problem with your computer. In addition to the methods listed above, a simple search for “Video Card Test” will lead you to a plethora of websites. Choose the one that suits your specific needs and get going.
Why is my GPU performance low?
There are several reasons for poor GPU performance that don’t really indicate a card issue. Poor performance may be due to an overheating graphics card, outdated drivers, or a faulty power supply. Assuming your GPU’s performance is degraded after the update, the drivers are probably to blame.
If it’s overheating or the power supply is bad, check your fans and cables because they’re probably the main issue causing your problems.