Having your GPU temperature run high can expose you to the risk of it breaking down in a middle of a high-steaks gaming session or even to more permanent damage, which is why it’s important to know how and when to reduce the temperature.
Before we get into it, we have to state the obvious – the reasons for the GPU overheating and numerous and you can’t always be 100% sure if you managed to locate the problem on the first try. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t do any harm if you were to try some of these methods anyway in order to lower the strain on your graphics card.
In order to reduce the GPU temperature, we have to first know the cause of the card getting overheated. After we found the culprit, the solution can be straightforward, but sometimes there are certain issues that can’t be fixed as easily.
Seeing how each issue can be checked and repaired immediately, we’ll go through the diagnostics of each possible problem and teach you how to troubleshoot it straight away.
The key element of diagnostics will be determining if your GPU is overheating or not. The optimal temperature for gaming will depend on your graphics card manufacturer. For AMD, that will be around 60-70 Celsius, while Nvidia’s cards work best around 70-85 Celsius. Of course, to know what temperature your GPU is at the moment, you will have to use some tools.
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Physical Ways To Reduce The GPU Temperature
More often than not, the reason for overheating will be a physical one and it will require you to open up your case. Remember that you can break something when doing this, so be careful and you should be just fine.
Removing The Dust
Dust will get inside of your case one way or another, it’s simply unavoidable. The rule is simple – the more fans you have leading to the outside of the case, the more dust your case will gather. Seeing how the graphics card usually has its own fans, it will likely get even more dust.
- Open the case – the obvious thing to do first would be to open the case and see if it needs cleaning at all. More likely than not, this will be the case.
- Remove the GPU – although this step isn’t necessary, you will get the most out of the cleaning process if you do get it out.
- Remove the fans – this is another optional step but one that will significantly ease the process.
- Use compressor and a cotton swab to clean the dust – both the GPU and the fans will have their tight spots and hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. In both cases, it’s recommendable to first use the compressor to remove the dust with air pressure, but finish the process off by going through those tough spots with a cotton swab. This step applies both to the components you previously removed and to every part of your case. That means the CPU, RAM, motherboard, memory, and every single place where even a speck of dust could’ve found its way in must be cleaned.
- Put the PC back together and test – as dust is the most common source of overheating, you will likely be satisfied with the results and notice an immediate improvement.
Make Sure That The Fans Are Working Properly
Overlooking your fans being broken is exceptionally easy if you open your case while the PC is turned off. Of course, this is how you should usually open the case so we can’t really blame you for not noticing that the fans aren’t spinning.
The first thing you need to do if you suspect your fans are faulty is to confirm or debunk your suspicions. This involves opening the case while the PC is running. Alternatively, you can open the case and then turn on the PC.
An important note here is that some GPUs are optimized in a way that their fans aren’t spinning unless there is a need for them to spin.
Most common reasons for the fans not spinning include:
- Too much dust – yes, this is an actual possibility. If you’re not cleaning your PC regularly, dust can accumulate to the point where it can actually stop the GPU fans from spinning.
- Power connectors not connected – this one can be especially tough to notice because sometimes even a slight loss of contact can lead to fans shutting off.
- Fan bearings out of commission – another one that’s hard to figure out, but relatively easy to fix. For this, you will need to apply lightweight machine oil and absolutely not use WD-40.
- Fans stopped working entirely – if everything else fails, this is likely the problem. Machines sometimes malfunction and GPU fans are no different. Luckily, you can replace the fans without changing the entire graphics card.
Replace The Thermal Paste
This is a problem that might be hard to notice. There’s no real way of checking if this is the issue before removing the GPU from the card. Honestly, if you’re already there, you might as well change the thermal paste anyway, it can only do good for the longevity of the card.
- Remove the graphics card – when you open up the case, the first and most logical step will be to remove the card, as it’ll give you the easiest access to all the components you need to check.
- Unscrew the heatsink – after you flip the card, you will notice several tiny screws scattered around. Your card might have a backplate, but that is just another layer to remove. After you finish, there might be some additional wires connecting the PCB and the cooler and it’s recommended that you unplug those as well.
- Clean the thermal paste residue from both the heatsink and the chip – for this step, you’ll need a microfiber cloth or a paper towel and a cotton swab, as well as some rubbing alcohol with an alcohol percentage as high as possible. For extra safety, you may want to first remove the chop from the PCB. The largest dried remains of thermal paste can easily be removed with a microfiber cloth, but the smaller pieces are best removed with a cotton swab.
- Apply new thermal paste – if you applied the paste the last time and still remember which method you used, you may want to use a different one. More often than not, you’ll be perfectly safe with the ‘X’ method.
- Put the card back together – the first thing you’ll do here is slowly and carefully return the heatsink on top of the chip. The reason for this is that you need to make sure that the thermal paste spreads evenly. After that’s done, you simply repeat the process, but backwards. After you reconnect the cables, you will return the screws back in their place and then return the graphics card to the case.
Improve The Airflow Within The Case
Getting the proper airflow may seem like a small thing but, when properly managed, it can make a world of difference. As the solution for this is on a case-to-case basis (no pun intended), we can’t really give you concrete answers, but we’ll still offer you some pointers:
- Plan the airflow – you would want to position your fans in a way that the cool air is coming in and the hot air is coming out. For the best airflow, you should look to have the air go from front to back and from the bottom to the top.
- Cable management – having your cables placed without order can bring a lot more heat than expected. Therefore, it’s best to make sure that the cables are neatly tucked away and that they don’t interfere with the air circulating inside the case.
- Focus on hot spots – if you’re looking to reduce the GPU temperature, you should probably aim to have hot air from wherever your card is positioned blow somewhere else. Ideally, you’d want it to have a clear path out.
Improve Cooling Itself
Naturally, if you’re still unable to fix your GPU getting overheated, the reason may be that you simply lack firepower in the form of fans inside the case. To get around this, there are two simple solutions, with one being just getting more fans and, of course, setting up their influence on the overall airflow.
The other way to improve cooling isn’t much of an improvement as it’s a complete replacement. We’re talking about water cooling. It’s been proven that liquid cooling is better at dissipating heat, but the risk of it accidentally breaking and completely bricking your PC is always there.
Using Software To Reduce GPU Temperature
Seeing how tinkering with the software itself can be the most likely cause of the GPU temperature rising, we should definitely mention some more common issues that can easily be fixed.
Rollback The GPU Driver
Although this issue really shouldn’t be happening, it still unfortunately is, so we’re going to have to talk about it.
As you might’ve guessed, this happens when the GPU manufacturer updates its drivers, which causes the card to work harder or even more efficiently, but the fans don’t seem to get the memo. Either way, a simple rollback should do the trick. Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get the latest driver. You should, but sometimes it may be for the best to wait a little bit.
Underclock The GPU
The reason why you might need to do this is if you accidentally overclocked the GPU a little ambitiously and now you’re paying the price.
Unfortunately, this may not be the only reason why you need to underclock the GPU. Sometimes, it’s possible that the card can’t really handle all the new games that are being thrown at it, despite all the efforts it’s putting in. In this case, you might have to admit defeat and rid your graphics card from suffering.
The process for underclocking the GPU is pretty much the same as overclocking, but only in reverse. In places where you’d increase the core and memory clock, you’d reduce them.
Why It’s Important To Reduce GPU Temperature
Aside from getting better performance in video games or with whatever professional tool you’re using, it’s important to reduce the GPU temperature in order to avoid other, sometimes dangerous, issues.
Luckily, most graphics cards these days are built with excellent security measures and will shut down when the card starts getting overheated. However, this may not always happen and it may lead to heat damage to the PCB which, as you might’ve guessed, renders it useless.
Although here we talked about keeping the GPU temperature regulated, it’s important to know that heat issues can plague any part of your PC, and most of the advice we gave you today applies to them as well.