If your GPU temperature is running high, you increase the risk of it breaking down in the middle of a high-stakes gaming session or potentially even causing permanent damage. This is why it’s important to understand how and when to reduce the temperature.
Before we proceed, you should know that there are numerous possible reasons for a GPU overheating and you might not discover the cause of the problem on your first attempt. Even so, there’s no harm in applying some of these methods anyway to reduce the strain on your graphics card.
In order to reduce the GPU temperature, we first need to know the reason that the card is overheating. Once we have found the culprit, the solution is usually straightforward, but sometimes there are issues that are more difficult to fix.
As each issue can be checked and repaired quickly, we will look at the diagnostics of each potential problem and teach you how to troubleshoot it.
The goal of diagnostics will be to determine whether or not your GPU is overheating. The optimal temperature for gaming depends on your graphics card manufacturer. For AMD, it is about 60-70 Celsius, while Nvidia’s cards work best at around 70-85 Celsius. To check your current GPU temperature, you will need to use some tools.
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Physical Ways To Reduce The GPU Temperature
In most cases, the reason for overheating will be physical, and fixing it will require you to open up your case. The inside of your computer is delicate, but be careful and you should be fine.
Removing The Dust
Dust will eventually get inside of your case one way or another; it’s unavoidable. The reason for this is simple: the more fans you have built into your case, the more dust it will gather. As a graphics card usually has its own fans, it is likely to attract even more dust.
- Open the case – Your first step is to open the case and see if it needs cleaning. This will usually be the case.
- Remove the GPU – This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but you will make the most of the cleaning process if you remove your GPU.
- Remove the fans – This is another optional step but one that will make the process much easier.
- Use compressed air and a cotton swab to clean the dust – The GPU and fans will have numerous tight spots and awkward nooks and crannies. In both cases, you should first use compressed air to dislodge the dust, then complete the process by cleaning the difficult spots with a cotton swab. This applies to the components you previously removed and every part of your case. This means the CPU, RAM, motherboard, memory, and any other place where dust might have gathered will need to be cleaned.
- Put the PC back together and test – As dust is the most frequent reason for overheating, you should notice an immediate improvement after cleaning and reassembling your PC.
Make Sure The Fans Are Working Properly
It’s easy to overlook that your fans aren’t working if you open your case while the PC is turned off. Of course, this is how you should usually open the case, which makes it much easier to miss that the fans are no longer spinning.
If you suspect that your fans are faulty, your first task is to confirm or disprove your suspicions. This means opening the case while the PC is turned on. Alternatively, you can open the case and then turn on the PC.
It’s important to know that some GPUs are optimized so their fans don’t spin unless they are required to do so.
The most common reasons for fans not spinning include:
- Too much dust – This is a very real possibility. If you don’t clean your PC regularly, dust can accumulate to a point where it prevents the GPU fans from spinning.
- Power connectors disconnected – This can be especially difficult to notice because even a slight loss of contact can lead to fans shutting off.
- Fan bearings out of commission – This is another one that is hard to spot, but relatively easy to fix. You simply need to apply lightweight machine oil but do not use WD-40.
- Fans stopped working entirely – If everything else fails, this is the most likely problem. Machines can malfunction and GPU fans are no different. Fortunately, you can replace the fans without changing your entire graphics card.
Replace The Thermal Paste
This problem can be hard to notice. There’s no real way of checking if this is the issue without removing the GPU from the card. If you have already done that, you might as well change the thermal paste anyway; it can only be good for the longevity of the card.
- Remove the graphics card – When you open the case, it’s sensible to remove the graphics card, as this will give you easier access to all the components you need to check.
- Unscrew the heatsink – If you turn over the card, you should see several tiny screws. Your card might also have a backplate, but that is simply another layer to remove. When you’re done, there might be some additional wires connecting the PCB and the cooler. We recommend that you unplug these as well.
- Clean the thermal paste residue from both the heatsink and the chip – For this step, you will 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, it is worth first removing the chip from the PCB. Any large, dried remains of thermal paste can be easily wiped away with a microfiber cloth, but smaller pieces are best removed with a cotton swab.
- Apply new thermal paste – If you previously applied the paste and still remember which method you used, it might be worth using a different one. In most cases, you will be perfectly safe with the ‘X’ method.
- Put the card back together – You first need to slowly and carefully return the heatsink to the top of the chip. This is because you need to make sure that the thermal paste spreads evenly. Once that is done, you simply repeat the process, but in reverse. After you reconnect the cables, return the screws to their positions and then place the graphics card in the case.
Improve The Airflow Within The Case
Achieving proper airflow might 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 a universal answer, but we can still offer some pointers:
- Plan the airflow – You should position your fans in such a way that the cool air comes in and hot air goes out. For optimal airflow, you should try to have it flow from front to back and from the bottom to the top.
- Cable management – Having your cables placed haphazardly can cause a lot more heat than you might expect. This is why it’s best to ensure that the cables are neatly tucked away and won’t interfere with the air circulation inside the case.
- Focus on hot spots – If you’re looking to reduce your GPU temperature, you should aim for hot air from wherever your card is positioned to blow somewhere else. Ideally, it should have a clear route out of the case.
Improve Cooling Itself
If you’re still unable to prevent your GPU from getting overheated, the reason could be that you simply lack firepower in terms of your cooling hardware. There are two solutions to this: the first is getting more fans and carefully arranging their influence on the overall airflow.
The other way to improve cooling isn’t as much an improvement as it is a complete replacement. We’re talking about water cooling. It has been proven that liquid cooling is better at dissipating heat, but you run the small risk of it accidentally breaking and completely bricking your PC.
Using Software To Reduce GPU Temperature
As tinkering with software can be the most likely cause of the GPU temperature rising, we should mention some of the more common issues that can easily be fixed.
Rollback The GPU Driver
This shouldn’t really be an issue, but it occasionally is, so we need to address it.
This happens when the GPU manufacturer updates its drivers, which causes the card to work harder or more efficiently, but the fans might be unable to keep up with these changes. In any case, a simple rollback should do the trick. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t download the latest driver, but sometimes it’s best to wait for a while.
Underclock The GPU
You might need to do this is if you accidentally overclocked the GPU too ambitiously and now you’re paying the price.
This isn’t the only reason why you might need to underclock the GPU. It’s possible that your card can’t handle all the new games that are being thrown at it, despite its best efforts. If this is the case, you might need to admit defeat and protect your graphics card from any further strain.
The process for underclocking the GPU is largely the same as overclocking but in reverse. In places where you would increase the core and memory clock, you instead reduce them.
Why It’s Important To Reduce GPU Temperature
In addition to enjoying a better performance in video games or whatever professional tool you’re using, it’s important to reduce the GPU temperature to avoid other, potentially dangerous, issues.
Today, most graphics cards are manufactured with excellent security measures and will shut down if the card starts getting overheated. However, this doesn’t always happen and it could lead to heat damage to the PCB which might render it useless.
Although we have focused on keeping the GPU temperature regulated, it’s important to know that heat issues can affect any part of your PC. Most of the advice in this article also applies to those parts.