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GPU Overheating: Why it Happens and How to Fix it [Expert Guide]

GPUs or graphics processing unit is a must-have in the new systems for gaming and heavy tasks execution. However, sometimes overheating or malfunctioning of the GPU’s heat controls can become a headache for users.

Why Is My GPU Overheating?

The GPU may overheat for a number of reasons. The reasons may differ for laptops or desktop systems but these issues can be fixed.

Dirty VentsMalfunctioning GPU Fans
Missing Cooling PadsMalfunctioning Heatsink
High Clock SpeedMisdirecting Case Fans
Outdated DriversInterference in components
Faulty Drivers
Reasons of GPU Overheating

In my 10 years+ experience with computers, I have seen that GPUs can be a huge add-on for hefty computer tasks.

I will be discussing these reasons in detail for your ease.

1. Dirty Vents

The vents can get dirty because of improper ventilation in your GPU. This happens because the air that travels inside the system carries dust particles that can get trapped in the system.

Coats of this dust may lead to improper functionality of the venting system. Hence, this causes the graphics card overheating issue.

2. Missing Cooling Pads

The cooling paste that exists in the system is used to cool the system and protect it from overheating. Normally, the GPUs come with thermal pads which are used as “cooling pads” to prevent overheating.

Many people like to mess with their internal hard drive and like to play with it. But I will not suggest you play with the thermal pads of the GPU. The absence of these pads will definitely overheat the GPU.

On a different note, some people like to replace their thermal paste with thermal pads but you should only do that if you know what you are doing. Here’s a video for how to change thermal paste with thermal pads:

3. High Clock Speed

So basically, if you increase the clock speed, you are increasing the speed of the CPU. But you don’t really want to that in the longer run.

Why? Here’s the deal. The clock speed controls how many cycles of instructions can be executed by the CPU per second.

Forcing the GPU to increase the speed will put a heavier load on the GPU. If forced to perform tasks at a faster rate than it is designed to, the CPU or the graphics processing unit will overheat.

4. Malfunctioning GPU fans

The GPU comes with fans that are used for controlling the heat in the system by cooling the temperature of the GPU. If the fans are not functional, the GPU will definitely overheat.

Not only is it bad for the GPU but the entire system will be affected because of this.

5. Malfunctioning Heatsink

The heatsinks are absolutely essential for the proper working of the GPU. The GPU will immediately overheat if the system is turned on without a heatsink. Hence, this can also be a very likely reason for the overheating of a GPU.

6. Misdirecting case fans

Sometimes people put a top tier GPU in a desktop system designed for office use. Such a system is unable to control the temperature of a graphics card overheating. The case’s fans should work in opposite directions to pull and push the air from the case.

The bottom fan or the front fan should be able to suck the air in and the upper fan or the backside fan should be able to push the air out of the system. If the fans are running in the same direction or there is noise in the fans, immediately repair or replace these fans with newer ones.

7. Fans missing

If the fans were making a funny noise and you thought it would be nice to just remove them and enjoy the experience of gaming peacefully, bad idea.

The absence of fans will result in heating one hundred percent. In case of damaged fans, the system overheats and damages all the components.

Some of the other reasons for overheating that I have seen in the graphics card include a clogged fan, a possibly broken fan, overclocking in the system, the use of faulty drives or the presence of inefficient airflow in the entire system.

How to Fix Graphics Card/GPU Overheating?

  • Clean the vents properly
  • Insert functional cooling pads
  • Reset Clock Speed
  • Check GPU fans
  • Check heatsinks
  • Adjust the direction of the case fans
  • Insert new fans
  • In laptops, keep at a cold and flat surface
  • Update drivers

1. Clean the vents properly

Cleaning the air vents should be your first attempt at reducing the heat of the GPU. As explained above, the trapped air brings in dust which may coat and pressurize the fans to prevent smooth working.

Hence, cleaning the air vents should be your first attempt at reducing the heat of the GPU.

GPU Overheating

In this context, I will give you a detailed guide to clean the vents properly:

  1. Get a screwdriver small enough to help you open the components of the GPU that you will clean.
  2. Blowing off the dust is not simple, however, if you use canned compressed air, it can be simple and easy. I highly suggest it.
  3. To reach the nooks and crannies in the GPU, use Q-tips.
  4. For disinfecting, I suggest the use of isopropyl alcohol. It will help in removing the dust from all the critical components of the GPU.
  5. A clean small cloth for cleaning.
  6. Replace the thermal paste, it is good for protection against overheating.

2. Insert functional Cooling Pads

If you have thoroughly cleaned the system and believe that the system is still overheating, its maybe because of the malfunctioning thermal pads.

In that case, you may want to replace them with new ones. New thermal sheets can be bought from Amazon, at varying rates depending on the quality you choose.

Check for the thickness of the pad that you are originally using and replace it with a similar one. For a detailed video on how to change the cooling pads on almost any card, you can check out in detail in this video.

So, having functional cooling pads is essential for the proper working of the cooling system in the GPU. Without these pads, it is highly likely that your system will overheat and damage other components as well.

3. Reset Clock Speed

Overclocking is a common reason for the overheating of GPU as discussed above. The best practice to fix this is to reset the clock speed of your system. For this purpose, you will have to uninstall the profile on your GPU that has been overclocked.

In this situation, if the windows of your system is continuously crashing and you’re unable to get to the profile, then reboot your system in safe mode.

In the safe mode, you will be able to uninstall the afterburner and create a new profile with default clocking speed.

Another good practice that I recommend is that you decrease the clocking speed of the GPU. This will put far less burden on the system and you will be able to quickly recover from the damage that has been done.

However, be careful in making this decision as it also decrease the performance of your GPU.

4. Check GPU Fans

If the fans are making a funny noise and you feel that they might not be working well, chances are that this is why your system is overheating.

green blue and red light

In this case, you need to check the case fans, the GPU fans and see if the fans need to be cleaned or replaced altogether.

To check the fans, open the system carefully and check the fans that have been used in the GPU.

Remove any thermal compound and replace it with a new thermal compound.

After making sure that the thermal compound is attached, plug in the power adapter of the fan in the GPU.

After plugging the fan in, re-attach the GPU to the computer’s system and check the functioning of the fans.

If the system was overeating due to the fans, it will most likely be fixed now.

5. Check Heatsink

Heat sink sucks in fresh cold air and throws the hot air outside the system. It is a difficult task to replace the heatsink altogether as you will have to look for dead GPUs with working heatsink.

Hence, it is a better idea to rather keep your current heatsink clean and make sure nothing is interfering with its components. This might hinder its functionality.

However, if you wish to replace it anyway, ask an expert to help you out in carrying the replacement.

6. Adjust direction of the case fans

The case fans should run in opposite directions. One should suck the fresh cool air inside and the other should be able to throw the hot air outside. This is how the temperature is controlled in the GPU.

So, make sure that the directions of the fans are opposite and coordinated.

7. Insert new fans

If cleaning the fans, changing the thermal paste, changing the cooling pads and adjusting clock speed and heatsink, all do not work, then the last measure is to change fans altogether.

So, if the fans on the GPU need to be replaced and newer fans should be attached to it.

In this case, the best practice would be to take your GPU to the manufacturer. Since the manufacturer offers a warranty, it is best to ask them for a fan replacement. The experts may handle the process in a better way.

However, if you wish to do it yourself, you will void the warranty provided by the manufacturer. In that case, ask for an expert to guide you through the process.

8. In laptops, keep at a low and flat surface

The surfaces that are not even can provide a hinderance for the venting of air in the laptops. This is because many laptops have fans below the surface of the laptop.

macbook pro on white table

The building up of heat eventually increases the temperature of the entire system which can lead you to think that there is some issue in the GPU of the system.

It is better to use a flat or cooling surface for such laptops.

9. Update Drivers

This is a common issue in most systems. Sometimes, the issue does not lie in the hardware but it is the software that is hindering proper functionality of the GPU.

It means that outdated software system or drivers need to be removed, uninstalled and/or updated to latest versions according to the build of the GPU.  

So, keep updating all the drivers and remove any faulty software that exists on your system. This fixes the graphic card overheating.

Also Read: Do Laptop Cooling Pads Really Work?

How to Check GPU Overheating?

You can install some software tools that run in the background and monitor the overheating or overclocking of the GPU to check overheating. Some of these software tools are:

  • EVGA Precision X
  • MSI Afterburner
  • CPUID’s HWMonitor
  • HWinfo
  • SpeedFan
  • Open Hardware Monitor
  • NZXT Cam

1. EVGA Precision X

EVGA Precision X is not old school but a highly efficient software tool that can measure the temperature, the overclocking on a system and many more.

Also, it can help the user in monitoring and also adjusting the clock speed of the GPU, the voltage of the GPU, the speed of the fans and the memory clock speed.

2. MSI Afterburner

MSI Afterburner is one of the most frequently used software in order to monitor the hardware of the GPU. It is famous for its good functionality and accurate readings.

Additionally, it is one of the best solutions to measure and test the GPU performance. It comes with a smart overlay that explains the temperature of the system, especially an overheating GPU.

3. CPUID’s HWMonitor

CPUID’s HWMonitor is also a new software tool that can help in the monitoring of the hardware components. The GPU system can use this tool to measure and maintain the temperature of the components, the voltages on which the components are running, the fan’s speed on multiple components etc.

4. HWinfo

HWinfo is a recommended solution for the monitoring of the temperature as it monitors the temperature of almost all the components of your computer.

The GPU, the drivers, the drives and the timings of the RAM. Everything is measurable by this software.

Plus, you can also customize it for your use and remove the sensors according to your preference.

5. SpeedFan

SpeedFan is a reliable old software that is used to monitor the speed of fan, the temperature of the system and the fan, the voltage that it is running on.

It is also used for the adjusting of the RPM of the fans. It also functions in reducing the noise of the fans.

6. Open Hardware Monitor

The open hardware monitor is a relatively older tool but it works just fine in measuring the overheating of the GPU. It can control the RAM of the system.

It can also adjust the speed of the fans manually. You can check it out here.

7. NZXT Cam

It is another highly efficient scanner that can help in the monitoring of the system components. It can be installed in the form of a single application on your system.

Additionally, NZXT Cam can measure and manage the performance of the GPU system, the temperature, overheating and other similar issues in any system.

It is also highly customizable and you can change and manage its features according to your preference.

Also Read: Surface Format Optimization for AMD Radeon


What is the normal operating temperature range of a GPU?

Normal temperature of the GPU may vary according to the multiple variants. However, a rough estimate is a range between 65C to 85C or 149F to 185F. This is normal during tasks like gaming.

If the temperature rises above 85C, you should start managing the system in order to decrease it.
And, above 100C, you need to control to temperature immediately by applying the methods discussed above.

Is it normal for the GPU to be hot?

Yes. But the question is how hot are we talking about? If you think that 70C or even 80C is hot for your preference, then you do not need to worry. The GPU can get this hot during gaming etc. The problem starts when it rises above 85 degrees Celsius.

What happens when a GPU overheats?

Overheating means that the temperature has risen above normal i.e., 85C. In this case, the performance of the GPU will essentially decrease with the increase in its temperature.
In the extreme case, the card will halt functionality or will reduce its clock speed which will, in turn, reduce performance.

Overheating can damage the components of the GPU so it should be avoided by methods as discussed above.

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