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5 Signs Your Graphics Card Has Problems and May Be Dying

Posted by Robert Hayes on May 27, 2019

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Graphics cards are a critical component of any personal computer, and a graphics card failure can make a PC unusable. Fortunately, the graphics card is also a component that it is fairly easy to diagnose with problems. Graphics cards can fail in a number of different ways, but there are usually warning signs that give you plenty of time to line up a replacement. In this article, I’ll show you how to spot the signs of an impending problem, how to troubleshoot existing problems, and how to figure out what’s going wrong with your card.

Warnings

Every computer has a graphics subsystem. For some computers, this is an integrated section of the motherboard; these graphics setups are often labeled as “Integrated graphics,”
“Intel graphics” or “Intel HD graphics”. More advanced systems come on their own card, or even as enormous double-slot cards that dominate the inside of a PC case. The graphics subsystem is what the text and pictures on your computer screen(s); every computer has a graphics subsystem, whether it’s the integrated graphics on a tiny little netbook or a $1000+ graphics monster running a giant multi-monitor setup. Because the graphics card controls what is on your system’s display, the warning signs that the card is failing tend to be pretty obvious. Here are some early warning signs of video card failure.

  1. Stuttering: When a graphics card starts going bad, you might see visual stuttering/freezing on the screen. However, malware, a dying hard drive and even RAM problems can all cause the same kind of behavior, so don’t jump to conclusions. If you get stuttering along with other warning signs, there’s a good chance it’s your graphics card.
  2. Screen glitches: If you’re playing a game or watching and movie and suddenly start seeing tearing or weird colors appearing all over the screen, your graphics card might be dying. Sometimes if you restart your computer, the screen will go back to normal, but expect the same problem to come back if you have a faulty graphics card.
  3. Strange artifacts: Similar to screen glitches, a bad graphics card can usually result in strange artifacts all over your screen. This can sometimes be fixed by a restart, but once again, if you have a faulty graphics card, expect the problem to come back. Artifacts can be caused by excessive overclocking, heat problems and even dust buildup.
  4. Blue screens: Everybody with a Windows background is familiar with the blue screen, and a computer can blue screen for a number of reasons, whether that be problems with RAM, hard drives, graphics cards or other components. But, if the system crashes and/or blue screens when you start doing some graphic intensive tasks (e.g. video games, watching movies, etc), this could be an indication your graphics card is on its way out.
  5. Fan noise: This does not necessarily correlate to needing to replace your graphics card, but keep an ear out for a louder-than-normal fan noise on your graphics card,as that indicates the card is getting too hot. If it’s getting too hot, you’ll want to stop what you’re doing and try and clean it out as best as possible. If the fan isn’t able to quiet down, it’s possible that something is internally wrong.

Troubleshooting

sapphite-ati-radeonAs we always mention in our troubleshooting guides, finding out what’s wrong and diagnosing a problem is usually a process of elimination. Start with checking your connections. Loose connections can cause a lot of problems, especially with a graphics card. Make sure it’s solidly seated in the motherboard and that any secondary connections are also secure.

In some cases, you won’t be able to check connections, particularly if you have a laptop, especially from specific manufacturers like Alienware who make it a bit more difficult to access components. Generally speaking you won’t have an issue with loose connections in a laptop, however. With laptops, more often than not, the problem is dust because of being in such an enclosed space. If you can open it up and clean out any dust you can, that would be the first place to start. If dust or lint has been in there for an extended period of time, it can easily fry a component or cause the machine to overheat by not blocking proper airflow.

The next thing you can do is run some software tests. Run GPU-Z and watch the real-time temperature for any oddities. For actually testing the card, there’s nothing like putting it through some real-world use. Use the Heaven Benchmark tool to test your card. Run it for a couple hours — it should be able to handle it without crashing or causing any graphical errors like strange artifacts and stuttering.

It’s also worth noting that if you don’t have a graphics card and are using a motherboard’s integrated graphics, then problems could be a sign of motherboard failure rather than a graphics issue. Be sure to check out our troubleshooting guide for motherboard failure.

Next, make sure your drivers on your graphics card (and monitor) are all up to date. You can also try uninstalling the ones you already have and then re-install them to ensure there aren’t any problems there. It’s worth noting that you can uninstall your drivers without losing video. Once uninstalled, Windows will use some very basic drivers to display video to your monitor. So, you won’t actually lose video functionality or cause any harm to the card. But, as always, be sure to consult your video card’s manufacturer for specific uninstall/reinstall instructions. You can find some specific instructions from NVIDIA and AMD here and here, respectively. AMD actually has a free cleaning tool to do this for you automatically. Before you make any changes to your driver software, you should save your system state to a restore point. We have a how-to article on how to roll back a driver update if this makes things worse.

One of the easiest and yet most powerful techniques is to simply swap out the graphics card for another one and see if the problems go away. If the new graphics card works without an issue, it’s obvious the old graphics card needs to be replaced. If you don’t mind fiddling with components at home and have an extra or cheap graphics card lying around that will fit your computer, you can conduct this test process, or you can get a repair shop to do it.

While you have your machine open, it’s worth checking for any physical problems. If the fan has stopped working on the video card or you see any leaking or bulging capacitors, it’s time for a replacement. In cases of this happening, usually the video card will stop working almost immediately.

In some cases, the problem could lie with a virus or piece of malware on your computer. That’s likely not what’s causing strange artifacts or screen glitches, but if you’re getting some stuttering or experiencing frequent crashes, there’s a good chance malware is the culprit. Be sure to run your anti-virus software, and to be extra sure it’s not something in the system files, you should run some bootable anti-virus software (Bitdefender has an excellent tool for just that).

Another thing to test: disable your sound card. This sounds counter-intuitive (what does the sound system have to do with the video card?) but sometimes interactions between these two systems can make the whole computer unstable. If turning off the sound resolves the problem with your graphics, then the problem may actually be in your sound system and not on the graphics card itself.

If your computer has an AGP graphics card (an older standard, but one that many computers are still running on), then you might try slowing down the AGP ports to see if that resolves the issue. For an NVIDIA AGP graphics card, you can use RivaTuner to slow down your card; non-NVIDIA owners can use PowerStrip. Either way, try turning down the speed multiplier on the card from 8x to 4x or even 2x and see if that helps with the problem.

It’s also possible that your video card might be running too fast. Some cards may be rated for a particular GPU speed, but in reality can’t consistently run at that speed. You can try underclocking your GPU, which puts less stress on the video card as a whole and may solve the problem. If you are using an ATI video card, try the ATITool program to slow down your video card. NVIDIA cards can use RivaTuner, and other card owners can use PowerStrip.

What causes video card failure?

dusty-gpu-fanVideo cards can fail for so many different reasons. Not properly installing the component in the computer can lead to video card failure, but more commonly, dust and lint are the culprit. Dust itself generally isn’t the problem, it’s more that it blocks fan vents and prevent proper cooling. In some cases, if bad enough, dust can actually insulate a component and cause overheating that way.

Some other things that can cause video card failure is too much overclocking. Overclocking at the stock voltage is more than safe. If you push the card to its limits with high voltage, that will kill a card sooner than normal. But, even that will take months or years to kill a card. It’s also worth noting that many modern cards are pretty resilient to excessive heat, but do keep in mind that this can put extra wear and tear on the card, and even eventually fry it if the heat output is greater than what your heat sink can handle.

Aside from that, the last thing that can kill your video card is the standard electrical outage. Blackouts, brown outs and power surges can fry all of the components in your computer — even the graphics card. In most cases, if you have some extra cash to spare, you can prevent this situation. All you’ll need to do is invest in a quality surge protector as well as a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). As you know, the primary role of a UPS is to provide temporary power in case the source is cut off so that you can properly shut down your machine; however, it’s also able to help prevent damage from things like power surges. You can read more about what a UPS and surge protector does here.

Ultimately, the video card is subject to as much wear and tear as anything else. If your card fails, it may have just been time for the card to fail. In that case, a replacement is your only choice.

Replacing your video card

Now, if you’re finding yourself needing a replacement, we have quite a few options. Depending on the type of work you’re doing, you don’t necessarily need a super expensive video card. If you’re on a budget, we’ve got a great guide on buying a graphics card for almost any price range. But, before going out and buying a new card, there are a few things to look at and find out what you need, such as clock speed and memory size – check out this article on the things you should be thinking about for your own build.

22 thoughts on “5 Signs Your Graphics Card Has Problems and May Be Dying”

Arpan says:
When I am gaming my display showing some blue red colour all over my screen..
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Sariah Meagle says:
A few days ago, I noticed that the computer screen started glitching but the monitor was fine. When you mentioned that the blue screens are an indicator that my graphics card might be dying, that was the sign that I knew you were right. I also noticed that there was excessive fan noise from the computer so I might call a computer repair service to have it replaced or fixed.
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Kailas Madiwale says:
Please
My desktop not stop working suddenly.monitor not displaying.psu fan not start when power supply on
What is reason
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Koith says:
Hi a few weeks ago I was playing rainbow six when suddenly I was kicked for conetivity loss then shortly after my computer crashed it then went into a cycle of turning itself on and off, now when i try to turn it on I see the initial asus starting screen and then it goes black does anyone happen to know what’s happening?
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UrangBingung says:
I’ve been playing Fallout 4 with hi setting for 2 years without any problem but then suddenly earlier this week when I play the screen just went red and all sound (from youtube that I opened at the same time in the background) also like broken loop. I restart my pc and everything seem normal, also for few year I noticed my fan also sound louder than normal does this mean my video card has started to broke down?
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zaki says:
i have lenovo y50 laptop
8 GB ram. windows 10. i7 core. GTX 860m
and for a week now i couldn’t see my GPU it’s not showing in the device manager and not anywhere just like i don’t have it !!
all what i can see is Intel(R) HD Graphics 4600 in the device manager !!

does that mean the gpu is dead?!

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Max says:
Have you tried installing the NVIDEA driver?
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John says:
Hi I have been using Asus X455ld i5 core and having a problem when playing game. Everytime I tried to play game such as Dota 2 and Naruto Storm 4 it only goes smooth for a few minute and then it became so lag and stuttering. My graphic card is Nvidia 820 M 2GB. I was thinking that my graphic card could be dying. My question is can my graphic card be changed to 920M or upper?
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Bo Bradley says:
I have a 6850 Radeon and when I plug it back in because my screen went blank and I use my onboard graphics and I disable it and when I enable it my whole screen goes black and I have to reboot in the safe mode and disable the graphics card. You think this is a graphics card going out or the motherboard making me run without the graphics card.
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naren says:
After finish my work I had turned of my lenova laptop g 56o,properly. But next day it’s didn’t on,i thought first it’s startup problem but technician telling graphics card is die how is it posible,please helpme
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Thorrezz says:
Ok for some reason i’ve been getting alot of frame rate drops on every game that i have. Like on on my league of legends i always get 120+ Fps until 2 days ago it gone down to 20 fps even up to 12 so i didn’t play that day. The next day i came back it was all fine then a few games later it happened again. What does this mean? also while im here If i open my task manager My system and compressed file have been using alot of my memory and this has not happen to me every since i go this computer and im scared.
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Jordan Fulton says:
So, I was at a LAN party, I log onto my computer, everything is fine and I’m playing a game. Normally my fan is decently loud and my friend commented and said he could clean it, he cleaned it with rubbing alcohol, and my mother board, as well as my gfx card. He then puts my gfx card back into my computer and it randomly stopped working. He said that it “died” do you believe that it is dead, or are their more possibilities? We narrowed the problem down to it definitely being my gfx card apparently.. When it was just working 20 mins before the cleaning began. The monitor simply wouldn’t even receive signal, thanks. AMD Radeon 6750 I think, HP Pavilion pc
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blah says:
If your friend didnt’ wear anti static gloves while handling your components like the graphics card…. he probably fried them with built up static electricity in his body. Most the time you can’t even feel any excess build up in your body. I’ve had muffin or chip bags float around staying stuck to my hand while trying to lay it on my desk…. but I fried the motherboard in my desktop the first time I tried cleaning dust out of it. Ever since, never go poking around w/o anti-static gloves on.

Sounds like what happened, if your card died so soon after he “cleaned it”. Also, I hope he only blew dust off the card and the only place he was using rubbing alcohol was wiping dust off the fan blades….

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Origin_AmNesia says:
Hey, I have 2 screens, one is hooked up to my graphics card and the other plugged into my motherboard. About 3-4 moths ago is when this problem started to occur. Once I unplug my monitor that is hooked up to the graphic card, 30 min or so later I get a blue screen with the error, “THREAD_STUCK_IN_DEVICE_DRIVER” I am starting to think that my motherboard is failing, but I am not completely sure. I need some help desperately, Thank You!
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Marius Pricopie says:
Hi guys . Really odd thing is happening to my pc . It worked flawless untill yeaterday . I was playing Tom Clancy The Division and I got a black screen and I couldn’t alt+ctrl+del . It was stuck . Then I restarted it from the button . After that …. well my pc powers up , and after 2 minutes , sometimes 5 minutes it just goes black again . Monitor is on 100% pc still running …. everyting looks normal . The lights on my keyboard shut down aswell , but the lights on the mouse stays on . I have a gygabyte r9 290 video card 3gb , 8 gb ram … what is going on ? Please help . Thank you
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wakeupkent says:
I’m having a similar issue with my 8GB R9 390, but it happens when I’m watching videos on VLC. Everything will be fine for a while, but At some point, the screen will go black and my wireless keyboard and mouse will stop functioning. The PC will still be on, and I’ll even still be able to hear the audio coming from my TV. I’ve reinstalled VLC and updated the drivers, but to no avail. I’ve only had it happen while VLC is on so far, not necessarily playing–it’s happened while I had a show paused in the background a couple of times. Then today I noticed that some YouTube videos were stuttering while I had XCOM2 on its main menu in the background. Audio was fine, but the video was glitchy. Once I shut down XCOM2, the videos played fine again.

Next, I’ll try a different media player just to rule out VLC, but I’m nearing the 30 day mark on the card, so I may just try to get it swapped out.

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SRsage107 says:
I had this issue. I run a Logitech G510 keyboard and The Division (as well as the keyboarD) both have options that allow the game to control the lighting/LCD screen of your keyboard. DISABLE THEM both. Second, your black screen problem inside The Division is due to UPLAY not synching with your game (most likely STEAM). You have to re-download the latest version of UPLAY and make sure that UPLAY and STEAM are running at the same time before starting the game. Last but not least, The Division is super intensive on older graphics cards. I’d try running on Optimal graphics settings if you have a Nvidia card and GeForce Experience instead of setting your own graphics. You may also want to go into Nvidia Control Panel and set the card to run on performance or high performance instead of quality.
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Dave says:
Hi I’ve got the same problem did you find out what was wrong with it
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IronMetal says:
Furmark? Never, thanks
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mapine says:
when I play minecraft or world of warcraft my laptop screen (or external monitor) will suddenly go bright yellow or pink, or teal or even red. I have to hard boot to get it to turn back on. I can’t play these games anymore but I can do every other function on my laptop (Alienware m18x 3 years old and out of warranty). Is this my graphics card?
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IronMetal says:
Yes, it is
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Shem Derick says:
hello i need help! of late my laptop shows a black screen when turned on yet fun and hard disk are running. then sometimes it turns on but later some how it brings a full screen of colors i red,green,purple but in small tinny segments. i need help on this. could it be my display card dying?
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Eldar H says:
It could be that your chipset may be damaged. Your motherboard is heating up to much and the connections between the motherboard and GPU is damaged. I had similar crashes on my laptop and fixed it with reballing.
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BrokenBonesBrokenHomes says:
Roll back driver.. problem solved
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BrokenBonesBrokenHomes says:
People are getting ripped of at Best Buy for this.. My neighbor brought their laptop to Best Buy they told them they needed to buy a new laptop (the laptop was only 16 months old) The laptop screen would be red, They could still see the screen but it would be red… PEOPLE THIS IS JUST A LOOSE CONNECTOR FROM MONITOR..It happens when you open and close the laptop a lot eventually it will get lose or if you pulled i back to far once on accident.. These people have a really nice Toshiba which they paid 900$ for. I fixed it for them in 5 minutes! All you need is a screwdriver (get one that has magnet tip, they sell them at walmart for 89 cents) undo the screws under laptop, you will need to dis connect your hard drive (It’s just slides it and out EASY) and take out the battery. Most Toshibas have about 5 little screws under the top of keyboard. The plastic comes right off and click back in.. People I’m telling you ANYONE can fix ANY WINDOWS LAPTOP. It’s so easy. I have no “degree” and I guarantee I can fix a laptop better than any “geek squad” or computer shop around

Also it’s a good idea to invest in a USB storage stick. Keep it in your laptop if you want. If you have pictures or documents just save them in that as well as your laptop because chances are you are going to have to reinstall windows eventually. I reinstall windows Once a year and you will be amazed how your laptop runs brand new again.. I erase everything, clear it all out and start fresh! It’s like getting a new laptop all over again! I think it’s fun to go download all the software and things like that. I try a new Virus program every year to see which is the best (so far AVAST is best FREE) norton is terrible and so is webroot!!!

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XP512600 says:
I have a Dell Dimension 8100 i boots up but nothing is on the display. I have tried reseating the graphics card, different monitors, cables, outlets etc. Could by graphics card be bad? The computer seems normal otherwise, the diagnostic lights are all green as they should be, you can even hear the Windows startup sound.
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Pj says:
Did you find the problem? My computer is doing the exact same thing
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tony says:
Yes my PC fires up and on my monitor the test symbol is up but when I go to connect my monitor cord to the computer my monitor goes to sleep and won’t wake up any suggestions???
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Timo says:
Hi Tony – Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear things aren’t working correctly. To get help more quickly, please post your question in our community forum.
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xxx says:
If you monitor has issues waking up from sleep, I know some Samsung monitors had faulty capacitors that start dying and cause this issue. I was able to fix my Samsung monitor, but wasn’t able to fix my dad’s (after changed the capacitors still had issues waking up from sleep).
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Amber Gonzales says:
Does this step also work for the playstation 3’s GPU?
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MANJURAO says:
thanks for the detailed info on Graphics Card. After searching in google for really long time I have got your page. Would try these steps right away.
Reply

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