Common GPU problems and how to fix them
If you’ve been using a PC or laptop long enough, chances are you’ve come across one of the common GPU problems that have plagued gamers and workers since the humble graphics card first appeared. The question is, do you know how to fix it? If not, never fear. We are here to help.
Here are some of the most common GPU problems and how to fix them.
One of the most common graphics card problems is that it simply doesn’t seem to work at all. If you’ve turned on your computer and found that it just doesn’t display anything on the screen, this can be quite a difficult fix, as it’s not a certainty that the GPU is at fault. A quick look at our computer troubleshooting guide will highlight how many components can be causing your computer to not boot properly, but if you’re pretty sure it’s the graphics card that’s at fault, here are some solutions you can try.
- Restart your graphics driver: Pressure Windows key + Ctrl + Displacement + B. This will restart your graphics driver and may get your graphics card working again.
- Restart your computer and turn the monitor off and on again: It’s an old joke for a reason; sometimes the off and on again can cause whatever is causing the problem. It’s an unlikely fix, but one that should be your first port of call when your GPU isn’t playing ball.
- Try a different video output: Try plugging your monitor into a different port on your graphics card. Try DisplayPort instead of HDMI, or vice versa.
- Try connecting to another screen: If you have an extra monitor handy, try connecting your graphics card to it to see if it’s the original display or a compatibility issue.
- Reseat your graphics card: If you know the insides of your computer (or want to learn), try unplugging your graphics card and plugging it back in. You should also double check the PCI-Express power connectors and consider replugging them as well.
- Try a different graphics card slot: If your motherboard has multiple GPU slots, you can try plugging your graphics card into the second one. This can lead to reduced performance on some motherboards, but if it works, it’s better than a black screen and can help you on your troubleshooting journey.
- Try a different graphics card: If none of the above works, you may need to use a different graphics card (or onboard graphics, if you can) to confirm it’s the GPU.
- Remove your GPU drivers: If you can get the system to work with a different graphics card or the onboard GPU, try uninstalling the drivers for your graphics card. Then reconnect the GPU and try booting your system from it and see if the standard Windows drivers help get it up and running again. If it works, you can reinstall your drivers afterwards.
If all of the above still leaves you with a black screen, it’s possible that your graphics card is faulty or even dead. It might be time to consider a new graphics card.
When a graphics card has serious problems, it can sometimes display something known as visual artifacts. This can be strange colored boxes, or lines appearing on the screen, or you may see certain in-game elements flicker, or appear to be displayed incorrectly, or the entire screen may flicker on and off. Here are some ways you can diagnose the problem, and maybe even fix it.
- Disable overclocking: Are you overclocking your graphics card? Try disabling it. You may have just pushed the card too far. Alternatively, reduce the overclock until the artifacts disappear, or increase the voltage if you have some thermal and power headroom.
- Reinstall your graphics drivers: This is a general suggestion, but a good one in most GPU problem cases.
- Try a different power source: If you have one spare, try using a different power source to see if the problem goes away. If your PSU is getting old or not quite powerful enough for your graphics card, it can cause it to display artifacts when pushed hard.
- Check if it is overheating: Overheating is a major cause of GPU artifacts. Check your GPU temperatures and improve your cooling if necessary. Refer to the Overheating section below, for more help.
- Check the card for signs of wear: Visual artifacting can be a sign that a graphics card may be on its last legs. However, before you throw it away, check for any physical problems. Is a cable preventing a fan from turning? Are the power cables inserted correctly into the socket? Is the card seated properly in its PCI-Express slot? Did any RAM heatsinks fall off? Fix any of those problems if you spot them.
- Google specific solutions for your card: Some cards will have common problems and it may be that others have had a similar problem to you. You may need to increase your card’s voltage or power limit, or just improve its cooling. Some may even need dramatic changes, such as relocating the cooler. See if anyone else has a specific solution for your GPU.
If none of the above solutions work, you may have a GPU that is going to die soon. If you can, use an alternative card, or upgrade to something new.
If you find that your graphics card isn’t putting out the kind of frame rate, or supporting the kind of resolution and detail settings you’d expect, you can try the following to get it back up to speed.
- Reinstall your graphics drivers: You may have a corrupt, or outdated driver that is not making your graphics card work at its full potential.
- Check your temperatures: Keep an eye on your graphics card temperatures, especially when gaming. If it overheats, check the section below to see if you can improve performance by improving its cooling.
- Confirm if your GPU is powerful enough: Is your graphics card powerful enough for the game(s) you want to play? Check the system requirements for your favorite games to see if your GPU is powerful enough. If not, you might want to upgrade to something better.
- Overclock your GPU: If you want to improve your graphics card’s performance, try overclocking it to see if you can make it a little faster.
If you’ve checked your GPU temperatures during gaming or transcoding work and found that the card is thermally throttling or running too hot for your liking, then it’s a good idea to try to fix it. A graphics card that runs too hot won’t perform as well as you’d like, and long-term overheating can lead to a reduced lifespan for the card.
- Clean your computer cache: If your graphics card is overheating, chances are it doesn’t have enough access to fresh, cool air. Check any dust filters on your case to see if they need cleaning, and remove any dust from any internal coolers or coolers, including your graphics card heatsink. For more tips on how to do this safely and effectively, refer to our guide on how to clean your computer.
- Change your GPU fan curve: You may just need to tell your graphics card fans to rev a little harder to keep the GPU cool. Use MSI Afterburner to create a custom fan curve for improved cooling performance.
- Improve your system cooling: Increasing your GPU’s access to cooling air may mean adding more fans. Try adding more or larger intake fans to your case to increase the amount of cool air reaching your card each second. You may also consider adding an exhaust fan (or more of them) to better remove hot air from the case.
- Cable management: Having a lot of cables and wiring in your case can disrupt airflow and hinder cooling. Try to clear the cables on the sides of the case or behind the motherboard tray to improve airflow through the case.
- Move any add-on cards: If you have any add-on cards such as a USB card or network card sitting very close to your GPU, try moving them to another PCI-Express slot to create extra space for cooling.
- Undervoltage and underclocking the GPU: If you’re still having problems with overheating, you can try lowering its voltage or even underclocking it to make it use less power and therefore put out less heat. Refer to our guide to undervoltage for more information.