Technology

Common GPU problems and how to fix them

If you’ve been using a desktop PC or laptop for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter one of the common GPU issues that have plagued gamers and workers since the humble graphics card first debuted. The question is, do you know how to solve them? If not, never fear. We are here to help.

Here are some of the most common GPU problems and how to fix them.

Jacob Roach / Digital trends

Black screen

One of the most common graphics card problems is that it simply doesn’t seem to work at all. If you turned on your PC and found that it just doesn’t show anything on the screen, it can be quite a difficult fix as it’s not certain that the GPU is to blame. A quick look at our PC Troubleshooting Guide will highlight how many components could be causing your PC to not boot properly, but if you’re pretty sure the graphics card is to blame, here are some fixes you can try.

  • Restart your graphics driver: Press Windows key + Ctrl + Move + B. This will restart your graphics driver and possibly get your graphics card working again.
  • Restart your PC and turn off the screen and turn it on again: It’s an old joke for a reason; Sometimes turning things off and back on can reset whatever is causing the problem. It’s an unlikely solution, but one that should be your first port of call when your GPU isn’t playing ball.
  • Try a different video output: Try connecting your monitor to a different port on your graphics card. Try DisplayPort instead of HDMI or vice versa.
  • Try connecting to another monitor: If you have a spare monitor handy, try plugging your graphics card into it to see if it’s the original monitor or a compatibility issue.
  • Reinsert your graphics card: If you know your way around the inside of your PC (or you will learn) try unplugging your graphics card and plugging it back in. You should also double check the PCI-Express power connectors and consider reconnecting them as well.
  • Try another graphics card slot: If your motherboard has multiple GPU slots, try putting your graphics card in the second one. This can lead to decreased 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 work, you may need to use a different graphics card (or onboard graphics if you can) to confirm it’s the GPU.
  • Uninstall your GPU drivers: If you can get the system to work with a different graphics card or the integrated 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 after.

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 one new graphics card.

Visual artifacts

When a graphics card has some serious issues, it can sometimes exhibit something known as visual artifacts. These may be strange colored squares or lines appearing on the screen, or you may see certain elements of the game 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.

If none of the above solutions work, you may have a GPU that is about to die. If you can, use an alternative card or upgrade to something new.

Poor performance

If you find that your graphics card isn’t outputting the kind of frame rates or supporting the kind of resolution and detail settings you’d expect, try the following to get it back up to speed.

  • Reinstall your graphics drivers: You might have a corrupt or outdated driver that won’t let your graphics card run fully.
  • Check your temperatures: Keep an eye on the temperatures of your graphics card, especially when gaming. If it’s overheating, check the section below to see if you can improve performance by improving its cooling.
  • Verify 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 the performance of your graphics card, try overclocking it to see if you can make it a little faster.
The Arc A770 graphics card runs in a PC.

Overheating

If you have been check your GPU temperatures during gaming or transcoding work and found that the card is thermally throttling or running too hot for your liking, it’s a good idea to try to fix it. A graphics card that runs too hot will not perform as well as you want, and prolonged overheating can lead to a reduced lifespan of the card.

  • Clean your PC case: 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 radiators or coolers, including your graphics card’s heatsink. For more tips on how to do it safely and effectively, see our guide on how to clean your computer.
  • Change your GPU fan curve: You might just need to tell your graphics card fans to spin 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 cool air may mean adding more fans. Try adding more or bigger fans to your case to increase the amount of cool air that reaches your card every 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 wires in your case can interfere with airflow and prevent cooling. Try clearing the cables to the sides of the case or behind the motherboard tray to improve airflow through the case.
  • Move any add-on cards: If you have add-in cards such as a USB card or network card that sit very close to your GPU, try moving them to another PCI-Express slot to create additional space for cooling.
  • Undervolt and underclock the GPU: If you still run into overheating issues, try lowering its voltage or even underclocking it to make it use less power and therefore produce less heat. Refer to our guide to undervolting for more information.

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