Signs & Symptoms of a Failing Computer GPU

By Naomi Bolton

Memory and a GPU are the primary components on a video card.
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The graphics processing unit in a computer handles tasks related to displaying visuals and can be part of a dedicated card or integrated with the motherboard. Like any other computer component, the GPU is subjected to strain when under heavy loads or overclocked. Indications that a GPU is reaching the end of its lifespan usually include visual anomalies, instability and poor performance along with increased fan noise. Since these issues can also be caused by other factors, it is important to test the computer with a different GPU to confirm that the problems are not caused by other faulty hardware or driver issues.

Increased Fan Noise

Modern video cards require fans to cool the GPU, and the driver software often determines the speed automatically. Video cards generate more heat when under heavy loads, so you can usually hear the fan speed increase when you run 3-D-intensive applications or HD videos. If the fan speed increases randomly or remains loud even when the system is not doing anything resource intensive, it can be an indication that the GPU is overheating. Ensure that the video card has no dust that can cause heat buildup, and use a GPU temperature monitoring utility to check for overheating. This issue is more common on dedicated video cards because integrated GPUs usually only have a heat sink for cooling.

Crashes and Lockups

The GPU handles intensive calculations related to 3-D functions and high-definition video rendering to decrease the load on the CPU. A failing or faulty GPU usually crashes when running 3-D applications such as games or when attempting to play HD videos. Symptoms can include the computer rebooting or locking up and requiring a hard reset when you are trying to run 3-D applications. Your computer may also display a blue screen stating that an error has occurred and Windows has to restart.

Reduced Performance and Instability

In some cases, the performance and stability of the GPU is compromised, and instead of outright crashing or freezing, you experience intermittent errors. The results can be unexplained slowdown or low frame rates in 3-D applications that did not occur previously. You might also experience games crashing with an error message that the display driver has been recovered. Update your video card drivers or roll back to a more stable previous release if you recently updated to the latest drivers, and check if the issues persist.

Visual Anomalies

The GPU handles the rendering duties for graphically intensive programs, so if it cannot perform adequately any more, visual anomalies such as artifacts, flickering images and a blank display can start to appear. If you notice wrong colors in the visuals or lines appearing across the screen, it could be an indication that the GPU is failing. Check that the graphics card is properly seated and that all cables are connected to ensure that these issues are not responsible for the visual anomalies.