PC Components

What Happens When the GPU Overheats?

Burning Gpu

The graphics processing unit (GPU) was designed to withstand high temperatures and usually runs at high temperatures, especially when running graphics-intensive programs. Dedicated GPUs have fans that cool them when hot. But if your GPU is running hotter than the manufacturer’s recommendation and your programs start running slower, it is probably overheating.

Quick Answer

Due to the built-in safety feature in GPUs, they tend to decrease their performance whenever they overheat, causing frequent drops in frame rate. This safety feature slows down the GPU’s clock speed or shuts the GPU down entirely when the GPU’s temperature reaches an incredibly high level. 

Despite the built-in safety feature in most GPUs, it is not advisable to overwork your GPU to the extent that it frequently shuts down to prevent overheating. This article discusses the symptoms of GPU overheating, the causes, and how to fix the overheating problem and prevent it from happening in the future.

What Causes GPU Overheating?

The four most common causes of GPU overheating are the following.

Dust in the Air Vent

The computer fans draw in cool air from the surroundings through the intake vents into the system to cool the hot components and then release the hot air outside the computer through the outlet vents. This is usually a straightforward process that requires the vents to be free of obstacles blocking the air passage.

When dust forms in the air vents, it blocks the intake of cool air and does not allow the system to remove hot air, which causes the system to overheat.

Malfunctioning Cooling System

Most PCs are equipped with cooling fans and thermal paste to cool the system whenever the system runs hot. Some graphics cards have special fans because they run hotter than other components. When the computer runs heavy programs and its internal temperature increases, the cooling system cools it.  

If the thermal paste is worn out or one of the fans is broken, the cooling process will be compromised, and as the system runs heavy programs and gets hotter, the cooling system will not be able to cool it.

Overloading Your GPU

Your GPU ratings are usually provided by the manufacturer so that you will know the kind of programs it can run conveniently and those that push the threshold of its power. Whenever you want to run a program or play a game on your computer, check to see if its requirements are not more than your GPU can withstand.

When your GPU runs regular games, the computer runs smoothly, and the system does not run hot. However, when you run graphically intensive games, you start to push the limits of your GPU, and a lot of heat is generated. If you overload your GPU with games that are more demanding than they can withstand, your GPU will overheat and shut down.

Defective GPU

Sometimes, your GPU overheats when it is defective. You’ll notice this when you run standard games that are not demanding, yet your GPU starts running hot, and your fans make noise as they run at high speed, trying to cool the overheating GPU.

What Happens When Your GPU Overheats?

Overheating is a simple process. It usually happens when your GPU generates more heat than the cooling system can cool. This might be because the GPU is handling programs beyond its power, causing it to produce higher heat than the cooling system can handle. Or the cooling system is underperforming. Either way, it is not a good sign. 

The GPU is designed with a built-in safety feature that slows it down when it starts to overheat and shuts it down before it overheats. When the GPU overheats, the fans start running at maximum speed, making loud noises. The safety feature slows down the graphics card’s speed, reducing the GPU’s performance as it loads frames slower. 

This affects the program you’re running, and you can see the signs as your program starts showing graphics-related errors like frequent screen glitches, artifacts, etc. If this continues, the safety feature will shut down the GPU and the system before it completely overheats.

Your GPU is heat resistant and can withstand high temperatures. A few cases of the above will not damage it. However, suppose you ignore the warning signs and let it overheat for long periods, or you allow the overheating situation to happen too often. In that case, you risk damaging your GPU permanently.

How To Fix GPU Overheating and Prevent It

Overheating shortens your GPU’s lifespan and might even damage it within a short time, along with other components. To prolong your GPU’s lifespan, you must fix overheating problems and prevent future occurrences. You can do that through the following ways.

Do Not Overload the GPU

Check the manufacturer’s ratings to know your GPU’s capacity and only run games it can handle. Do not overclock your GPU constantly.

Clean the Vents

Your vents take in air from the surroundings, and the air filter removes impurities before it allows the air to enter the computer. Dust can accumulate at the entrance of the vents and in the filter. Make sure you clean the vents regularly to allow regular passage of air.

Replace Damaged Fans and Thermal Paste

Perform routine checks to know if the cooling fans are faulty or the thermal paste is worn out, and have them replaced if they are.

Use a Cooling Pad

If the internal fans are insufficient for cooling your computer, you can buy a cooling pad to cool your computer when it runs hot. This is suitable for a laptop.

Check Your GPU’s Temperature

Use a dedicated software application to check your GPU’s temperature to know if you need to cool it down. Although GPUs can run at high temperatures, ensure your GPU’s temperature is not above the manufacturer’s recommendation.


No matter how effective your built-in safety feature is or how heat-resistant your GPU is, do not subject it to situations that can cause it to overheat and effectively damage it and a few other components. 

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