GPUs are important, but how do you know which one to choose? There are a wide variety of GPU options from different vendors, and it may not be immediately clear which best suits your needs. Knowing the basics of how they work and their differences can help you make a decision.
How Do I Know If My GPU Is Dying?
There are thousands of posts in online forums claiming that the graphics processing unit (GPU) – also known as the graphics card – is dying because there are minor graphics glitches. This does not mean that the card has crashed – it could be software related!
Even if you use a graphics card that is only a few years old, you may experience performance issues and be convinced to replace the card. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a brand new GPU or waiting months for your card to get back under warranty, you can usually fix minor issues at home.
However, to diagnose a dying GPU, you need to do further inspection. We’ll walk you through this process so you know exactly how to tell if your GPU is dying.
What Causes a GPU to Fail?
You may not find out that your graphics processor has crashed until your computer crashes while playing a game or when smoke starts to come out of your computer case. If there is a fire, it probably cannot be repaired due to a software problem. Most of the time, you know your card died when you are unable to restart the system. However, you can rule out a dead card if you understand what is causing them to fail.
Here are some reasons why a GPU can die completely:
- GPU components fail prematurely due to faulty manufacturing
- Incompatible graphics card installation
- Static overload when installing the graphics card
- Moisture build-up on the card, causing component damage
- Overheating from too much dirt or debris stuck to the cooling elements
- Overheating from cracked or worn bearings on cooling fans
- Runs your graphics card in games with incompatible software drivers
To avoid most problems, you need to regularly maintain your system, both physically and digitally. Many of these problems can be avoided by keeping the GPU clean and ensuring that your graphics card software drivers are up-to-date. Instead of waiting for your graphics card to die, why not update the drivers first?
How long do graphics cards take before they die?
Today, graphics cards have several innovative cooling features and components that protect their hardware during rigorous gaming sessions.
If key components inside your graphics card get too hot, they can brown and kill the graphics card over time. That’s why the latest cards feature a metal backplate, two or three cooling fans, and large heat sinks to dissipate heat from the card during gameplay.
However, as with all electrical components, some components may die prematurely or due to poor manufacturing quality. If your card dies prematurely, you can often replace it under warranty. Many manufacturers provide fan replacement for free if the bearings wear out, whether under warranty or not.
As long as you maintain it, a new graphics card should last an average of 5 years. You can only replace it when you want to play new games that require more advanced graphics. Check the new game specs against your requirements before operating them with your graphics card.
Make sure your GPU is not causing CPU bottlenecks. This happens when the CPU is generating more frames per second than the GPU can handle, which can lead to screen stuttering. If this scenario affects your computer’s performance, most likely you need to update your graphics card.
How to find out graphics card details using Settings
To find your graphics card manufacturer and model using the Settings app, follow these steps:
In the “Multiple Displays” section, click Advanced Display Settings.
source: Windows Center
In the “Display Information” section, confirm the vendor and model of your graphics card.
source: Windows Center
After following these steps, you will now understand the video card installed on your device.
How to find out graphics card details using Device Manager
To determine the graphics card installed on your computer by using Device Manager, follow these steps:
- Open Start.
- Search for Device Manager and click on the highest result to open the tool.
- Expand the Graphics cards branch.
Confirm the manufacturer and model of your graphics card.
source: Windows Center
After following these steps, information about your graphics card will be disclosed.
Another resource to help you choose your GPU and graphics card is the games and applications you want to run. Most of them list the required, recommended, and optimal specifications, which often include the recommended CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage.
Find Out What GPU You Have in Windows
Open the Start menu on your computer, type “Device Manager” and press Enter. You should see an option at the top of your graphics card. Click the down arrow which should contain the name of your GPU. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see that I have a Radeon RX 580.
If you’re not sure which company designed this chip, you can right-click it and select Properties to view the manufacturer – Advanced Micro Devices or AMD in my case. (Remember that Device Manager uses graphics drivers to determine what GPU you have, so if you suspect you may have installed the wrong drivers you should skip to the next section.)
Once you’ve got the GPU name, you can search Google to find out more about it or compare it to the minimum requirements of the game you want to play. Usually, a higher number means a better card – so a game requiring the RX 580 may not work on the RX 480, which is weaker (though there is a workaround for this at times).
If you’re comparing two cards that use different naming schemes – like the AMD RX 580 and their more powerful RX Vega 56 – you may need to do a bit of research to see which card is more efficient and what the price difference is.
Find the Manufacturer and Model Number
If for some reason you need to know exactly what type of graphics card you have, you will need to do a little more work.
The manufacturer can be easily found thanks to a third-party app called Speccy. Download the free version, run it, and click Graphics in the sidebar. Scroll down and look for a Subvendor entry which should tell you who created the actual card on your PC – in my case Asus made that particular RX 580. (You’ll also be able to see how much video RAM your card has, among other specs.)
Unfortunately, it won’t give you the exact model number you’ll need for, say, warranty claims. (Asus makes several different RX 580 cards, and they will need the exact model number to provide support.) PC up.
In that case, find your graphics card, remove it, and look at the sticker on the side – it should have the model number you need. You may want to write down this information somewhere so you don’t have to open your computer next time – you never know when you might need it!
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Choosing a graphics card is one of the hardest parts of buying a new computer, primarily because it’s one of the most important components, so you want to get it right. Plus, if you’re new to GPUs, you’ll need to unpack a lot of terminology.
Overall, you should update your graphics card every 4 to 5 years, although an extremely high-end GPU may last a bit longer. While price is a major factor in your decision making, performance and memory needed should also be considered. And be aware of your computer’s CPU as it may need updating as well. After all, the best GPU is only as efficient as its companion processor.
About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is the co-author of HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author who has written for USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.