According to NVIDIA, the standard operating temperature of a graphics processing unit (GPU) is 104°F to 194°F (40°C to 90°C). Since room temperature is 68°F (20°C), as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, your GPU will always be and feel warm or hot while operating at any given time. However, your GPU should not get too hot.
Your GPU is probably so hot because it cannot cool itself properly, which can result from obstructed airflow, worn-out thermal paste, or placing your laptop on a restrictive, warm surface, such as your bed. An overworked or stressed GPU may also overheat as it tries to complete intense tasks.
While any GPU can get too hot, you should not assume its specific cause as more than a dozen factors could cause or facilitate overheating.
Check the hardware and all other related components, including the software that interacts with the GPU, and keep reading to learn more.
Is it normal for my GPU to be hot?
Five integral hardware components in desktop computers and laptops generate substantial heat. These include:
- The central processing unit (CPU).
- Graphics processing unit (GPU).
- Heat sink.
- Motherboard components like the northbridge and southbridge chipsets.
- Hard disk drive or solid-state drive (HDD/SSD).
- The optical disc drive (ODD).
Among these, the CPU and the GPU generate the most heat.
It is normal and also necessary for the GPU to get hot. The GPU hardware poses resistance when electricity runs through the chips and circuits in the processor. This resistance generates heat. There will be no heat in the absence of resistance, which means the hardware is faulty and not working.
GPUs don’t get overheated identically. It is not unusual for some GPUs, especially the high-end graphics cards and data center processors, to reach temperatures ranging from 212°F to 221°F (100°C to 105°C), or beyond.
If you are using a personal desktop computer or a laptop, be it for gaming or other graphics-intensive tasks, the usual temperature range is 149°F to 185°F (65°C to 85°C). The ideal GPU temperature is below 176°F (80°C), even if you are playing an extremely graphics-intensive game.
Me personally, I don’t like my desktop graphics card’s GPU to exceed 149°F (65°C) too often. But this level of temperature expectation may not be for everyone.
There are many things you can implement to help keep your GPU or graphics card cooler. Reading about some of the causes and fixes will help you get some excellent starting points to keep your GPU cooler.
How to check GPU temperature
All major operating systems, such as Windows and Mac, have features enabling you to check the GPU temperature conveniently.
In addition, every well-known GPU brand has dedicated tools, whether apps or overlays, to facilitate the same.
You can also use third-party software to check the GPU temperature.
In Windows 10, you can check GPU temperature through the Task Manager. Apple facilitates the same function through the Activity Monitor on Mac. NVIDIA, AMD, and other GPU brands have applications or performance overlays that provide essential information, including temperature.
Why is my GPU so hot at idle?
Your GPU could be hot while idle due to improper fan speed settings, graphics-intensive processes, software running in the background, and voluntary or involuntary overclocking. Undoing these or restoring the default settings can solve the GPU overheating issue.
In general, your GPU should not be hot when it is idle.
Check the fan speed
Check if you have capped the fan speed using any software. When the rotation per minute (RPM) of one or all the fans in the cabinet is restricted, there is a direct adverse impact on cooling. Thus, your GPU and other components, such as the CPU, can get hot at idle.
Check for background applications and tasks
Check if you have graphics-intensive tasks running in the background. For example, you may have a design-heavy website or an ultra-high-definition video loaded in any of the browser tabs.
Demanding apps or software may be running even though you are not working on your computer.
Close all the tabs, apps, and background processes, and check if the GPU is still unusually hot. You can close all running programs and background processes by following these guides for Windows and Mac.
Check for overclocking
The other common reason why a GPU can be hot when idle is overclocking. Some users overclock their GPUs for better performance, which often leads to overheating.
Reset the overclock and check the GPU temperature. Some GPUs are factory overclocked. Consider resetting the factory overclock.
11 Reasons why your GPU is so hot (And their solutions)
There are three telltale physical signs that your GPU is overheated:
- The graphics processing unit or the video card will feel hot when you touch it.
- The excessive heat generated by the GPU will warm the desktop cabinet or laptop.
- The fans will run faster and hence be noisier.
GPUs and CPUs themselves don’t make noise. You may hear some sound due to the excessive vibrations caused during an overload. This is caused by the fans increasing speed.
An overloaded GPU will be hotter than usual. That’s why it’s so important to be extra careful when overclocking any component. Sometimes the side effects aren’t always immediately apparent.
As a result of overheating, games, videos, and other graphics-intensive applications may not run smoothly. For example, you may see strange spots or dark lines on the screen.
If you are running dual screens, you find other anomalies like one of the screens minimizing during gaming.
In some cases, the display may go black and turn off if the video card fails.
1. Inadequate cooling
Inadequate cooling is one of the most common causes of GPU overheating. Typical problems are slow fan speed, ineffective or insufficient ventilation, and the absence of appropriate cooling systems for high-end graphics processors.
How to fix it
Any computer running a quality video card should have GPU fans. These are similar to the CPU fan that rests on the heat sink.
Check the speed of the GPU fan and ensure all the other fans in the system are functioning as expected.
You’ll have to replace faulty fans, and if the main problem is the power supply unit or PSU fan, you will have to replace that too.
If you need improved cooling for your graphics card, take a look at this universal graphics card cooler on Amazon.
Lastly, check if the fans are malfunctioning due to any physical obstruction. Remove all dust and any other object that should not be inside the computer cabinet or case.
2. Dusty heat sink
A GPU heatsink serves as the temperature regulator. The piece of metal absorbs heat from the GPU chipset and allows the graphics card to cool down.
The heat sink is a passive hardware component without any moving parts, so there is rarely anything wrong with it.
However, if the heat sink cannot perform its function, you will most likely have a GPU that constantly overheats.
One common problem is excessive dust. If you have not cleaned the unit for a long time, the dust buildup may impair the only function of the heat sink.
The same holds true for laptops. The internal heat sink can easily get clogged up with dust over a period of a year and maintenance is highly recommended.
The whole laptop will run hotter and potentially could end up damaging something inside rendering the laptop useless.
How to fix it
The simple solution is to clean the heat sink. However, the actual cleaning process is not simple.
You have to remove the GPU fan, unscrew the graphics processing unit to access the heat sink, and then clean the piece.
Check out this video before cleaning a graphics card:
For a laptop, it is recommended that you send it to a computer repair shop or your go-to technician to clean it out for you.
If you are capable enough and want to do it yourself, search YouTube for a video of someone showing you how to clean out your model of laptop.
This helps better prepare yourself by thinking about everything you need and makes opening the laptop that much easier.
3. Overclocked GPU
All computers have a clock rate, also known as clock speed or processor speed (measured in GHz, MHz, etc.).
Overclocking increases the speed of the cores and enhances the processing power of a GPU. Some manufacturers overclock GPUs per factory setting.
Users often voluntarily overclock their GPU for better performance. Overclocking is among the most common causes of GPU overheating. You must undo or reset all settings back to default.
How to fix it
If you have changed the settings, then it’s best to reset the overclocking. You can use MSI Afterburner or GPU-Z to check if your graphics processing unit is overclocked.
You can use the same tools to undo the overclocking.
For unintentional or unrequired factory settings, here is a helpful video about how to fix a bad overclock on any video card from JayzTwoCents:
4. Stressed GPU
A GPU gets overheated when it is put under excessive load. GPUs have maximum thresholds.
So, check if your GPU is capable of supporting your games, applications, and graphics-intensive tasks.
How to fix it
The easiest option is to play fewer demanding games, run fewer applications, and perform tasks that do not overload the GPU.
For games, you can try to lower the display resolution or graphics details in order to lessen the load on the graphics card or GPU.
Alternatively, you can upgrade your graphics card if you are using a desktop PC.
Or you can install an additional graphics card using NVIDIA SLI or AMD Crossfire, provided you have a compatible motherboard and powerful enough power supply.
5. Obstructed airflow
A reasonably high-quality GPU capable of supporting all your computing and gaming needs with properly functioning fans may still overheat.
In addition, there could be some obstruction in the airflow inside the cabinet.
How to fix it
Check for any obstructions. There could be physical damage, or a loose hardware component may be causing the obstruction.
Often, the real problem is as simple as vents clogged by excessive dust. So, give your entire system a complete cleaning.
Move any other add-in cards that could be obstructing the graphics card’s airflow. If the card isn’t really needed, removing it could be the answer.
Another fix would be to make sure that you have the correct form factor computer case to facilitate your graphics card.
The smaller the computer case, the harder it becomes to keep components cool, especially for gaming and other strenuous computing activities.
6. Old or incompatible GPU
Your GPU may be too old to support the applications you are running now. The graphics card will be overloaded, and it will overheat as a result.
An incompatible graphics card is most likely to overheat.
How to fix it
You have to upgrade the GPU. If you have assembled your computer or changed some of the other components, and the GPU is incompatible, then you must find a suitable alternative.
You can refer to this comprehensive guide to choose a graphics card.
You can obtain a graphics card slightly cheaper by purchasing it on eBay.
7. Dry or worn-out thermal paste
CPUs and GPUs need thermal paste, also known as thermal gel, heat sink compound, or thermal interface material.
The thermal paste is a gel-like compound mainly comprising zinc oxide. This thermal compound stays between the heat sink and the GPU chipset.
Thermal paste serves as a medium of heat transfer. It ensures there are no air pockets between the heat sink and the graphics card chipset.
However, if the thermal paste is dry, worn out, or just too old, your GPU will most likely overheat.
How to fix it
You can reapply the thermal paste. However, you must first confirm if the GPU is still under warranty.
Replacing the thermal paste and, in some cases, even accessing the GPU chipset can void the warranty.
So a warranty repair is obviously the best and first choice, if at all possible.
Otherwise, please read our article on how to replace your GPU thermal paste in order to resolve this issue for desktop graphics cards.
If it’s a laptop GPU needing thermal paste replacement, search YouTube for the corresponding model number of your laptop and replace the thermal paste for both the GPU and CPU.
If your GPU is overheating for any other reason, it still doesn’t hurt to replace the thermal paste to ensure that it’s not the cause.
Replacing the thermal paste will save you having to do it later anyway, but will also ensure that your GPU is being optimally cooled by the heatsink and fan assembly.
8. New GPU driver
Upgraded drivers can cause a GPU to overheat. Older graphics cards are more vulnerable to this problem.
The latest driver may also be not so much incompatible with your GPU but may have some bugs introduced with the updated driver that affects your specific GPU model.
How to fix it
Roll back your drivers to their previous version and see if the overheating problem persists.
You can uninstall all earlier graphics drivers from your system and reinstall the most compatible version.
Alternatively, you can upgrade the GPU and continue to use the newest driver.
9. Software problems
Installation errors can create software conflicts and cause a GPU to overheat. Using incompatible software that consistently overworks the graphics card can lead to overheating.
Some of these persistent problems may cause the GPU to fail eventually.
How to fix it
If you’ve recently installed anything, uninstall it and see if the problem persists. You can also try restoring your system to an earlier date when the problem didn’t exist.
Either way, ensure you are not overloading the graphics card and using incompatible software or hardware.
10. Hardware problems
Exposure to moisture can damage a graphics processing unit during installation, causing a static overload.
A buildup of dust and debris can also cause hardware problems. Dust interferes with the electrical components in your computer as it doesn’t conduct electricity.
However, the combination of dust and high levels of moisture can be detrimental to your computer components and can cause some level of conductivity, depending on how bad the situation is.
The higher the salinity of the moisture, for example, the higher the conductivity.
Constant interference in the required flow of electricity through the GPU can lead to hardware failure.
How to fix it
You can consult a technician to find out the actual fault in your GPU. The technician may be able to repair the hardware depending on the nature of the problem.
However, if the repair is expensive and your GPU is reasonably old, buying a new one is a better option.
11. Inadequate power
If a power supply cannot provide enough current for the graphics card, it could be laboring and could get hotter faster. The same will hold true for the power supply in terms of heat.
Power is important for your graphics card, both in terms of specification and quality.
Inadequate power can cause many malfunctions besides overheating and isn’t very good for the hardware inside a computer.
This situation is usually caused by someone inexperienced. That person may have never installed the correct power supply from the get-go or never upgraded the power supply after upgrading the graphics card or other hardware.
This can also be true when a power supply gets really old and cannot perform as originally intended.
How to fix it
The solution is simple: Replace the power supply. Replacing your power supply with something more capable and of better quality will ensure your graphics card will operate more happily.
Of course, having the correct wattage power supply helps the rest of your computer’s parts running happily when the graphics card is working at a safe full potential.
Check the GPU temperature whenever you think the graphics card is unusually hot. It’s especially true when receiving a new computer, or making any changes to your existing computer system, hardware, or software.
First, close all graphics-intensive applications, games, or videos, and background processes. Then, start your investigation with the fans or the cooling system.
Check for each of the ten reasons in this guide. Then, choose the recommended solutions only after a thorough diagnosis. Do not rule out concurrent issues.
If you don’t find any evident cause of GPU overheating, something could be wrong with the graphics card itself. Use your warranty if available. Contact an expert technician otherwise.