Why Is My GPU So Hot?

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, it should not get too hot.

While any GPU can get too hot, you should not assume its specific cause, as over a dozen factors could cause or facilitate overheating.

Why Is My GPU So 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.

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 sounds 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 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 run dual screens, you find other anomalies, like one of the screens minimizing during gaming. Sometimes, the display may go black and turn off if the video card fails.  

1. Inadequate cooling

A graphics card that has no cooling fans.

Inadequate cooling is one of the most common causes of GPU overheating. Typical problems are slow fan speed, ineffective or insufficient ventilation, and inappropriate 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.

Use the application to increase the fan speed and use MSI Afterburner or GPU-Z to regulate the fans. 

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.

You can also find universal graphics card coolers to help keep older cards cooler, which helps keep the inside of your system inherently cooler.

Lastly, check if the fans are malfunctioning due to any physical obstruction. Remove all dust and other objects that should not be inside the computer cabinet or case.

2. Dusty heat sink

Dusty laptop and desktop graphics card fans.

A GPU heatsink serves as the temperature regulator. The piece of metal absorbs heat from it and cools the graphics card. 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 function, you will 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 for laptops. The internal heat sink can easily get clogged up with dust over a year, and maintenance is highly recommended. The whole laptop will run hotter and potentially could damage 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 must remove the GPU fan, unscrew the graphics processing unit to access the heat sink, and clean the piece.

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 laptop model.

This helps prepare you better by thinking about everything you need, making opening the laptop much easier. Blowing out the computer parts regularly helps to maintain a cleaner computer.

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 cores’ speed and enhances a GPU’s processing power. Some manufacturers overclock them per factory settings.

Users often voluntarily overclock their GPU for better performance. Overclocking is among the most common causes of overheating. You must undo or reset all settings back to default. 

How to fix it

If you have changed the settings, resetting the overclocking is best. MSI Afterburner or GPU-Z can check if your graphics processing unit is overclocked.

You can use the same tools to undo the overclocking. 

4. Stressed GPU

A GPU gets overheated when it is put under excessive load. They have maximum thresholds.

So, check if your GPU can support 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 to lessen the load on the graphics card or GPU.

Alternatively, you can upgrade your graphics card 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 a powerful enough power supply.

5. Obstructed airflow

An add in card is obstructing the air to the graphics card above it.

A reasonably high-quality GPU that supports 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 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 obstruct the graphics card’s airflow. Removing the card could be a solution if the card isn’t needed. Another fix would be ensuring 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.

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 it 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 at a slightly cheaper price by purchasing it on eBay.

7. Dry or worn-out thermal paste

Old thermal paste on a GPU.

CPUs and GPUs need thermal paste, 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 no air pockets between the heat sink and the graphics card chipset.

However, if the thermal paste is dry or too old, your GPU will most likely overheat.

How to fix it

You can reapply the thermal paste. However, you must first confirm if it is still under warranty. Replacing the thermal paste and, in some cases, accessing the GPU chipset can void the warranty.

So a warranty repair is the best and first choice, if possible. Otherwise, please read our article on how to replace your GPU thermal paste to resolve this issue for desktop graphics cards.

If it needs 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, replacing the thermal paste still doesn’t hurt to ensure that it’s not the cause. Replacing the thermal paste will save you from having to do it later anyway but will also ensure that the heatsink and fan assembly optimally cool your GPU.

When removing the old thermal paste, use a thermal paste remover to avoid any physical damage.

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 not be so incompatible but may have some bugs introduced with the updated driver that affect 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, dust and high moisture levels can harm your computer components. It 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 your GPU’s actual fault. The technician may be able to repair the hardware depending on the nature of the problem.

However, buying a new one is better if the repair is expensive and your GPU is reasonably old.

11. Inadequate power

If a power supply cannot provide enough current for the graphics card, it could be laboring and get hotter faster. The same will hold for the power supply in terms of heat.

Power is important for your graphics card 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 who is 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 run happily when the graphics card is working at its full potential.

Why Is My GPU Running 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 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, cooling has a direct adverse impact. 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 in any browser tab. 

Demanding apps or software may run 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 a GPU can be hot when idle is overclocking. Some users overclock them for better performance, which often leads to overheating. 

Reset the overclock and check the temperature. Some GPUs are factory overclocked. Consider resetting the factory overclock.