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Possible Signs and Causes of a Failing Graphics Card

Possible Signs and Causes of a Failing Graphics Card

Possible Signs and Causes of a Failing Graphics Card

Among several important components in your computer, your graphics card -- or GPU -- is up there on any list. It's responsible for managing all your graphical and display needs, and will also sometimes be called a video or display card depending on the particular device in question -- and if anything happens to it, chances are you'll notice some of the signs fairly quickly.

At PC Laptops, we're happy to assist with a variety of laptop and desktop computer repairs, including issues with your GPU or any related systems. What are some of the possible signs that your graphics card is having problems, and what are the possible culprits making this happen? Here's a general rundown.

Possible Signs of Graphics Card Malfunction

Here are some of the most common early warning signs that something may be going wrong with your graphics card:

  • Screen glitches: Have you begun to notice strange colors, shapes, or patterns appearing on your screen, especially during gaming or other graphics-heavy activities? These can be signs that your GPU is beginning to malfunction. For instance, you might see "tearing" on the screen, where images look like they're being split into two separate pieces.
  • Stuttering: A related issue to screen glitches is general video stuttering -- you might see regular freezing or frame rate issues, especially during gaming or other resource-intensive activities. Another symptom of stuttering is dropping frames, which refers to the GPU not being able to keep up with the demand and skipping frames as a result. However, with this symptom it's important to note one thing: While this sometimes does indeed indicate a graphics card issue, there are other cases where it may be signaling other concerns, like a hard drive problem, RAM instability, or even a CPU bottleneck.
  • Artifacts: In cases of more severe graphics card damage, you might begin to see "artifacts" on your screen. These can take the form of strange patterns, colors, or shapes that wasn't part of the original image. In some cases, the screen may go completely black. Artifacts are usually caused by overheating, though they can also be the result of hardware damage.
  • Fan speed: Have you begun to notice your computer fan getting significantly faster and louder, especially when you're doing graphics-heavy activities? This can be a sign that the fan is working overtime to try and keep the GPU cool, which may be due to overheating or other damage.
  • Blue screen: Finally, the dreaded blue screen of death may also pop up if your graphics card is having issues. If you see a blue screen with a "VIDEO_SCHEDULER_INTERNAL_ERROR" message, it's likely that your GPU is the root of the problem.

Now, what are some of the issues that may be causing these concerns? Our next several sections will go over these.


As we mentioned above, one of the most common causes of graphics card damage is overheating. The components in your GPU can begin to break down if they overheat, which will lead to all sorts of problems -- including the ones we listed above.

There are a few reasons why your graphics card might overheat. First, it could be due to dust or other debris blocking the fan or other cooling mechanisms, preventing them from doing their job properly. Second, the thermal paste between the GPU and heatsink could've dried up or become otherwise damaged, making it less effective at conducting heat away from the GPU. Third, the fan itself might be failing or otherwise not working properly.

In any case, if you suspect that your GPU is overheating, the first step is to clean out any dust or debris that might be blocking the cooling mechanisms. You can do this with a can of compressed air; just be sure to hold the can upright and not upside down, otherwise you risk spraying dust back into the case. Once you've done that, check to see if the fan is still spinning and that there's thermal paste between the GPU and heatsink. If not, you'll need to reapply it (you can find thermal paste at most electronics stores).

Hardware Damage

In some cases, the problem may be due to physical damage to the graphics card. This could be anything from a bent pin to water damage. If you suspect that the graphics card has been physically damaged, the best course of action is to take it to a computer repair shop and have them take a look at it.

Improper GPU Installation

If the device is on the newer side, it might be that the graphics card wasn't installed properly in the first place. This isn't a common issue, but it's one to keep in mind if you're having problems and the device is new. In this case, you'll need to remove the GPU and reinstall it according to the manufacturer's instructions.


When we talk about overclocking, we're referring to a practice where users push their hardware beyond its rated speed in order to get better performance. This can sometimes be done with graphics cards, though it will void the warranty and is not recommended for most users.

Overclocking can cause all sorts of problems, including instability, artifacts, and -- you guessed it -- overheating. If you suspect that overclocking is the cause of your problems, the best course of action is to reset the GPU back to its default clock speed. This will hopefully fix the issues you're experiencing.

For more signs your graphics card might be struggling and why this could be the case, or to learn about any of our computer or laptop repair services, speak to our team at PC Laptops today.