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How Long Does a GPU Last? And the Signs Your Graphics Card is Dying

Rear view of a young man installing graphics card to his desktop computer at home, gtx 1050

How Long Does a GPU Last? And the Signs Your Graphics Card is Dying

Key Points

  • The average lifespan of a GPU is 5 years, but a good quality GPU can last for more than 10 years with casual use.
  • Heat is the main factor that affects a GPU’s lifespan, as high temperatures can cause throttling and reduce clock speeds.
  • Signs that your GPU is dying include overheating, loud or non-working fans, and frequent game crashes.
  • To extend the lifespan of your GPU, clean the fans regularly, replace the thermal paste, and improve airflow in your computer case.
  • Baking a GPU in an oven can sometimes revive dead GPUs by reflowing the solder connections.

Are you wondering how long your brand-new graphics card unit (GPU) will last? Do you want to know how much life you can squeeze out of an old GPU?

You might have heard horror stories from friends who spent thousands of dollars on a GPU only to have it die after a few months. Meanwhile, you’ve been using the same GPU for nearly 10 years without issues. What’s the average GPU lifespan? If these questions are on your mind, we will do our best to answer them in this article.

How Long Does a GPU Last?

GPUs are surprisingly durable. A good quality GPU can last for more than 10 years with casual use. However, the average lifespan of a GPU is 5 years. Even GPUs under constant heavy load like the ones used for cryptocurrency mining operations can last for years without issues. To give you an idea, NVIDIA and AMD offer a warranty of 3 years on their GPU.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti GPU, unboxed
Most GPUs last for more than five years with proper care.

While the hardware probably won’t break down for years, you may need to upgrade to keep up with modern games. New games require more resources to run, especially if you want to play them with all the graphics cranked to the highest. These graphics cards can run practically every game.

Factors that Affect a GPU’s Lifespan

Heat

The main factor that will affect your GPU’s lifespan is heat. Over time, the thermal paste on a GPU will wear down, and the temperatures will increase. Under high temperatures, the GPU will start to throttle, which means it will reduce clock speeds to prevent damage.

In other words, a GPU will run slower when it’s too hot. To check your GPU’s temperature, run a program like MSI Afterburner. We will walk through some tips on how to prevent your GPU from overheating in the next section.

Usage

GPUs degrade over time, especially if they’re under constant load. The amount it degrades depends on how you use it. If you’re a streamer or full-time gamer, your GPU will degrade faster. On the other hand, if you’re a casual gamer, or mostly use your computer for office tasks, your GPU will likely last for a long time.

PCs rely on the GPU for tasks like watching high-definition videos and hardware acceleration, but those tasks shouldn’t make your GPU reach 100% usage. Most of the time, your GPU will be idle, unless you launch a program that requires it.

Power Supply

While rare, a power supply unit (PSU) can damage or even brick your GPU. As with every piece of hardware, PSUs can degrade over time and lose efficiency. This only tends to occur with extremely low-quality PSUs.

Very low-quality PSUs don’t have sufficient surge protectors. So, when a power spike occurs, the extra charge is sent to your PC’s components, which can fry them. If your power supply is too weak for your GPU, you’ll likely experience game crashes and random shutdowns. Either way, it’s best to replace your PSU every five years or so and invest in a good-quality unit.

Signs Your GPU is Dying

Your GPU is Overheating

One of the main signs that your GPU is starting to die is it quickly overheats. For instance, if you play a game for 10 minutes and your GPU reaches 80 Celsius or higher, that’s not a good sign. It’s still within the safe operating range but it’s not ideal.

GPUs can run pretty hot without critical failure, the high temperatures will degrade your GPU faster. If you’re not sure what is a good temperature for your GPU, read this article. When temperatures reach 90 Celsius or higher, that is a clear sign that there’s a problem with your GPU. It’s also when your GPU will start to throttle and your frame rate in games will drop significantly.

Fans are Loud or Not Working

Nowadays, modern GPUs have relatively quiet fans, but they can still get quite loud. We all remember the days when GPUs had fans that sounded like jet engines. GPUs use a fan curve that is designed to keep the card as cool as possible. If the fan is running at full speed, it means your GPU has reached very high temperatures, and the fans are struggling to cool it down.

Even worse, the fans are not spinning at all. You can use MSI Afterburner to monitor the speed of your GPU’s fans. If your fans are completely unresponsive, and a driver doesn’t fix the issue, it may be time to replace them. It’s not easy to find fans for specific GPUs, but you can often find them from second-hand marketplaces.

The bearings in the fans will likely be the first part of your GPU to fail. Adding more fans to your case or upgrading is a good idea too. You can find our favorite case fans here.

Frequent Game Crashes

Another sign your GPU is dying is frequent game crashes, freezes, and graphical artifacts. Other in-game issues like stuttering or game freezes can be a sign your GPU is nearing its end of life. It means the card can’t keep up with the demands of the game. It could also indicate that your GPU doesn’t have enough VRAM.

Of course, there’s also a chance that the game you’re trying to run is not optimized for your hardware, an issue that plagues many modern games. To rule that out, double-check the system requirements for the game. But frequent game crashes are usually related to the GPU, so it’s the first thing you should check.

How to Extend the Lifespan of Your GPU

Clean the GPU Fans and Case Fans

Since heat is the main issue affecting your GPU’s lifespan, cleaning your computer’s fans is important. You want to make sure your computer case has sufficient airflow. It’s normal for people to forget to clean their PC’s fans, so it’s a good habit to clean them every few months. When you clean your fans, you should notice a drop in internal temperatures.

Frequently cleaning the fans will prolong the lifespan of your GPU. You can clean the fans with a toothbrush, Q-tip, or a can of compressed air. If you use a can of compressed air, make sure to hold the fan blades to stop them from spinning too fast.

Replace the Thermal Paste

This is a good DIY project that can lower your GPU’s temperature. The thermal paste on a GPU’s heatsink degrades with time, which reduces cooling efficiency. Before you start, only do this if your GPU’s warranty has expired because disassembling it will void the warranty. We recommend following a YouTube tutorial for your specific GPU.

Applying new thermal paste to a CPU. Thermal paste used as an interface between heat sinks and CPU.
Adding new thermal paste to a GPU can extend its lifespan.

The idea is to disassemble the GPU and remove the fans and the heatsink. Use a Q-Tip dipped in alcohol to clean the old thermal paste on the GPU die (square silicon chip) and heatsink. When it’s clean, apply a pea-sized amount of thermal paste on the GPU die and re-attach the heatsink.

If everything works out, you should notice a significant drop in temperatures. If you’re using a particularly old GPU, this will likely keep it running for a bit longer. If you want some thermal paste recommendations, read this article.

Bake It

It may sound a little strange at first, but baking a GPU in an oven can breathe new life into it. Of course, your mileage will vary, and you should only do this with an old GPU that you can afford to lose. Another point to keep in mind is the smell of burnt plastic will stay for a while. It’s better not to do this with an oven you use to cook food, toaster ovens can do the trick.

So, the idea is to strip your GPU down to the bare motherboard. Don’t include the heatsink, fans, or any wires. Place the GPU on a tray or raise it on tin foil. Preheat the oven to 200c and cook the GPU for 5 to 10 minutes.

Take it out, let it cool down, and reassemble it. If you get lucky, the GPU will work. The reason this trick works is the heat reflows the solder connections. The trick can sometimes revive dead GPUs. You can read more about this process here.

Wrap Up

With proper care, a GPU can last for a very long time. If a new GPU fails, it’s likely because you have a defective unit. In that case, the warranty should cover it. You can prolong the lifespan of a GPU by improving airflow and keeping it cool. The hardware in a GPU is quite durable. While GPUs will continue working for many years, they won’t be able to keep up with modern games. For that reason, most people suggest upgrading the GPU every 3 to 4 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should a GPU last with casual use?

A GPU should last for more than 5 years with casual use.

When should I upgrade my GPU?

When it can’t keep up with the demands of games. Most GPUs become obsolete after three or four years.

Do GPUs degrade with time?

Yes. But it likely won’t affect performance.

What's the best way to keep a GPU cool?

The best way to keep a GPU cool is to improve the airflow in your case and replace the GPU’s thermal paste.

When should I upgrade my GPU?

You should upgrade your GPU when it can’t keep up with the demands of games you want to play.

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