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A Beginner’s Guide On How To Clean GPU

You’re in the middle of an intense gaming session when all of a sudden, you hear loud whirring noises coming from within your CPU and your FPS starts to wobble up and down. The sounds grow louder and it was only when you turned the PC off that things went quiet.

You open up your PC case, only to find that your graphics card has accumulated all the dust inside your room. You probably don’t even know when the last time you cleaned the GPU. Don’t fret though, as we’ll teach you how to clean GPU so you can game without any disturbance.

Why Is It Important To Keep Your GPU Clean?

Dirty Card How To Clean GPU

Keeping your graphics card clean is as important as keeping your room or house clean. PC components accumulate dust buildup from the air that goes in and out of your room. Your intake fans, the one responsible for bringing cool air into the system, will be bringing along these dust particles as they enter the PC. But not all of them will go out through the exhaust fans.

These smaller dust particles will settle on any surface they could land on, from your graphics cards to your fan’s blades to your power supply. When there’s too much dust buildup, your GPU fans, case fans, and your CPU fans will slow down eventually.

So, the biggest reason why you really want to keep your GPU clean is to make sure that your desktop computer stays in top shape. Cleaning your PC regularly will help you remove all stubborn dust particles and other debris.

What Kind of Cleaning Process Is Meant For Graphics Cards?

When you clean your graphics card, you do it one of three ways:

  • There’s the basic maintenance where you remove all the dust buildup with compressed air, a brush, and a clean and dry microfiber cloth.
  • You can do deep cleaning, which requires you to remove the graphics card and clean the GPU fans, heatsink, and more.
  • And there’s another way to do deeper cleaning, and this is for when your graphics card has been submerged in water (like it’s been flooded), and this will require some level of technical expertise

The third option is only for worst-case scenarios, but the first two options are intended to clean GPU without difficulty.

Note that the first option will have a different set of cleaning tools and the second option has other cleaning tools that you’ll need to use.

How Often Should You Clean your Graphics Card?

There’s no solid answer when it comes to how often you should be cleaning your graphics card. More often than not, it boils down to when the need actually arises.

The rule of thumb for some enthusiasts is that you should clean your graphics card every three to six months, depending on how fast it gets dirty.

How Do You Clean A Graphics Card?

As mentioned earlier, there are three ways for you to clean your graphics card. The first two options are doable, while the third one is reserved for worst-case scenarios. Unless you’re a computer technician, the third option isn’t something that you want to DIY.

Regular Cleaning

Regular Cleaning How To Clean GPU

Regular cleaning is something that you can do to keep not only your graphics card clean, but also your PC clean as well. Whether you have a simple setup or even the peskiest buildups, regular cleaning is easy to do.

You need the following items to get started:

  • A can of compressed air
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Brush

The premise of regular cleaning is simple:

  1. Power down your PC first and unplug all the cables.
  2. Completely remove the side panel so you have access to the graphics card.
  3. Get your can of compressed air and be sure that the tiny straw that comes with the can is attached to the nozzle.
  4. Aim the nozzle to the fans of the graphics card and blow away the dusts with short burts of air.
  5. Wipe the stubborn dust with the soft cloth then continue to blow in short bursts.
  6. Repeat the process until the fans are free of dust.
  7. Clean the rest of the PC surfaces with the compressed air and cloth so you’re not leaving residue from the dust that was blown off from the GPU.

Do this every three months or so to keep your graphics card periodically clean.

Deeper Cleaning

Dirty Card How To Clean GPU

Deeper cleaning is what most PC builders do if they want to fix connections to their graphic card, replace thermal paste, or if they just want to completely clean the entire thing.

For this process, you’ll need the following:

  • Q tip or cotton swabs
  • 99% pure isopropyl alcohol
  • soft bristled brush
  • compressed air

And here’s a rundown of how you can do deeper cleaning:

  1. Remove the GPU from the motherboard. Make sure there’s no cable attached to the GPU.
  2. Start by cleaning the outside surface with a can of compressed air and the soft cloth combo.
  3. Once the outside surface is free from debris and most dust, you can remove screws to take apart your GPU and access the GPU’s heatsink
  4. Use the soft brush to clean in between the heatsink’s fins. If there is more dust, try to get it with compressed air.
  5. Dip the Q tip into the alcohol. Don’t get it too wet. You just want it damp, not dripping wet.
  6. Use the alcohol-laden Q tip if there are greasy dust particles that weren’t removed by both the compressed air and the brush.
  7. If you want to replace the thermal paste, use a cotton swab with alcohol to remove the old thermal paste. Make sure that the surface is dry before you add a fresh layer of thermal paste.
  8. Make sure the graphics card is completely dry before reinstalling it into the PC.

Deeper cleaning is a daunting task, so it’s not really recommended if it’s your first time to clean a graphics card.

Tips For First Time Cleaners

If you’re going to clean your graphics card for the first time, there are several tips that you’ll need to consider.

  1. Avoid using microfiber cloths. Dry microfiber cloths tend to create static, which may damage the GPU’s internal circuitry.
  2. Use only 99% pure isopropyl alcohol. This is a potent liquid for helping you clean your GPU without damaging its parts.
  3. Don’t remove stickers if your graphics card is relatively brand new. You might void warranties.
James Stephenson

james stephenson profile picJames is a gaming and tech enthusiast. He has been playing computer games since the Commodore 64 days in the 80s. He has worked as a Broadcast Engineer with BBC News and knows a thing or two about building, fixing, and playing with PCs.