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Everything You Need To Know About Managing GPU Temp

You’re in the middle of an intense gaming session when your graphics are suddenly stuttering. You suddenly hear your graphics card’s fans go into overdrive as they struggle to keep your frame rates up. You run your hand at the back and sides of your computer and find out that it’s blowing a lot of hot air out.

You decide to turn off your video game and a few minutes later, everything’s going back to normal. The fans are slowing down to a gentle buzz and there’s no more stuttering. You run your hand at the back of the PC one more time and the air being expelled is no longer as hot as it was before.

What exactly did just happen, you find yourself wondering. Well, what happened there was your GPU temperature hit an all-time high. Gaming for hours in a non-airconditioned room apparently took its toll on your system, so your CPU and GPU temperatures were abnormally hotter than usual.

Turning off your game and letting the system cool off was the right thing to do, but is there something that you could do to prevent that from happening again? In this article, we’ll discuss about managing your GPU temperatures, from finding out normal ranges to preventing overheating GPUs and more.

The Big Question: How Hot Is Too Hot?

How high should GPU temperatures go before it’s considered as “TOO HOT”? We ask this question first because ideally, you want your GPU temperatures to hover around a certain range.

When you’re doing non-gaming tasks, your GPU’s temperature is within normal range because it’s not putting in a lot of work. On the other hand, when you’re gaming or doing some GPU-intensive work, then your GPU temp might go higher than normal.

So how hot is too hot? It depends on the graphics card. Ideally, you don’t want to surpass the 90-degrees Celsius (194-degrees Fahrenheit), but there are GPUs that can withstand that temperature. For example, the AMD RX Vega series of graphics cards can handle temperatures above 80-degrees Celsius (176-degrees Fahrenheit) for typical gaming.

But the modern GPUs, like the RTX 30-series and RX 6000 series normally don’t hit above 80-degrees Celsius while gaming. Note that an RTX 3060/3070/3080 with GDDR6X memory can withstand GPU temperatures as high as 110-degrees Celsius (230-degrees Fahrenheit) and still operate within spec. But anything higher than 110-degrees Celsius will throttle your graphics card’s performance. Sometimes, you’ll get throttling past the 106-degrees Celsius mark.

If you’re wondering as to whether your temperatures are within normal range, there’s something that you can do to monitor your GPU temperature.

First, download a software like GPU Temp. This is a software that helps you monitor your GPU temperature. After installing, you’ll find the app in your system stray and is updated in real time.

Sample Temperature GPU Temp

Then open a spreadsheet and log your gaming session for an hour at an interval of 15 minutes each. Record temperature, clock speeds, and other data in this spreadsheet. You can then look up the official specs of your graphics card and compare the data with the manufacturer’s official clock speeds.

If the graphic card is running at lower clock speeds than the specified clock speed, or below the listed value, then your GPU temperature went too high and started throttling. Now, at the start of a gaming session, a spike in GPU clocks isn’t abnormal, but if it drops a lot overtime, your GPU is probably overheating.  

And believe us when we say that an overheating GPU is never a good thing.

What Causes GPU Temperatures To Go Abnormally High?

Graphics cards have varied GPU temperature limit, meaning some cards are meant to withstand higher GPU temperatures and others aren’t.

But an overheating GPU is a common problem no matter what brand of graphics card you have. But what exactly causes GPU temps to spike or go abnormally high? What causes graphics card temperature to go from normal to hot like the sun?

Here are some factors that contribute to a higher than normal GPU temperature and what you should be looking out for:

Dust

One of the biggest causes of overheating GPU is dust. Heavy accumulation of dust can burden your fans and will force them to run slower than usual. As a result, the graphic card’s cooling capacity is affected.

Dust particles around your case can also accumulate naturally up to a point where the amount of dust is already affecting airflow within the case. Internal cooling is affected, so not only is your GPU temperature affected but your CPU temperatures as well.

Aerosol Dusters GPU Temp

Thankfully, this problem is easily solved with a can of compressed air or aerosol dusters. You can use a fine brush or hoover to get a lot of the dust out of the case’s fans and GPU fans. After getting rid of the main dust, it’s time to go after the finer dust particles (the ones that are lingering on the surfaces) by blowing them away with compressed air.

Once everything’s cleaned up, monitor your GPU temperature with the method above and if there are still unusual spikes, then dust wasn’t probably the reason why the GPU overheats.

Lack of Fans and Poor Airflow

Sometimes, it’s not exactly the GPU’s fault that it’s overheating. Sometimes, the lack of fans and airflow can severely affect GPU temperatures.

If you cleaned out the dust from the fans and vents and you find out that the fans are still turning very slow, then you might need to turn up the fan speed up a notch. Certain programs like MSI Afterburner can help you manage fan speed, which allows you to cool your system off properly.

If your case can accommodate more cooling fans, then you can also decide to purchase new ones. Some PC builders are going for the bigger fans, both for drawing in cool air and for expelling hot air out. The fan speeds of the larger fans are significantly higher than the smaller fans.

Poor Cable Management

If airflow is a concern, then you might want to check for cables that are unnecessarily blocking certain vents. Improper cable management, or lack of it, is another overlooked cause for GPU overheating. When cable management is not done properly, it can lead to blocking parts of the CPU that contribute to your case’s open-air cooling capacity.

Again, this can be easily remedied by simply rearranging the cables and organizing them in a way that they don’t block certain outlets. If you’re not confident about your cable management, you can ask help from technicians or you can look up a YouTube video.

Higher Ambient Temperature

Believe it or not, ambient temperature can also cause GPU temperatures to go higher than usual. People living in tropical countries often find themselves dealing with high GPU temperature more than people living in cooler climates.

Unlike the three other factors above, this is far beyond your scope of control as you simply can’t control the weather. Thankfully, you can invest in air-conditioning units or electric fans with higher fan speeds to keep the room as cool as possible. You can also open up windows to get all the hot air out.

If you have the budget, you could also invest in water-cooled AIO (all-in-one), or liquid cooling.

Replace Thermal Paste

A dried out thermal paste can also affect GPU temperatures, especially if you haven’t replaced yours yet after a couple of years.

Overclocking

Overclocking is mostly done by the more technically-inclined PC builders. Modern graphics cards have an overclocking feature and is relatively easy to do, not like before where you have to go through the BIOS to do it.

But what exactly is overclocking? Let’s paint you a picture first. Imagine having a nice car with a V8 Engine. It’s got 500 HP, but even after you floor the pedal, you’re wondering why you’re not getting the power that you deserve.

Come to find out that the original owner of the car decided to place a wooden block under the accelerator. The car is fast and powerful, so why didn’t the original owner want you to experience both?

Once you remove the block, you’re now able to experience the car’s full potential.

Going back to your GPU, removing the wooden block from the accelerator is the equivalent of overclocking. You see, CPU and GPU chips are shipped out at a “stock” state, meaning their clock speed, memory speed, and core speed have functional ranges. If your GPU was the car in the story above, a stock state means that the car you bought has a wooden block behind its accelerator.

Now there’s nothing wrong being done here by graphics card manufacturers. They just want to make sure that you actually know what you’re doing if you do decide to remove this wooden block.

When a GPU is overclocked, you’re increasing its clock speed, core speed, and memory speed. You’re giving it more power but you’re also making it work harder. When you overclock the GPU, you should also overclock the CPU.

But why would you want to overclock both computer hardware? Well, you probably want more power for rendering or gaming. You get higher FPS and better graphics, but at a cost.

Hardware temps for both CPU and GPU will go far above what they’re supposed to be operating at, so overclocking should be done with care. You also run the risk of crashing your GPU. When that happens, just reboot the system. Modern overclocking software will never allow both GPU and CPU to operate at damaging levels.

What’s The Optimal or Normal GPU Temperature?

When it comes to gaming, your graphic card is doing more than usual. So what’s a safe GPU temperature when you’re gaming?

It depends on the manufacturer, but ideally you shouldn’t be hitting higher than 85-degrees Celsius (185-degrees Fahrenheit), even if some GPUs are meant to withstand higher temsp.

Modern AMD GPUs and Nvidia GPUs can handle GPU temperatures above 90-degrees but it shouldn’t mean you should constantly hit that. If your fans are working as they should and with proper airflow and ventilation, your current GPU temperature should be within an acceptable range.

Tips To Help You Lower Your GPU Temperature

GPU temp can go up and down, depending on your usage. If you’re gaming and you constantly find yourself dealing with higher GPU temperature, then these tips should help you go back to an optimal GPU temperature.

Clean your Graphics Card, Case, and Fans

As we mentioned earlier, dust can cause GPU temps to increase unnecessarily. That’s because fans are burdened by the amount of dust around them, not to mention that thick slabs of dust can block vents and thereby reducing airflow.

Every couple of months, take your PC out on a dry area and clean the fans, graphics card, and the vents with a brush and canned air. Not only are you keeping your GPU temperature within an optimal limit, but you’re also doing your CPU a favor. CPU temperature on a dust-free PC should be as low as the GPU (when gaming and not gaming).

Increase Airflow to your PC

Keeping dust out of your PC is a surefire way of increasing airflow, but another way to increase airflow is to make sure that the vents are free from debris and other hindrances.

Cables can often block exhaust ports when cable management is done wrong, so be sure to check if your cables are kept together properly.

Make Sure That All Fans Are Running Properly

When all fans are running as they should, you should be able to reach optimal GPU temperature for gaming and non-gaming tasks.

But remember that just because your fans are on doesn’t mean they’re running properly. Your fan speed might be running slower than usual, so it’s not able to keep the internal components as cool as it should.

Download a hardware monitoring software for fan speed if you feel like your fans are not working properly. If you’re manually turning up the fan speeds and don’t feel like they’ve changed that much, maybe your fans are the problem and will need to be replaced.

Keep Ambient Temperature As Low As Possible

We can’t control the weather, so ambient temperature limit is going to be a constant battle. If you live in a tropical country, your PC might be hotter than usual especially during the summer.

Investing in an electric fan, air-conditioning unit, or a water-cooled AIO should be within your best interest as these can help you lower GPU temperature while compensating for the hot climate.

Wrapping It Up!

There you have it. You now know how to make sure that your current GPU temperature is within its optimal level. Higher temps would throttle performance on a GPU, so you’re not getting the most out of the unit while it’s cooling down.

You also want to avoid going above your GPU’s temperature limit or maximum temperature tolerance because you’ll end up damaging it and thereby shortening its lifespan.

We’ve already provided you with different cooling solutions in this article, but if you feel that your GPU’s temperature are still higher than they should even after doing all of the troubleshooting, there might be something wrong with the GPU.

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.