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How Long Do Graphics Cards Last?

Your gaming computer is made up of different parts, and every one of them is just as important as the other. A single malfunctioning component, or a component that’s not performing to its optimal state, can greatly affect the overall performance of your PC.

RTX 3080 How Long Do Graphics Cards Last

An ever-important component that most people end up replacing every few years or so is the graphics card. Now, in most cases, graphics cards are replaced because a newer GPU is released. However, there are instances where graphics cards are replaced because the GPU is dying.

But how do you exactly know when a GPU is dying? How long do graphics cards last?

We’ll be answering that question in this article and more.

How Long Do Graphics Cards Last?

Outside of mining and overclocking, the average GPU lifespan is somewhere around 4 to 5 years.

But if heavy usage is considered, then we’re talking about 3 to 4 years on average. Heavy usage would be something like playing modern games at max settings (at least from what your GPU is capable of) on a daily basis, or just playing games for hours regardless of graphics settings.

Can Graphics Cards Suffer from Wear and Tear?

You best better believe it. Graphics cards, and pretty much every single piece of computer component, are susceptible to wear and tear. You really can’t expect all PC hardware to last forever.

Wear and tear can occur naturally, of course, but there’s also a chance of mishandling. For instance, you’re taking your CPU out for a good run of compressed air cleaning, and you happened to press too hard on the sprayer that the GPU fans were affected.

Now, that might be exaggerated, but you understand my point. Sometimes, it takes one simple mistake to do something terrible to your gaming rig.

Can You Repair a Dead GPU?

A dead GPU, or a GPU dying, can still be repaired, but this depends on how damaged the unit is. There are numerous guides on the Internet on how to do this, and some of them are just strange.

You could visit your local computer technician and see how bad the damage is and if there’s a chance of repairing your GPU.

If you’re tight on cash to replace your GPU, then you might want to check out our best budget graphics cards for 2022.

When Do Graphics Cards Go Obsolete?

In the event that your graphics card’s wear and tear is manageable, you now have to worry about the card going obsolete. But when do graphics cards go obsolete?

A high-end graphics card could typically be relevant for about 5 years max. A good example would be the GTX 980Ti, which released in 2015. It was the king of the GPUs back then and five years later, it’s still a powerhouse graphics card that could handle the latest AAA games.

But it’s a different story for entry-level cards as the specs aren’t as close to competing to a high-end counterpart. You can check out the best high-end GPUs for this year.

Can Overclocking Reduce GPU Lifespan?

The answer is YES. Overclocking is simply pushing your GPU past its allowed limit, or beyond its normal speed. How much power it can generate depends on the kind of GPU you have.

In exchange for so much graphics power, the graphics card generates more heat than it should. This heat does not dissipate as easily even if your GPU fans and case fans are putting in the work to keep the GPU cool. With this kind of heat, you’re damaging the components of the graphics card.

That’s why it’s not really recommended to overclock your graphics card, even if it can be overclocked.

Should You Buy a GPU Used For Mining?

If you want to save money from buying a new GPU, then your first choice would be to buy a 2nd-hand unit or a refurbished unit. But in this day and age where cryptocurrency mining is huge, could something go wrong when you buy a graphics card that’s been used for mining?

I’ll answer this question with an analogy. Buying a graphics card that’s been used for mining is similar to buying used running shoes from Usain Bolt. You don’t know how damaged the unit is, but you do know that it’s been used excessively.

Cryptomining GPU How Long Do Graphics Cards Last

A graphics card that’s been used for mining may not have physical damage present, but you’ll feel the performance deteriorate over time.

The truth about buying graphics cards used for mining is that it’s not worth it, even if you are getting the latest model for a fraction of its original retail price. The card’s lifespan is questionable at this point because you don’t know how long it’s got before optimal performance goes out the window. Heck, you’re not even guaranteed that it will perform well enough.

Most graphics cards used for mining will be used for days on end without being turned off. You don’t even know the condition of the mining rig as a whole. Does it have a decent cooling system to keep the GPUs properly cooled? Does the GPU run without making weird noises?

There are just so many questions that are not worth getting the answers to.

Why Do Graphics Cards Fail?

A typical graphic card will run you a good couple of years before you feel the need to upgrade them. But it doesn’t mean that they won’t fail you in between.

Below are just some of the reasons why a graphic card will fail, or deteriorate over time:

Lack of Cool Air, or Bad Airflow

A GPU running at full load, meaning it’s being used for intensive gaming or video editing, is going to generate a lot of heat. Your GPU fan might not be enough to keep your GPU cool.

That’s why you need a case that has proper ventilation to keep not only your GPU properly cooled but also other components such as the CPU.

Overclocking

Overclocking is commonly done by people who are fond of pushing their PC to the limit. These are the people who want to squeeze out every possible FPS increase out of their GPU at the risk of heavy wear and tear, overheating issues, and so on.

Overclocking will cause high temperatures, but nothing that your GPU can’t handle. But don’t think that you’re not shortening the life span either. High temperatures can damage the GPU parts internally with each use, so you’ll need to carry out proper maintenance to make sure that your card is running in good condition at least.

Cryptomining

Much like overclocking, using your graphics card for cryptomining can shorten its limited lifespan further. If the average GPU lifespan is about 5 years, a GPU card used for mining will probably have a life span of 2 to 3 years.

A crypto miner will be ready to dump out graphics cards that have fulfilled their purpose, so while they’re cheap, don’t get tempted to buy them. They’re just not worth the hassle.

Malfunctioning Components

A poor power supply unit can damage your graphics card. When power goes out and you don’t have a surge protector, a poor power supply unit might not be able to handle the heavy load of electric current when power goes back.

As a result, other components might not work optimally, like GPU fans or the graphics card itself.

Old Thermal Paste

Thermal paste is used as a cooling adhesive applied on GPU or CPU heatsinks. They are used for transferring heat from the chipset and into the heatsink so that it will be expelled by the fan. With cool air coming in from your case, your GPU and CPU are kept at their recommended temperatures at all times.

The average lifespan of a thermal paste is about 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand. But heavy usage would cause your paste to dry up faster, and this will lead to air bubbles developing between the chip and the heatsink.

But some people just end up replacing their graphics card before they actually replace the thermal paste. If you notice that your GPU is slowing down when it’s doing intensive tasks, chances are you have a dried-up thermal paste so it can’t remove heat as effectively as it should.

GPU Fan Is Not Working Properly

Proper airflow is crucial to keep your graphic cards running in optimal condition. When your fan isn’t working properly, or if it’s just stopped, then your GPU will have overheating issues. If the GPU gets too hot, it will slow down to cool itself off before you can get more performance back.

Malware or Virus

Albeit rare, malware or virus infecting your PC can affect your graphics card just as it would affect any other component. Your GPU driver might stop functioning, so your GPU won’t run properly.

Worst case, you get a virus that rewrites your BIOS and alters your components’ firmware.

When Should You Replace Your Graphics Card?

If budget and availability of next-generation cards are not an issue, replacing your graphics card should be done every five years or so, assuming your graphics card is deteriorating within range. We say deteriorating within range as long as your old GPU is properly cooled and you’re not using your card for mining.

However, nothing’s really stopping you from upgrading your graphics card every year though.

Will The Latest Games Affect Your Decision For Upgrading or Replacing Your Graphics Card?

If you’re doing nothing but play games, or if you’re a full-time streamer, then it’s in your best interest to upgrade your graphics card when the latest AAA titles are out.

AAA titles are known to be graphically demanding, so it makes sense to upgrade your graphics card if your current one can no longer keep up with the the latest games’ minimum requirements.

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.