How To Troubleshoot your Graphics Card

If you have been gaming for any period of time, you have probably run into issues with your graphics card. Some of you may not have even realized the computer problems you had were caused by your graphics card or its drivers. This entry provides some knowledge on common graphics card troubleshooting and repair techniques. If you can build your own computer, you probably already know most everything in this guide. To best troubleshoot graphics card issues, it is best to have a backup graphics card and power supply. If you dont have the money to buy these (and who does), what I recommend doing is purchasing them from Best Buy. When you are done testing, you can return them for a full refund if you need to with no restocking fee. Or keep them. Or sell them on Ebay. Or shoot them with a GSG-5 like we do.

Guide To Troubleshoot your Graphics Card

Step 1: Check your GPU Fan

Your graphics cards GPU (like your computers CPU) has a fan on it that keeps it cool and happy. Sometimes your fan will get congested with dust, cat or dog hair, tobacco resin (if you are a heavy smoker), spider webs, roaches, mold, and other unbelievable nastiness that I shall not delve into. The best thing to do is remove the graphics card from your computer and blow out the fan with a can of compressed air. Do not use your vacuum cleaner. Do not use your hair dryer. Do not run cold water from kitchen sink over it. Don’t urinate on it. Use compressed air or something that generates compressed air (bicycle pump). You wouldn’t believe what people will do to “clean” computer parts. I have some stories.

If your GPU fan becomes congested, it causes the GPU to overheat which can cause any of the following problems: BSODs (blue screens of death), Psychadellic Colors (think mushrooms), your entire computer to freeze, your computer to shut down, smoke and nasty smells, and most importantly — your assured loss/frag/death in whatever game you are playing. Make sure your GPU can breathe!

Step 2: Power Issues

Make sure that your graphics card is entirely seated in the mother board and that the contacts are clean. Make sure the power connectors are all securely connected as well. Now… sometimes your graphics card can experience issues if it is not supplied the proper power. A power sag or spike with your power supply can cause any of the above issues, and could also permanently damage your card. The unfortunate part here is you need a known “good” power supply to test for power supply related issues. Best Buy has these with a 14-30 day return policy 🙂 Anyway, put in the new power supply that meets Wattage requirements and try it out for a bit. If you get the same issues, it aint a power issue.

Step 3: Driver Issues

This is probably the number one cause of graphics card problems. If you have recently updated your drivers, or have had a “windows update” that magically did it for you, try rolling back your drivers to that last version that worked well (you can do this in Device Manager). Or, if you didn’t recently update your drivers, try updating your drivers to the latest version via the AMD or NVIDIA website. Bad or conflicting drivers can cause a ton of issues. Take for instance this scenario: One time I had a mainboard with an NVIDIA chipset. But I put an AMD graphics card in it. Normally this isn’t a problem, but the chipset drivers and the graphics card drivers were conflicting and causing BSODs very randomly. No drivers at all worked. I literally had to buy an NVIDIA card instead for that computer because the drivers actually played well with others. I dont want to talk about how long it took me to track that down, or how many beers were consumed during that process. Which brings me to my next point…

Step 4: Beer

If you are old enough, it is always best to have a cold beer handy while diagnosing graphics card issues, and I am pretty sure it is invaluable to the process. I tend to track down and repair the issues faster as I progress through the case. Do not throw your cans in your computer case.

Step 5: Your game

Maybe your graphics card does not like the game you are playing. Thats generally because the game maker screwed something up in a patch, or your (latest) drivers don’t work well with it. You could try tweaking your resolution settings including things like Anti-Aliasing, Antistropic Filtering, and all of that if available (or buy a new PCI video card). Google for other people have the same problem. Usually if enough people do, there is a solution. When the last patch of Team Fortress 2 came out, tons of peoples games were crashing but Valve eventually figured it out and released yet another patch. I wonder how many graphics cards got sold that week?

Step 6: Overclocking

If you have overclocked your graphics card and are having issues…. reset the card to factory settings. This goes for any tweaks you may have made to voltages in the BIOS trying to be fancy. If you overclock your graphics card and are having stability issues, hopefully you are not reading this guide. But if you are, you are a poor desperate soul. Reset your BIOS to defaults, uninstall your overclocking software and drivers, and start over like the day you just bought the graphics card, if you haven’t fried it already! Its not that I don’t like overclocking, its just most of the time unnecessary. However, certain cards due overclock well and you can actually achieve about $100 more in performance (as valued by the next highest tiered card) by doing it.

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