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How Does CPU Heat Affect Your Graphics Card?

written by: Ryan C.•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 9/9/2009

In this article we address the detrimental effects heat has on your computers graphics. We also cover ways of reducing your system's heat to keep things running smooth.

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    In any computer system (desktops and notebooks included), it is best to minimize the heat that your computer produces and the amount of heat within the case or enclosure. By getting rid of heat, your computer’s components will last longer and your computer can run more efficiently.

    The two main producers of heat in any system are the processor (CPU) and the graphics card (GPU). The former (CPU) computes all the necessary calculations to run the computer while the latter (GPU) runs the necessary visual tasks like watching a DVD, high-definition videos, and playing 3D games.

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    Component Lifespan

    Heat will shorten the lifespan of any electronic device. They all have optimal thermal conditions they can tolerate and have a certain temperature that should not be exceeded at any point. If this point is met, some will throttle themselves (slow down their clock speed) or shutdown before the temperature rises any further. Obviously, this can affect your graphics to different degrees. If the CPU throttles itself, you may notice a small amount of slowdown in your videos, movies, and games (decreased frame rate leads to a jerky game). If however, the CPU shuts down from the heat, your computer will crash.

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    Heat Affecting Other Components

    If the heat builds up in your case, it can start to affect everything including the graphics card, memory, hard drives, motherboard, and power supply. These are all crucial components to your system. If any of them shutdown due to the heat, you can have serious issues like a computer crash which could potentially mean a loss of unsaved data.

    The effect of heat will liekly be felt first by your graphics card. It is very heat sensitive and operates in the same way the CPU does. It has a fan that does its best to manage the internal temperature but if the heat gets to be too overwhelming it will either reset itself to the 2D clocks or shutdown. Before this happens, you may notice artifacts on your screen. These can appear to be flakes or random jagged lines on the video. This is the first sign that something is wrong. This indicates that your video card is outputting calculation errors and is not able to render the correct image.

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    Preventing Heat

    The good news is heat can be easily prevented with some relatively simple measures. Some simple ways to accomplish this is to clean out any dust in your computer (this blocks airflow and fans from spinning as fast), remove any unnecessary components contributing to heat or a blockage of airflow, and by having at least 2 case fans in your case (one for cool air intake and another exhausting warm air).