GPU artifacting can occur for several reasons, but it’s one of the leading signs that your GPU is beginning to fail. GPU artifacting has several associated signs, including annoying visual artifacts such as static, discolored pixels, or video signal loss on your laptop or external monitor.
Experiencing a GPU artifacting is most noticeable when you play intensive games or edit videos. Suppose you’ve ever noticed that your GPU is experiencing strange visual glitches. In that case, we recommend reading through our article to discover the specifics of GPU artifacting, why it happens, and how to fix it!
What is GPU Artifacting?
Simply put, a GPU artifact is a visual glitch or distortion occurring when your GPU malfunctions. This can manifest in several ways, but most often as a series of miscolored pixels, screen flashes, or distorted images on your laptop’s monitor.
GPU Artifacting isn’t easy to notice and can often be barely noticeable when you play a game or watch a video. However, as your GPU becomes more overworked, these visual artifact glitches can lead to static, blocky images, and even cause your screen to flicker to turn off your monitor.
GPU artifacting is highly disruptive and can be caused by an extensive range of issues from your GPU that can be difficult to pin down.
Why is your GPU Artifacting?
GPU artifacting is primarily caused by your GPU overheating, malfunctioning, or combining both. There are several ways your GPU can reach the point where it begins to overheat and malfunction enough to produce strange visual glitches. We’re going to cover the most common reasons why your GPU may be experiencing GPU artifacting:
Strain from Overclocking
Many people with high-end graphics cards are tempted to overclock them to get the most out of their GPU.
Suppose you overclock your GPU to a clock speed that produces high temperatures or serially run a graphics-heavy game at the highest graphics settings. In that case, your computer screen can experience GPU artifacting.
When your graphics card and graphics drivers are overworked from overclocking, they have to compensate and cause produces visible artifacts to keep up.
Graphics card drivers are the most common causes of GPU artifacting. An incompatibility between your graphics card and graphics driver can lead to several GPU artifacts like lines, squares, or flickering when you use your GPU driver.
If you are experiencing GPU artifacting after updating your drivers, revert to the version you had before. Newer drivers can often come with glitches that need to be updated.
VRAM may not be a term you’ve heard before, but the premise is relatively simple. VRAM stands for video random access memory, temporarily storing the image data from your computer display.
As you can imagine, a malfunctioning VRAM causes GPU artifacting, especially when paired with graphics-intensive applications. The telltale signs of your VRAM causing issues are distorted images and slight or significant color shifts where they’re not supposed to be.
Deleting unnecessary files is a reliable way of reducing the load on your VRAM, such as saving files in-game.
Power Supply Issues
Have you noticed issues with your battery alongside the GPU artifacting, such as your battery increasing slowly when charged? If you do, then the reason for your GPU artifacts may be the power supply.
Power supply issues are dangerous and can affect your GPU drivers and cause your computer to crash. When your power supply is too low for your GPU, you can experience GPU artifacts.
This can occur when you’ve just upgraded your GPU but have yet to check whether your GPU requires more or less power.
In either case, a misfitted power supply unit is a dominant cause of the not-so-harmless flickering pixels on your screen, so double-check your computer’s power cord.
Physical Damage to your PC
Plain old physical damage is another reason your graphics cards could render images incorrectly. While a bump, scratch, or knock likely won’t cause hardware issues to your GPU, more extreme physical damage can do so.
Damage to your screen is undoubtedly more common than GPU damage and can lead to strange artifacts appearing on your screen. Always take care when using your laptop and its screen that there aren’t any hazards nearby like unattended drinks, loose objects, or a shaky foundation.
Some physical damage is more straightforward to repair than others, but if you’re experiencing GPU artifacts, you can never strike out damage and hardware failure as an option.
Strain from Overheating
When a GPU overheats, it’s not uncommon for it to exhibit artifacts when you play games or watch videos. GPU overheating can happen for several reasons, such as overclocking, debris, or malfunctioning cooling fans.
A broken cooling system is usually the first culprit if you clean your device regularly, so ensuring that your cooling system is not leaking, broken, or damaged in any way would be a priority.
Proper cooling for your GPU is significant to stop and fix GPU artifacting, and you can usually tell when something is wrong when your GPU fan begins to be loud for long periods.
Here’s how you fix GPU Artifacting
Once you’ve identified the issue causing GPU artifacting, it’s best to either hand the device off to a professional to fix the problem or repair it yourself. Once you have, the graphics card will not produce artifacts if it is still functional.
If you’re still not sure what’s causing your issues and want to fix GPU artifacts, then we’ve listed a thorough procedure of ways in which you’ll be able to either find the cause of your GPU artifacting or fix it.
Whether you’re on Windows or Mac, these will work, although the steps we’ve illustrated are intended for Windows laptops. Let’s dive right into it:
Start by Stress Testing
You can test if your computer is overheating by conducting a stress test. Stress tests are a great way to know for sure if your computer is overheating or not. If you’re an avid overclocker, you may already be familiar with testing the temperature of your GPU using programs like MSI Afterburner.
You can use various stress testing tools, including Furmark, Unigine, and Paessler (these are all free options).
Update the Drivers
While a newly updated driver could cause GPU artifacts, not updating your drivers can lead to the same problem. If it’s the latter, see if your drivers need to be updated and do so accordingly.
It’s great to check for new driver software when you download a new game or to see if Nvidia or whoever your graphics card comes from has updated their latest drivers.
Although we stress that specific updates can temporarily affect your GPU, if an update for your driver or GPU is experiencing issues, we recommend that you see if there is any talk online about it being broken.
Stop Overclocking Your PC
An overclocked GPU is a prominent cause of artifacts, especially when paired with an improper cooling system. While you don’t have to stop overclocking your PC entirely, we recommend you only overclock it as much as the hardware can handle.
To put it, stop overclocking your PC to the point where it produces visual artifacts, or stop completely if it doesn’t. The performance you gain from overclocking your computer will undoubtedly be a worse overall experience if you are also experiencing visual glitches and artifacts.
GPU overclocking is beneficial, and we highly recommend using MSI Afterburner to check on your computer’s display adapters.
Replace your Thermal Paste
Switching your thermal paste for a new thermal paste is an essential part of keeping your cooling system up and running. We don’t blame you for forgetting, though, as it happens to the best of us.
Over time, the thermal paste can harden and reduce its efficacy in regulating the temperature of your laptop’s GPU. Replacing your thermal paste is an easy and quick solution to reduce the chance of your GPU overheating and causing GPU artifacts.
Clear Out Dust In Your Laptop
Another easy-to-complete fix for your laptop’s GPU is to clear out any dust or debris that may have been collected since the last time it was cleaned.
Dust is a notorious GPU killer if left unchecked, so regularly cleaning your laptop is vital to stop your computer from creating strange patterns as you play.
We recommend getting a can of compressed air from your local Best Buy and then using it with a cloth to clear out as much dust and debris from your computer as possible! There are plenty of ways your computer can show signs of dust accumulation.
Check Out Your VRAM
As we’ve said before, VRAM is your computer’s video memory storage to fetch images quickly and easily. Like your RAM, your VRAM can get packed, especially when you play an intensive game.
The easiest way to reduce the chance of your computer crashing or artifacting is to delete unnecessary files on your VRAM that you don’t use anymore, such as your old save files. This will clear up your VRAM storage – turn your laptop on and off and see if the artifacting GPU still gives you issues.
Reduce Your PC’s Temperature
Regardless of what your stress test has indicated, reducing your PC’s temperature is an excellent way to ensure that your GPU does not create artifacts while playing games.
Alternatively, you can always use a more efficient cooling system to cool your laptop and reduce the chances of a GPU temperature spike. A laptop cooling pad is often the most simple and cost-effective option and will do the job for most mid-range laptops.
Frequently Asked Questions
GPU artifacts are one of the most annoying occurrences you can experience while gaming or watching a video, so understanding GPU artifacts and how to fix them is vital to returning to normal. We’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions about GPU artifacts and answered them with our experiences.
Can RAM Cause Artifacting?
Faulty RAM and hardware issues like a broken graphics card can contribute significantly to a GPU’s artifacting. Your computer system may be overloaded with applications that lead to your RAM being filled quickly or other elements that produce minor artifacts.
While clearing out your VRAM and RAM may be easy, dealing with a broken or non-functioning graphics card is a lot more complex and can be expensive to fix.
What does a damaged GPU look like?
A GPU struggling or dying due to damage and wear and tear will often exhibit artifacting as a result. All the symptoms we’ve mentioned, like screen flickering, streaks and lines, and discolored images, are signs that your GPU may be damaged.
The good news is that it may not be why your monitor shows these same signs. We recommend you go through our list of steps to fix your GPU artifacting before concluding that your GPU is damaged.
How long do GPUs last?
The longevity of a GPU significantly depends on its build quality, the brand that made it, and the type of graphics card. If well taken care of, a graphics card can last around 10 years, but in most cases, a GPU will offer quality performance for about 5 – 10 years.
As your GPU ages, however, it will begin to exhibit signs of wear and tear – including signs of GPU artifacting once its performance begins to decline.
Whether it’s due to a faulty graphics card, a malfunctioning heat sink, or another reason, a GPU artifact is a very annoying thing to deal with. Thankfully, there are plenty of options to fix your GPU with several of the suggestions we mentioned above.
Writer Graham Grieve brings two decades of technical communications experience to The Holy Tech coverage. Isaac contributes articles on laptops, tablets and PCs, alongside various software and hardware guides. Isaac is a former newspaper journalist who also worked in tech communications for some of the country’s biggest corporations. He also counsels and creates material for other technology publications and hosts a podcast.
Isaac’s in-depth reporting and knowledge of hardware and software issues helps The Holy Tech’s readers learn how to choose the right products, or solve tricky problems.