GPU artifacting is a defect in your GPU that causes your screen to glitch and create distorted images of whatever is on your screen. This is most likely due to overclocking, overheating, or other hardware issues, and it is also a sign that your GPU is dying.
Sometimes GPU artifacting can be temporary and go away after a few minutes, but most of the time it is permanent and means your hardware might be damaged.
When your GPU is artifacting you might experience black lines on your screen, distorted textures, screen flashes, and glitches within the display. Most people will not experience a “performance issue”, but the visual defects are enough to create annoyance and issues for most people.
What Causes GPU Artifacting?
GPU artifacting can be caused by both hardware, and software issues. We will now go through some of the most common issues for GPU artifacting.
The first and probably the most common issue of GPU artifacting is overclocking your graphics card. Now, don’t let this scare you because there are many benefits from overclocking your graphics card, but what we are talking about here is over-overclocking your GPU.
When overclocking your graphics card or any computer part you are trying to push it to its uppermost limits, and what can happen is sometimes you push it a little too far.
When this happens you will usually experience black screens or application crashes. However, sometimes you just barely pass your graphics card limits, to where it is still useable, but in reality, it’s not.
When this happens everything might seem normal, but over time you will start to experience GPU artifacting if you overclocked your GPU and are experiencing artifacting (even if it’s temporary) I suggest you lower the amount of overclocking you did on your GPU to avoid any permanent damage in the long run.
Overheating is another frequent cause of GPU artifacting. This can be caused by an inadequate cooling system, dust build-up, or an insufficient heatsink.
When your graphics card heats up you will start to experience screen tears and glitches. This is because your GPU is artifacting.
To avoid this you should clean your computer frequently. This will prevent dust build-up from overheating your PC, and make sure you have a good enough cooling system especially if you are overclocking. If your cooling system isn’t good enough I would suggest switching to liquid cooling for your GPU specifically.
3. Physical Damage
This is probably no surprise to anyone but, physical damage to your GPU can cause artifacting. A simple scratch or dent to your GPU can cause problems that will result in your GPU artifacting.
Lines, dots, and blobs on your screen are most likely what you will experience from a GPU that is physically damaged. You can also experience this when there is physical damage to your GPUs PCB, as well as the PCI-e lane in your motherboard.
PCI-e lanes can be damaged from too much stress from the graphics card. This can happen from a very heavy graphics card such as an RTX 4090. If you are experiencing GPU sag then you should consider getting that fixed because you are putting a lot of stress on your PCI-e port.
4. Power Supply Issues
Power supply issues are a big problem, especially with high-quality graphics cards. you will experience issues when the voltage of the graphics card is too much for that of the power supply.
You might experience light artifacting to complete system failure if the voltage of your system is too much for your PSU to handle.
This is why it is very important to meet the power requirements of your computer before building it.
You should check out this power chart I’ve made that way you know how much wattage each GPU uses and what kind of PSU you will need to use with your computer depending on what GPU you are using.
Power supply issues can also come in the form of a defective power supply, as well as having too much power in your power supply.
5. Driver Problems
Next, we are going to look into some software issues, starting with GPU driver problems.
If you are experiencing artifacting and it is not because of any of the issues above, then it’s most likely that your drivers are either incompatible or out of date with the games you are playing or your computer in general.
An outdated GPU driver will cause your graphics card to artifact because it’s experiencing compatibility issues with other hardware, and software in your system. black lines, dots, and squares on your screen as well as uneven textures, can be a result of driver issues producing artifacting in your GPU.
The best thing you can do in this situation is to switch your drivers and make sure they are up to date with the latest software, as your GPU company, is always updating its software to avoid any glitches and keep up with the demand of the newest game titles.
6. VRAM Issues
The next artifacting issue can be caused by VRAM issues in your GPU. If you don’t know what VRAM it is basically your graphics card version of RAM.
Still confused? Check out this article I wrote on the difference between VRAM and RAM. This will give you the knowledge and in-depth analysis of what VRAM is and how it works.
Artifacting because of VRAM issues is a little different from all the other artifacting issues. The reason why is because you will most likely experience color issues, instead of screen tears and errors. If you are experiencing a discolored screen, then it is most likely an issue in your VRAM.
VRAM artifacting is caused by an overload of information in your VRAM meaning it can’t keep up with the information at hand. To fix this issue you need to take the load off your VRAM by clearing saved game data, and other data such as graphical background processes in your game or other programs running.
Overclocking can also cause your VRAM to be overloaded, so lowering the overclock on your GPU might also solve this issue.
7. Extreme Graphics Settings
Every game has its own graphics settings that can be adjusted in the game. However, many graphics cards cannot handle the extreme graphics settings of every game (Especially the newest AAA titles.) If you are playing games at the highest graphical GPU settings, with a mid-tier GPU then chances are you will experience not only GPU artifacting, but also a lot of lag, and performance issues.
to avoid this all you need to do is turn down your graphics settings to something more reasonable, and yes I know you will lose some visual quality, but your game will perform a lot better and you won’t experience any issues.
How To Fix GPU Artifacting
Once you know that you are experiencing GPU artifacting it is time to fix it. here are a few things you can do to reduce GPU artifacting, or even get rid of it permanently.
Clean Your GPU
The first thing you can do is to clean your GPU, by getting rid of all the dust, dirt, and grime that’s probably gotten inside of your graphics card throughout the years.
What you will need to do this is a small anti-static brush and anti-static tool kit that includes a mat, or wrist strap.
As well as compressed air if you have that available. Now, you need to take your computer apart and go about cleaning your GPU. If you are doing this I would recommend cleaning the rest of your computer and checking up on the dust and dirt build-up every 6 months.
This will also increase your GPUs lifespan.
Underclock Your GPU
Underclock your GPU. Now, you don’t necessarily need to underclock your GPU, for example, if your graphics card is currently overclocked, then I would recommend lowering the overclock just a bit and running a stress test to see if you experience artifacting.
However, if your GPU is currently running at its base clock speeds, then I would recommend underclocking your GPU just a little bit to see if this will fix the issue. Of course, you can always overclock or return your PGU to base speeds if this doesn’t help, but it is always worth a try.
Check For Loose Connections
Maybe the problem is that your GPU isn’t plugged in all the way. Check to see if your GPU is plugged into your PCI-e on your motherboard all the way. To know if it’s plugged in all the way you will hear a click. For certain motherboard models, you might need to add a little elbow grease when plugging it in, don’t worry your motherboard can take some force when plugging in your graphics card unit.
You should also check the connections to your PSU to see if there are any issues there as well.
Update Your Drivers
We already discussed this at the start of the article, but make sure your drivers are up to date, outdated drivers can cause artifacting because they are not up to date with the latest software your game is running on.
be sure to check in on your GPUs driver version every couple of months because depending on what graphics card you have, you might experience frequent updates.
In some rare cases, you might actually need to roll back to an older driver version if the newest one is experiencing bugs.
Replace Thermal Paste
If one of the issues for your GPU artifacting is overheating, then one thing you should try is to replace your thermal paste.
Over time thermal paste hardens and gets old. This makes the thermal paste weak and it slows down the heat transfer from your GPU chip to the heatsink.
Having an older GPU that is running above normal temperatures, especially if you have an adequate cooling system, could be a problem with outdated thermal paste.
If you want to know how to replace your thermal paste and how often you should replace it, I have made an in-depth article on “How Often Should You Replace Your Thermal Paste?”
How To Know if Your GPU is Artifacting?
A lot of the time when people diagnose their computer with GPU artifacting, it could actually be due to poor performance, lag, or an unsynced monitor.
So it is very important to truly know whether your GPU is artifacting or not. Here are a few ways to tell if your GPU is artifacting
When your game is stuttering, it can make your screen appear to be pausing, skipping frames, or using previous frames, which makes your screen look like it is stuttering.
Screen tearing is when the pixel on your screen doesn’t line up. Imagine you have a piece of paper and you cut I straight line down the middle, and try to put it back together. The paper is torn and isn’t fully aligned.
This is what will happen to your screen.
Flickering can occur within the textures and graphics in whatever game you are playing. When the textures are flickering due to GPU artifacting, you can start to see the geometry in the textures around you. For example, If you are walking around in a game instead of seeing the flat surface you can start to see outlines of the shapes used to make that surface, such as triangles, or squares.
You might also see flickering of textures, that flash white every so often.
In conclusion, GPU artifacting can cause a range of issues for your computer, including distorted visuals, black screens, and application crashes.
The causes of GPU artifacting are many and varied, including overheating, physical damage, power supply issues, and driver problems. While temporary artifacting can be resolved by lowering overclocking or updating drivers, permanent artifacting is usually a sign of hardware damage that cannot be fixed without replacing the GPU.
Taking steps to prevent artifacting, such as cleaning your computer, using a good cooling system, and ensuring your power supply meets your computer’s needs, can help avoid hardware damage in the first place. Understanding the causes of GPU artifacting and how to prevent it can help you extend the lifespan of your GPU and keep your computer running smoothly.