Modern-day graphics cards are generally the biggest contributor to a computer’s overall power draw. Especially on a gaming PC, where such high electrical energy usage translates to better visual fidelity and higher frame rates at high resolutions. However, this much energy also draws a lot of heat, and at times the temperature levels get to a point where it is no longer considered optimal. So, what GPU temp is too high?
For most desktop GPUs today, anything above 85 degrees Celsius is already considered significantly high, creeping very close to the GPU’s TJ max. In other words, at that temperature, the graphics card is already nearing the point where it has to slow itself down before it fries the entire circuit board.
Is it dangerous to keep it at such temperatures then? What can users to do reduce GPU temperatures? And is there a difference between laptop GPU and desktop GPU temps? Answers to all of that and more are below.
What is the Average GPU Temp While Gaming?
The average GPU temperature during gaming is about 70 degrees Celsius, or somewhere between 50 degrees to 80 degrees Celsius. This wide delta is due to the very high variations between titles. For example, how graphically intensive the game is, what resolution or frame rate is being targeted, and the ambient temperature of the room (or PC case).
A typical dual-fan Geforce RTX 3060 with a modest heatsink would most likely max out at 75-80 degrees Celsius during intensive gameplay without modifications. The same RTX 3060, but with a model that has a beefier heatsink and triple-fan configuration will only max out at 65-70 degrees within the same ambient temperature.
Of course, lesser intensive titles, such as older games, or games that are not designed to be graphically complex like 2D side scrollers, will lower these temperatures even further. That being said, unless the game is very simple to run, or the graphics card is significantly overkilled, you will still see around at the very least ten or so degrees temperature difference compared to idle temperatures.
What GPU Temperature is Too High While Gaming?
Gaming temperatures generally become too high (or are considered too high) past 85 to 90 degrees Celsius. This is about 10 to 15 degrees near the GPU’s designated TJ max value, a standard value of 100 degrees Celsius. Beyond this temperature level, thermal throttling could potentially occur, where the hardware attempts to lower its performance in exchange for stabilizing its temperature levels back to an acceptable range.
In principle, however, most PC enthusiasts consider anything more than 80 degrees Celsius to be a bit too uncomfortable as a gaming temperature. In fact, the optimal maximum target is 75 degrees Celsius. This is the widely accepted ceiling value where neither thermal throttling nor gradual physical degradation is an issue while gaming throughout the GPU’s entire lifetime.
What GPU Temp is Too High for Laptop?
For gaming laptops, temperature values are a bit more lenient, with the safe limit going past 95 degrees Celsius before being considered “too high”. The optimal operation range is then adjusted to 80 to 85 degrees Celsius during intensive GPU use.
The reasoning for this is simple: laptops are in a thinner, smaller form factor, and therefore the hardware is built by default to withstand higher temperatures (that it cannot realistically lower down further). Unlike desktop systems which have bigger spaces and more room for airflow and temperature regulating components.
Again in principle, most users would like to lower the values by a notch, and get down to at least near 85 degrees Celsius during intensive gaming. If that’s not possible, at least anything significantly below 90 degrees Celsius.
As to whether the advertised temperatures are actually safe, they should allow the laptop to still last a good portion of its entire lifetime. Provided that the system is always given enough room to vent air (regular dust cleaning, wide open space on all exhaust ports), and it doesn’t operate at such temperatures 24/7.
How to Check and Monitor GPU Temps?
Before even knowing what temp values mean for GPU, users must first learn how to read exact GPU temps. We recommend the following software:
- GPU-Z – classic GPU analysis program that would list the complete details of your GPU model, as well as actively monitor its temperatures live. It can also provide a bunch of other useful information such as power draw, voltage levels, and performance ceiling analyses, among others.
- HWiNFO64 – an app that monitors the entire PC system, not just GPU. It provides a detailed information list or visual graph, depending on whether you launch it in Sensor mode or Summary mode.
- Piriform Speccy – similar to HWinFO64 in that it is a whole system monitor, but with a simpler layout, separating each detailed analysis within their respective component submenus.
- MSI Afterburner – the most popular GPU tweaking tool that can also provide numbers and graphs related to GPU performance. More information on this software later.
- Rivatuner Statistics – partner software of MSI Afterburner. Provides an information overlay on the games you play, where GPU temperature, among other monitoring statistics, are shown in real-time.
Is 80 Degrees Celsius Hot for a GPU?
Again, while 80 degrees Celsius may feel uncomfortable to certain users, the value is still mostly on spec, and is not considered “hot” by the manufacturer’s operation standards. It is still quite far from most TJ max values, especially for a GPU, and should sustain the hardware’s performance without causing any potential damage or thermal throttling issues.
In particular, for laptops with discrete GPUs, 80 degrees is actually somewhat efficient for a temp value under load. After all, typical temperatures go well beyond 80 degrees when laptops do max out in usage.
If in case other things might be affected by this temperature, such as the ambient heat on your table, then consider widening the contact area of the airflow ports to affected objects. Or, if you are physically uncomfortable yourself, consider moving the laptop away and use separate input devices instead.
Is 90 Degrees Celsius Hot for a GPU?
For desktops, 90 degrees already comes very near the TJ max of most GPUs, so it is considered hot. Under such values, thermal throttling becomes significantly more likely, and thus your PC’s sustained performance after that becomes crippled overall.
When used at such temperature for very long extended hours, it is even possible that the GPU may be permanently damaged. Some components may just fail because they weren’t designed for such use. Or worse, a component well beyond the temp sensor area could have much higher temp values, rapidly degrading without the owner’s knowledge.
While 90 degrees is still somewhat acceptable for laptops under typical gaming loads, it is recommended that users should still try to lower it down by a few degrees (and not keep the level this way for long hours). Somewhere around 87 to 88 degrees Celsius could go a long way in keeping the performance stability and physical integrity of the system.
How to Know if Your GPU is Overheating?
You can easily detect abnormal GPU temperatures by looking at idle temperature readings. The expected values should be no more different than five to ten degrees above ambient temperature (usually lower than 50 degrees Celsius). If it is beyond that, consider the possibility that your cooling solutions are not working as they should.
You can also check the temperatures under load. But as we stated earlier, the difference margin can be very huge. This will only be practically useful if you already had been regularly monitoring your GPU temps prior to the abnormal overheating incident.
For example, if the aforementioned dual-fan, modest cooler RTX 3060 suddenly shows temps above 85 degrees (without any other changes to the system before. Or if your previously smooth game experience drops down and starts stuttering without warning. It is then safe to conclude that the GPU is indeed overheating.
Also, if the desktop GPU shows values near 95 degree Celsius under load by default, then it is most likely overheating.
What Causes Abnormally High GPU Temps?
Now that you know what GPU temp is too high, it would be good to know what causes its high temperatures at all. It could be one of these factors, or a combination of any of them:
- High drawn power – if the GPU draws power that is beyond the standard heat dissipation capability of its cooling solution, then it will start overheating abnormally. Basic models of certain GPUs, for example, are not designed for overclocking with increased power limits. If you attempt to make such modifications, its operation might crash, though permanent damage is quite unlikely (thermal throttling kicks in first).
- Bad cooling solution – overheating can also occur when the cooler is not sufficient enough for the performance level provided by the graphics chip on the motherboard. For example, the Biostar Gaming RX 6600 XT has a very poorly designed, and thinly-made aluminum heatsink that is not suitable for cooling the RX 6600 XT GPU chip and its memory components.
- Unoptimized case/chassis airflow – if the case/chassis does not provide good enough airflow, then heat simply accumulates, and is never dissipated properly. For desktops, the airflow direction or strength may be out of place. For laptops, there might be something that’s obstructing the airflow from its sides/underside.
How to Prevent GPU Overheating?
Apart from choosing a well-designed GPU or laptop, there are three more ways to effectively prevent GPU overheating:
- Configure a uniform direction airflow for your desktop. The PC case should direct air from one side to the other to both introduce cool air into the system, and vent out hot air. Airflow intensity is important as well. You generally want to push more cool air inside to create positive air pressure, and seal the smaller crevices from additional dust buildup.
- Clean your PC regularly. You don’t have to dismantle the system and wipe all the components clean (not even practical for laptops anyway). Just get a good, compressed-air can, and push dust away from all important surfaces and layers to prevent dust bunnies from creating airflow blockages. Electric blowers work too, but be careful with intensity settings as they might blow components from the PC’s circuit boards.
- Lower the ambient temperature as much as possible. You can also “cheat” by putting the PC or laptop inside a room that is already cool by default, an air-conditioned room, for example.
How to Lower GPU Temperature?
If in case the overheating issue is already there, or you simply want to dial down the temperature settings further, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Put an FPS cap on your game. Go to the settings of your chosen game, and see if there are frame limit settings. Put a considerable FPS cap by enabling it, and keeping the settings. If set low enough, you should see a good amount of energy reduced from the GPU, thus lower the overall temperature.
- Lower in-game resolution. You can also achieve the same effect by playing at lower resolutions. If you play regularly at 1440p, consider going down to 1080p. Energy reduction is less efficient this way compared to FPS caps, but the result is the same: slightly lowered temperatures.
- Adjust fan speed at a higher rate. You can use tweaking software like MSI Afterburner to adjust the percentage of rotation that the fans do during use. Go to the settings menu of your respective fan curve adjustment software, then place your preferred fan percentage and temperature values on the correct points on the graph.
- Undervolt the GPU. This means deliberately lowering the voltage values to reduce the power drawn, thus increasing the watt-per-performance efficiency of the hardware. With a good undervolt tweak, you can decrease temps by as much as five or ten degrees with negligible effects on performance. PCWorld provides this basic guide to GPU undervolting using MSI Afterburner.
Can Overclocking Damage GPU?
Basic overclocking WITHOUT changing any power settings will not damage the GPU in any way. This is because you are simply maximizing the performance output of the chip based on the power delivery already configured by default. You do get somewhat of a temperature increase, but it should never go more than five degrees if the power limits are not changed.
If you ever experience crashes or instabilities during basic overclocking, don’t worry. Simply dial down your tunings a little bit until these issues disappear. Those software interruptions are precisely the way the GPU protects itself from damage.
As for overclocking with increased power limits, the potential to damage the GPU does exist. However, much like basic overclocking, all it takes is a crash, instability, reboot, or brief thermal throttling to protect the system and show that the setting is not safe. So long as you do not forcefully push the GPU to run with already known/deemed unsafe configurations, then the risk of damage should stay low.