Gaming PCs, particularly those that run on the most cheap or stock cooling solutions tend to whine and blow out air that can heat a typical room. It’s mostly the GPUs or graphics cards that demonstrate this since those components on average run from 70 to 80+ degrees Celsius during operation; this often leads to worries or sentiments on whether running a video game can destroy your GPU or not.
The short answer is that they usually can’t. Because if they could, that would be a huge manufacturing oversight and a mass lawsuit waiting to happen directed on either the game’s creators or the GPU manufacturer. And throughout the history of computers, there were only a handful of rare or isolated cases when a video game has specifically contributed to the death of a GPU.
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Besides, it’s usually heat or an electrical short that can destroy your GPU in such a short span of time. Video games can cause heat but there are failsafes and software restrictions put in place to stop software from causing hardware damage and it has been effective thus far for computers. That is until recently for fans of the yet-to-be-released Diablo 4.
Diablo 4 Sent GPUs to Hell
Blizzard Entertainment’s legendary intellectual property sequel hasn’t been out yet but it underwent a brief open beta phase from March 24th to 26th. And during that period, there were several reports of Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti users who claimed that their computer suddenly died or shut off while playing a particular cutscene in the game.
It happened to different configurations but the common denominator was the RTX 3080 Ti. Now it wasn’t clear whether it’s Diablo 4 or RTX 3080 Ti that was to blame here, but the same users whose RTX 3080 Ti models died also claimed that there were no issues prior from other games.
Some RTX 3080 Ti owners were lucky and claimed that Diablo 4 only caused crashing and not the outright death of their GPU. There’s also one important factor to consider in the user reports, the OEM or third-party manufacturer for the affected RTX 3080 Ti are all from Gigabyte.
So far, it seems only one brand of RTX 3080 Ti models (Gigabyte) is affected though it was enough to cause paranoia from RTX 3080 Ti owners. The more rational speculation is that there was already an underlying issue with Gigabyte RTX 3080 Ti cards, and that Diablo 4 merely spotlighter or triggered those manufacturing oversights; although, it’s still hard to draw conclusions with all the variables present in computer diagnostics.
Both Blizzard and NVIDIA are currently investigating the issue.
Diablo 4 Wasn’t the Only One
It’s worth noting that this has happened before and rather recently. An MMORPG like New World has been involved in similar reports back in 2021 though it involves higher-end cards such as the RTX 3090, particularly the ones from manufacturer EVGA. The brand did reveal that around two dozen users filed for a return and that they discovered that what destroyed the GPUs in question was not the game, but the poor workmanship in the particular batch as was unveiled in the X-ray analysis.
Meanwhile, Amazon was quick in applying a patch despite EVGA taking the blame. It was a rather simple safety measure or preemptive solution; a framerate limiter.
Because it stands within reason that an uncapped framerate would use up the GPU to its full extent and sustaining this much heat and power in an electronic for prolonged periods through faulty software failsafes is a recipe for disaster. This leads us to think up our own preemptive safety measures so that you or a video game doesn’t destroy your GPU inadvertently or not.
How to Not Destroy Your GPU
While we’re still adamant that software is not the leading cause of premature GPU failure and that it is typically only the canary in the coal mine (or the indicator of failure), you can’t be too careful. After all, the GPU is more or less the most expensive part of a gaming PC.
In an ideal world, you wouldn’t really need such manual and user-side safety measures given how much faith and money you’ve committed to such brands or manufacturers. But we’re far from an ideal world; and it’s not really worth the hassle to undergo an RMA process for a bricked GPU. So here are some preventive tips on how to not destroy your GPU when there’s a video game involved.
Limit the Framerate
Amazon’s solution for New World was a good example. It’s simple, and almost everyone can do it. If you’re playing a video game with a framerate limiter or cap, simply activate it if it wasn’t already. You can often find this toggle under the in-game Settings menu, in the Graphics or Visuals section.
If it’s not available, then capping the framerate might get a little complicated. You’ll have to go through the GPU driver UI and force the cap.
In NVIDIA you can find this limiter unde the Manage 3D Settings tab; look for Max Framerate and set the number. It’s usually good to stay under or at your monitor’s refresh rate so if your monitor runs on 144Hz, set the max framerate to 144 or lower. You can set it even lower (maybe half) to save up power or lower your GPUs operational heat output.
In AMD, simply go to the Gaming section in the AMD Adrenaline software, pick the game, and look for the Radeon Chill section to set the minimum and maximum FPS. Again, set it at or under the monitor’s refresh rate.
This way, your GPU won’t strain itself too much with excess performance that may be going to waste depending on your monitor’s refresh rate. Also, do note that if you already have Vsync enabled in the in-game settings, there’s a big chance the framerate is already capped because that’s one of the things it does.
Download & Use MSI Afterburner To Set Your Own Fan Curves
The GPU you bought already has its own manufacturer-made software that controls its fan and overclocking profiles (when to start or increase fan speed, etc.) in conjunction with the GPU’s drivers (NVIDIA or AMD). However, it’s still best not to rely on their failsafe too much because these brands and the software they develop aren’t infallible.
For a better control of fan curves and how the GPU handles overclocking and other activities that affect its performance and stability, MSI Afterburner can be more reliable.
Simply download the application on this website, install it, and then you can set the fan curve by clicking on the settings icon. Here’s an image for reference:
Your MSI Afterburner might come with a different skin, but the settings icon and button remain the same. Just look for it and head over to the Fan tab. There, you can set when your fan speed will increase based on the temperature though you can just pick ‘default’ or ‘automatic’ if you find it cumbersome or confusing; this will set the fan operation to the same one as the manufacturer default.
Ensure That Your GPU and PC Are Well-ventilated
Last but not least, don’t forget to clean your computer and keep it well-ventilated. Blowing out the dust and keeping the fans free of obstructions can ensure that your PC and in turn, the GPU can get all the cool air they need.
You might also want to look at more aggressive or robust aftermarket cooling solutions, such as stronger or bigger fans assuming your PC case can accommodate the additional cooling hardware. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t mind spending. A cooler and quieter gaming PC is a good quality-of-life upgrade, after all.
With all these safety measures in place, you can rest assured that it won’t be the game that will destroy your GPU.