What Is GPU Throttling And How To Fix It

GPU Throttling is a safety mechanism used by the computer to protect your system from high temperatures. This is the biggest nightmare for gamers because in such a situation your game performance(FPS) drops quickly and you will observe lagging and the system may hang a lot.

This leads to a poor gaming experience because you cannot enjoy the game in high quality with a good FPS. You’ll know in the back of your mind that you cannot game for a long time.

But, you can fix this problem of GPU Throttling. Before you do that, you have to understand what is GPU throttling and what are its causes.

In this article, I’ll explain everything related to GPU Throttling and share some tips to fix this problem.

What Is GPU Throttling

GPU Throttling is a safety mechanism in which the performance of the GPU is reduced during high temperatures. This is done in order to protect the system from overheating, Artifacting, and internal damage.

The performance of the GPU remains like that until the temperature decreases to a safe working temperature for the GPU.

This mechanism can spoil your gaming experience because you suddenly see a drop in FPS and the game starts to lag. You have to wait till the temperature cools down to see an increase in FPS.

Just like GPU, the CPU can also throttle during high temperatures. This is called Thermal Throttling of CPU.

How Does GPU Throttling Happen

When you play a high graphics game or run heavy 3D rendering software like Autodesk Maya, the GPU is put under a lot of pressure as it has to perform at its maximum capacity.

When the GPU runs at that level, it consumes a lot of power and generates a lot of heat. If your cooling system isn’t good enough then it cannot remove this excess heat.

This heat slowly increases the temperature of the GPU and when the temperature levels exceed the critical threshold point beyond which the GPU cannot endure then the performance of the GPU is suddenly dropped.

This drop in performance reduces its power consumption and reduces heat generation. This leads to a fall in temperature and once it reaches the normal safe working temperature then the performance of the GPU increases again.

The process goes on repeating itself. You get a phase when the GPU performance is excellent and then you get another phase when the GPU performance is very low due to high temperatures. This process is known as GPU Throttling or Thermal Throttling of GPU.

The main reason for this being the inadequacy of the cooling system to remove the excess heat.

Optimum and Maximum Temperature For GPU Operation

Every electronic component has a maximum temperature it can withstand and an optimum temperature where it performs at its peak.

The maximum operating temperature for most GPUs is around 85 degrees Celsius to 90 degrees Celsius. The optimum temperature for most GPUs is around 65 degrees Celsius to 80 degrees Celsius.

This is not the same for all GPUs. You can check the Optimum GPU temperatures while gaming table to find out the maximum temperature your specific NVIDIA or AMD GPU model can endure without throttling.

If the temperature rises above this maximum temperature then the internal components get damaged. If your GPU constantly performs at high temperatures then it causes system instability and there is a high risk of damage to the internal circuitry.

This means that operating your GPU at such high temperatures will reduce the overall lifespan of your GPU and it won’t last for more than one or two years.

How To Check GPU Throttling

You can check if your GPU is throttling by monitoring the temperatures of your GPU under heavy usage. There are Utility Softwares available that show you the current temperatures and clock speeds of both the GPU and the CPU.

All you have to do is check the temperatures of the GPU while gaming and compare it with the maximum temperature your GPU can endure.

Here is a list of utility software that you can download to monitor GPU Throttling.

MSI AfterBurner

msi afterburner

The MSI Afterburner is one of the best utility software to monitor the temperature levels and clock speeds of the GPU as well as the CPU. This software also gives you a reading of the operating voltage and the Fan speeds of the CPU and GPU.

The Afterburner provides you a graph of the GPU/CPU Temperatures and the Core clock speeds which you can monitor to find out if your GPU is actually Throttling.

There is a GPU temperature limit that you can set to reduce any risk of damage if the temperature rises above that level.

You can also use this utility software for Overclocking the CPU and GPU. Apart from this you can also Overvolt, Underclock as well as Undervolt your GPU using this software.

AIDA64 Extreme

aida64 extreme utility software

AIDA64 Extreme is a hardware detection engine that provides benchmarks for detecting the GPU and CPU temperatures as well as the clock speeds.

This software offers certain diagnostic functions to check if your GPU/CPU is throttling. You can also perform stress tests inside this software to check for GPU/CPU throttling.

The AIDA64 Extreme also provides support for Overclocking the GPU/CPU.

GPU-Z

gpu-z utility software

The GPU-Z is another utility software that provides vital information about your GPU and helps you to check for GPU Throttling.

GPU-Z provides information about GPU Temperatures, Core Clock Speeds, Memory Clock Speeds, Fan Speeds, and Memory Usage.

You can check the temperature values while gaming and compare them with the maximum operating temperature of your GPU to find out if your GPU is throttling or not.

How To Fix GPU Throttling

There are certain methods to fix GPU Throttling that will increase the performance as well as the overall lifespan of your GPU.

Applying Thermal Paste

The heat pipes of the thermal cooling system do not fully close the gap between the heat source(GPU) and the heat sink(Cooling System). This leads to a small gap between the heat source and the heat sink which is filled by Air.

This Air Gap between the GPU and the Thermal Cooling System reduces thermal conductivity because Air is a bad conductor of heat. This prevents the thermal cooling system to get rid of the excess heat and cool down the GPU properly.

Applying a Thermal paste doesn’t allow Air to get into the gap. This leads to better thermal conductivity and allows the thermal cooling system to remove the excess heat and cool the GPU down when it gets very hot.

Here is a list of some of the best thermal pastes in the industry.

(a) Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste.

(b) ARCTIC MX-4 Thermal Compound.

(c) Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut Thermal Paste.

(d) Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Grease.

(e) Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Thermal Paste.

(f) Thermalright TF8 Thermal Paste.

Cleaning Dust and Dirt from the Hot Air Vents and Cooling Fan

Dust and Dirt stick to the surface of the Hot Air Vents and the Cooling Fan.

When dust sticks to the hot air vents it blocks the pathway from where the heat is dissipated. Since this heat cannot be dissipated it accumulates inside the laptop and increases the overall temperature of the laptop and causes Thermal Throttling of GPU.

Similarly, when dust sticks to the surface of the cooling fan then it reduces the fan speeds and decreases the rate at which heat is dissipated. This slowly increases the temperature of the laptop and causes GPU Throttling.

You can easily clean the hot air vents and cooling fan by blowing dry air using a Blow Dryer. After blowing dry air just clean the surface with a soft cloth and all the dirt and dust will be removed.

Undervolting and Underclocking the GPU

If you’re using a laptop then Undervolting and Underclocking the GPU is the best method to fix GPU Throttling.

Undervolting is the process in which the operating voltage of the GPU is reduced from the normal voltage. This reduction leads to a decrease in power consumption. As power consumption decreases the heat generated from the GPU also decreases. This leads to a reduction in the overall temperature of the GPU and prevents GPU Throttling.

Underclocking is a process to reduce the clock speed at which the GPU operates. When the clock speed is reduced the GPU consumes less power because the clocks are now operating at lower speeds. The decrease in power consumption leads to lower heat generation and lower temperatures for the GPU.

As the GPU operates well below the maximum temperature there is no chance of GPU Throttling.

You can undervolt and underclock your GPU by using a utility software like MSI Afterburner.

Buying A Cooling Pad or Changing the Cooling System

If you’re using a laptop then getting a cooling pad can help you decrease the GPU temperature by a certain level. You cannot change the cooling system of a Laptop.

Cooling Pads contain fans that draw cool air from underneath and blows it straight to the bottom of the laptop which heats up the most.

If you’re using a desktop PC then you can change the Cooling System of your PC. You can get a better cooling system with more fans and better thermal conductivity to cool down the GPU and prevent it from reaching high temperatures.

This is not possible on laptops. You can only use Thermal Pasting, Undervolting and Underclocking, and Cooling Pads to reduce the GPU Temperatures of a Laptop.

In the case of Desktop, you can use all those methods mentioned above.

Reduce Graphic Settings While Playing Games

If you play games on the highest graphics settings then it puts a lot of pressure on the GPU as it operates at its maximum level. This means the GPU will consume more power and produce more heat and thereby lead to high GPU Temperatures and GPU Throttling.

If you reduce the Graphic settings then the GPU consumes less power and produces less heat. Due to lower heat, the GPU Temperatures don’t rise as much and prevent GPU Throttling.

GPU Throttling at Low Temperatures

If you’re experiencing GPU Throttling at low temperatures(56 degrees or 60 degrees Celsius) it is not called GPU Throttling because a GPU cannot thermally throttle at such low temperatures. This is called Power Throttling.

There are four reasons why your GPU can throttle at low temperatures:

1. Insufficient Contact Made by VRMs

Voltage Regulator Modules(VRMs) are used in GPUs to control and lower the Voltage in Graphics cards. This prevents the GPU from achieving very high temperatures. The VRMs have contact with the Motherboard and GPU core through thermal pads where power is sent from the Power Supply Unit(PSU) to the VRM.

If your VRM is not making sufficient contact with the Motherboard and the GPU core and the thermal pads on the waterblock aren’t thick enough then sufficient power is not supplied to the GPU which can make the GPU Throttle.

If that’s the case, you will need to change the Thermal pads so that it makes sufficient contact with the GPU core, add Thermal Graphite and also apply some additional Thermal paste.

2. Overclocked GPU

If you are using an overclocked GPU then the GPU can Throttle at low temperatures due to a high clock frequency of operation. To solve this, you’ll need to Underclock your GPU.

Underclocking is a process to reduce the clock speed at which the GPU operates. When the clock speed is reduced the GPU consumes less power because the clocks are now operating at lower speeds. The decrease in power consumption leads to lower heat generation and lower temperatures for the GPU.

3. Problem with the Power Supply Unit

If the Power Supply Unit(PSU) of your computer is defective then it cannot supply enough power to the GPUs.

When playing a game, your GPU tries to draw enough power from the PSU and if the PSU is unable to supply that amount of power then the GPU will throttle itself to draw only that amount of power that the PSU can supply.

4. Faulty GPU

If the VRMs of the GPU are damaged due to excess heat then GPU can reach high temperatures even if it doesn’t receive enough power from the PSU which makes the GPU throttle.

The best thing you can do is replace your Graphics card with a new one of the same model or a higher model.

We also had a few cases where the computers had hidden bitcoin miners installed and it was increasing the load on the GPU causing it to throttle. So, make sure that your computer doesn’t have any hidden cryptocurrency miners.

GPU Throttling For No Reason

There have been some instances where users observed GPU Throttling for no reason. There are a lot of reasons why this could happen and we have mentioned them below in detail:

1. Reduced PCI-e Lane Speed Due to Fault in VCC/VSS Pins

When a GPU is idle, it enters a low Power State where the clock speed and the lane speed decreases to reduce communication with other units.

If there is a fault in the VCC/VSS pins of the GPU(burnt, bent, damaged), it cannot make enough contact with the CPU and the motherboard so the PCI-e lane speed decreases which reduces the GPU clock speed and communication. Now, the GPU will behave as if it is in the low Power State which is what you call GPU Throttling.

2. Corupted Video BIOS (vBIOS)

Video BIOS or vBIOS is the BIOS of a Graphics card which is required to initialize the graphics card when the computer is booted.

If the vBIOS is corrupted then it could cause the GPU to throttle. In such a case, you will need to update the vBIOS so that it works properly.

3. Graphics card settings set for High Quality rather than High performance

If you’re using an NVIDIA graphics card then change the video settings from Best Quality to Best Performance in the NVIDIA Control Panel.

Similarly, if you’re using an AMD graphics card then you can go to the AMD Pro Control Center and change the graphics card video settings from Best Quality to Best Performance.

4. Problem with the Power Supply Unit

If the Power Supply Unit(PSU) of your computer is defective then it cannot supply enough power to the GPUs.

When playing a game, your GPU tries to draw enough power from the PSU and if the PSU is unable to supply that amount of power then the GPU will throttle itself to draw only that amount of power that the PSU can supply.

5. Faulty GPU

If any components inside the GPU are damaged due to excess heat or some other reason then GPU can reach throttle even if it is not put under heavy load.

The best thing you can do is replace your Graphics card with a new one of the same model or a higher model.

Conclusion

GPU Throttling is something you should avoid because it can take out all the fun from playing AAA Title games. No one wants lags and drops in FPS during gameplay.

If you play competitive games like Fortnite then GPU Throttling can lead to a bad gaming experience and you’ll underperform most of the time.

GPU Throttling can damage the internal components and reduce the overall lifespan of your GPU. You should fix any GPU Throttling issues immediately.

Fortunately, GPU Throttling can be fixed with the methods mentioned in this article.

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