Cleaning a GPU honestly looks like a daunting task, to be honest. Sure, you can clean the fans without taking the GPU apart, but for a deeper cleaning, you need to take apart the GPU, which surely voids the warranty.
EVGA is the only AIB that lets you open the card without voiding the warranty, so if you are wondering how to clean GPU, I am going to tell you all about it in this post, but I would also suggest that you are fully aware of the risks associated with it. With that said, the process of cleaning the GPU has become a lot easier, so let’s get started, shall we?
How Often Should You Clean Your Graphics Card?
Okay, this is one thing that most of the people have absolutely no idea about. I have seen this question being asked numerous times around the internet, and every single time, the answer is entirely different. This is something that depends on how clean you keep your PC.
If you clean your PC regularly and blow out all the dust, there are chances that you might not need to open your GPU at all. If you are running a water-cooled GPU, then you never have to worry about cleaning the GPU. But ideally, I’d suggest you clean your GPU without taking it apart thrice every month, and yes, this includes the whole system.
What Can Damage A Graphics Card?
Now, this is something that can have an entire article dedicated to it, but if you have been wondering what can damage a graphics card, then there are a number of things associated, and we are going to start exploring them, so you have a better understanding.
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If you remember the launch of the RTX 3000 series, a lot of the GPUs that were manufactured started dying because of power spikes and other similar issues.
This was clearly faulty manufacturing that caused the issue, and while all the add-in-board partners held up their agreements and replaced the cards, it surely was something that was scary.
Being someone who bought an RTX 3080 at launch, I was also terrified, but thankfully, this never happened to me, and I am almost 2 years in with this GPU.
Dirt And Greasy Dust
It is very safe to say that a lot of people who are cleaning their computers regularly do not bother going all the way inside the GPU to see dust and dirt gathering up. Now, normal dust can easily be handled.
However, there are times when the dust and dirt become greasy, and you can find it at certain spots on the GPU. It might look harmless, but it can actually damage your GPU beyond your understanding, and that is something we do not want.
Perhaps the most common issue as to why GPUs stop working; to begin with is overheating. Now, this might sound like something that can easily be handled, but there are cases where people are simply not aware of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.
You can have a separate post on just how you can fix this issue, but a quick tip that I will share with you is that make sure that your GPU is adequately cooled and there is no dust that is jamming up the fans.
Now, it is important to understand that there have been instances where GPUs have died because of mining happening on them.
It should not surprise anyone as crypto mining puts a lot of load on the GPU, and considering how GPU is running to its max power for prolonged periods of time, this can cause issues in the GPU and the GPU lifespan to decrease, as well.
If you are willing to mine on a GPU, I’d highly suggest you use high airflow or even go to the extent of watercooling your GPU.
How To Clean A Graphics Card?
Now that we are done talking about some issues that can come in the way of your GPU working the right way, we can now start talking about how to clean a graphics card.
I know it might sound like an overwhelming part, but hey, I am here to make things easier for you, and we are going to take a look at them. So, let’s not waste time and have a look, shall we?
#1 – Getting The Tools Ready
The first thing that I would suggest is that you start getting the tools ready. Opening the GPU is not like opening a car, but there are still several screws involved that you need to make sure that you remove correctly.
I would suggest that you have a standard screwdriver set, as well as some Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol, considering how it is non-conductive and can be used to clean any stubborn dirt that is stuck on the GPU board.
Additionally, I would also suggest that you keep a magnetic tray or any container where you can safely put the screws without the fear of losing them.
Last but not least, I would suggest you take a picture of your GPU’s back before you start removing the screw.
#2 – Unscrewing The GPU
The next step involves unscrewing the GPU. This used to be a lot easier in the past as we would not always see GPUs with backplates, but considering how modern GPUs do have a backplate, so you are going to need to unscrew the backplate first and then unscrew the rest of the GPU once the backplate comes off.
Once the backplate is off and you have unscrewed every other screw on the board, you should be able to feel the cooler moving freely.
Gently start moving it to remove it and if there is any resistance, look for more screws instead of pulling the cooler. You will also notice that there will be a cable attached to the board; make sure that you remove the cable.
#3 – Cleaning The GPU
Now that you are done removing the cooler, you have a bare board in front of you. Carefully go ahead and try to remove any thermal pads that you find around the GPU.
The chances are that they are already removed and attached to the cooler. If not, make sure that before you remove them, you take a picture of how they are installed for future references.
Once you have removed the thermal pads, the next step is to take some isopropyl alcohol, dip a q-tip in it and start cleaning the board and any thermal paste that you can find on the GPU.
The thermal paste is usually not conductive, but it is still better than you are cleaning whatever residue and dust you can find. Remember, be gentle with the cleaning process and only use isopropyl alcohol.
Repeat the same process for the back of the GPU, and if you want to go the extra mile, you can clean the ports, as well. The process does look overwhelming, but it should not confuse you if you are doing it the right way.
Now, move to the cooler. You can remove any thermal paste on the cooler’s cold plate and make sure that you clean off any residue and dust that is left there.
Now, flip the cooler and start cleaning the fans. For deeper cleaning, you can remove the fans and start cleaning the aluminum fins and the fan blades for the best results.
Now, we have to move to the thermal pads; now, they might look dirty, but if you have spare thermal pads, you will have to make do with the already installed ones.
Just carefully remove any dirt that you find using q-tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol, and again, be gentle and do not move them from their place.
#4 – Applying Thermal Paste
Since we are done with the cleaning part, the next step involves applying the thermal paste. Just make sure that you are applying it correctly and that there is enough of it. You can go ahead and spread it if you want or just let the cooler do its work.
#5 – Putting The GPU Together
We are done cleaning, and now we are going to put everything together. Make sure that you are attaching any part that you removed from the board; now, make sure that you have reconnected all the wires (fans and LEDs), and once the wires are connected, patiently reconnect the board to the cooler and make sure that it is a proper fit.
The next step is to make sure that you are screwing everything back, and remember, do not overdo the screwing part as it can damage the board.
A Clean GPU Is A Lot More Stable & Lasts Longer
I don’t think this should come as a surprise to anyone, but if you have been struggling to ensure that your GPU remains as clean as possible, this guide is for you. A clean GPU is definitely something that lasts a lot longer and runs without any stability issues.
However, you have to be very careful not to damage any parts on the GPU because that just means a whole new hassle that you do not want to deal with.
Cleaning the GPU is certainly a tedious task, and it is a scary one, too, especially when you know that there is a chance you might end up messing things up, and we do not want that for anyone.
This guide is supposed to help you ensure that you are able to clean the GPU the right way and that, too, without any complications coming in the way.
Frequently Asked Questions
#1 – Does dust affect GPU performance?
Yes, in the worst-case scenarios, dust can actually go ahead and decrease the GPU performance because it would slow down the fans and cause the GPU to heat up, causing thermal throttling.
#2 – Does cleaning a GPU increase performance?
If your GPU is thermal throttling, cleaning the GPU can improve the performance because you now have a new application of thermal paste and the fans and heatsinks are also cleaner.
#3 – What happens if I don’t clean my GPU?
Your GPU can die or develop other problems related to performance if you decide against cleaning your GPU the right way.
#4 – When should I clean my GPU fan?
Honestly, cleaning the GPU fan itself is a lot easier than cleaning the GPU entirely. I clean my GPU fan once every month without any complications.
#5 – Can you wash a GPU?
I would highly suggest against that because GPU is an electrical device, and well, you really do not want to damage any circuits.
#6 – How can I clean my graphics card without compressed air?
You can clean your GPU without compressed air and use other cleaning tools with ease. I use a small leaf blower that is handheld and has variable speeds for easy cleaning.