How Long Do GPUs Last? | Graphics Card Age

Gaming computers are expensive as always, and much of the overall budget is eaten up by the GPU. While making such an investment, you might wonder how long the GPU is going to last.

It is almost impossible to specify an exact age for the GPU. This is evident by the fact that some GPUs that were released almost 6-7 years ago (like the GTX 1080), still hold their relevance in the modern-day gaming industry.

So while in terms of performance certain flagship graphics cards can last for longer than 7 years, when it comes to the physical lifespan, there are many factors involved.

What we can do, is establish an understanding of all the significant reasons that tend to reduce the physical lifespan. Some of the key factors include the brand, maintenance, temperatures, and usage of the GPU.

By taking into account all these elements, we can make a rather educated guess as to how long the GPU will last both physically and performance-wise.

Let us discuss in detail what you can expect from your GPU, and how long will it take before you have to upgrade it to a better unit. And while we are at it, let’s also see what can be done to make sure the GPU does not die.

how long do GPUs last
GPUs can last for a long time. Performance-wise they can last for more than half a decade depending upon the model. Physically, they can last for longer if care is taken.

I have divided this article into two sections:

  1. How long do GPUs last physically
  2. How long do GPUs last performance-wise

How Long do GPUs Last Physically?

The physical life of the GPU unit is highly variable. It depends on many factors such as what brand the GPU belongs to, and how much care the GPU has been kept with.

With highly intensive usage and moderate caretaking, a GPU may last for only 3-5 years.

It is unlikely, but if you keep everything in check, you may as well see it exceed a decade, after which different components like the fans and thermal paste may start to give in.

To make an informed estimation, we have to consider all the aspects that influence the total lifespan.

Factors That Can Cause a GPU to Die Sooner

As discussed earlier, every GPU has a certain lifespan, which can be cut short by a handful of major issues. After making such a costly investment, it is only fair that the card is kept with the utmost care, such that it lasts as long as expected.

Here are some of the regular problems, and how you can prevent them.

1. Choose from a Respected Brand

The brand of the GPU contributes a lot in the longevity of the physical life. It is a common understanding that the units from respected brands last longer than the cheaper ones when used under the same conditions.

The underlying chip is the same in all variants of the card; it’s the outer body and physical add-ons that contribute to its physical lifespan.

The more established brands offer unique features that the cheaper brands may not, such as high-quality thermal paste, stronger parts, and open airflow.

Cards from brands like ASUS, MSI, and EVGA will not only perform slightly better than their cheaper counterparts but will surely last longer physically thanks to quality engineering and superior design.

So if you have found a sweet deal from an unknown brand on Aliexpress or Ebay on an RTX 3080, it would be wise to steer clear.

Brands Affects the Quality of the Parts

The outer body of the card does not really take any beating (atleast it shouldn’t ever) but components like the fans may experience some wear and tear over the years.

This wearing is what causes the gradual erosion of the parts, and subsequently the card. There are steps like regular cleaning and light usage that may help these parts last longer.

However, it all comes down to the quality of the part itself in the end.

One major part of the card which affects physical lifespan is the cooler.

Now, there are multiple methods that the expensive brands adopt for cooling, like additional fans and liquid coolers with AIO fans.

When it comes to vanilla performance, there is negligible difference between the results of an average vs an extensively cooled GPU, but what matters is the quality.

Comparatively, cheaper cooler will have low-quality paste, and sub-par cooling capabilities. This results in overheating of the card (discussed later), and in turn, shortening of the lifespan.

Also Read: Why are Games Not Using GPU?

2. Overheating: A Major Cause of GPU Failure

One of the main contributors to the shortening of the lifespan of almost all PC components is heat.

The commonly agreed-upon maximum optimal temperature for the GPU is 85°C, and anything below this is considered normal.

Ideally, the graphics should stay within 50°C-60°C temperature range.

You can check your GPU temperature using various utilities such as GPU-Z or the MSI Afterburner.

Graphics Card Temperature GPU-z
Monitor your GPU temperature. You can use GPU-Z for this

You can also check the temperature of your graphics card using Task Manager, however, Task Manager does NOT tell your the maximum high it reached in a given time period.

When to Worry?

Anything beyond 85° is considered overheating and harmful to the GPU.

Over the years, this overheating will start to harm individual components of the card, such as the chip itself. This damage to the card is irreversible, and will be obvious in the performance of the card.

The symptoms of an overheating GPU are thermal throttling, gradual performance decline, high fan speeds, frame-drops in games, and a system crash under high load.

Causes of Overheating

The main causes of overheating are overloading, faulty fans, accumulation of dust, bad airflow, unstable overclocking, and thermal paste wear.

An important point to be noted here is that every single one of these issues individually has the potential to cause overheating.

What to do:

A regular monitoring of the temperatures is highly advised if you encounter such symptoms.

It is also beneficial if the GPU is cleaned regularly, along with thermal repasting after set intervals (mostly 2-3 years).

If the GPU has been manually overclocked, you should restore factory settings.

If the issue still persists, you should have the GPU checked by an expert.

Which brings us to the closely related point:

3. Overclocking: Another Major Cause of GPU Failure

Along with overheating, overclocking is yet another major cause of GPU failure.

Overclocking without the provision of adequate cooling or overclocking your GPU beyond safe ranges can not only void the warranty of your graphics card, but can cause irreparable damage.

Overclocking basically means you increase the voltage of your graphics card, which in turn increases its clockspeed. The higher the clockspeed, the higher the performance.

However, as the clockspeed goes up, so does the energy consumed and the HEAT GENERATED. 

Overclocking is ONLY safe if robust cooling is provided.

Often overclockers use water-cooling for their GPUs to tackle overheating.

water cooled kit for RTX 3080 3090
EKWB EK-Classic. water Cooling Kit for NVIDIA RTX 3080 and 3090.

How to Safely Overclock

You can safely overclock firstly by using the Manufacturer’s recommendation. Most often the manufacturer’s official utility has provision for Automatic overclocking, the ASUS/ROG AI Suite 3, for instance, provides this facility.

When manually overclocking, however, keep a close eye on the temperatures of your graphics card and make sure it does NOT exceed the recommended thresholds.

4. Faulty PSU:

A faulty PSU that is supplying excessive or low voltages to the PC components can potentially fry the whole system, and the GPU is no exception.

The GPU is the most power-hungry unit in the system. It requires the most voltage, and at a stable rate.

Cheap PSUs:

A major mistake that gamers and PC builders do is cut some cash from the budget of the PSU to purchase a better GPU or CPU.

Cheaper PSUs have some significant drawbacks which include heating of the supply and unstable power.

Heating causes the power supply to fail or completely die out, while unstable power will directly damage the GPU.

Also Read: How to Check Power Supply Wattage Without Opening Computer?

Safety Limits, When they Don’t Work

It is a fact that the GPUs come with safety limitations and can shut down the system if the voltages are excessive. However, they do not have any protection procedures against slow yet permanent damage dealt by frequent power surges.

These fluctuations can cause the silicon semiconductor of the GPU to degrade and eventually fail.

While the semiconductor can be replaced, the GPU may not perform as well as it used to. There have been instances where the GPU completely died due to power fluctuations but these are rare occasions.

Physical Lifespan of GPUs can Vary Drastically

All things considered, if your unit is put together by a respectable card manufacturer and you perform proper maintenance for the card, it will likely last somewhere between 6 to 9 years, depending on the usage intensity. A cheaper card, under similar conditions, will last around 5 to 7 years.

OR perhaps your graphics card may just die the next day of your purchase IF you subject it to excess overheating due to bad overclocking.

As such, there is definitive answer to the question how long do GPUs last physically.

Also Read: How to Tell if Motherboard is Bad or Dead?

How Long Do GPUs Last Performance-Wise?

In the second part of this article, I will talk about how long the GPU’s last performance-wise.

The performance lifespan of the card can be bottled down to one thing only: its relevance in the future market.

Generally, a good GPU will stay relevant in the market for an entire gaming generation – or for as long as it produces decent framerates in new games.

Once these framerates start to decline, the GPU will slowly become obsolete and eventually become unusable.

The performance lifespan of a GPU depends upon three factors:

  1. The Model of the Chip
  2. The Games You Wish to Play
  3. The Graphics Settings You Wish to Play At

Also Read: GPU Hierarchy – Graphics Card Tiered Performance List

The Model of the Chip

The performance of a graphics card mostly depends upon the chip.

For instance, take the GTX 1000 series released in 2016. The mid-range GTX 1060 does not perform as good with AAA titles from 2020 onwards, compared to the flagship chip of the same series, i.e GTX 1080.

The point is that the flagship card is more probable to survive the longest in the market; the lower-end cards, which produce average framerates on the games of their time, can certainly not stay relevant for long.

One question that arises from this is: how long will the card stay relevant?

There is no definite answer to that question, as without knowing the future technologies, we have no method to test the card.

Take for instance the GTX 1080. This graphics card has out-lasted its time and as of 2022, it can still handle most of the newer AAA titles at 60+ FPS at 1080p resolution and Ultra graphics.

The future AAA titles may require features in GPUs that are not yet included in any modern card. They may also require higher v-ram capacity, which as of today, averages at 8 GB in higher-end cards.

Which brings me to the next point.

2. The Games You Wish to Play

As pointed out, a graphics card’s performance is relevant as long as the games support. 

We can easily figure this out by looking at the recommended graphics card requirements by the modern AAA games out there.

  Minimum
Requirements
Recommended
Requirements
Cyberpunk 2077 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
Resident Evil Village NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
Watch Dog Legions NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060S
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 GeForce GTX 1080
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 GeForce GTX 770 GeForce GTX 970
Elden Ring Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070

You can see from a small sample of latest AAA titles above that in most cases, the flagship 1080 series NVIDIA graphics cards released all the way back in 2016  is still quite sufficient for meeting the recommended graphics requirements.

We can make a few observations from here. First, GTX 1080 still has a perhaps another year until it stays relevant for meeting the recommended graphics requirements.

Secondly, we can observe that the mid range graphics card from the GTX 1000 series, such as the GTX 1060, have more or less become obsolete now.

So taking the GTX 1000 series as a baseline, we can conclude that the following for the question how long do GPUs last performance-wise:

  • Mid Range graphics cards from a series can stay relevant for 3-5 years performance-wise.
  • High End graphics card from a series can stay relevant for 6-8 years performance-wise.

But how long it stays relevant for you depends upon the graphics settings you wish to play your games at. Which brings me to the final point.

Also Read: Is 4GB Graphics Card Enough for Gaming?

3. The Graphics Settings You Wish to Play At

Whether your graphics card is relevant today for you or not also depends upon the graphics settings, the frame rate and the resolution you wish to play your game on.

1080p resolution and 60 FPS has been the standard gaming resolution and frame rate for almost a decade now and still is the most commonly used resolution and frame rate for determining quality gaming.

However, with the rapid technological advancements and with the taste of the gamers evolving, there is a demand for higher resolution and frame rate.

Many enthusiast gamers nowadays wish to play their games at 2k or 4k resolution and at frame rates higher than 60 FPS.

All this takes a toll on the graphics card. Playing a game at 4K resolution means that the graphics card has to render 4 times as much data as compared to playing on HD resolution.

So while an NVIDIA GTX 1080 is still great for playing most games at ultra settings, FHD resolution and 60 FPS, it has become obsolete for 4K at higher than 60 FPS at ULTRA graphics.

The point in the end being, if you demand a higher level of graphics fidelity, then your graphics card will become obsolete sooner than expected, particularly given the fact that 8K and 240FPS gaming is also just around the corner.

Also Read: Are Graphics Card Plug and Play?

Final Words

By logging the performance of the GPU in its own generation, and keeping track of the future trends of gaming, we can make an estimate on how long before the card becomes obsolete or irrelevant performance-wise

All in all, the newer flagship GPUs (like the Rx 6600 XT RTX 3080) may last around 6-8 years.

The lower end cards (like the GTX 1650ti) are not expected to last any longer than 3-5 years, as they have low v-ram capacity and substandard performance at higher resolutions.

As far as the physical life goes, unless you are unlucky or clumsy, your graphics card should last for more than a decade if regular maintenance is done.

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Author:

Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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