The GPU is often the most expensive component inside a gaming PC. Due to the intensive processing power, the GPUs can run at rather high temperatures just like the CPU. Although the heating is normal, there are levels at which you should be seriously concerned.
The processing, data transfer, calculations, etc. that occur inside the GPU produce heat. This heating increases with the load on the GPU; this is evident in games and video rendering tasks.
Other factors like the manufacturer, cooling system, and the ambient temperature of the environment also play a role. If your GPU is overheating, accumulation of dust and insufficient cooling or blocked airflow is the culprit. However, in other cases heating could mean something more nefarious which I will discuss below.
Essentially, the idle temperature for a GPU is between 40°-60° C. The more it is toward the lower range the better. If you can get your GPU to perform at an even lower temperature than 40° C, that would be far more ideal.
In the following text I will talk more about idle temperature for GPU and what you can do in case your GPU is overheating.
Why Low Idle Temperatures are Important?
The idle state temperature of the GPU plays a significant role in its overall performance. Idle temperature basically defines the GPU temperature in the least load state (think looking at the main desktop screen only and having nothing running in the background).
Essentially, when you do something strenuous on a computer that requires graphics generation like editing or playing games, the GPU kicks into action. As it works harder, it gets hotter. If the idle state of the GPU is already high, it will only have a limited leeway in terms of how hot it can get.
Getting hotter = higher performance. So, the less room the GPU has to get hot, the lower will be its peak performance. In some instances, the GPU will THROTTLE its performance if its gets too hot and in others, it can even get damaged.
The maximum safe limit under load varies from GPU to GPU, but generally they have a TJ max of about 90°C-110°C.
Internal Safety Mechanisms
TJmax, or thermal junction temperature, is the temperature at which GPUs will throttle – reduce their performance or start behaving erratically including shutting your PC down.
According to AMD:
RX 5700 series GPUs will continue to opportunistically and aggressively ramp clocks until any one of the many available sensors hits the ‘hotspot’ or ‘Junction’ temperature of 110 degrees Celsius. – Source: AMD
This essentially identifies the TJMax for AMD GPUs to be at 110 degrees Celsius. NVIDIA graphics cards generally have a lower TJmax of about 93-95.
Just like the CPUs, graphics processors also come with safety measures. At the TJ max (max operating temperatures), the GPU activates these mechanisms, which cools down the unit instantly.
In some cases, the GPU will shut itself down to prevent any damage. This happens when the temperature is too high for the processor to work and there is a risk of permanent damage. This is a symptom of an overheating GPU and should be taken seriously.
So What is the Idle Temperature for GPU?
The idle temperature for the majority of the GPUs is between 40°-60° C. If your GPU is operating at a lower temperature than this, then that is even better. However, if your GPU is operating at an idle temperature that is higher than 60°C, then you need to take some remedial actions.
Checking Idle Temperature of Your GPU
Checking the temperature of your GPU at any time is very simple. You do not need to have any third-party utility or software installed.
All you need to do is access the Task Manager and head over to the Performance tab. In the Performance Tab, look for the GPU in question and its temperature shown.
For recording the idle temperature, as mentioned earlier, you want to see it when you turn on your PC and while looking at the desktop main screen with nothing running in the background.
It is important that utilization of the GPU is at the minimum i.e between 0-5% when checking its idle temperature.
The image above shows the graphics card on my laptop running at 39°C with 5% utilization.
If your GPU is at a higher than 5% utilization at idle state, then something is eating up your GPU resources in the background and would naturally raise its temperature.
Causes of High Idle Temperature
There are four very probable causes of high idle temperatures for GPU:
1. High Ambient Temperatures
When we say that the idle temperature should be between 40°-60° C, we are taking into consideration that the ambient temperature your PC sits in is the room temperature (21° C).
If the ambient temperature is higher than this, that would have a direct impact on the idle temperature of your GPU.
Make sure your PC is not situated under the sun or in a room with smoldering heat.
2. Poor Airflow
The temperature inside the case directly affects the temperatures of the individual components. All PC cases have intake and exhaust fans that allow fresh air to replace the warmer air inside.
Accumulation of dust or, in few cases, malfunctioning / insufficient case fans are a major cause of heating inside the PC case due to heat generated by all the components.
You should regularly clean the airflow ducts on the casing, along with the fans. Remove any blockage and ensure that there is enough space for fresh air to come in, and for the hot exhaust air to escape.
3. Damaged Coolers or Thermal Paste
The coolers on your graphics card can sometimes get damaged. This could be due to accidental bumps, drops, short circuit or simply randomly due to wear and tear.
A non functioning GPU cooler can drastically increase your GPU’s idle temperature.
Similarly, while not common, a deteriorating thermal paste between your GPU’s chip and the cooling fan can also increase its idle and peak temperature.
Thermal paste is a component used as a conductor between a heatsink and a processor. If this thermal paste wears out, air can get in between the processor and the heatsink, contributing to overheating.
The heat conduction also slows down, meaning that the heat generated by the processor will not be transferred over to the heatsink.
4. Overclocked GPU
Overclocking means unlocking higher clock speeds potential of the GPU. This is something that many professional gamers and enthusiasts like to do with their GPUs.
However, overclocking in turn requires more power. With the increase in power consumption, heat generation also increases. If you do not have a proper cooling system installed, heating can get out of hand for an overclocked GPU.
An overclocked GPU has a high idle temperature compared to a normal graphics card.
When to Worry:
You should worry if the GPU is overheating regularly. The symptoms of an overheating GPU are:
- Thermal throttling – FPS dropping, stuttering
- Random System crashes, Black Screen or Blue Screen of Death
- High Fan Speeds even at idle load
- Random objects appearing on the screen
- Reduced performance in applications
If you encounter any of these symptoms, you should start monitoring your GPU’s temperatures.
Normally the idle range for GPUs is between 40° – 60°C given that the ambient temperature is the average room temperature and you have Fan coolers installed.
Water cooling systems often result in much lower idle temperature – if done right. Having a high idle temperature on your GPU means your GPU will reach its throttling junctions more quickly as compared to those with lower idle temperature.