If you have doubts about the performance of your graphics card, for example a new RTX 3080 (a selection of the best on the market), or you want to know if it is working properly, then testing your graphics card is a good idea.
If you want to know how to test your graphics card in this article I will give my method to check if a GPU is working properly.
Test your graphics card in 5 steps
1. Update GPU Drivers
Graphics card drivers play a vital role in achieving the best performance, especially for the most demanding games.
It is therefore necessary to update the drivers before proceeding with the tests. Using older versions of drivers can cause errors.
Navigate to the official website of your card’s GPU manufacturer and download and install the latest version of the drivers there. It’s not uncommon for newer versions to have bugs that prevent the GPU from working well. In this case it is better to install the previous version.
2. Dust off your graphics card (Go to the next step if your card is new or recent)
PC power supply fan and the static electricity that can be generated tends to make CPUs dust traps.
Keeping your graphics card clean and dust-free helps maintain its performance and increase its lifespan. Be sure to clean it using an electric blower or compressed air (link to Amazon).
Especially remove dust from the heat sink placed on the GPU chip. It can hinder its proper functioning and limit its performance. Then use a small brush to remove stubborn dust if the graphics card does not have a protective cover.
3. Use GPU Benchmarking Software
Benchmarking software is required to perform the tests. There are several available on the Internet.
Those that are free are much less complete than paid software but the essential remains there. The most used and reference applications are 3DMark and Heaven Benchmark .
The free version (Basic Edition) of the latter has enough parameters to properly test a graphics card. To install it navigate to the web page https://benchmark.unigine.com/heaven.
After installation, launch the program and a configuration window is displayed. You can either select a test preset or define your own settings.
Select test API type (DirectX or OpenGL), display quality (low to ultra), resolution (triangulated) of displayed objects (disabled to extreme), stereo 3D display, use of multiple monitors, enabling anti-aliasing, full-screen display and resolution.
For this last option, several display formats can be selected: 16/9, 16/10 and 4/3. The proposed resolutions range from 640×360 to 2560×1600. Both gamers and graphics application users should select the resolution they usually use for their activities.
4. Leverage GPU test results
During the tests, the benchmarking software displays many 3D animations and varies the shooting points.
This is the easiest way to test the graphics power level of the GPU. The smoother the animations, the more powerful your card. The software also provides you with accurate information about display frame rate (FPS) drops, graphical bugs or display tearing.
If the benchmarking software were to crash it would mean that the GPU is not stable. This may be a hardware or driver implementation issue.
I’ve written an entire guide that gives solutions that really work if your GPU crashes in-game .
FPS, the benchmark for GPUs
The FPS (frame per second) counter of the benchmarking software allows you to get a lot of information related to the performance of the graphics card.
The higher a test’s score against a high FPS counter, the higher the overall result.
General characteristics and overheating
It is advisable to take note of various information on your graphics card such as the brand, the model, the memory, the operating temperature.
To know your graphics card, I advise you to use the GPU-Z software which allows you to have all the information you need on your GPU.
Besides, if you don’t know how to have the exact configuration of your machine, I made a dedicated guide on this subject.
Don’t forget to monitor the operating temperature, as overheating can indicate that your graphics card is struggling to operate.
Overheating of the graphics card can create different problems, lead to its failure and instability of the whole system.
If your graphics card is overheating, I have listed 8 tricks to try to bring down your GPU temperature.
There, we will use MSI Afterburner to check the temperatures. If you don’t know how to use MSI afterburner, you can see this tutorial made by the MSI France blog .
Compare your results
Benchmarking software results are averages based on the number of frames generated by your graphics card during the test.
Many websites have forums where users post their test results. Type on Google “Name of your GPU + 3DMark score” and you will see if you are in the nails.
The microcomputer press often produces test results on recently marketed models.
These are two good sources of information to check if the performance you are getting is similar to other cards of the same model.
If your graphics card is 15% less efficient than what you find on the Internet, then your model may be faulty.
5. GPU Stress Test to Validate Stability
A GPU stress test is performed by an application that pushes your GPU to its absolute limits.
This means it makes full use of its processing power, using all the electrical power available to the card, while pushing cooling and temperatures as far as possible.
In most cases, practical applications will not serve as a stress test. Even if they push the limits of your GPU, they won’t do so enough to risk crashing or overheating your system.
Thus, a stress test ensures that your graphics card works well even under extreme conditions.
Software specialized in GPU stress are FurMark , OCCT or AIDA64 .
Stress tests are actually designed to cause a crash or overheat. In fact, this is to ensure that the GPU still works under heavy use.
These tests are especially useful for those trying to find a stable overclock (performance boost). They are also called graphics card stability tests.
How to use Furmark to test your graphics card?
Once you have installed the software, it will detect your graphics card and give you the temperature as well as the power used in % in the upper part, just below the logo.
In the left part you have the settings of the software.
They allow you to change the resolution of the stress test, to put it in full screen or to add anti-aliasing. This part is not very interesting if you just want to test the stability of your card.
The part on the right is the interesting one.
To test your GPU just click on FurMark’s big “GPU Stress Test” button and the test will begin.
For most people, this is more than enough. However, if your GPU is too powerful, the default settings may not be intense enough.
Indeed, for the stress test to be effective, the graphics card must be used at 100%. If it is not used at 95% or less, the chosen test is not “hard” enough for the card. It will therefore be necessary to change the settings in the left part.
Adding anti-aliasing increases the hardness of the test and puts a lot of stress on your GPU.
Improve the performance of your graphics card
Your graphics card may not achieve the performance level desired, or as advertised by its manufacturer.
Before you replace your graphics card with a new one, there are a few tricks you can try to improve your system configuration.
1. Always make sure you have the latest graphics drivers for your card. Do some research to find out if other users have experienced the same issues. Often manufacturers have their own forums.
2. Your graphics card usually operates at a fixed performance level or “clock speed”, which is set by the manufacturer.
Along with overclocking, using MSI Afterburner, you can tune your graphics card for better performance. The higher the overclocking, the higher the processing power. Renders are faster and games run smoother.
3. Graphics card cooling is very important. Current GPUs incorporate boost frequency algorithms. They maximize the potential of GPUs by adapting their clock frequency and power consumption in near real time. If the graphics card is too hot these performance improvements cannot be activated.
4. Try borrowing a card with similar performance to yours. If the tests prove conclusive with this one, there is a good chance that it is another component of your PC configuration that is at fault.
5. Some graphics cards require much more current than your motherboard to function properly, especially when intense calculations are demanded of it. So make sure your power supply has enough power to keep your GPU running smoothly, even at full throttle.
What to do if your GPU is unstable?
The first thing to check is your overclocking. If you have overclocked your card, then it may not be stable.
Indeed, overclocking can work very well with one game and crash on another.
Sometimes even the stress tests fail to verify the stability of the overclock.
Anyway put back the factory frequencies to avoid stability problems or tune your overclock.
If you haven’t overclocked your GPU, check the temperatures. High temperatures on your GPU (tutorial to lower the temperature); for example above 90°C, can lead to stability problems.
If not, your graphics card is faulty.
In this case, it is possible that it is no longer able to operate even with the factory frequencies. Before throwing it in the trash, I advise you to try underclocking (here is a detailed guide on this subject ).
Underclocking is the reverse of overclocking, intentionally lowering GPU clock rates to improve stability. Again we will use the MSI Afterburner software.
Normally if your card is working fine you don’t need to do this, but if you can’t change cards right away then this is a fallback.