When a video card stops working the entire computer is likely to freeze or at least appear to freeze. Some modern computers can actually survive the loss of a video card while running, especially models that have integrated video cards and add-on video cards built into them. In these cases, consumers simply need to remove the video plug from the add-on video card and plug it into the integrated video card and the display should restore itself. These situations are comparatively uncommon, and thus it is important to understand just why any given video card stops working in order to figure out what to do next.
Here are the five most common reasons why video cards stop working and what to do to alleviate the problem:
The video card has become unseated – All add-on video cards share one thing in common: they are somehow mounted onto the main system board, which is sometimes referred to as a motherboard. In most cases, screws and other retaining mechanisms hold the video card in place and provide a constant connection between the metal connectors on the motherboard and the video card. Despite the best designed, sometimes add-on video cards can become unseated and need to be physically reseated.
The metal connectors are aging – Older PCs, especially those using the first generation AGP interconnect for video cards are prone to running so much current through the metal pins that connect add-on video cards and motherboards that the metal bits will eventually start to burn out after long usage. Steel wool is often a viable way to remove scorched metal and restore reliable operation of a video card.
The video card ceased functioning because it overheated – Video cards, especially add-on boards, are very vulnerable to heat. Unfortunately, cases often have poor airflow that gets worse over time as dust builds up around vents and starts to clog fans. Thoroughly clean all fans and vents on the case as well as ensure that the fans, heat sinks, and vents on the video card are cleaned.
The power supply may be going bad – Modern video cards draw a lot of power from power supply units (PSUs) and will start to malfunction if their access to tightly-regulated electrical output is disturbed. Power supplies are also vulnerable to overheating, and the connectors are also prone to overheating and scorching the metal. Many demanding video cards must use separate voltage rails that allow the motherboard and processor to draw electric current on a separate line from that of the video card.
Burnt out – In some cases video cards simply burn out over time. This is one of the rarest conditions and usually happens when a fan breaks during intense operating conditions and the delicate electrical pathways within the main graphics chips rapidly overheat and melt into slag in their silicon shells. In these cases, there is solution other than to purchase a new video card.