Cleaning is crucial to avoiding overheating, card incompatibility, greasy dust, heavy dirt, and other faults in the GPU. I often receive questions on How to Clean a Graphics Card effectively and efficiently. Everyone wants an easy pie technique to clean graphics cards without extra effort or spending money. So, let your hair down. I’ve prepared a beginner-friendly step-by-step guide on deep cleaning a GPU swiftly.
How to Clean a Graphics Card at Home?
I’ve been working in a PC & accessories repair center for over ten years and cleaning hundreds of GPUs daily. Most of the time, the common question I receive from several customers is how does the GPU indicate they need to be cleaned? Because they can’t understand the cleaning indications on their graphics cards. Firstly, a louder noise is emitted when dust or dirt gets inside the fan blades, which can reduce the fan’s speed because of the accumulation of dirt.
As a result, card fans are forced to work harder and louder in this situation. Furthermore, you observe performance reduction while playing heavy gaming, 3D animation, video editing, and other activities. Because dust or debris particles prevent the GPU from cooling properly by clogging the heat sink, and the graphics card runs hotter and slows slightly. However, if you can catch each indication, it’s time to clean your graphics card accurately.
Literally, 80% to 95% of people only use air compressors and blowers to clean graphics cards, which clean dirt over the fans, heatsinks, display ports, and bus interfaces. After all, they’ll be helpful for a short time and cause overheating day by day. So, if you discount the gaming card, you need to clean it deeply to avoid any inside damage. However, I’m revealing the secret of how to professionally clean graphic cards that make your GPU brand new, enhance the working technique, and make your PC cool.
Step 1 – Gather the GPU Cleaning Kit:
The GPU cleaning kit is swiftly available in your home. Before disconnecting the graphics card, you must use the right cleaning gears. Overall, these cleaning times bite at the cherry for any graphics card.
- Air compressor/vacuum cleaner / Electric Blower
- Anti-static brush
- Q-tips (cotton buds)
- Clean microfiber cloth
- Phillips Screwdriver
- Isopropyl alcohol (at least 70%, 90%)
- Latex Gloves
Tips and Tricks
Additionally, give the first preference for a vacuum cleaner, which works perfectly compared to an air compressor or air pump and is readily available at home. After all, many customers face a bad experience using compressed air, which might be messy. So, if you don’t inhale dust particles or other bacteria, vacuum the off-chance option.
But I never used an air compressor or electric blower to clean dust or dirt caked inside and outside of GPU fans.
For the dust caked over the graphics card, you need to get the cotton buds or toothbrush for proper cleaning. Although, for this process, an anti-static brush with Isopropyl alcohol is a perfect choice.
Don’t choose any other cloth except microfiber because they’re soft and sensitive cloth that avoids scratches and will rub over the graphic card to remove dirt. It’s also a good idea to get some isopropyl alcohol (at least 70% or 90% ) to dampen the swab/cloth so that it is easier to clean any dust/debris that appears on the screen.
Step 2 – Turn Off Your PC Correctly:
Unplugging the switch is a quick way to turn off your PC, but professionals and repair experts are furious to see this step. This swift method directly attacks the motherboard and graphics card. Here’s the right way to turn off your PC for further regrets;
Take Backup Data: Honestly, every man and his dog forget this essential step and start disconnecting the graphics card. As a result, you’ll often lose Windows data due to further flattening.
Save your work: Make sure you save any open documents before shutting down your PC, close any running applications, and complete any ongoing tasks before you shut it down. This ensures that you don’t lose any unsaved data.
Select the power options: You’ll see a power icon in the Start menu. It typically resembles a circle with a vertical line in the middle, representing the power symbol. Click on the power icon to reveal the power options menu and shut down your PC efficiently.
Power off your PC: When the shutdown process is complete, your computer will turn off automatically. To verify this, check to see if the fans and lights have stopped running. At this point, you can safely unplug the power cord from the wall outlet if you wish to do so.
Turn off PSU: It is usually a rectangular rocker or toggle switch. Once the computer has been turned off, you must reach for the power switch (There should be a physical switch or button on the back of your computer case) that can be found on the back. Depending on the design, you may need to toggle the switch to the “Off” position or press it down if it’s a button.
Verify the PSU is off: Check if any lights or indicators on your computer or peripherals are still illuminated. If all lights are off and there is no sign of power, the PSU is successfully turned off.
Step 3 – Properly Discount Graphics Card:
Once the PC turns off completely, it’s time to open the case and discount the card accurately. So, follow the steps below;
Remove Case & Locate: Take off the side panel on your computer’s case. A specific case model will have a particular procedure for removing the panel, but if you’re feeling frustrated, you’ll need to consult your manual. After that, Identify the graphics card installed in the PCIe slot on your computer’s motherboard. You’ll insert the GPU horizontally into the slot on your computer, and it’ll typically have display ports on the back of it that you can connect to the monitor.
Release the retention mechanism: Depending on your motherboard and GPU, a retention mechanism may hold the graphics card in place. It could be a latch, screw, or clip. Release or remove this mechanism to free the GPU.
Gently remove the Card: Hold the graphics card by its edges with a firm grasp and gently pull it straight out of the PCIe slot with a firm grip. Do not pull at an angle or apply excessive force while pulling to prevent damage.
Store safely: Before cleaning correctly, the GPU should be placed in an anti-static bag or on an anti-static surface to prevent it from being electrostatically discharged during the removal process. In this way, sensitive components will be prevented from being damaged.
Step 4 – Disassembly of Graphics Card:
So, if you have a graphics card in your hand, now it’s time to disassemble them for a deep clean. If you clean graphics cards without taking them apart, that doesn’t count in GPU cleaning or is not beneficial because the greasy dust and other debris particles still stick inside the GPU. Follow the tips cautiously;
Take a Photo of Screws: Choose a flat surface like a table or floor, flip your graphics card fan side down, and take a picture of assembled screws you find, usually the four screws in the middle, which hold the heated skin of the GPU.
Start Unscrewing: Once you find the screw’s location, take the right screwdriver to open up the GPU. After that, turn the card sideways, gently pry the heatsink, and try not to do anything, especially the board itself. If you find an attached cable, use a tweezer or index finger and thumb to disconnect them. Moreover, after separating parts, safely store all screws to further resemble them because many people lost screws then.
Step 5 – Clean the GPU:
After this step, your graphics card PCB will be brand new, not overheating, and enhance the working performance. Don’t be sick as a parrot. Just cautiously follow the tips below;
Cotton Buds & Isopropyl Alcohol: Firstly, take some cotton buds / Anti-static brush and put some Isopropyl alcohol in a bowl because they’re an effective solvent and cleaning agent. It can dissolve many substances, including oils, greases, dirt, and grime. It is commonly used to clean and widely used for GPU dirt cleaning.
Clean PCB: Now dip the anti-static brush into the Isopropyl alcohol and then brush it repetitively over the GPU and other surrounding components, such as attached memory, PCI interfaces, and power connections ors. After brushing in all components, taking the clean microfiber cloth and wiping over the components means using the index finger and slightly hard rubbing the fabric on the GPU.
Clean Display Ports: After cleaning the PCB of the graphics card, initially look over all the display ports of the PCB because massive amounts of dirt or dust particles stick inside the ports. Grab the Q-tip and dip it into the Isopropyl alcohol, put it inside the ports, and slightly wipe side by side. I believe you should always prefer multiple cotton buds for cleaning these HDMI, DVI, and Dp ports. After that, you’ll efficiently do the cleaning work of the PCB. Let’s move to the next step;
Step 6 – Clean the Fan:
You move to the next step once the PCB looks shiny and clean. After this step, graphics cards keep your PC cool and noiseless. Let’s get to the point;
Dissemble the Fin stack: If you want thorough cleaning, remove the fans to avoid dust over the fans. Then, flip your card over and make sure the fin is stacked side down. And, you find one, two, or even three fans mounted atop the fins stack, according to the graphics card model. Remove the screws over the aluminum stack and efficiently separate the heat sinks, back plate, and fin stack.
Clean Aluminum Heat Sink: The air compressor works well to clean heat sinks, but I always prefer an anti-static brush with Isopropyl alcohol, which removes all dust or other particles from both sides for a shiny look. Plus, the dust-caked always sticks inside spaces of fines on the heat sink. If you clean it properly, then get good airflow. For this step, I used Isopropyl alcohol-dipped cotton buds and then wiped them back and forth to remove dust or dirt particles.
Clean Back Plate: if your back plate is made of plastic or steel, you may efficiently clean it using a vacuum, air compressor, and bowler. After that, maximum dust particles are removed efficiently. But still, the backplate looks unclean because the tiny dirt particles still stick over the fan’s plate. However, dip the microfiber cloth in isopropyl alcohol and start wiping on the back plate. After that, the back plate looks brand new and dirt-free.
Clean Fans: Weave the fans and vacuum them to remove dust particles. Afterward, Q-tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol are rubbed over the front and back surfaces of the fan to release any dust or other particles embedded in the fan. Don’t use too much pressure when you clean your fans; do not wipe them with a cloth because the delicate fans are prone to stress if you use too much pressure.
Cables Cleaning: To assemble the GPU, you must look over the cables that attach the GPU to the motherboard since dirt sticks to them. Use cotton buds without dipping them into isopropyl alcohol for this step, and wipe the ports within the cable using cotton buds without dipping them into it.
How to Resemble Graphics Cards After Cleaning?
As soon as all of the components look shiny and clean, and you cannot see any dust with your naked eye, it’s time to look at the functionality of a clean graphics card that works properly. The following are the steps to follow to complete the project;
First, you need to collect all the screws you’ve stored before you begin cleaning the GPU and grab the screws attached to the fans. The screws must be kept in a safe place not to be lost.
The backplate needs to be put over the heatsink with the right screwing adjustment, then pass the fan cable through the backplate with the fan set over the top of the backplates. Afterward, you must begin screwing the heatsink or fans so it looks like a heatsink or fan.
Also, grab the graphics processing unit PCB and attach the fan cable inside the PCB ports. Moreover, you catch the screwing holes back of the heatsink and place them over the PCB holes.
Additionally, you need to grab the PCB of the graphics processing unit and attach the fan cable with a small PCB pot. Moreover, if you catch the screwing holes on the back of the heatsink, you can place the heatsink over the holes in the PCB.
Hold the graphics card and flip the board, ensuring the fan side is down. Take the screws and resemble them again. Once you have done the process, your graphics card can connect to the motherboard.
Also, Check: Is graphics card necessary for programming?
How to Protect Graphics Cards from Dust?
Before toodles, customers asked me how they maintain graphics cards from dust particles. There is no guarantee tip to protect GPUs from being unclean, but with some maintenance tips, you’ll get rid of a musty card for a long time.
Use dust filters: Make sure your computer case’s intake fans have dust filters. A dust filter prevents larger particles from entering the Case and settling on the components, including the graphics card. It is a good idea to keep them clean or replace them regularly, and they are often available as removable mesh or foam filters.
Clean Case Regularly: You should regularly clean your computer’s Case to prevent dust accumulation. Dust can accumulate on the graphics card and obstruct airflow, leading to higher temperatures and reduced performance. You can use compressed air or a small brush to remove dust from the Case, paying particular attention to the graphics card and areas around it, as well as the other components of the Case.
Position your computer correctly: You should ensure that it is placed in a location that minimizes dust accumulation on it. Keeping it away from dusty areas and floors is a good idea. An elevated surface, such as a desk, can help reduce the amount of dust that can reach the computer’s components when it is being used.
Avoid smoking near the computer: There is a risk of additional smoke particles and residue being introduced to the computer’s graphics card and other components when you smoke near it. Smoke should be avoided, or the computer should be kept in a smoke-free environment to minimize dust and residues.
Maintain positive air pressure: A positive air pressure should be maintained inside the computer case by keeping more intake fans than exhaust fans. As a result, an airflow is created that pushes air out of the Case through exhaust fans, which minimizes the dust that can enter through gaps or openings that are not filtered.
What Exactly Benefits of Cleaning a Graphics Card?
After installing the deep-cleaned graphics card into the PC, you get the following benefits instantly:
Improved cooling efficiency: The dust and debris accumulating on a graphics card’s heatsink and fans over time can obstruct airflow and reduce the heat removal efficiency of the card. When cleaned, these components can dissipate heat more quickly, enabling them to maintain a lower temperature and prevent thermal throttling, which can negatively affect the performance of the GPU and motherboard.
Enhanced performance: Due to high temperatures, graphics cards may suffer from reduced performance and instability. Keeping the graphics card clean and ensuring proper airflow is one of the best ways to maintain an optimal operating temperature and maximize the card’s performance.
Prolonged lifespan: Excessive heat buildup as a result of dust accumulation can shorten the life expectancy of a graphics card. Maintaining optimal temperatures and keeping the card clean will ensure that you can extend the card’s lifespan, reducing the need to replace it prematurely due to improper care.
Quieter operation: The dust on the fans can cause them to become out of balance or work harder, increasing their noise level as they become unbalanced or work harder. As a result of cleaning the fans, their balance and efficiency can be restored, leading to a quieter and more efficient operation.
Preventing hardware damage: The accumulation of dust on components can result in components overheating, resulting in irreversible damage to the graphics card. When your hardware is regularly cleaned, it is less likely to malfunction and will minimize the costs associated with repairs or replacements in the future.
The above guide is right as rain to clean graphics cards deeply, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an expert with these techniques. The performance will be enhanced, run fast, soundless, and keep cool for a long time. If you fear cleaning your GPU, immediately contact the experts who handle cleaning or repairing PCs, graphics cards, and other accessories.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I clean my graphics card while it is still installed on the computer?
If you clean the fans and the exterior of the graphics card while it is installed on the computer, you will be able to extend the card’s life. As an alternative, if you would like to perform a more detailed cleaning, for example, removing the card and cleaning the heatsink, I would recommend that you power off your computer, disconnect the card, and perform the cleaning outside the system.
Can I use water to clean my graphics card?
A graphics card should not be cleaned with water as this is generally not recommended. As a result of water getting into the components and leading to electrical shorts, it can cause damage to them. Stick to using compressed air, soft brushes, and isopropyl alcohol (if necessary) for cleaning purposes.
Do I need to remove the thermal paste when cleaning the graphics card?
It is not necessary to disturb the thermal paste if you are only cleaning the exterior of the graphics card and heatsink. The old thermal paste will need to be removed if you remove the heatsink for thorough cleaning. You will need to apply a fresh layer of thermal paste before reassembling the heatsink.
I am a dedicated gamer with a strong passion for the tech sector. My expertise in game development has allowed me to create immersive gaming experiences that capture the hearts of players globally. I continuously stay on top of advancements in tech and gaming and frequently attend industry events.