Video card artifacts examples
Drawing errors made by video cards are refered to as visual artifacts. These artifacts can be caused both by software and hardware problems. If you see artifacts during the power-up screens before your operating system loads then you know it has nothing to do with drivers. There are any loaded yet. If you’re seeing visual artifacts in just one program then it may be a software problem with that program. But if you have artifacts in many programs then you may have a driver problem or bad hardware. If you’re seeing artifacts only after the operating system loads then the first thing you should do is the standard “update your drivers” drill: update your motherboard chipset drivers, and uninstall your display drivers and then reinstall the latest display drivers. Updating your drivers can sometimes fix your problems and you should always do this even if you think that your hardware is responsible. You should exhaust the easy software solutions before guessing that you have bad hardware.
It’s also a good idea to open up your computer and make sure all the fans are working. Overheating is a common cause of artifacts so you should check that any fan on your video card is rotating. The temperature of your video card depends on what kind of program you are running. Most video cards are relatively cool when you are running 2D programs. The temperature of the video card increases when running 3D programs like games. If your artifacts only show up after a few minutes of playing games then overheating is usually the cause. The silicon chips on your video card run slower at higher temperatures. The hotter the chips get the more trouble they have keeping up at their standard clock rates. You can prove that it’s an overheating problem by running your computer with the case open and aiming a desk fan at the video card. If the artifacts go away then you know that you have an overheating problem.
Another thing you can try to reduce artifacts is to underclock your video card. Underclocking reduces the clock rates of your GPU or video RAM. Reducing clock rates lowers the temperature of the chips and often allows weak ones to work properly. There are instructions on how to underclock your video card on this page. And if you’re overclocking your video card then you should back off on your overclock. Overclocking often causes artifacts. Excessive overclocks can raise the temperature enough to cause cumulative damage. The overclock may work properly at first and then artifacts only start showing up weeks or months later after the chips have been sufficiently damaged.
A lot of hardware must be functioning properly to generate images correctly but there are three main sources of problems: the video RAM on your video card, the GPU which is the main chip on the video card which does the drawing, and the bus interface which transfers data between your video card and your motherboard. You can often get an idea of which is causing the problem by looking carefully at the artifacts.
If your artifacts are covering the entire screen and involve color shifts or slight position shifts, then the problem may be caused by your monitor. If you have another monitor available then you should try it out to see if that’s the problem. If you don’t have another monitor then you can take screenshots of the screen. To do that press the Print Screen key and then go into an image editing program (like Windows Paint) and paste the clipboard to an image. You can also use free programs like Fraps to write screenshots directly to a file. If the screenshot looks fine on another computer but the screen looked bad on your monitor then the problem could either be a problem with your monitor or with the video output circuitry of your video card. Most of the time it’s the monitor rather than the video output circuitry.