How to clean a GPU in a few easy steps

Follow this step-by-step guide to safely clean your GPU

How to clean a GPU

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If you were wondering how to clean a GPU, you’ve come to the right place. 

A clean GPU results in streamlined performance, as the airflow isn’t restricted, meaning it isn’t overheating. Overheating can result in the GPU throttling, which means lowered performance. 
However, with so many components involved and wires intertwined, it’s understandable if cleaning the GPU seems complex, but that is what we’re here for.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of cleaning your GPU step-by-step and give you a list of tools you’ll need to do the job. So, let’s get right into it.

✓ Eve’s thoughts

Cleaning your GPU

Although it can seem like a pretty forgettable and boring task, keeping up with the cleanliness of your GPU could be just the tool you need to ensure the product stays as good as new, allowing you to have a lag-free, enjoyable gaming experience.

What you’ll need

Before starting the cleaning process, ensure you have all the required tools and materials. You will need:

Note: Cotton swabs and Q-tips are also commonly used. However, we recommend a microfiber cloth.

Here’s how you can clean a GPU

Cleaning a GPU is essential to maintaining its health and performance. While it doesn’t require a lot of technical expertise, some basic equipment is needed that can be found around the house or is easily available online. Follow the steps below to clean your GPU and make it look brand-new properly.

Step

1

Power off and disconnect

Ensure your computer is powered off completely and unplugged from the electrical outlet. Disconnect all cables, including the power cable, display cables, and any other peripherals connected to the GPU. Make sure to double check after pressing the power button.

Step

2

Ground yourself

Before handling any internal components, it’s advisable to ground yourself to prevent static electricity discharge that could potentially damage sensitive electronics. You can use an anti-static wrist strap attached to your wrist and grounded to a metal part of your computer case. This is an essential precaution to take when handling electronic components.

Step

3

Remove the GPU from the computer

Remove the screws holding the side panel in place. If they are knurled screws, you can loosen them by hand or use a screwdriver.

After that, remove the screws holding the GPU in place. These screws should be at the back of the casing. While you do that, remember to support the GPU with your other hand or ask a friend to keep it in place to avoid bending the interface.

Unclip the lock, usually at the PCIe slot’s left side. Now, you should be able to pull out the GPU easily. If you want to see this process more in-depth, check out our how to remove a GPU guide.

Step

4

Use compressed air to remove dust

Take the GPU outside if the weather is good, or hold it next to the window for this step.

Grab the compressed air canister, hold it 2-4 inches away from the GPU, and clean it in short bursts. Be careful with the fans and hold them in place while you clear the dust and debris from underneath and surrounding areas. This is important because exceeding the fan blades’ RPM limit can cause them to break.

Step

5

Brush away stubborn debris or dirt

For any remaining stubborn dust or debris, use a small, soft brush to gently dislodge and remove it. Be careful not to apply excessive pressure, and avoid touching the delicate components with the brush

Step

6

Clean the fan blades

Using the microfiber cloth or any clean cloth, wipe away the dirt from both sides of the blades. Cleaning the top should be easy, but cleaning underneath the fan blades might be a bit tricky. However, don’t overdo it and jam something under the fan just to clean an area you can’t reach.

Step

7

Wipe with isopropyl alcohol

Dampen a microfiber cloth or lint-free cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Gently wipe down the surface of the GPU, including the fan and heat sink. This will help remove any remaining residue and ensure a clean surface.

Proceed with caution and don’t wipe the surface too aggressively.

Step

8

Allow time for drying

After cleaning, allow the GPU to dry completely before reinstallation. This ensures no moisture remains on the components, preventing potential damage when the GPU is powered back on.

Step

9

Reinstall the GPU

Carefully reinstall the GPU into the PCI Express slot, ensuring it is securely and correctly seated. Reconnect all cables and power on your computer.

Why should I clean my GPU?

Over time, dust and debris accumulate within the cooling system, particularly on the heatsink and fans. This accumulation can impede the airflow, leading to increased temperatures during operation. Elevated temperatures can negatively impact the GPU’s efficiency and may even result in thermal throttling, reducing even the best GPU’s performance. 

A clean GPU ensures efficient heat dissipation, preventing the risk of thermal issues that could potentially damage your PC. By removing the layer of dust, the cooling system can function more effectively, allowing the GPU to maintain lower temperatures during demanding tasks such as gaming or rendering.

How often should I clean my GPU?

As previously mentioned, dust buildup in your GPU’s cooling system can affect its performance and speed, so it is important to clean it. This buildup can happen pretty quickly, depending on how clean the surrounding environment is, so we suggest doing it every few months. It is good to eliminate any grime and dust buildup whenever possible.

It also depends on your region. If you’re located in an area with a lot of wind and dust, you’ll need to clean your GPU and other components regularly, as compared to someone who doesn’t live in that region.

Wrapping up

With this, we’ve reached the end of your journey. Hopefully, now you can regularly maintain your GPU and keep its performance and temperature at optimal levels. However, that isn’t the only reason to clean your GPU; it can also be part of a troubleshooting process. In that case, we recommend you give our how to tell if your GPU is failing guide a shot.

We’ve also covered other areas of GPU maintenance, such as applying thermal paste, which should also decrease the GPU’s temperature under heavy workload.

Eve is a writer and copy editor at PC Guide, who focuses on a broad range of topics but main interest lies in the development of AI technology.