GPU Artifacting: What Is It? What Causes It? How to Fix It? 

GPU artifacting isn’t a problem most laypeople run into. GPUs tend to artifact only when the GPU is malfunctioning or overclocked beyond its reasonable output capacity.

When a GPU suffers from artifacts, the visual data it processes and outputs is corrupted. So, it displays incorrectly but doesn’t immediately Blue Screen or otherwise crash.

However, if your GPU is artifacting, it’s something you’ll need to look into and fix, or your PC will not run correctly.

So, here’s the rundown on what you should expect if your GPU starts artifacting. 

GPU Artifacting: Diagnostics Basics 

The first step to fixing an artifacting GPU is to determine that the GPU is, in fact, suffering from artifacting.

Artifacting can be the result of several failed components. Typically you can tell whether your GPU is causing the artifacts by looking at the shape, colour, and location of the artifacting. 

Your monitor rather than your GPU could cause artifacts that cover the entire screen or issues with moving colours. In severe cases of monitor failure, the whole screen may be discoloured, resulting in a tinted appearance to the screen.

So try your computer with a different monitor to start, if you can. If the artifacting disappears with a separate monitor, you’ll need to replace the monitor, but that’s much cheaper than replacing your GPU. 

One way to test your computer’s visuals is to send a screenshot of your screen to someone else. If they see the artifacting, then it’s your GPU. If they don’t see artifacting, your GPU is processing the visuals correctly, but your monitor is not displaying them correctly. 

GPU Artifacting: Software-Side Diagnosis  

If your GPU is the cause of your artifacting, you should start diagnosis from the software side. Several software-side issues could be at play when it comes to GPU errors. So rather than blindly shooting into the dark, start at the diagnostic step. 

The good news is that if your GPU suffers from artifacts, the issue will usually be resolved by taking diagnostic steps. However, if there is more at play than the video card itself, you likely won’t see too much improvement just from the diagnostic steps, as the problem is no longer the video card. 

Start by updating your motherboard chipset’s drivers. Some artifacting issues may be caused by discrepancies between the motherboard and the graphics chipsets. These will typically be resolved on the software side through driver updates. 

If updating your drivers for your motherboard had little to no effect on the artifacting, move to update your graphics card’s drivers. Just like with the motherboard, your graphics card’s drivers may have a conflict with the motherboard’s drivers that needs to be resolved through an update. 

This step is also an excellent time to check the news for both your motherboard and graphics chipsets. If there is a notable error on either side, the manufacturers may have released a press release regarding it. If this is the case, you’ll need to wait for either side to resolve the issue. 

GPU Artifacting: Hardware-Side Diagnosis 

If you couldn’t find a software-side issue causing your GPU to suffer from artifacting, you’ll need to look at your hardware to ensure nothing is malfunctioning.

The most common components that can fail and cause GPU artifacting are the video RAM, thermal paste, and clock speed. These factors can influence whether your GPU can efficiently run programs, especially high-intensity ones like gaming or video editing. 

On the hardware side, the GPU, Video RAM, or Bus may be causing the GPU to suffer from artifacting. Unfortunately, there’s no hard or fast rule determining the malfunctioning part. So, you’ll need to go through a process of elimination to find out what’s wrong with your GPU. 

GPU Artifacting

There’s no set look for GPU artifacting. It may be as minor as a few pixels or so severe that the screen is entirely indecipherable. Typically, GPU artifacting is caused by issues with the unit’s temperature. 

The first step to diagnosing your GPU’s issue is to start by lowering the clock speed of the unit to a speed lower than the unit’s base clock speed. By underclocking your GPU, you can resolve issues that arise from the unit’s temperature, including artifacting. 

You can also lower the temperature of your GPU by improving your PC’s cooling system. This is a costly fix, but installing extra case fans or a water cooling system, checking your GPU’s fans, and changing the GPU’s thermal paste can bring the unit’s temperature down to a stable level. 

If lowering your GPU’s temperature hasn’t fixed the artifacting, then it’s time to move on to the next diagnostic step. Unfortunately, all remaining issues will require an entirely new GPU. So, you can stop here and replace the GPU if you want. 

Video RAM Artifacting

As your GPU processes data to output images to your screen, the information it processes is stored in your GPU’s Random Access Memory (RAM).

The Video RAM or VRAM is the dedicated memory that your GPU uses to store information relating to your graphics processing. Like desktop RAM, this memory is wiped when the computer shuts down, and the information is not stored permanently. 

Typically when VRAM goes terrible, only a portion of the RAM will fail while the remaining portions continue to function correctly. This can result in a complete picture with only minor flaws that might be barely noticeable to the naked eye depending on what is displayed on the screen. 

The VRAM also stores “frame buffers,” completed images that the graphics card draws while animating your screen. In video production, we refer to the frame buffers as “tweens”, representing the “in-between” frames in animation that connect major animation events. 

In some cases of artifacting from malfunctioning VRAM, you may experience bars of discolouration across images. In this case, the VRAM is maintaining the wrong colour channels. So, when the computer goes to draw a new idea, the picture comes in with the incorrect colours. 

RAM artifacting may also appear as a “spike,” a random output of arbitrary shapes and textures drawn from the VRAM that is entirely in the wrong place. Spikes are generally referred to as such because they literally resemble an end. They’re typically misshapen and probably do not resemble whatever the computer was trying to draw. However, the initiated may recognise the item from the texture alone. 

Unfortunately, bad VRAM isn’t something the layperson can fix. If your VRAM has gone wrong, you’ll need to buy a new GPU. 

DVI Corruption

People using a DVI connection between their graphics card and monitor can also experience a unique kind of corruption within their DVI connection. This will typically display as wobbly, coloured lines over the image. 

If the problem is the cable, replacing the line causing the issue will fix it. However, if the problem is with the monitor or graphics card, that component will need to be replaced. 

Final Thoughts 

Artifacting is a considerable struggle that tends to be pretty inevitable regarding computers.

It’s hard to avoid it because as your GPU experiences normal wear and tear from daily use, the chances of experiencing artifacting goes up.

Unfortunately, aside from replacing your GPU, there’s not much recourse to fix artifacting without affecting your PC’s run speeds. But don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty to ensure you have to replace your GPU first.