Modern graphics cards tend to be massive slabs of metal and plastic, and there seem to be no signs that they’ll get smaller. The heavier your graphics card, the more you risk encountering GPU sag. While this issue isn’t anything new, it’s becoming more prominent due to massive, triple-slot graphics cards becoming more popular. This guide examines when you should worry about a saggy graphics card and what you can do to fix or prevent the problem.
What Is GPU Sag?
GPU sag commonly happens in heavy, triple-fan, or triple-slot graphics cards. When a graphics card gets too heavy to be supported by the motherboard’s PCIe slot alone, it starts to sag downward. In most PC builds, you install your graphics card horizontally into a vertically oriented motherboard. Unfortunately, gravity takes over and pulls heavy graphics cards downward toward the base of the case.
If you have a smaller GPU with a shroud containing one or two fans, chances are your motherboard’s PCIe slot will be enough to hold it in place without any sagging. As GPUs get bigger and more power-hungry, though, they need more extensive cooling solutions. The size of the graphics cards plus the additional weight from fans makes sagging highly likely.
GPU sag can range from a minor dip of your graphics card to over one centimeter of sag. In some cases, the sagging can be a cosmetic issue, while other times, it could lead to long-term damage to your hardware.
Good to know: If your GPU is experiencing issues unrelated to sagging, check out our graphics card troubleshooting guide.
Is GPU Sag Bad?
If you haven’t noticed your graphics card bending down a little toward the right side (front side of the case), your GPU sag may not lead to any permanent issues. But anything that looks prominent to the naked eye can lead to serious damage to various components of your hardware.
The component most at risk of damage from GPU sag is the PCIe slot itself. If your GPU exerts too much downward pressure on the slot, it can warp or break contact with the motherboard. Additionally, the graphics card can lose connection with the PCIe slot over time, leading to your graphics card not working.
Another possible consequence of GPU sag is excess strain exerted on the graphics card’s PCB. If this is not fixed, it can cause circuitry damage, which can destroy the graphics card.
In severe situations, a sagging graphics card can also cause its fan shroud to lose contact with the heatsink, leading to poor cooling performance. This is likely to cause overheating and thermal throttling, affecting GPU performance or, worse, causing failure of the graphics card.
Tip: use Windows to determine which graphics card is installed in your PC.
How to Fix GPU Sag
If you notice your PC has an unreasonable amount of GPU sag (anything more than 5mm to 6mm), you should fix it. There are various ways to improve the issue, each with varying degrees of effort and cost.
The easiest way to alleviate graphics card sag is to place something under your GPU to give it a lift. This DIY method can work for most people: you just need a Lego block or similar to prop underneath the right end of your graphics card. This method can also inject extra character into your gaming PC build.
Another DIY method that can eliminate GPU sag is to route the power cables of the GPU in such a manner that they go upward and into the back of the case. This will likely apply a bit of upward force to counteract the droop. Granted, this may not be possible in every PC case, but if it’s doable, you should try.
A costlier and less practical method to fix GPU sag is to swap your existing motherboard for something that has reinforced PCIe slots. These motherboards are much better at reducing the issue by holding the graphics card snugly in place. You can also choose to build your PC in a horizontal case so that GPU sag is no longer an issue. Alternatively, mount your graphics card vertically in your existing case with the help of a vertical mounting kit.
Also helpful: you can avoid GPU sag and other issues by not making these PC building mistakes.
Do You Need a GPU Sag Bracket?
GPU sag support brackets are specialized solutions that prevent your graphic cards from drooping. Your graphics card rests on top of the bracket. They can be positioned vertically or horizontally and plugged into the secondary PCIe slot (if available). These brackets may come with your graphics card. If not, they can be purchased separately.
GPU sag brackets allow you to vary the support or upward lift you want to provide to your graphics card. Many also have unique aesthetics and RGB lighting to enhance your build’s look and feel.
But are GPU sag brackets necessary? It depends on your graphics card.
If you’re buying a high-end graphics card, chances are it will be designed to reduce GPU sag to a minimum. These cards use reinforced connection points and lightweight materials to not sag so much. Plus, the manufacturer may have included a GPU bracket in the box, which you can install anyway for peace of mind.
If your graphics card’s design doesn’t naturally prevent GPU sag, you should invest in a plug-and-play solution like a GPU sag bracket. Cost isn’t a big issue; you can get GPU brackets for around $10 to $20.
Getting the Most Out of Your Graphics Card
As GPU manufacturers strive to make denser chips and larger dies, Nvidia, AMD, and Intel graphics cards keep growing in size. GPU sag is here to stay as a necessary evil – something consumers have to work around to benefit from more and more powerful graphics cards.
If you’re looking for ways to get the most out of your graphics card, you can overclock it with MSI Afterburner. You can also stress test your GPU with Furmark to test the stability of your overclock.
Image credit: Unsplash
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