HomeTechnologyNewsWhy does my PC turn off when I play games?

Why does my PC turn off when I play games?

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Heat can be the main cause of hard shutdowns, affecting both the CPU and GPU. An underpowered power supply can also be to blame, and it’s always worth reinstalling stable drivers to rule out any issues.

Sudden blackouts can be frustrating, especially when you’re gaming. It can also be difficult to troubleshoot a PC that randomly shuts down, and there could be a few different things to blame. Here’s what to look for and how to proceed to resolve the issue.

Check Windows Reliability Monitor

Before attempting to open the case or change components, it may be wise to take a look at the Windows Reliability Monitor. This application records all kinds of events and problems with your computer, from failures caused by hardware to software failures such as failed installations and operating system updates.

You can find Windows Reliability Monitor in Control Panel > System and Security > Security and Maintenance > Reliability Monitor. Find it quickly by clicking “Start” and searching for “Reliability” and then clicking the “View Reliability History” option that appears.

Crashes are indicated by a red “X” and these are the ones to look for if you are trying to diagnose a hardware or software problem.

Reliability Monitor in Windows showing red Xs indicating recent crashes.

You can also click the “See all problem reports” button at the bottom of the window to see a list of problems that can point you in the right direction.

The information you get from Windows Reliability Monitor can help you diagnose what caused the crash and get you closer to a solution. For example, if Windows hints that your GPU was at fault, you know the problem is probably not with the power supply or CPU.

An overheated CPU may be to blame

One of the most common causes of a sudden shutdown is heat. When a critical component like your CPU exceeds a safe operating temperature, it goes into self-preservation mode. This often means random shutdowns, as cutting power prevents the CPU from heating up and causing (more) damage.

You can test this theory by monitoring the temperatures on your CPU. Since you’re experiencing random outages, you’ll want to be able to log your findings to a file so you can check what happens when the power goes out. HWiNFO64 is free for commercial use and can be used to log this information to a file.

You should expect your CPU to run between 45ºC and 60ºC (113ºF and 140ºF) on any given core. When things start to get close to 80ºC (176ºF), you may start to have problems. Some CPUs can withstand temperatures of up to 100ºC (212ºF) before overheating, but that doesn’t mean that reaching these types of temperatures is safe or ideal.

If you have found that your CPU is getting too hot, you can try a few things to cool it down. The easiest remedy is to make sure your case is free of dust and has good airflow. Even the best CPU coolers will struggle if your case is simply circulating hot air, with inadequate exhaust and intake. Do not forget that the radiators connected to the water coolers also need to vent the heat.

Close up of a dusty CPU cooling fan.
Sergei Melnikov/Shutterstock.com

Your existing CPU cooler may not be up to the task, but try reinstalling it first and applying better thermal paste in the right amount to try to bring the temps down. Properly applied quality thermal paste can help your cooler run more efficiently and is much cheaper than buying a whole new cooler.

If you don’t notice an improvement in temperatures by cleaning your case or reinstalling your cooler, a better cooler might be the only way to go. If you’re still using the free cooler that came with your CPU, now is the time to upgrade. Be sure to buy something that will fit in your case, and look to spend $50-$150 on a quality cooler from brands like Noctua, Corsair, and Cooler Master.

Your GPU could be getting too hot or crashing

The other component that you need to consider when faced with random shutdowns is the GPU. Since the GPU is responsible for graphics-intensive operations, it can be put under a lot of pressure while gaming. Just like your CPU, your GPU is also prone to generating a lot of heat. If it’s too hot, you may experience a sudden loss of power.

To monitor GPU temperatures, use a free tool like GPU-Z. You can check the “Log to file” checkbox on the “Sensors” tab to designate a location to save the log to. When you encounter a crash, find the file and take a look at the temperatures (and any other criteria recorded) at the time of the crash. You can also do this with the HWiNFO64 mentioned above.

Normal GPU operating temperatures are similar to what you would expect from a CPU. You can expect any temperature from 65ºC to 85ºC (149ºF to 185ºF) under heavy loads, such as when playing intensive games or rendering videos. Different cards have different upper limits for temperatures, with some exceeding 90ºC (194ºF).

Keeping your GPU as cool as possible will help protect it and the rest of your computer from damage, and can resolve issues like desktop crashes and random shutdowns. The first thing to check if you are experiencing GPU heat issues is whether you have adequate airflow in your case. Cleaning up dust and debris will help a lot.

You can always (carefully) run your PC with the case off to see if the temperatures are significantly affected. A more permanent solution would be to buy more fans and install them in a way that they vent heat effectively. Optimize the case to prevent heat from the power supply from being transmitted directly to the GPU. Even changing your PC case can go a long way towards improving airflow.

GPUs, like CPUs, use thermal paste and coolers. You can try replacing the stock thermal paste or coolers if you’re up to the task. If lowering your GPU operating temperatures doesn’t help and you’re still having issues, you might want to consider a faulty GPU to blame. Identifying this as your problem can be difficult. The easiest way is to swap out the GPU for another one and run more tests or put the suspect GPU in another machine to see if it encounters the same issues.

Could be a power supply problem

Another common cause of sudden power loss is problems with the power supply. Your power supply doesn’t necessarily have to be faulty either, it may not be able to provide enough power to keep your system running. This is especially common during gaming, as new graphics cards consume a large amount of power.

To get a quick idea of ​​whether it’s your power supply to blame, use a calculator like NewEgg’s Power Supply Calculator or Seasonic’s Power Calculator. Enter the full specifications of your PC to get an idea of ​​how much power consumption you can expect. If your current PSU does not meet the recommendations, there is a chance that replacing your PSU may resolve your issue.

New Egg Power Supply Calculator Recommendation

Buying a power supply with more power than you currently need is a good idea. Your computer only draws as much power as it needs, and it’s nice to have some overhead when it comes to upgrading or adding more components. Remember, everything on your PC adds to total power consumption, including case fans, storage, RGB lighting, and network interfaces.

RELATED: How to test your computer’s power supply with a multimeter

Driver issues could also be to blame

GPU driver issues are more likely to cause desktop crashes or visual artifacts, but it’s worth exploring all avenues if you’re having trouble. For best results, remove the old driver before installing the new one to avoid problems caused by leftover files.

You can do this in Windows using Device Manager. Launch Device Manager by searching for it in the “Start” menu, then expand the “Display Adapters” section and right-click on your GPU. Select “Properties” and click the “Driver” tab, followed by “Uninstall Device,” then follow the instructions to remove the driver.

It is also possible to do this with a free utility called Display Driver Uninstaller. With the drivers uninstalled, obtain a GPU utility such as GeForce Experience (for NVIDIA cards), AMD Adrenalin (for AMD Radeon cards), or the latest Intel Arc drivers to perform a clean install.

Does the laptop crash? The problem may be more difficult to solve

Laptops are a bit more complicated than desktop computers that you’ve built yourself. You can open them up and dust them off to improve airflow (and thermals), and you can do the same clean controller installs as above. But you don’t have the same freedom in terms of replacing coolers and installing case fans that you do with a desktop computer.

If you’re having this problem with a recent purchase, it’s certainly worth talking to the manufacturer and making a warranty claim. For older machines, you may want to have the laptop checked out by a specialist to determine the cause of the problem.

If you can’t find a solution or the laptop is showing its age, consider replacing it with one of our recommended gaming laptops.


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