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Keeping your video card at the best running temperature ensures that it is performing at its best without damaging the hardware. The best video card temperature varies depending on your model and manufacturer, so find out the optimum recommended temperature range for your video card. To maintain the best temperature, use a temperature monitor and sensors that tell you your video card temperature, plus cooling hardware that will keep your video card at the correct temperature.
Usually, information about the best temperature for your video card can be found on the manufacturer's website or on the retail box for the video card. Some video cards have built-in sensors that tell you the video card temperature. You can use this hardware to watch the video card temperature to make sure that it stays within recommended ranges.
Temperature monitors can be internal or external. Internal temperature monitors that read from sensors inside the computer can be helpful, but external temperature control units that are seated outside the computer case generally offer more video card temperature control. Fan and temperature control that relies on the computer can become lagged if the computer is bogged down. When a temperature control system takes longer to respond, this means more damage to your components as it spends more time outside the optimal performance range. Using an external temperature control that operates independently of your computer takes up more space on your desk, but it offers superior regulation of the temperature of your internal components.
Types of cooling systems include passive cooling systems, water cooling systems, and active cooling systems. A passive cooling system is typically a metal heatsink kept in contact with the hardware that needs to be cooled. This method uses the conductive properties of the metal to move heat away from the hardware. A heatsink is a metal component that is mounted in contact with the hot parts of a video card to conduct heat away from the hardware, lowering video card temperature.
Active cooling systems are normally made of a small passive heatsink combined with a fan. The fan is the component that makes a cooling system an "active" cooling system. It is the fan's job to speed hardware cooling by moving hot air away from the hardware and heatsink. One drawback to an active system is that the fan can be noisy.
Most water cooling systems are made up of a pump, a fan, and water reservoir called a water block that acts as a heatsink. Water cooling systems are often quieter than fan-based systems, but they run the additional risk of damaging components if the water containing parts break, rupture, or leak. This is a common and serious issue, especially with discount water cooling systems, so a high-end air cooling system is probably a better choice if you are unfamiliar with water cooling systems. Some video cards are designed to use a water cooling unit. Often, these water cooling attachments are attached to an auxiliary graphics processing unit (GPU).
Sometimes, keeping that video card cool simply involves making sure no dust is covering the vents on your computer. If those vents are caked with dust, then heat won't dissipate as quickly and that can lead to serious overheating for all components in the system. A small vacuum cleaner, some compressed air or simply opening a case and banging out that dust can work wonders.
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