Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

What is GPU sag, and how to avoid it

Graphics card sag, or GPU sag, is something almost everyone who’s ever owned a high-end graphics card has experienced. It’s that sinking feeling you get when your expensive new GPU droops in its PCIExpress slot, testing the strength of its mounts to keep it in place. But even if it manages to do so, the long-term effect of GPU sag can be quite dramatic, leading to degradation and even failure.

Fortunately, it’s easy to fix GPU sag. If you act early, you’ve nothing to fear.

GPU sag on an RTX 3070.

What is GPU sag?

GPU sag is when a graphics card, typically a larger, heavier one, cannot be fully supported by the PCIExpress slot and PCI Bracket. Modern graphics cards can often carry large coolers, which have significant weight to them — more than these traditional mounting points can adequately handle. With the printed circuit board (PCB) unable to hold its rigidity, the board droops, or sags downwards at the top corner without direct support.

This isn’t necessarily a problem in the short term — as long as the card is in the slot fully, it should work just fine. However, there’s a reason that many manufacturers include additional support brackets with particularly big, heavy, and expensive graphics cards: GPU sag can damage your GPU. YouTuber KrisFix-Germany reported in April that he had samples of Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti GPUs that no longer work because the memory modules closest to the PCIExpress slot have damaged connection points. He noted failed solder joints on the PCB and oxidation on the memory contacts.

Get your weekly teardown of the tech behind PC gaming
Check your inbox!

He suggests that this is caused by GPU sag, where the stressed PCB flexes as it warms and cools throughout use, eventually damaging nearby connections. Although he was able to fix this particular issue, it suggests GPU sag is a real problem that has the potential to break expensive hardware that otherwise has plenty of life left in it.

Coolermaster GPU support bracket.
Cooler Master

How do you fix GPU sag?

GPU sag is caused by a GPU’s weight being inadequately supported, so the solution is to add more support!

There are several ways you can improve a GPU’s support. Certain cases have more robust PCIExpress bracket designs, and many high-end motherboards have additional reinforcement (sometimes called armor) around the PCIExpress slots.

The best way to add additional GPU support, though, is underneath it on that top corner. There are GPU support brackets designed specifically for this, like the fancy-looking Cooler Master solution above; many high-end GPUs come with one in the box. However, you don’t need to use a GPU support bracket. Anything that’s sturdy enough to take the weight and nonconductive will be absolutely fine. Lego bricks, a tupperware tub, or even a toilet paper roll will do.

Another option is to change the mounting of the GPU. Vertical graphics card mounting is possible in some cases, and there are expansion kits that can make it viable in others. This involves connecting the GPU to a ribbon cable that then plugs into the PCIExpress slot, letting you mount the graphics card in a vertical (or alternate) orientation. No longer fighting against gravity, the card can sit comfortably, sag-free.

Editors' Recommendations

Jon Martindale
Jon Martindale is the Evergreen Coordinator for Computing, overseeing a team of writers addressing all the latest how to…
What is thermal throttling and how does it affect frame rates?
Intel's 14900K CPU socketed in a motherboard.

If you've ever been playing a game just fine and then found your fans spinning up fast and loud and your frame rate tanking, you may have become a victim of thermal throttling. It's when your processor, graphics card, or some other component feels it's getting too hot to continue safely, so it lowers its speed to keep itself running and alive.

This sends frame rates right where you might expect: into the toilet. Want to learn more about thermal throttling and how to prevent it? Here's a little breakdown of what you need to know.
What is thermal throttling?
Thermal throttling is when one of your system's components, most typically your CPU or graphics card, reaches its maximum safe operating temperature. At that point, a safety measure kicks in to lower the power draw of that component, thereby reducing its clock speed and operating temperature. This prevents the CPU or GPU from overheating and potentially causing damage to its internal electronics.

Read more
Everything you need to know about buying a GPU in 2024
RTX 4090.

The graphics card, also known as the GPU, is arguably one of the most exciting components in any PC build. Alongside the processor, your graphics card often has the greatest impact on the overall performance of your PC. That makes it a pretty high-stakes purchase, especially if you consider that GPUs can get pretty expensive.

The GPU market has a lot to offer, and that's regardless of your needs and your budget. Whether you're aiming for something super cheap to support some light browsing or a behemoth to handle the most GPU-intensive games, you have lots of options. In this guide, we'll show you what to look out for so that you can pick the best GPU that fits your budget and needs.
Nvidia, AMD, or Intel?
Consumer graphics cards are generally split into two categories -- integrated and discrete graphics. Since you're here, you're most likely looking for a discrete (or dedicated) GPU, and that's what we're going to focus on in this article.

Read more
10 best graphics cards of 2024: finding the best GPU for gaming
RTX 3080 graphics cards among other GPUs.

Your gaming PC deserves one of the best graphics cards. In 2024, the competitiveness between Nvidia and AMD is hotter than it has ever been, and there are several great options regardless of your budget or performance target.

We've reviewed every GPU from Nvidia, AMD, and Intel to bring you a comprehensive list of the best GPUs for gaming. If you're considering an upgrade, make sure to read our guide on how to install a graphics card, as well as some of the most common GPU problems.

Read more