High-end graphics cards are getting heavier as their cooling and power components expand to handle them. This means that in some cases, the card tends to get a little “bendy” in a rather alarming way known as “GPU sag.”
What Is GPU Sag, and Why Does It Happen?
When you install a graphics card, the card is supported by the card slot and by the screws that secure it to the chassis back plate. This means that the weight on the top rear corner of the card can make the card sag, putting strain on the PCIe slot.
Is Sag a Problem?
Sag is certainly an aesthetic problem for many users. It doesn’t look right and intuitively seems like it will eventually break something. However, that doesn’t mean that anything will break. In most cases, the card and PCIe slot will probably be fine, regardless of how much anxiety GPU sag produces.
Then again, if the computer is moved or bumped, there’s a chance that the unsecured weight might permanently damage something because of the range of motion afforded to the card. Whether you don’t like GPU sag for aesthetic or safety reasons, you can do a few things to combat it.
Support It With PCIe Power Cables
High-end, heavy cards always require additional power using PCIe power connectors from the power supply. One way to reduce GPU sag is to use the cable management system in your chassis to put a slight amount of tension on these cables, pulling the card back in place. PCIe power connectors are quite robust, and the amount of weight involved is relatively small, so if you do it conservatively, this could address at least the aesthetic concerns around GPU sag.
Prop the Card Up
You can also prop the card up with another object braced against the bottom of the tower case. What you use is entirely up to you. You can build a tower of LEGO, cut a piece of wood to length, or 3D-print something professional-looking. This is a rather crude solution, but it’s an option, so it belongs on the list!
You can buy commercial, adjustable props like the MHQJRH GPU Brace Support if you want a more permanent solution that doesn’t look homemade, but even then this is only suitable for a computer that’s not going to be moved.
Use a GPU Support Bracket
Perhaps the best solution is a commercial GPU support bracket. Their designs vary, but they all offer additional support to the parts of the card that aren’t held up by the slot or chassis backplate.
A common design attaches the bracket to the chassis backplate slot right below the sagging card, with attachment points that keep the rear of the card from sagging. The Thermalight Support Bracket is one example.
Install the Card Vertically
GPU sag isn’t an issue if the card is upright, but almost all desktop PCs these days use tower cases where cards slot in sideways. You have three main options here if you want to get your heavy card into a vertical position.
One option is to simply turn your tower on its side (but not a side with ventilation holes). It’s not the most elegant solution, but it’s free, and you can do it right now.
Alternatively, you can use a PCIe riser cable. This is an extension cable that plugs into the slot on your motherboard, and then the card slots into the other end of the cable. This allows you to mount the card vertically using your choice custom mounting solution.
Your third option is to buy a different case for your computer that allows your cards to be mounted vertically, like the Thermaltake Core P5. Some PC cases have an integrated PCIe riser solution for this very purpose, or you can swim upstream and rock a desktop PC chassis like it’s 1999, if you can find one.
Convert the Card to Water Cooling
The final potential fix for a sagging card is to remove that massive copper and aluminum fansink, and replace it with a water cooling block and radiator. The radiator and fans are mounted to the case’s dedicated water cooling mounting holes, and the card should no longer sag.
This is an expensive and technically challenging solution, but it does have the benefit of improving your card’s cooling, performance, and noise levels. So while it’s not really worth doing because of GPU sag alone, there is a fringe benefit of water-cooling your graphics card!