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Does playing games damage computers and laptops?

by Jason Clarke
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The perceived evils of video games have been around since their first inception. Whether they’re seen as addictive, detrimental to mental health, or encouraging of violence, there are many ways in which detractors consider video games to be a problem. But another concern that often raises its head, is whether gaming damages the computers they run on.

If a game makes a desktop or laptop run hard, can that cause it to become damaged over time?

The answer is mostly a flat and clear, no. But there are some considerations to be made to make sure that that remains the case.

Image taken from behind a gamer wearing a headset as they look forward at their monitor which is blurry in the background

Don’t let it get too hot

Playing games is no different than running any other piece of software that requires a graphics card or chip. They just tend to make the system run a little harder, requiring hefty CPU and GPU resources in order to display all the beautiful pixels on screen, whilst calculating the actions of you, your friends, and any NPCs in the scene.

That means they work harder, ultimately requiring more power, and outputting more heat. Most modern CPUs and graphics chips include safeguards to prevent themselves from getting too hot. That usually involves deliberate downclocking, or making themselves run slower so as not to get too hot. Whether you experience that slowdown or not, though, if you have inadequate cooling and play games on your system for a long time, that heat build-up can slowly degrade your hardware. It will take a long time, unless you’re running at extreme temperatures, but keeping your system cool is a great way to increase the longevity of its components.

All the systems we build here at Chillblast include powerful, but quiet cooling to ensure that your processor, graphics card, and everything in between, all stay at safe working temperatures no matter how long you game for. If you’re building your own PC, make sure you have plenty of cold air coming in and hot air going out, to keep everything running at comfortable temperatures.

Overclocking

One thing that does have the potential to damage your system is overclocking. If not done right or with due care, you run the risk of putting too much power through your CPU, GPU, or memory. Even if you do put together a safe overclock though, you’ll have to keep a close eye on your temperatures. Running games normally can be intensive for even powerful PCs and laptops, but doing so with an overclocked system can be even more so.

Fortunately, even in that case most modern processors and graphics cards will thermally throttle – deliberately slow themselves down – in order to reduce their heat output to find a stable frequency to run at that won’t result in overheating. In extreme circumstances – typically only when a cooling fan or pump stops working – the system will shut down to protect its components.

That makes it almost impossible to truly damage your hardware when gaming, even if you have a big overclock running. But it’s not advisable to perform hasty overclocking with wildly high voltages or clock speeds. Especially if your cooling isn’t up to the task.

Chillblast offers an overclocking facility so if you like the idea of getting more performance out of your system, we can typically overclock it by 10 to 20 percent if you so choose. It’s completely covered by our warranty too, so you needn’t worry about any damage arising from it. Even if there was, we’d cover it.

Image of inside a PC that shows a big Noctua CPU cooler and a rear exhaust fan

Peripheral wear

As much as you are almost certainly not doing any damage to your PC by gaming, the same cannot be said for accessories. Gamepads, mice, keyboards, and headsets can all take more of a beating during intense gaming sessions than they do through typical daily use. A typist might use their keyboard more than a gamer, but they are going to focus on a wider array of keys. Gamers will typically have their fingers hovering over, and tapping away on the WASD keys, as well as the first few number keys and the space bar. That can lead to undue wear over time.

If you’re using a mechanical keyboard that’s rated for tens of millions of key presses on each key, you’ll probably not notice the issue before you upgrade your keyboard for looks, features, or a change in switch. But if you’re running a different design with scissor switches, especially on lower-profile laptop keyboards, the chance of you eventually wearing out the switches under those keys is far higher.

High speed, sweeping movements of a mouse can also slowly damage it. The sensor should stay strong for years to come, but if you game on a hard surface, or don’t make sure to clean whatever it is you’re moving around on, grime, dirt, and debris can accumulate and inhibit the sensor. You can also wear down your mouse’s PTFE (unbranded Teflon) feet, resulting in a worse usage experience.

Mouse buttons are also susceptible to wear over time. High-end mice often feature branded switches from companies like Omron, which are rated to last for several tens of millions of clicks. But cheaper mice may not be, in which case you’ll want to monitor your usage. Long term gaming on budget peripherals can lead to wear and tear over time.

Close up of a broken key on a white keyboard

OLED burn in

OLED monitors and laptops are rare, even in late 2019, despite them being common place options on televisions for years. They’re expensive still, but look absolutely gorgeous, with some of the blackest blacks, and brightest colours available on any screen. But beyond its price, OLED has one major disadvantage: burn in.

This is when a static image is displayed on the screen for too long and results in that image being “burned in” to the screen itself. It’s not literally burned in, but in the worst cases you can see a ghostly image of whatever it is was there before on the screen, no matter what you’re doing. There are a number of technologies that can help prevent this, but it’s still a problem worth keeping an eye on if you have an OLED display.

Gaming doesn’t typically affect this, because games predominantly have a lot of movement, shifting pixels around so they never stay still for too long. The one caveat to that is heads up displays, or in-game HUDs. These display information like health and ammo and can remain entirely static on the screen for the duration of the game.

Burn-in is only likely to happen in cases where you play the same game for multiple hours everyday and don’t refresh your content to allow the at-risk pixels to display different content at different brightness levels. If you might fall into the more risky category with the type of gaming schedule you keep, an OLED screen may not be for you.

Gaming doesn’t damage PCs, but you should be careful

If you want any more advice on looking after your PC or laptop, or want to build or buy a PC that will be able to last for years no matter what you throw at it, give Chillblast a call. Our expert system builders will be able to give you all the information you need to have a wonderful gaming experience on a powerful, economical system that’s right for you.

More resources:

Looking for a way to keep your PC cool? Check out this article for a review on Corsair’s A500 CPU Air Cooler!

Want a cooling system that stands out? Check out this article about Corsair’s RGB Hydro X watercooling systems!

Check out this article if you aren’t sure if a gaming PC is a worthy purchase as a casual gamer!

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