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I hear people comment about GPU memory/ram "dying" from an overclock. Is this possible? Is there an objective way to tell, besides circumstantial blue screens?

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Yes, it can. Overclocking can cause overheating which can kill components. Generally speaking, there's no easy way to tell if component damage was actually caused by overclocking.

Video cards frequently do a mediocre job of cooling their memory. Often they're just pressing against a heat sink and with low-end cards, the heat sink can actually radiate heat to the memory.

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Depends on how you overclock. If you overclock the core frequency only, your memory won't burn out. If you overclock your memory past what it can handle, it will burn up. Over-volting is the easiest way to burn your memory out. On average, gpu memory hardly ever burns out it's more likely the gpu itself.

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