"The best time to run a 3DMark Stress Test is after buying or building a new PC, upgrading your graphics card, or overclocking your GPU. If your GPU crashes or produces visual artifacts during the test, it may indicate a reliability or stability problem. If it overheats and shuts down, you may need more cooling in your computer," Futuremark explains.
One of the most popular benchmarks on the planet is 3DMark, which Futuremark claims is used by millions of people, hundreds of review sites (we're one of them), and a many of the world's leading technology companies. It's a handy utility for comparing the graphics performance between multiple systems, though it's also useful as a stress testing tool. In recognition of the latter, Futuremark has added a dedicated stress testing feature to 3DMark.
Stress testing places a high load on your system and individual components to root out any problems. It can expose inadequate cooling, overclocks that are too aggressive, and faulty hardware. There are several ways to stress test different parts of your PC, and that now includes four levels of stress testing in 3DMark that are based on the Sky Diver, Fire Strike, Fire Strike Extreme, and Fire Strike Ultra benchmarks.
When should you run each one? Based on Futuremark's recommendations, Sky Diver is best for gaming laptops and mid-range PCs, Fire Strike is most appropriate for high performance gaming PCs, Fire Strike Extreme is for multi-GPU and overclocked PCs, and Fire Strike Ultra is for 4K gaming setups.
Each stress test runs in a loop without any pauses for loading screens or other breaks. If you have the Advanced Edition of 3DMark, the test loops 20 times and takes around 10 minutes to complete. In the Professional Edition, you can set the number of loops anywhere from 2 all the way to 5,000. Assuming our math is correct, a 5,000 loop stress test would take 2,500 minutes, or 41 hours and 40 minutes.
When a stress test is finished, it will report your system's Frame Rate Stability score. In order to pass a test, your system has to finish all loops with a Frame Rate Stability score of 97 percent or higher. In the above screenshot, you can see that the system failed the stress test because it couldn't maintain a consistent level of performance under load. That could indicate that better cooling is needed to prevent throttling.
The stress tests are only available in 3DMark Advanced Edition and 3DMark Professional Edition, and not the free Basic Edition.