I'm just curious, do graphics cards deteriorate as time goes on? As in does the performance degrade as the card gets older with frequent use, I understand that newer title games will demand more from a graphics card. If this is the case how soon can one start to notice a drop in performance?
I don't really think card really do degrade that way, of course, a dirty card for example will dissipate less heat that could force the clock speed down effectively lowering performance. Also, I believe thermal paste deteriorates over time but there are people that say thermal paste gets better with time so not too sure about that.
But over all a well maintained card will operate more or less the same until something finally fails. that's my take on it anyways.
The reason I ask is I have a year old Radeon 7950 that is not performing like it used to. I can try cleaning when I get home tonight but it hasn't been long since the last time I cleaned it. Anyways to give an example of what's wrong, I used to play minecraft with a mod that allowed me to boost render distance and all that to extremely far. I didn't have problems running it then but now I have struggles with the lowest render distance running the game at like 40 fps. I don't want to buy a new card if I can avoid it.
Here is the link to the card: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814131478
isnt minecraft cpu intensive? i think you should look into problems with your CPU. is it overheating? maybe there are background processing hogging up CPU resources.
Try the fan test, turn off your PC for about a half hour (to cool dawn), open the side panel and put like a big fan blowing air directly into it. Turn your PC back on and play what ever game you having trouble with. If its a heat issue this should minimize it or make it go away. Now if that doesn't work you know its not necessarily a heat issue.
I haven't gotten around to trying the fan thing like you suggested but I did play a game for about an hour running my gpu at 99% most of the time and the temperature maxed out at 72c. From what I read the gpu doesn't throttle till around 90c or so. I could be wrong but that's just what I read.