Keeping your CPU temperature in check is one of the foundations of looking after your computer. The CPU is pretty much the brain of your computer, through which millions of calculations are made, tasks are prioritized, and data is turned into information on your screen.
A hot CPU can result in throttling, which can impact the clock speeds of your CPU and therefore slow it down. It can also cause BSOD crashes and cause your CPU to deteriorate quicker, giving it a shorter lifespan than it deserves.
To help you check your CPU temperature in Windows 10, we’re going to show you the best tools you can use to monitor it.
But First – What’s a “Bad Temperature”?
Unfortunately, it’s not immediately obvious what a good or bad temperature for a processor is. If you see your processor’s idle temperature is 30°C, is that a good or bad idle temperature? What about 40°, 50°, 60°, or 70°C?
If you want to know what your processor’s max temperature is, search the Web for the product page of your specific CPU, then find where it lists the max ideal temperature for your processor.
If the temperature is listed under something similar to “Maximum Operating Temperature” or “T Case,” then that’s the temperature which you should strive to keep your processor under most of the time. If it says “T Junction” (like above), the general advice is to keep things at least 30°C under this stated temperature. (For the above example, we’ll be striving to stay under 70°C.) Either way, if your PC is under this temperature for most (or, ideally, all!) of the time, you’re doing fine.
Gaming is an important variable here. If you’re playing graphically intensive modern games, then not only will your GPU be under load, but your CPU too. Again, CPU temperature limits vary greatly, but under heavy gaming load, it’s not uncommon for temperatures to soar into the 80s. In most cases this is perfectly safe (if a little hot on the palms for laptop users), and you only need to start worrying if you’re creeping up into the 90s.
Now that we know what the temperature limit is, it’s time to explore how to check CPU temperature in Windows 10. This requires the aid of third-party programs, which will help keep tabs on how hot the processor is getting.
We’ve waxed lyrical plenty about the undervolting tool Throttlestop here at Make Tech Easier. (Check out our undervolting guide for proof!) The lightweight tool lets you undervolt your CPU to only cool down temperatures and prevent throttling, which in turn allows your CPU to function more effectively.
It’s worth looking into undervolting if you want to cool down your CPU, but as an added bonus, you can also use Throttlestop as a CPU temperature monitor.
First up, you can see each individual core temperature right there in the main Throttlestop window, but you can also get your CPU temperature to appear in the notification area on your PC.
To do this, click Options at the bottom of Throttlestop, then in the middle, check the “CPU Temp” box.
Now, every time you open Throttlestop, you’ll see a little number in your taskbar notification area showing you your CPU temperature at that moment.
This tool does a whole lot more than just monitor CPU temperatures, but on one single screen, you’ll find all the information you need and much more. In the main HWMonitor pane, you can scroll down to see your CPU listed with all its information.
You’ll see the voltage of each core, the amount of CPU being utilized and – most importantly – the temperature of each core. It displays the current temperature as well as the minimum and maximum temperatures.
There’s not a ton to dig into here because everything is displayed on that one screen. You can switch on a dark mode for those nocturnal monitoring sessions, switch on a status bar, and quickly save a log of your monitoring data with the Ctrl + S shortcut.
3. MSI Afterburner
Designed with gamers in mind, and for those who want to overclock their PCs, MSI Afterburner doubles as an excellent tool to monitor your PC temperatures. Once you’ve installed and opened Afterburner, you should see a graph on its home screen showing you your GPU temperature, CPU temperature, and various other data.
To reorder the graphs and prioritize CPU temperature so it appears near the top, click “Settings” in Afterburner, then the Monitoring tab. Here you’ll see a menu where you can tick which things you want displayed on the home screen and drag to the top the things you want to appear near the top. Just drag “CPU1 temperature,” “CPU2 temperature,” and all the other CPU temperatures near the top of the graph, and click OK. They’ll appear on the home screen in the order you chose.
When you select the “CPU” temperature, you can also tick the “Show in On-Screen Display” box so that it appears in the corner whenever you enter the shortcut for bringing up the OSD. (You can choose what key you want this to be by going to the “On-Screen Display” tab in Afterburner’s settings.)
4. Open Hardware Monitor
Open Hardware Monitor is a nice solution for getting all your needed statistics in one place. This will be able to tell you what your CPU’s temperatures are as well as your GPU’s temperature, the voltages being used in your computer, and even how fast your system fans are going. This makes it a robust tool that allows you to keep an eye on all your system temperatures.
You can find your CPU’s temperature under the category with your CPU’s name in it. It will list a temperature for each core your processor has.
Many of these temperature monitors allow you to put readings on your taskbar. This is particularly useful if you’re doing system-intensive tasks and want to keep an eye on your temperatures without darting back and forth between the active window and the system monitor. If you’d like to see the CPU temperature in the taskbar, right-click the temperature itself and click “Show in Tray.”
If the reading ends up hiding in the “additional” icons section, you can drag it onto the main active tray. This means it’ll always be visible as long as you can see the taskbar.
5. Core Temp
If you’d like something a little more focused on the processor itself, Core Temp is a good choice when you need to check the CPU temperature in Windows 10. It gives you everything you may want to know about your processor, such as its name, the cores it uses, and – most importantly – its temperature. It will even inform you of your processor’s T Junction limit, listed as “Tj. Max” above your temperatures.
If you’d like to see the temperature in the system tray, it should be enabled by default. If it’s not, click “Options,” then “Settings.”
Click the “Windows Taskbar” tab, then “Enable Windows 7 Taskbar features,” followed by “Temperature,” then “OK.”
Another all-in-one suite, Speccy, comes as a nice package of various systems diagnostics, including the ability to check CPU temperature in Windows 10. As soon as you open Speccy, you’re shown all the relevant temperatures you need to know for a healthy laptop. It’s also great for digging up information on your system, so make sure you remember this application, should you need information about your operating system or motherboard, for instance.
If you click on “CPU” on the left, you can get more focused information on your processor.
If you’d like the temperature to appear in the tray, click “View,” then “Options.”
Click “System tray,” then “Minimize to tray,” followed by “Display metrics in tray,” then select “CPU.”
Now when you minimize Speccy, you can keep tabs on how hot your CPU is running as you do other things.
Help! My Processor Is Too Hot!
If the above methods lead you to discover that you have quite a toasty processor, don’t panic. There are many solutions you can use to bring your processor down to a more reasonable level. We published an article about how to cool down your CPU, so see if the solutions there will help bring your CPU down to a more manageable heat.
Checking the Heat
Being a vital part of your laptop, an overheating processor is a cause for concern. With third-party apps, however, you can easily check CPU temperature in Windows 10 and ensure your processor is working as cool as it should.
Want to do more laptop maintenance? Then read our guide on how to check whether a USB drive is bootable in Windows 10 as well as our guide on installing unsigned drivers in Windows 10.