If you’ve ever been playing a game or working on something that is resource intensive, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced a seemingly-random crash from your system. Without any reason, your system could simply shut off. In truth, it is rare a computer has a truly random issue, and it is often due to components in the machine reaching a particular heat threshold – a threshold that the average user may not be able to view.
This scenario has since led to the development of various programs for viewing system temperatures. Depending on who you ask, they can vary in accuracy, though at the same time can be a worthwhile download in order to better understand the limitations that the computer will have before it shuts down. If you’re planning to use any of these system temperature monitors for troubleshooting, be aware that a full-screen application (such as a game) may not display them, so be prepared to use “Alt + Tab” or “Alt + Enter” in order to refer to the statistics.
1. Open Hardware Monitor
The name explains a great deal about the goal of the software; it is an open-source hardware monitor for Windows, though a version for Linux also exists. It’s extremely straightforward to look at, and there aren’t a great number of settings to allow for endless customization. Even so, Open Hardware Monitor has an interesting “Gadget” feature, allowing you to display a single statistic in a gadget on the desktop.
Should you choose to use a gadget, you can move it around the desktop and force it to appear on top of all other windows, meaning that you will not have to return to the desktop to view its contents. Open Hardware Monitor was able to correctly identify all components in the test machine, and we had no complaint with this. While it might not be the most exciting looking program, and it may not have the widest feature-set, Open Hardware Monitor is a trusty tool, and being able to pin elements to the desktop is definitely something users will find appealing.
We covered this particular tool in our article on finding system specifications where we found ourselves impressed by its ability to display extremely detailed information, but it can do more than just inform about the parts used.
HWiNFO’s “Sensors” interface is similar to that of Open Hardware Monitor; both look similarly straightforward, though differ in specific features. HWiNFO has a huge array of settings that can be tweaked seemingly endlessly; for people who want to maintain a constant overview of their system, these settings are probably going to prove infinitely useful.
While HWiNFO doesn’t allow you to place individual elements on the desktop, it works similarly by allowing them in the System Tray. This is handled through right-clicking the element and choosing to “Add to tray”. Once added, changes are reflected in the icon, and it can be modified even further through colour changes.
3. MSI Afterburner
The third and final tool we’ve tested for monitoring system temperature, Afterburner is probably one of the more popular options given its association with computer manufacturer MSI. Afterburner is the only tool in this list that can be used to adjust computer settings, making it possible to increase or decrease fan speed as necessary. Furthermore, MSI Afterburner can be skinned and comes with a few choices as standard: by far the most familiar is the black and green of the default skin which we’ve stuck with for the ease of understanding.
A RivaTuner plugin offered as part of the install procedure makes it possible for Afterburner to display information on-screen during games, in much the same way that FRAPS does. The only downside to Afterburner is that it focuses solely on the graphics card – convenient enough if it’s what you’re focusing on, but hardly a substitute for any other element of the computer.
Of the tools used, we found that HWiNFO appealed most for our needs; it’s extremely flexible thanks to the System Tray: while a docked Gadget may float over something you’re viewing, the System Tray is never in the way due to its position. The sheer number of settings available in HWiNFO’s neatly designed interface also confirms the tool’s suitability for most users. Simply put, it’s brilliant – and at a price of totally free, it’s nearly essential if you’ve ever been troubleshooting and blamed an issue on heat.