Understanding Your CPU Temperature and How to Cool It Down

Cpu Temperature Guide Featured

We know about overheating during exercise and hot summer days, but how much do you know about computers overheating? Just like us, computers have parts that can get too hot and malfunction. Unfortunately, unlike us, a little bit of water won’t do the trick!

Let’s explore how computers overheat, what causes it, and how to check how toasty your CPU is.

Why Does CPU Temperature Matter?

When computers do their job, the components used to perform said job heat up due to the stress put on them. A lot of components inside a computer can suffer from overheating, but the biggest culprits behind major crashes are the CPU and GPU. For now, we’re going to look into CPU heat problems and how to fix them.

Cpu Temperature Guide Board

The CPU is your computer’s main thinking processor. Everything you do is processed through the CPU, which warms it up. It gets so warm, in fact, that if your CPU doesn’t have a fan attached to it (known as a “heatsink”), it’ll overheat seconds after turning on!

What Causes CPU Overheating Issues?

Typically, CPU overheating occurs when your cooling system isn’t enough to keep the heat off of the processor. This is because you’re doing something really processor-intensive, such as playing 3D games or rendering video.

Cpu Temperature Guide Flame

It can also happen if your heatsink gets gummed up with dust. Dust reduces the cooling efficiency of the heatsink and traps exhaust heat. As a result, your CPU can’t get rid of excess heat and can overheat from performing the simplest of tasks.

When a CPU overheats, one of two things will happen. First, the processor may reduce its own power in order to alleviate the stress put on it. This is called “throttling,” and you’ll notice “jittery” game or video performances as a result. Second, the processor may go too far and either cause a bluescreen or a hard crash.

How Can I Check My CPU Temperature?

Checking your CPU’s temperature is very easy. If you’re using Windows, Speccy is a great diagnostics tool that tells you everything about your PC — including the CPU temperature.

Cpu Temperature Guide Thermometer

Mac users can grab Fanny, which doesn’t go into as much detail as Speccy, but sits as a widget in your notification center for easy access to your CPU and fan stats.

Linux fans can check their CPU temperature using the psensor tool.

How Hot Should My CPU Be?

This is where things get a little complicated. Different CPUs are built in different ways; as such, they each have their limits as to how far you can push them. A temperature of 80°C, for instance, can be shrugged off by some processors and seriously damage others.

When Idle

Regardless of your processor model, ideal idle temperatures don’t differ too much. “Idle” is when you boot up the PC but don’t open anything, and the operating system isn’t doing other intensive things (such as Windows’ Superfetch process). At this time, an average idle temperature around 30-40°C should be fine.

When Under Heavy Load

If you’re using an Intel CPU, search for the specifications of your processor. You’re looking for a statistic called “TJunction” or “TJ Max.” This number is the absolute maximum it can take before problems arise.

Then, as a general rule of thumb, try to keep the processor’s temperature 20-30°C below that maximum at all times to ensure you’re not toeing the danger line.

For example, the Intel Core i5-9500 has a TJunction of 100C. If you used this processor, you’ll want to make sure that it never goes above the 70-80°C range.

AMD is a little easier: just find the “Max Temps” specification on your processor’s product page. The Ryzen 5 2600X has a max temp of 95°C, so try to keep it below 65-75°C to maintain its health.

Help! My Temperatures Are Too High!

If your processor is a little toastier than you’d like, there are ways to help it cool down. It’s all about working out what’s causing the overheating to occur and solving that specific problem.

1. Check Your Heatsink for Dust

If you’re using a PC, crack open the side and take a look at the internals. If all of your components are coated in a thick layer of dust, you have a problem! Grab a can of compressed air and blast out the dust to cool your system down.

Laptops are a little trickier to reach the heatsink, so you may need professional help to open up the machine.

2. Replace the Heatsink and/or Thermal Paste

If your heatsink is dust-free but still can’t get rid of the heat, it may be time to replace it – especially if you’ve had it for a long time. Sometimes, the heatsink is fine, but the thermal paste between it and the processor has become inefficient. Do a spring clean on your heatsink and see if that solves it.

3. Reduce Your Settings

If you can’t reach your heatsink, and you notice your PC overheats during intense procedures, try to reduce that strain. If you’re playing the game, lower the resolution and/or the graphics options to put less stress on your processor.

4. Add Additional Fans

If your heatsink is doing fine, you could try adding additional fans to your machine. These fans aid the heatsink in its job by either supplying it with cool air or removing the hot air from the system.

PCs will often have various spots on their cases where you can add fans. Ideally, you’ll want a fan on the front blowing in to introduce cool air and a fan on the back blowing out to get rid of the expelled heat.

Laptops don’t have this luxury, but they do have cooling pads that can be placed underneath them. These introduce more cool air into the system and helps keep things chill.

5. Cool the Room

If all else fails, try cooling down the room which the machine lives in. Summertime heat is a big factor for overheating processors, so you may want to invest in a desk fan or air conditioning to keep your PC (and you!) cool during the sweltering heat.

Keeping Your Cool

Processors are one of the major culprits for overheating computers, but some people don’t know how hot their CPUs are running. Now you know how to check and what temperatures to look for.

Are your processors running cool? Let us know below.

Simon Batt Simon Batt

Simon Batt is a Computer Science graduate with a passion for cybersecurity.

One comment

  1. Dear Simon Batt, do you have any idea on how to lower the temp on a Unibody MacBook Pro of 2010?
    Please advise or enrich your article with something about this kind of machines.

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