Some like it hot, your PC doesn’t! It’s critical to keep an eye on your PC’s or laptop’s CPU temperature. In this article, I explain why and when to monitor your CPU temperatures (with particular note to Windows 7 and Windows 10), discuss how hot these chips should get, and provide tips to keep the core temperatures down.
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Here are a few situations where checking for your temperature might be a good idea:
You’re overclocking: If you are pushing your CPU beyond its limits by overclocking it, its temperature will definitely increase — quite significantly in many cases! As an overclocker or a gaming PC builder, monitoring your temperatures should be on your To Do list.
You have a super-thin ultrabook: Ultrabooks are usually very thin, giving your laptop little space for proper cooling. If you work very hard on such a computer (such as gaming or graphics rendering) or if you live in a hotter climate, keeping a close eye on temperatures is a must.
You have an older PC or laptop: Over time, dust can gather inside the computer chassis, which can slow down or even block its fans. It’s smart to check for high temperatures, as doing so is an indicator of whether it’s time to clean out dust bunnies or replace fans.
You experience constant system freezes and crashes: If your PC shuts down randomly, it might not be a hardware or software defect. A system that runs too hot may turn off automatically to prevent long-term physical damage.
Your PC is extremely slow: Perhaps you have a well-optimized PC and are running a maintenance suite such as Avast Cleanup to fend off performance hogs. Maybe you’ve followed our tips to speed up and clean up your PC. If things still slow down to a crawl, the CPU might be forced to throttle itself when it reaches critical temperatures.
Checking your CPU’s temperature can be done in two ways. One uses the built-in BIOS (also called UEFI). The other option is to use a free tool called Core Temp.
Let’s start with the second option, as it is easier.
Download Core Temp from this website and install the application.
Launch the application. Don’t let the amount of information displayed here confuse you.
What’s important are the temperatures you see underneath each core (Core #0-Core #3, or however many you might have). In this example, the Quad-Core Skylake laptop CPU runs in the mid-50°C on average (you can also switch to Fahrenheit if that’s your preference).
On the right hand side you also see the highest processor temperatures recorded by Core Temp (“Max.”) as well as the current load of the CPU.
Many modern PCs and laptops come with their own temperature check built in. It’s part of the core “software” of your motherboard, which is usually called the BIOS or the UEFI. To access that, you need to turn on your PC and press a specific key. That key combination is shown on screen as the system boots, such as F12, ESC, F2, or DEL. Use that key combination to enter the BIOS. It shows you the temperatures right on the main screen of the BIOS.
Unfortunately, this allows you only to check the temperatures once. It does nothing to monitor the temperature over time as you use Windows, particularly when your PC or laptop is busy with heavy loads.
When you work with demanding applications, such as video editing or rendering, or when you use your computing in hot, direct sunlight, you should keep a close eye on your CPU’s temperature. That’s when things become really hot.
The good thing is: The aforementioned Core Temp offers an easy way to check the temperature of all cores at all times. By default, the information stays hidden, but you can make it visible all the time. To do that, click on the little arrow in the notification area of your taskbar:This brings up a list of many background applications. See the four numbers? Those are the four core temperatures as explained above. Hover over the numbers and drag them to your taskbar; then the temperature shows up all the time.Are four numbers too crowded on-screen? Instead, you can display only the highest temperature of any of the cores. Within Core Temp, click on Options and select Settings. Navigate to the Notification Area category. Switch the view to Highest temperature per processor.
However, when you play a game in full-screen mode, you can’t see your taskbar. It would be annoying to ALT+TAB out of the game, check the temperature, and go back to the game. (Realistically, you probably wouldn’t bother.) Fortunately, gamers have another special tool to measure CPU temperature: It’s called RivaTuner and comes bundled with the overclocking utility MSI Afterburner, as described in our GPU Overclocking article.
Once you install MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner, go to your taskbar’s info area taskbar and click on the MSI Afterburner icon:Click on the Settings cog in MSI Afterburner and go to the Monitoring tab. Scroll down until you see CPU temperature in the list. Click on it and then check the box that says Show in On-Screen Display.Next, go to the On-Screen Display and specify a keyboard shortcut to be used for the OSD, such as ALT+F5.
Finally, launch your game, type ALT+F5, and you can always check your CPU temps.
Now, how hot should your CPU be? The CPU temp depends entirely on the CPU used. In general, anything between 40°C and 65°C (or 104°F - 149°F) is considered a safe range during a normal workload. On my desktop gaming PC, which has plenty of cooling and a high-end CPU, I see temperatures varying around 50°C when I’m not really doing anything demanding. On my Ultrabook (again, very tight space for a powerful CPU), it averages around 75°C while I’m working.
At high loads, the CPU temperature can go up to 80-85°; consider that the absolute limit. During extended gaming sessions, expect to you will likely see your CPU temperatures go above 80°C. While that’s fine for a few minutes of gameplay or other intense CPU use, it isn’t a good idea for an extended period of time.
Anything above can damage the CPU and its silicon long-term, so make sure your CPU doesn’t maintain those kinds of temperatures for days in a row.
Keep a close watch! Make sure it doesn’t go higher than 90° for several hours. If it does, repeatedly, you reduce the lifespan of your processor — which would mean game over.
Constantly hitting the temperature limit? Let’s get you out of the red zone with these tips:
Vacuum your PC: Get the dust bunnies out of the CPU fans! If you have a laptop (especially if it’s an older model), open it up and clean out the fans. Alternatively, if you are nervous about taking the cover off, you can use compressed air dusters to unclog the inner workings of your PC and the CPU fan.
Use a laptop stand: A handful of laptop stands on the market either lift the computer or place it vertically to allow for more air flow. They have other usability benefits, too.
Keep your environment cool: Don’t place your laptop or PC in direct sunlight, and keep the ambient temperature as cool as possible.
Replace your cooling fan: If the fans inside your PC aren’t up to their tasks, replace them with a more powerful cooler or install a water cooling solution. While you’re replacing the fan, you should also remove the CPU and refresh the thermal paste or even replace it with a better one.
Keep it malware-free: Some viruses produce constant 100% CPU usage, drastically increasing the load and thus the temperature. That’s why you should detect and remove malware on your PC.
Turn off background applications and close programs: Use a tool like Avast Cleanup’s Sleep Mode to put unused background apps to sleep. This reduces the load on your system. And make sure to close as many applications as possible. Click below to download: