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Avast Academy Performance Hardware How to Check and Monitor Your CPU Temperature

How to Check and Monitor Your CPU Temperature

One of the most common causes of a computer overheating is when the CPU temperature gets too high. Learn how to check core temps on Windows and how to monitor CPU temperatures in your PC with specialized CPU monitoring software. Then, find out how to keep heat levels down with a reliable PC optimization tool.

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High CPU temps can be caused by a variety of issues, but one thing is clear: hot CPU temperatures can cause other components — and eventually your whole PC — to overheat.

Most computer temperatures fall within a safe range, but if your CPU exceeds its maximum temps for prolonged periods, problems can quickly arise. Read on to learn how to check and monitor CPU temps.

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    How to check your computer’s CPU temperature

    The easiest way to check your CPU temp is to install a free CPU heat monitoring tool — such as Core Temp — and monitor the CPU temperature for spikes. You can also check your CPU Monitor using Windows’ built-in BIOS/UEFI tool.

    Here’s how to check your CPU temp using Core Temp:

    1. Download and install Core Temp.

    2. Open the application to see the main dashboard.

    3. Under Temperature Readings, monitor the temps for each CPU core. The example below shows the average CPU temp around 50°C for a Quad-Core Skylake laptop.

      Core Temp overview of CPU cores
    4. In the Max column you can monitor the highest processor temperatures recorded by Core Temp. And in the Load column, you can see the current CPU load of each core.

    While the easiest and most straightforward computer temperature monitor is Core Temp, there is other good CPU monitoring software on the market. Here are a few to check out:

    • NZXT’s Cam boasts an easy-to-use interface and allows you to monitor computer temps and other hardware specs from a mobile app.

    • HWInfo provides an in-depth look at all technical aspects of your hardware — including an overall PC temperature monitor and an individual CPU heat monitor.

    • Open Hardware Monitor is an open-source computer temperature app that allows you to monitor computer temps, speeds, fans, and other specs.

    • SpeedFan lets you access hard drive temps — both HDD and SSDs — and change fan speeds to stop your CPU from overheating.

    View your PC temperature in the BIOS/UEFI

    If you’re running Windows 11, Windows 10, or an earlier version, it includes its own temperature check built into the BIOS/UEFI. To access it, turn on your PC and press a specific key during startup — usually F12, ESC, F2, or DEL. Once BIOS/UEFI is open, it shows you the CPU temperature right on the main screen.

    This thermometer feature is part of the core software of your motherboard. Unfortunately, it only allows you to check the current temperature of the PC. It does nothing to monitor the temperature over time as you use Windows, particularly when your PC or laptop is busy with heavy loads.

    How to monitor your CPU temperature constantly

    When you work with demanding applications — such as video editing or rendering software — or when you use your computer in direct heat or sunlight, you should keep a close eye on your CPU temperature. That’s when heat goes far beyond a good CPU temp.

    Thankfully, Core Temp offers an easy way to monitor your CPU temperature at all times, across multiple cores. By default, the information stays hidden, but you can make the CPU temperature monitor visible. It’s easy to set it up like a mini thermometer that sits in your taskbar.

    Here’s how to check your computer temperature and monitor it at all times.

    1. After installing Core Temp, click the arrow in the notification area of your taskbar. The four numbers you see are the four core temperatures.

      Core Temp showing temperature right in the quick launch menu found in your taskbar
    2. Click each number and drag it to your taskbar. Now, the processor temperatures are pinned to your taskbar, allowing you to monitor them constantly.

      Core temp icons in taskbar

    If the four numbers are too crowded, you can display only the highest temperature of any of the cores. Within the Core Temp app, click Options > Settings and navigate to the Notification Area. Switch the view to Highest temperature per processor.

    Use Core Temp's settings to switch the temperature you see in Windows taskbar.

    How to monitor your CPU temperature while gaming

    When you play a game in full-screen mode, you can’t see your taskbar. Realistically, ALT+TAB is more trouble than it’s worth just to check a computer temp. Thankfully, gamers use a good CPU temperature monitor for gaming — RivaTuner. The RivaTuner CPU temp monitor comes bundled with the CPU overclocking utility MSI Afterburner.

    Here’s how to monitor your CPU temperature while gaming:

    1. Download and install RivaTuner/MSI Afterburner.

    2. Once installed, click the arrow in the notification area of your taskbar and select MSI Afterburner, or double click the MSI Afterburner shortcut on your desktop.

      MSI Afterburner overclocking utility
    3. Click the Settings icon and select the Monitoring tab. Scroll to CPU temperature in the list. Click it, then enable Show in On-Screen Display.

      Rivatuner settings to show CPU/GPU temperature
    4. Finally, launch your game. Your CPU temps will show automatically so you can monitor your PC temperature easily while gaming.

      In-game overlay showing CPU and GPU temperatures

    You can also monitor other stats while you’re gaming. Open the Monitoring tab in MSI Afterburner and select GPU temps, RAM memory, or usage stats. These numbers will also sit near the CPU thermometer in the top-left corner of your screen while gaming.

    Why should I check my CPU temperatures?

    Your computing processing unit (CPU) performs millions of operations per second, which can cause the processor to become very hot. If it gets too hot without you realizing it, you might experience system stability issues, crashes, and computing slowdowns, or even create long-term damage.

    Here are a few situations when you should check your CPU temperature:

    • You’re overclocking.

      If you are pushing your GPU beyond its limits by overclocking, its temperature will definitely increase. As an overclocker or a gaming PC builder, monitoring your temperatures should be at the top of your to-do list.

    • You have a super-thin ultrabook.

      Ultrabooks are very thin, giving your laptop little space for proper cooling. If you overwork your computer — with gaming or graphics rendering — or if you live in a hotter climate, keep a close eye on processor temperatures.

    • 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 PC temperatures, as high CPU temps are an indicator that it’s time to clean out dust bunnies or replace fans. Cleaning the physical components of your PC is the first step in fixing your overheating PC and can even stop a Mac from overheating.

    • You experience constant system freezes and crashes.

      If your PC crashes or 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 from the heat.

    • Your PC is extremely slow.

      Perhaps you already use a PC optimization tool to fend off performance hogs. Maybe you’ve followed guides to speed up your PC and clean up your computer. If things still slow down to a crawl, the CPU might be forced to throttle itself when it reaches critical temperatures.

    What CPU temperature is normal?

    A normal CPU temperature depends on which CPU you use. Generally, anything between 40–65°C (or 104–149°F) is considered a safe heat range for a normal workload. While running more intensive apps or games, the normal CPU temp range can increase to between 70–80°C (158–176°F).

    On a desktop gaming PC with plenty of cooling and a high-end CPU, it’s normal to see CPU temperatures around 50°C without running anything too demanding. On an Ultrabook — a very tight space for a powerful CPU — it’s normal for core temps to hover around 75°C during a normal workday.

    If your CPU overheats constantly, consider more effective cooling methods to avoid permanent damage to your computer.

    How hot should my CPU get?

    At the highest loads, your average CPU temps can go up to 80–85°C, but consider this the absolute limit. Sustained CPU temps above 80°C can do long-term damage to the CPU and its silicon. If your CPU goes higher than 90°C for several hours, it will likely reduce the lifespan of your processor.

    What is a good CPU temp for gaming?

    A good CPU temp while gaming is between 65-85°C. While average temperatures above 85°C are fine for a few minutes of gameplay or other intense CPU use, it isn’t a good idea for an extended period of time — even if your system is optimized for gaming.

    How to keep down CPU temperatures

    If you find yourself constantly hitting the temperature limit, here are some tips to turn down your CPU temps:

    • Vacuum your PC: Get the dust bunnies out of the CPU fans. If you have a laptop (especially an older one), open it up and clean out the fans. Alternatively, if you’re 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. Laptop stands have other usability benefits too, so you don’t have to keep checking your computer temp.

    • Keep your environment cool: Don’t place your laptop or PC in direct sunlight or heat, 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 core load and temperature. That’s why you should regularly run a malware scan, which can detect and remove malware on your PC.

    • Turn off background applications and close programs: Use a dedicated tune-up tool like Avast Cleanup. Its built-in Sleep Mode automatically puts resource-draining apps and programs to sleep, reducing the load on your system and lowering CPU temperatures. Avast Cleanup will also clear unnecessary junk from your PC, keeping your system running like new. Try Avast Cleanup for free today.

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    Hardware
    Performance
    Sandro Villinger
    3-08-2022