What is the Optimal CPU Temperature?
Average temperatures are below or around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) when the CPU is idle or not used by any program. Or, under higher loads, such as when playing games, rendering videos, or other intensive tasks, the CPU will consume more power and run at a higher temperature. This is more important than the idle temperature (assuming the idle temperature is good). You must regularly monitor the CPU temperature under load to ensure it is adequately cooled under such conditions.
Under load, the CPU ideally stays below 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit). However, some CPUs may run hotter when powered on in an Ultra PC, gaming laptop, or small form factor (SFF) computer. You have some leeway to climb past 80C, but anything above 95C (203F) is cause for concern. Some CPUs will start throttling at this point, which means clock speeds will slow down to ensure they don’t overheat, and your PC may shut down.
Power users who want the utmost confidence in their CPU’s ability to handle heavy workloads should test the CPU at 100% with a program like Prime95 or AIDA64. When running a stress test like this, keep an eye on the temperature, use the tools mentioned below, and quit once the temperature gets too high, i.e., over 95 degrees Celsius. An ideal stress test length is 1 hour, with the maximum temperature probably leveling off after 10-15 minutes.
How to Monitor CPU Temperature?
Checking the CPU temperature is as easy as launching the monitoring program and using it to read the value. Programs such as HWMonitor, Core Temp, or NCAM illustrate these types of applications. These three are just a few of the many examples. For the purpose of this guide, we will recommend this free and easy-to-use computer temperature detection software to everyone.
Core Temp is a simple, lightweight application. It runs in your system tray and monitors the temperature of your CPU. You can customize it as you like and even use it with other programs like Rainmeter.
Download Core Temp from its homepage and install it on your computer. After running the application, you will notice an icon or a set of icons in the system tray indicating your CPU’s temperature. If your CPU has more than one core, which is typical for modern CPUs, you will see multiple icons, each representing a different core.
To display or conceal the primary window, right-click on the icon. Once you open the window, it will provide you with various details about your CPU, such as its model, speed, and the temperature of every core.
Pay special attention to the TJ. Max value is the maximum operating temperature (in degrees Celsius) that the manufacturer has rated your CPU for. If your CPU is anywhere near that temperature, it is considered overheated. If the temperature of your CPU is in proximity to that level, it is regarded as overheating. It’s usually best to keep it at least 10 to 20 degrees below that. If you’re anywhere near that, it usually means something is wrong unless you’re overclocking your computer CPU.
For most modern CPUs, Core Temp should be able to detect the temperature Tj max applies to your specific processor. Every processor is slightly different and has an exact Tj. The maximum value is significant as it ensures you get the correct temperature range for your CPU. Head to Options > Settings to configure some of Core Temp’s more useful features. Here are some settings we recommend reviewing:
- General > Enable logging on startup: you can turn it on or off. Turning it on lets you monitor your temperature at all times automatically. But if you only need the app occasionally, you can turn it off.
- Display > Start Core Tempe Minimized: you may want to turn this on to reduce your computer’s boot temperature.
- Display > Hide taskbar button: Again, if you’re going to have it running all the time, we recommend turning it on, so it doesn’t waste space on the taskbar.
- Notification Area > Notification area icon: This allows you to customize how Core Temp appears in the notification area (or system tray as it is commonly called). You can show just the app’s icon or your CPU’s temperature. You can also customize fonts and colors here.
Besides, you can also go to Options > Overheating protection to alert your computer when it reaches the maximum safe temperature.
If you want to check your system’s temperature (motherboard, CPU, graphics card, and hard drive), HWMonitor can do it for you too. Download the latest version, install and launch it, and you’ll see a table with Temperatures, Fans, and other values.
Scroll down to your CPU entry (for example, my CPU is Intel Core i5 7200U), and look at the Core# temperature in the list to see your CPU temperature.
Note: Core Temperature is not the same as CPU Temperature, which will appear under the motherboard section of some PCs. Usually, you’ll want to monitor Core Temperature as well. Feel free to check the temperatures of other components in your system, too.
NZXT, a manufacturer of PC cases, power supplies, and CPU coolers, developed CAM. While it’s designed to be used with their products, it can be very effective as a casual monitoring tool, even if you don’t have any NZXT hardware.
CAM will provide a well-presented user interface (UI). The first block shows the CPU’s status, Load, Temperature, Clock Speed and Fan Speed. Click on this block to access more details.
It can be seen that the current CPU temperature of this system is 41 degrees Celsius, which is a healthy idle temperature. This CPU has been running at 46 degrees Celsius and up to 75 degrees Celsius (167 degrees Fahrenheit), so it runs at average temperatures. Stress test temperatures were achieved by running Prime95 for about 30 minutes, though the CPU topped at 75 degrees Celsius within 10 minutes.
What Should I do if the CPU Temperature is too High?
If your CPU temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius under load, you should check your system to ensure that the CPU is cooling adequately. Here is a list of items to check for:
- Has your computer been adequately cleaned and cleaned of dust, including the cooler?
- Are all the fans in your computer functioning correctly while under load?
- How old is your computer?
- Do you recall the most recent time you applied a new thermal paste between your CPU and CPU cooler? If it’s over three years old, consider reapplying the thermal paste.
- Does your CPU cooler model specify a higher cooling capacity than the CPU’s rated TDP?
- Are you using an SFF PC or CPU cooler, or is your laptop too small?
For SFF PCs and laptops, there may be only minimal cooling. For instance, most laptops are equipped with highly condensed cooling solutions that are fine for short bursts of performance but need to be slowed down during long gaming sessions to stay below the shutdown threshold. On the other hand, gaming laptops are usually bulky because they pack a lot of cooling.
The performance of most thermal pastes degrades severely after about three years. Applying fresh paste and clearing the system of dust can provide better cooling and significantly better performance. However, if you’re using a full-size gaming PC and think your cooling should be adequate, you may need to reapply thermal paste on the CPU.
Note: CPU Temp is the actual temperature sensor inside the socket. Core temperature isn’t a temperature at all. This arbitrary scale in degrees Celsius is designed to mimic a temperature sensor.
What to do if the Installed Software Shows a Wrong Temperature?
You may encounter situations where one of the abovementioned programs needs to be fixed. It may not match another temperature monitoring program, it’s deficient, or you can’t get the temperature. There are many reasons why this can happen, but here are a few things to check:
- As we mentioned above, core temperature is usually what you want to monitor. It is possible to have one program reporting Core Temperature and one reporting CPU Temperature. Make sure you compare apples to apples.
- Ensure that your programs are current and have the latest updates installed. For example, if you are using an older version of Core Temp, it may not support your CPU, in which case it will not provide accurate temperatures, or it may not even provide temperatures. Download the latest version and see if that fixes the problem.
- If the computer is more than a few years old, programs such as Core Temp may not support it.
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