What Temperature Should My CPU Be? Know How Hot is Too Hot

... Credit :
Jane Taylor in Technology

Last updated: 14 January 2020, 06:51 GMT

Finding an answer to the question “What temperature should my CPU be?" is relatively easy, but diagnosing an overheating CPU can be a more complex problem. Many tools exist to help gather information about your CPU and computer, and these can be a valuable resource as you troubleshoot your machine.

The CPU temperature can often be overlooked when trying to troubleshoot computer issues. If you find yourself asking "What temperature should my CPU be?” then you’ve come to the right place, as I’ve done some research to find a helpful answer to this question.

In general, your CPU's temperature should be between 167 degrees and 176 degrees Fahrenheit which is 75 degrees to 80 degrees Celsius. If you want an exact answer to “What temperature should my CPU be?” for your specific type of CPU you can reference your computer manual, or look up the information for your particular CPU type on the manufacturer website.

If your CPU temperature falls within the range listed above, the chances are that the component is functioning normally and you don’t need to look further for information on what temperature my CPU should be for now. However, if you continue to experience problems with your computer overheating or displaying other odd functions, it may be best to look into the issue further.

The Best CPU Temperature

If your computer fans are consistently turning on more than usual, or you have gotten a blue screen while using your machine, there is a good chance that one of the components of your computer needs some attention. Often the temperature of the CPU can easily be read using a laser thermometer, but if you don't have one of those you may need to resort to other means.

CPU temperatures may also vary based on how you are using the computer, and if you are performing tasks that require a lot of the machine, then it will more readily heat up during that time. If your computer fans are unable to cool your CPU adequately regardless of how rigorously you are using the machine, it is more likely that your CPU temperature is too high.

If you know what kind of processor is in your computer, you can do an online search to find a table that lists the ideal temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. These tables are meant to be used as a guide, and it's okay if your CPU occasionally heats up above these temperatures.

Checking the CPU Temperature

If you think it's likely that your CPU temperature is too high and you’ve done some initial troubleshooting to rule out other causes, then it may be time to download a type of utility to help gather more information.

Free programs such as Speed Fan are available, and they can help detect your CPU temperature, gather information from various computer sensors, and figure out the temperature of other components inside of your machine such as:

  • Hard drive temps at different usage points
  • Other sensors outside of the CPU
  • Ambient case temperature
  • CPU temperatures to varying rates of usage

All of this information can help to pinpoint where your machine is heating up and what component may need attention or replacement. Not every CPU that overheats needs replacement, and on occasion, it can be other sensors or auxiliary components that need adjustment.

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Lowering the CPU Temperature

Lowering your CPU temperature can typically be relatively easy and may only require a few simple adjustments, or it may require the replacement of some faulty parts. The first thing that you should do is verify that your computer case is not near any sources of heat such as heating vents, other warm appliances, or in direct sunlight.

Once you have assessed the environment is not the cause it's time to move onto cleanliness and clear out dust and debris. To clean your computer case, it's best to use a gentle vacuum or canned air if you have it available. Avoid heavy-duty vacuums that may damage the delicate components in your case and opt for the canned air when possible.

Once you have blown the majority of the dust and debris out of the case, you'll want to inspect the fans in your case to ensure that they are fully functional and not clogged up with dust or other materials. The fans located on the side or top of your computer tower are an essential part of the system that helps maintain your CPU temperature.

If the fans aren't working correctly, this may be the cause of your overheating issue, and that can quickly resolve the question of "What temperature should my CPU be?” at this point. If your desktop also has removable filters, now is a great time to take those out and give them a good cleaning.

If your computer has the usual heatsink and fan combination, you may also want to consider installing a CPU cooler which is generally something that can be purchased inexpensively online and installed relatively quickly. A CPU cooler can help take some of the burden customarily placed on the fans and cool the temperatures in your case more efficiently, so your CPU doesn't have a chance to get too hot.

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CPU Temperatures While Gaming

Your CPU may get warmer when you are gaming with your desktop, and there are a few reasons why this is. Gaming typically uses more of the processing power that your computer possesses and is more strenuous on the machine than word processing or surfing the internet.

Temperatures of your CPU may differ, but it's also important not to forget that your video card can heat up as well, and that can cause the video card to fail and your computer to be unusable. In general, even when gaming, your CPU shouldn't go over 185 degrees Fahrenheit, and if it does, then it's time to clean the case and consider an additional cooling option soon.

Regular overheating of your CPU can cause the component to fail and can also vastly shorten its overall lifespan inside of your case. A CPU that is frequently overheated, whether or not it is under load, will almost certainly end up “turning off” once it gets to a specific temperature. This auto shut off feature is for safety and helps to keep the part from being irreparably damaged.

If you plan to do a lot of gaming, you'll want to consider getting a CPU cooler or adding more fans to your case. When inspecting your case, be sure to keep any objects at least one foot away so that the fans can push warm air out of the case and far enough away that fresh, cooler air can make its way in easily.

Your CPU temperature should be cooler when the computer is idle and by using a diagnostic application you can quickly figure out of your CPU is overheating all of the time, or only when it is under load. 

If it is continually overheating, chances are there is something wrong with your CPU or the environment that it's in, but if it only overheats when under load then the case may need more fans, a CPU cooler, or some adjustments to the settings.

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Testing the CPU with Stress Tests

Whether or not your CPU is overheating, you may be curious about how it responds when putting under load or stress. Playing games that require a lot of graphics processing, or other high demands will cause the CPU to heat up, and in some cases, the CPU may not seem hot but maybe at the upper end of what is considered a safe temperature.

To stress-test your CPU you’ll want to use a tool that allows that task to be performed in a safe testing environment that doesn’t put your CPU at risk for damage. A tool such as Prime95 is an excellent option and readily available online for free. This application is easy to download and has a wide range of features that can be useful when diagnosing a potential CPU problem.

When using a stress testing tool, you'll want to make sure that you are setting up the correct test, and that your machine has the required minimum amount of memory that the tool requires. It's also a good idea to do a quick online search to see what advanced users of the tool recommend in terms of settings and specific tests to run.

These types of diagnostic tools are often available free but also provide several different tests and services. In many cases, the application will be frequently updated and will also give the relevant benchmarks with the data it yields about your machine so you can easily see what problems exist if any.

Many of these tools also don’t require that you have an internet connection for longer than it takes to download the program so it's easy to perform anywhere you may be with your computer. This application can also be used on a desktop and a laptop to assess better how stable your machine is and how easily it can be overclocked. 

As with any application, how long you need to allow it to run, and what you can do with your computer in the meantime depends on how the tool works, so it's a good idea to read the directions, guidelines, and look up recommendations from advanced users when possible to ensure you get the best possible information.

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