Mercury rising. Computer enthusiasts may have all kinds of statistics they want to keep an eye on, but few are more important than the CPU temperature of their device.
Your central processor is primarily what drives the internal temperature of your machine. If this figure runs very hot, your computer can be in danger of overheating. Too hot, and you run the risk of permanent harm to your PC.
Good thing then, that there is a whole variety of system utilities available for Windows that let you check the CPU temperature of your computer and keep tabs on it all times. In fact, almost all motherboard manufacturers include this capability natively.
We’ll take a look at both hardware and software solutions below. But first, an overview of why monitoring your CPU temperature is essential to maintaining a healthy computer, and what issues you may encounter if your computer overheats.
Signs of Overheating
We all know the feeling. Computers naturally run hot, but laptops and even desktops can court all manner of problems if they are not running at an ideal temperature. These range from fans that are constantly running to the device frequently freezing every time the going gets tough.
Your PC may also start acting sluggish, lock up, or shut down automatically unless you cool it back down to acceptable levels.
And while keeping an eye on internal temperatures is important for all users, it is vitally important for owners of powerful laptops and those who overclock their machines. These are folks that are playing with fire, and even few degrees can be the difference between a PC that runs and a PC that doesn’t.
The Ideal CPU Temperature
Temperature specifications varies between CPUs, but the maximum temperature for most processors is around the 100° Celsius (212° Fahrenheit) range. Emphasis on the word maximum here, as your machine is likely to experience all sorts of problems before it gets to this upper limit.
It may not even reach it, preferring to shut down on its own.
Optimal operating temperatures of under 50° C (122 °F) are what manufacturers recommend. But even if you can’t keep things this cool, most new processors are still comfortable doing their thing at around the 70° C (158° F) range.
Low-power processors are great at heat management. These are primarily used in tablets and ultrabooks, and they rarely climb too high. Though the obvious disadvantage of these types of chips is that their performance is not very exciting.
But as long as you can manage things under the above range, you should have no issues with overheating, and your device will keep running smoothly. Which is all that matters for the safety of not just your processor, but also the other components in your machine.
How to Check my Computer CPU Temperature?
The simplest way to find the temperature of your CPU is actually using your system BIOS, also known as the Basic Input/Output System. Most BIOS interfaces come with hardware interface built-in that display the current temperature.
Very accurately, at that.
Obviously, this is a bit of an awkward process, where you have to reboot your computer, pressing a specific key to go to the BIOS and then check the temperatures. What’s strange here is that Windows still does not offer a way to check your CPU temperature
Even though this information is given to the operating system by the BIOS.
Fortunately, a bunch of different free programs exist that provide access to this simple sensor reading, making it easy for you to keep tabs on your processor’s temperature. Enthusiasts have the option of a few hardware solutions that keep you in the loop whenever your system boots up.
Let’s take a look.
Temperature Monitoring Programs
Several free temperature monitoring applications are available for Windows that not only show you the CPU temperature, but also other system details like processor load, voltage and the nitty gritty. Some even let you adjust the speed of your fans for the best performance, either automatically or manually.
A word of caution before you install these programs, though. Some of them come with needless bundled software like additional apps and games, which you might want to uncheck during the setup process.
That said, here are your best choices:
One of the most popular programs around, Core Temp comes with a simple and streamlined UI, and offers supports a range of CPUs. What makes this application unique is its ability to show the load and temperature reading for each core on your processor.
This program also comes with an overheat protection option, which is very useful as it can notify you when a critical temperature reading is reached. Also included are monitoring features like RAM utilization, several handy settings and as well as mobile integration.
While its old school look may be surprising, Speed Fan is nevertheless an excellent option to access and monitor the digital sensors that are housed in your computer. Not only can it show temperature, voltage, and fan speeds, this program also displays S.M.A.R.T. data from hard disks.
Designed to work on pretty much all versions of the operating system, from Windows 95 to Windows 10 and even server variants, this small application is easy to understand and light on system resources. Charts sweeten the deal, and fan control seals it.
Specifically developed to monitor temperature on all Intel Core CPUs, single, dual, and quad core, this program shows the temperature readings and load of the processors. It also does a good job highlighting the safe maximum operating temperature of your CPU, and how far away your system is at.
Real Temp also tracks the highest and lowest temperatures since you opened the programs and offers a high temperature alarm for both Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs, along with a shutdown feature. It also comes with a light footprint, not requiring installation or registry modifications.
This simple yet effective CPU temperature tester gets straight to the point. It shows CPU temperature readings next to each core, with the option of changing between Celsius and Fahrenheit, and starting the program alongside Windows.
About as lightweight as it can get, this is a good option for live monitoring of your processor temperature right in the desktop tray. Most Intel and AMD processors are supported, and OS support is extensive as well.
Open Hardware Monitor
Looking for a free and open source solution? Then Open Hardware Monitor is your ticket! This well-regarded monitor tool, still in beta, does it all. It can monitor CPU temperatures just as easily as it takes readings of video card sensors, and S.M.A.R.T. data on hard drives.
Prefer a something a little fancier? This popular option is the one you need, with its stylish UI and diverse skillset. The remarkably elegant user interface shows all softs of useful information on the panel, including details about your CPU, graphics card, memory, and storage.
Created for gamers and PC enthusiasts, NZXT CAM ideally brings together temperature readings, voltage, FPS and other hardware details into one excellent utility. You can easily keep track of all the key values. Highly recommended, both for beginners and advanced users.
Intel and AMD Tools
If third-party programs are not your jam, then two first-party applications are also out there vying for your attention. These have been developed by the processor makers themselves and designed to provide you with quick and easy to not just your CPU temperatures, but more information too.
First of these is the Intel XTU, or Extreme Tuning Utility. Although this is primarily an overclocking tool, it comes with a number of monitoring functions that give you an idea of hot your processor is running. The UI of this free program is more on the stylish side of things, oriented for gamers, but overall, it’s good.
Same can be said of the AMZ Ryzen Master tool, meant for the new Ryzen processors from the company. It works similarly to the Intel utility, offering a CPU temperature monitor, graphs that plot the readings over time, even breaking things down to the individual cores.
Temperature Monitoring Hardware
Not interested by any of the above? You can always opt for a hardware monitor. Designed for overclockers in mind, these typically come as part of fan controllers that slot into one of the optical drive ports of your desktop system.
Some use onboard temperature sensors, but others have their own wired thermometers that let you know how hot your CPU is getting, along with additional information. You will need to install them on your PC, so be prepared to either fit them yourself, or pay to have it done by a professional.
Here are a few hardware monitors worth considering:
The primary function of this piece is fan control, letting you adjust the speed of up to five fan channels individually. But it also comes with an excellent looking 5.4-inch display with a touchscreen interface that provides detailed information about your system and CPU temperatures.
Thermaltake Commander FT
This one comes from a reliable name in PC hardware. It is another 5.5-inch touchscreen display fan controller that does a solid job of giving you temperature readouts for multiple channels. You can monitor your CPU accurately, while controlling the fans in your system to keep it cool.
Kingwin Performance FPX-002
A more affordable option, this Kingwin fan controller lets you keep track of three temperature readings along with three fans and fits your 5.25-inch bay snuggly. It even comes with a built-in alarm that notifies you should your CPU get too hot.
Is my CPU too Hot?
The answer to this question lies in the make and model of your processor. Intel and AMD differ in how they monitor the temperatures on their CPUs. Unlike most Intel chips, newer AMD powered machines report two temperature values — CPU Temperature and Core Temperature.
The former is the actual temperature sensor inside the CPU socket, while the latter figure is simply an arbitrary scale designed to mimic a temperature sensor. Most programs will show the CPU Temperature, while some show both.
Things are simpler on the Intel side, however.
No matter the reading, the important thing here is to make sure that your processor is not running anywhere near the maximum limit. Not only is this bad for the long-term life of your hardware, but regularly hovering at this temperature will decrease the stability and reliability of your daily use too.
Here are some general rules to follow for your CPU temperature under load:
Under 60° C
means you’re good.
60° C to 70° C
is still fine, but things are starting to heat up. It is a good idea to clean the dust out of your laptop if the temperatures continue to go up or install an extra fan in your desktop.
70° C to 80°C
can be manageable if you’re pushing for an overclock. If not, then definitely find out what’s driving the temperature up in your system and make sure you have adequate airflow to let the heat out.
80° C to 90° C
is really only acceptable for powerful gaming laptops and extreme desktop systems without water cooling. In any case, things are too hot for comfort.
Over 90° C
and you’re asking for trouble.
How to Lower your CPU Temperatures?
A hot computer with loud fans is a clear giveaway that it’s spring cleaning time. If you regularly see high temperatures on your processor, with rising figures, then that pretty much means that there is a deeper cause that you need to look into.
It may be so that there is a rogue program that is taking up all your CPU cycles like malware or a cryptocurrency mining program. Open up the Task Manager to confirm and stop any such processes that are out of control.
Laptop users that have not cleaned the internals for more than a year, may find dust accumulation blocking the internal vents. Blow out the dirt with compressed air. It may also be necessary to open up the laptop and clean the fans to keep it running cool.
Don’t waste time if things are out of control, and get your device serviced to ensure its smooth running.
In any case, keeping your temperature values down is essential for a good PC experience, and vital for a safe one. And there’s no better way to keep up to date with how much heat your system is generating than by using a program that displays the temperatures right on your Windows taskbar.
There are plenty of choices — both on the software and hardware sides — for everyday users and overclockers, all of which reliably report temperature readings and let you set up alarms and system shutdown procedures.