How Can You Tell If Your CPU is Overheating?

How Can You Tell If Your CPU is Overheating?

When your computer gets too hot, it’s a big problem. Your CPU can shut down instantly to prevent damage. Click! Just like that, it’s off. This is actually a good thing because it saves your PC from burning up.

There are a few reasons why a CPU might overheat. Sometimes it happens when the fan stops working. Other times, it can be caused by overclocking – pushing your CPU too hard.

But here’s the thing: by the time your PC shuts down due to overheating, it’s already too late. What’s more important is to have a warning system in place to let you know if your processor is getting too hot.

So, what information do you need for an appropriate warning?

  1. What is the current temperature of your CPU?
  2. How close is your CPU to its safe operating temperature (Tj. Max)?

There are two utilities that I know of that can provide you with this information quickly and easily.

Real Temp

This program may not win any awards for its looks, but it gives you the information you need right away. The best part about Real Temp is that it does the math for you and tells you how close you are to Tj. Max.

Core Temp

This is my go-to utility for checking CPU temperature. While it doesn’t do the math to tell you how close you are to Tj. Max, it has some extra features that I really like.

First, when you minimize it, Core Temp sits in the tray. You can customize this in many ways – by core temp number, icon, color, and more.

Second, you can take a screenshot instantly by pressing F9. This is really useful when you want to discuss heat issues with CPUs on forums.

Third, by pressing F3, you can get a nice summary of your system information.

Lastly, if you want a detailed text file of your system, you can press F7 for a “Register Dump.”

Is Tj. Max the Same for All CPUs?

No, the maximum safe temperature varies for each processor.

For example, here’s a screenshot of Core Temp from my netbook:

When Core Temp is running, there’s a figure called Tj. Max that remains constant. This number indicates the maximum safe operating temperature.

The maximum temperature at which my Intel Atom N270 can function before shutting down is 90 degrees Celsius. For Intel desktop processors, it’s 95 degrees Celsius and higher (some Core i3 processors, for instance, have a Tj. Max of 105 degrees Celsius).

A general rule suggests that you should keep the temperature at least 20 degrees Celsius below Tj. Max. Since my netbook is a low-power device, it runs cool and there’s no risk of overheating even under the highest load.

If you’re within 20 degrees Celsius of Tj. Max, that can lead to trouble. In such cases, you should consider using additional fans, better fans, or even a cooling system.

The Core Temp software comes with a useful feature that allows you to keep a log. While playing a full-screen game (which is a good way to test the heat of your CPUs), you may not be able to see the temperature. In that case, you can run the software and observe how the temperature spikes during heavy usage. If the highest recorded temperature stays at least 20 degrees Celsius away from Tj. Max, everything is fine. Otherwise, you’ll need to cool down the CPU with improved cooling hardware.

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2 thoughts on “How do you know when a CPU is running too hot?”

wyxchari says:

Many programs that read the temperature of the Intel Atom N270 often make mistakes without adjusting. Only Aida64 and HWInfo show accurate values. The rest of the programs, including CoreTemp, always display temperatures that are 20 degrees Celsius lower than the actual temperature. Typically, the real temperature when the processor is at rest is between 45 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Celsius under heavy load. You can conduct a test to confirm this: if CoreTemp shows me 30 degrees Celsius for the processor, how is it possible that the air coming out of my netbook is at 38 degrees Celsius?

Draceena01 says:

Thank you for sharing this excellent free tool. I was concerned that I might be pushing my i5 core too hard with folding@home, but with this handy software, I can see that under load, I’m at least 34 degrees away from TJMax (and you recommend maintaining a gap of at least 20 degrees). Now, I can experiment with my fan speed settings to see what benefits I’ll get, if any.

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