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Safe CPU Temps: How Hot is Too Hot for a CPU?

A laptop or desktop system has fans installed to keep it cool. No matter what you do, the hardware components will heat up when they’re being used. The degree to which they heat up will vary based on what you’re using the system for. A more resource-intensive task will cause the system to heat up more and if it gets too hot, it can be forced to shut down by the OS. If this keeps happening, your hardware may be damaged to the point where it needs to be replaced.

Safe CPU Temps

A computer system has several different hardware components but the CPU and GPU are two components that tend to run hot when the system is under stress. Keeping them cool will help your system run better and keep the rest of the hardware safe from damage.

What temp should my CPU be?

A system will get hot when it runs. There’s no preventing that. What’s concerning and needs to be mitigated is an exceptionally high temperature that will cause the system to shut down, and be damaged in the long run.

Safe temperature range: up to 40°C

Median range for system-intensive tasks: 40°C – 80°C

Dangerously high-temperature range: More than 90°C

Monitor CPU temperature

If you feel the system is too hot, you should use a tool to get a definitive temperature reading for the CPU. There are many apps that can tell you what the temperature of the CPU is. We recommend using RealTemp. Download it here. We have a guide that you can follow to learn how RealTemp can be used to monitor the CPU temperature and get alerts when it gets too hot.

Reduce CPU Temperatures

Here are a few things you can do to reduce CPU temperatures.

1. Keep the system physically clean

A laptop and desktop system is enclosed in its own case. The fans inside it are positioned to circulate air so that hot air flows out and cool air flows in. In doing so, the case will accumulate dust and it has to be cleaned. To clean the case you need;

  • A can of compressed air
  • Tools to open the case. This is normally going to be just a screwdriver but you need one that is the right size for the screws on your system’s case.
  • A mask or anything that you can use to cover your face while you clean.

To clean the system, follow the steps below;

  1. Open the case and make sure the screws are placed somewhere they won’t roll away (try a small bowl or cup).
  2. Once the case is open, use the can of compressed air to blow the dust away.
  3. For easy to reach areas, you can use a soft cloth to clean the dust.
  4. Pay close attention to the fans; they should be clean with nothing tangled in the blades.
  5. Make sure no wires have come loose and then close the case.

2. System placement

A system does not have to accumulate dust over the years if you’re careful. Make sure you clean the area around your system regularly. If you have pets, try to keep them out of the room the system is placed in or clean around it more regularly. As for placement, follow the steps below to make sure it’s well ventilated.

  • Examine the chassis of your laptop or the case of your desktop; look for the air vents and they will tell you where the air flows in and where it flows out.
  • When placing the system, make sure the vents are not blocked.
  • Make sure the vents are able to draw air in easily; you may not want them pointing at a wall since it will restrict how much air can flow and the wall will eventually heat up as more and more hot air is blown onto it.
  • Keep the system away from external sources of heat; don’t place it near a window where sunlight will hit it directly. Keep it away from heat sources like a space heater or similar.
  • Try to provide external cooling if possible.

3. Improve internal airflow

This only works for desktop systems that have a CPU tower. If you’ve built the PC yourself, you’ll be able to identify the components. Make sure the wires aren’t restricting the airflow and that the components that need to be kept cool are positioned as such. The air vents shouldn’t be blocked and the air from the fans should flow out through them. If you have two fans, you can use one to suck cool air in and the second to blow hot air out.

4. Use thermal paste

Thermal paste is used to keep a CPU cool. It improves heat conduction between two components. Better heat conduction means that the heat is able to flow from one end to the other more easily. When the heat is able to flow better, it won’t build up and create a hot area within the case or over a particular hardware component.

Thermal paste is normally applied between the processor and the heat sink. Before you apply it, it’s a good idea to learn how to do so. You should also clean it before applying it again. A good thermal paste will work for years and you won’t need to replace it but when you do, make sure you clean the one that’s been applied before.

5. Overclocking hardware

Overclocking hardware may allow you to get the system to run faster and maybe more efficiently but it will definitely run much hotter than it would at its factory settings. Try to avoid overclocking hardware and this goes for both the GPU and CPU.

6. Aftermarket CPU coolers

This solution works for desktops that have CPU towers. You can get aftermarket CPU coolers that will help keep the chassis/case cooler. It’s installed over the CPU and they serve to keep the CPU cool. For some, they seem to be unnecessary but if your system is running too hot, it’s a reasonable investment to make. Research which type of Aftermarket CPU coolers are available and install which suits you best.

7. Speed up fans

Operating systems do not allow users to manually control the speed of the fans. They keep an eye on the temperature of the system and turn the fans On when needed but they may not be running them fast enough to keep up with the heat that’s being built up. If that’s the case, you can manually increase the speed of the fans.

You can control the speed of the fans with SpeedFan or with HWiNFo. It depends on which app is able to detect and control them. Try them both and follow our guide on controlling the fan speed.

Conclusion

Heat can damage computer components. An OS will try and keep the system cool and you can try to limit how much stress you put on it but it might eventually prevent you from using the system to do what you need to do. That’s where you need to examine other, physical factors that can keep the system cool. It may require a bit of investment to keep a system cool but it will be worth it in the long term.

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