When a CPU is running too hot, it can actually start to break down. The good temperature for your computer’s CPU is around 120℉ when idle, and under 175℉ when under stress. If you’re using a laptop, you should look for CPU temperatures between 140℉ and 190℉. If your CPU heats up beyond about 200℉, your computer can experience glitches, or simply shut down.
There are various tools you can use to track your CPU’s temperature and help your computer cool down.
One way of checking that your central processing unit (CPU) isn’t overheating is by using a tool called HWMonitor.
HWMonitor is a tool that comes with your computer. In laptops, it’s usually located on the right side of the keyboard, and in desktops, if you look down at the motherboard you’ll probably see an empty slot where it should be.
Once you’ve found HWMonitor, insert a pin or paperclip into one of its holes to start it up. You’ll then get a window like this one:
The information displayed by HWMonitor will vary depending on what type of CPU you have installed For example, here’s what you’ll see for an Intel Core i7 CPU:
In addition to HWMonitor, you can also use Windows' built-in Task Manager to track your CPU’s temperature. Open the task manager by pressing Control + Alt + Delete and click on “Task Manager.” Once open, select the Performance tab and click on “CPU.”
Note that this won’t work unless your computer is running at 100 percent capacity. When using any of these tools (HWMonitor or Task Manager) be aware that while they are tracking your CPU’s temperature, they will affect its readings. If you have a laptop with a dedicated graphics card, it may also come with a control panel that allows you to track the CPU’s temperature.
Once your computer has cooled down, HWMonitor or Task Manager will return to normal and start up automatically whenever you restart your computer. You can also open them manually whenever you want to check on your CPU.
How to check your CPU temperature?
HWMonitor and Task Manager are the two free tools you can use to check your CPU temperature. You can find them in Windows as they come with every computer or laptop. Periodically open either of them to be sure your processor is not overheating. Some motherboards have their own control panels for checking CPU temperature which sometimes will work even if the computer is idle, but HWMonitor also works well when the PC is idle so it’s a matter of personal preference which one to use.
Task manager needs to be running in order to show the CPU temperature, while the HWM monitor runs all the time in the background unless you close it manually when not needed anymore. HWM Monitor does not affect your system performance like Task Manager does, but if you need to access it frequently, you might want to consider using Task Manager instead. Also, make sure you are not opening them at the same time as they will interfere with each other and give inaccurate temperature readings.
Fun fact: Did you know that when your CPU is under a lot of stress, the fan can actually overheat? If this happens it’s called “thermal throttling” which is why it’s important to keep an eye on your CPU’s temperature.
How to cool down a CPU that’s too hot?
If your CPU is running hotter than normal, you can try using a free tool like HWMonitor to close some of the programs you have open. For instance, if you’re watching a video on YouTube with another tab open to Facebook and surfing the web at the same time, a task manager will show all these programs as using half of your CPU’s power each.
The problem here is that CPUs are designed to only use one core for an extended period of time. If you’re switching between applications too often or have more than one application open that uses multiple cores at once (such as multi-tab browsing in Firefox), this can cause CPU overheating which can affect your computer’s performance.
Here are simple steps to follow:
Step 1: Close all other programs if possible (except Task Manager or HWMonitor).
Step 2: Open your task manager by pressing Control + Alt + Delete and select “Task Manager”. Once it’s open, click on the Performance tab and look at the CPU percentage. If it’s around 100 percent or higher, this means your computer is struggling to perform which may cause overheating. Click on “more details” to see which apps are causing problems.
Step 3: In the “Task Manager”, click on an application that uses a lot of your CPU’s power (such as Chrome or Firefox with multiple tabs open). Then right-click on one of them and select Quit. You may need to repeat this step for every application running in the background until you can see your CPU percentage fall down to a more acceptable range.
Step 4: Close the “Task Manager” window and check your computer’s temperature again using HWMonitor or Task Manager (whichever one you prefer, as long as it is one of them). If it has gone down significantly, you have successfully closed enough applications for Windows to return back to normal temperatures.
Step 5: Once all this is done, reboot your computer. This will return your system settings back to default so any programs that you just uninstalled won’t automatically start up again when Windows boots. They’ll remain inactive until you want to run the next time after logging in.
Step 6: In general, avoid using too many browser tabs at the same time and keep an eye out for any apps that automatically update themselves. These are some of the most common causes for a computer to overheat, so it’s good practice to keep an eye on them.
And if you happen to be running monitoring software like HWMonitor or Task Manager while performing these steps, make sure not to close those as they are required in order for this method to work.
NOTE: If your CPU temperature is extremely high (100°C+) or if your computer just shuts down automatically without warning, you should consider taking it to a professional before anything worse happens.
Why does my CPU overheat even while doing simple tasks?
Sometimes a PC overheats because its internal fans aren’t working properly. But other times the problem can be as simple as dust, dirt, or hair that has accumulated in the CPU fan and other fans throughout the computer.
If you find that your internal fans are working fine but your computer is still running hot (or if it just seems like dust/hair has accumulated all over everything), then this could be the problem.
There’s a 70% chance it may fix itself after running some compressed air through every port and vent on your computer for 15 minutes or so, but sometimes you’ll need to make this process a step further by taking everything apart piece by piece (including the motherboard) and literally blowing out as much dust as possible inside each component with an air compressor.
CPUs are delicate pieces of equipment so you’ll want to try and avoid overheating. HWMonitor and Task Manager are good ways to check up on your computer, but there are also dedicated CPU-temp tools available online if you’re interested in trying something new or looking for more options.
Remember that HWMonitor does not affect system performance while Task Manager does so keep that in mind when deciding which one to use. Whichever you choose, periodically check your CPU temperature, and if it ever passes a certain point (usually 100C) turn off the computer immediately before doing anything else.
It’s also important to ensure you’re giving your PC enough time to rest between sessions as not allowing it to cool down can damage both the internal components and fan.