Whether you have just built your own computer, or you’ve got an older system that you want to check up on, it is always a good idea to monitor you CPU’s temperature…
But monitoring your processor’s temperature won’t do you any good if you don’t know what temperature it should be running at. In this guide, we’ll show you how to check your processor’s temperature. We’ll also helpyou figure out how hot your CPU should be running.
Because, ultimately, every processor is built to run at slightly different temperature ranges. And, there is really not a one-size-fits-all approach to determing optimal CPU temperature ranges.
(If you are looking for a quick answer, we have attempted to give you a one-size-fits-all answer below. But, just know that it will never be a great way to determine whether or not your CPU temps are too high or not.)
In any case, though, after reading through this guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of safe CPU temps. You’ll also learn how to determine whether or not your processor is running at the appropriate temperature.
How to Check Your CPU’s Temperature
First off, before you can determine whether or not you are getting safe CPU temperatures, you will need some way to check and see what temperature your processor’s cores are actually running at.
There are quite a few different ways to do this.
You can check your CPU core temperature directly through your motherboard’s BIOS. However, this reading will only give you the idle temp for your CPU and won’t help you when stress testing your system. And, the temperature shown in your BIOS will always be a bit higher reading than what it will be when the system is idling in Windows, because BIOS will always boot your processor using higher voltage levels in order to make sure that it will initialize.
To get a better reading on the temperature range that your processors runs at (at both idle and under load), you’ll want to use third-party software.
There are quite a few different programs out there that will let you monitor your CPU temperatures (and some will monitor the temperature on your other components, too.)
Check CPU Temp with Core Temp
I’ll use Core Temp to check my processor’s temperature.
As you can see, I have an Intel Core i7-8700K processor, which is a six-core CPU. Core Temp shows you what the individual temperature is on each one of those six-cores. At the time of taking this screen shot you can see that my processor’s cores are running at an average of about ~31-degrees Celsius.
And, since Core Temp also shows me what the processor’s load is, I can tell that these temperature readings are coming from when the CPU is idling (the screenshot shows that my CPU is at less than 5% load, which means it is “idle”.)
So, we can say that my temperature is idling at about 30-degrees Celsius.
To check what my temperature is under a heavier load, you could play a demanding game (like PUBG, or Battlefield 1), or render a video, or do something else taxing. But, in order to guarantee a proper 100% load on your processor, you’ll want to use a stress-test benchmark tool.
Using Prime95 to Stress-Test
There are a number of stress-test tools out there and there is a lot of discussion on which one is the best to use. I use the SmallFFT test on Prime95 v26.6. The SmallFFT test on newer versions of Prime95 will actually push your processor past realistic levels and, therefore, is not a great method to use if you are trying to determine whether or not your CPU temps are safe or not.
You can disable the feature that causes the test to push your processor the extreme by adding a line of code to a specific file in the program, but for me—and likely for other users—it’s easier to just download the older version.
But, the general consensus is that Prime95 v.26.6 gets about as close to a true 100% load as any CPU stress-test tool out there. So, that’s what I use.
Now, using Prime95’s (v26.6) SmallFFTs stress-test to put my system under full load, I get the following temperatures:
Here you can see that under 100% load, my CPU’s cores are running at about an average of ~77-degrees Celsius.
So, now that I have those numbers, how do I know if 30-degrees Celsius while idling and 77-degrees Celsius under full load is a good range of CPU temperatures for my processor?
While I can tell you that those are generally safe CPU temperatures for the 8700K (at stock settings and with the cooler I have), there are a few things that I had to consider first before declaring that those are CPU temperatures I can live with.
You Know Your CPU’s Temperature at Idle and Under Load – Now What?
Step one is finding out what your processor’s average temperatures are at idle and while under load. Once you have those temperatures, then you can seek out whether or not they are normal.
However, Intel and AMD do not provide specific numbers of what are considered ‘normal’ temperatures for your processor. And, there really isn’t anywhere on the web that will give you that information outright, either.
That is partly because there are many factors that will determine what temperature your processor’s cores should be running at. And, if a CPU manufacturer suggested a one-size-fits-all recommended operating temperature, it would likely cause more harm than good.
So, one of the only ways that you can get a good idea of what your CPU temps should be, is just by comparing the temperatures you are getting to the temperatures that others who have the same processor and similar setups are getting. Whether that’s by checking forum posts, or by reading/watching others conduct reviews on the processor you have.
Fortunately, there are so many enthusiasts out there that there is likely enough information available for you to determine what the proper range of temperatures your CPU’s cores should be running at for various use-cases.
Now, Intel does provide a maximum operating temperature, which we will get into in just a moment. And, if you have an Intel processor, that maximum operating temperature will help you determine whether or not your temperatures are approaching (or hitting) a level that is definitely too high.
But, before we get into that, let’s first go over some of the many factors that will play a role in determining what temperature your processor’s cores should be running at.
1. Optimal CPU Temps Will Vary Depending on the Processor You Have
My Intel Core i7-8700K is going to run at different temperatures than an Intel Core i3-7100 at idle and when under load.
An AMD Ryzen 5 1600 is going to run at different temperatures than an AMD FX-8350 at idle and when under load.
The i7-3720QM processor in my laptop is going to run at different temperatures than a desktop processor.
Most processors run at different temperatures, whether by slightly differing amounts, or by significant temperature differences.
So, the first thing you need to understand is that you shouldn’t compare the temperatures you are getting to the temperatures someone else is getting who has a completely different processor.
2. You Must Take Ambient Temperature Into Consideration…
The next thing you need to consider is ambient temperature (or room temperature).
Let’s say you just built a new computer with an i7-8700K and you fire it up and you see that your processor is idling at 33-degrees Celsius. You think to yourself, “I guess that’s okay, because Brent’s 8700K was running at about 30-degrees Celsius. But, why is my processor running 3-degrees Celsisus higher than Brent’s?”
Well, it’s possible that the room temperature where your computer is operating is higher than the room temperature my computer is operating. And, that difference in room temperature is why your processor is running at a higher temperature than mine.
So, before you freak out, make sure you take into account the room temperature your computer is operating in and factor that in.
And, this is especially true if you’re going to start Googling what temperatures other’s are getting their processor to run at. Because if you stumble onto a forum where someone is posting that they are getting lower temperatures than you are with the same processor, you don’t want to jump to conclusions. It may just be that that person has their computer in a much cooler room than yours.
Generally speaking, I’d guess that most people run their computers in rooms that have temperatures of 21-22 degrees Celsius. But there are definitely others who will prefer rooms much cooler or warmer, depending on their preferences.
In any case, ambient temperature (or room temperature) is an incredibly important factor to consider when trying to determine whether or not your CPU temps are too high.
Of course, you could be getting higher or lower CPU temperatures than others for a few other reasons, too. And, one of those reasons could be that you or they are using a better CPU Cooler and/or thermal paste.
3. The Better Your CPU Cooler, the Better Your CPU Temps
Right now I am using a 360mm AIO cooler. My cooler is quite a bit better than the stock cooler that comes with the i7-8700K and, as such, I expect to see lower CPU temperatures from my system than someone else who is using the stock cooler will see.
However, there are also system builders out there who have the i7-8700K under an extreme custom-loop water-cooled setup. And, those builders will be getting lower temperatures than I am.
So, it’s important to factor in what CPU cooler you have before determining whether or not your temperatures are appropriate or not.
And, the same is true for the thermal paste you are using. Generally speaking, the stock thermal paste that comes applied on Intel’s stock coolers is not going to give as good of heat transfer as a high-end thermal compound will and, as a result, the stock thermal paste will produce higher CPU temperatures.
So, be sure that if you are comparing your temperatures with others who have the same processor as you, that you are taking into consideration the cooler your are using and the quality of the thermal paste that you have applied.
4. A Better Case With Higher Airflow Will Mean Better CPU Temps
Another thing to consider in determining whether or not your temperatures are appropriate or not is the amount of airflow you are getting in your case.
You may have an identical processor and CPU cooler combination as someone else, but you may be getting higher CPU temperatures because that someone else has a better case that is pushing more air over their processor.
So, again, if someone is posting that they are getting better temperatures than you, be sure that you are considering the fact that they could have a setup that allows for more airflow (and, thus, lower temperatures.)
5. Overclocking is Going to Produce Higher Temperatures
Another factor that you should be aware of when determining your processor’s temperatures, is overclocking.
Overclocking is the act of setting your CPU to run faster than it runs at stock settings. The faster you run it, the hotter it will get.
Of course, that extra heat can be offset by better cooling.
However, if you have overclocked your processor, you are going to have to look at your CPU temperatures with that in mind. You won’t want to compare your overclocked CPU’s temperatures to the temperatures that someone else who has the same CPU running at stock speeds is getting.
Max CPU Temperatures – How Hot is Too Hot
I’ve basically run you through the gauntlet of a number of things to consider if you are monitoring your processor’s temperatures and trying to determine whether they are higher than they should be.
Perhaps that was a bit more information than you came for. So, with that in mind, let’s take a step back and let’s determine whether or not your CPU is running extremely hot.
If you have an Intel processor, that’s actually a pretty easy task to do, as Intel provides the maximum operating temperatures of their processors on their website.
If you have an AMD processor, figuring out what the maximum operating temperature is is a bit more difficult. That is another scenario where you have to search and see what others are getting.
But, let’s take a look at Intel’s maximum operating temperatures to give you some more insight on the matter.
TJunction (TJ Max) or Max Temperature
Intel defines TJunction (TJ Max) as “the maximum temperature allowed at the processor die.” When most modern processors hit their TJunction (TJ Max) or maximum temperature, the CPU will throttle and slow down so as to prevent the chip from going over that maximum temperature.
Up until the processor hits that maximum temperature, for the most part, it will run as expected (unless it runs at a level close to its TJ Max for extended periods of time.)
So, ultimately, if your processor is running close to its maximum allowed operating temperature, it is fine for the time being. Over the long run, it will wear down faster, but for the short term, you aren’t going to blow your processor (and your system) up if it is operating close to its maximum temperature.
However, if your processor is consistently operating near its maximum operating temperature while under load, that could be a sign that something is wrong.
The good news about an Intel processor’s maximum temperature is that, unlike determining a processor’s ideal idle and under-load temperatures, each Intel processor has a clearly defined maximum operating temperature that can be found on Intel’s website.
So, the good news is that, if you have an Intel CPU, you finally have a concrete number to work with.
Simply go to your CPU’s specification sheet on the manufacturer’s website and check and see what your processor’s maximum operating temperature is.
For my i7-8700K, the TJunction (TJ Max) is 100-degrees Celsius. That means that as long as my processor stays under 100-degrees Celsius, it should be fine for the short term.
However, for the health of my processor and my system, I’d prefer that my processor operated at temperatures far below that number.
Again, while getting close to that number is okay in a one-time situation, continually operating close to it is going to shorten the life of your processor.
So, perhaps the easiest way to tell if your Intel CPU is, in fact, running too hot, is to monitor how close it runs to the maximum operating temperature when it is under load.
The closer it runs to the maximum operating temp (on a consistent basis), the more cause for concern you should have. And, if its continually reaching levels close to the TJ Max, there is likely something wrong (whether that be an incorrectly installed CPU cooler, poor air flow, or old thermal paste, etc.)
AMD’s Max Temps Aren’t Specificated
What if you have an AMD processor? How can you check and see if it’s operating at too high of a temperature?
Well, unfortunately, AMD doesn’t provide a specific maximum operating temperature for their processors. If you want to see what I mean, Google ‘FX-8350 max temp’ or ‘Ryzen 5 1600 max temp’.
What you’ll find is a bunch of people guessing what those processor’s maximum temperatures are, and nobody really knowing 100% for sure what number specific AMD CPUs will start to throttle at.
But there is typically a general consensus temperature range on when throttling will occur on a given AMD processor. And, so, after Googling to find that range (you’ll have to sort through forum posts and reviews and see what temperature levels others are seeing), you can use it in the same manner that you can use Intel’s TJ Max specification.
If your AMD CPU is consistently operating at temperatures near that maximum range, then there could possibly be something wrong.
How to Fix High CPU Temps
We have already discussed a few different ways that you can improve your processor’s temperatures. We outlined all of the different factors that contribute to what temperatures your processor’s cores run at.
So, now, I’ll give you a quick list of ways that you can improve your CPU’s operating temperatures, with some accompanying resources…
- Re-install your CPU cooler
- Use better thermal paste
- Buy a better CPU cooler
- Buy a better case
- Reconfigure your case fans for better air flow
- Add more case fans
- Clean out your computer
- Delid your CPU (for extreme users who want high overclocks)
Applying any (or all) of these tips should help give you more optimal temperatures for your CPU.
If you have a laptop, your only real options are to get a laptop cooler or to get a new laptop.
Wrapping it Up: What Having ‘Good CPU Temps’ Really Means…
Let me finish this up by saying…
For most users, there is no need to try and push your processor to operating at extremely low temperatures.
Yes, theoretically, the cooler your processor’s cores run, the better.
Where having really good CPU core temperatures matters most is when you are planning on overclocking your processor. In the simplest of definitions, the cooler you can get your processor to run, the higher you can overclock it.
If you have no plan on overclocking your processor, then as long as your processor runs at an average (or even slightly above average) temperature while under load, then that’s completely fine.
Though, you might not get as many years out of your system as someone who uses better cooling. But, since you’ll likely upgrade your system within 4-5 years, you probably won’t miss the added lifespan that better cooling offers.
So, in other words, if you landed on this article because you are freaking out that your i7-8700K (as an example) is running at 70-degrees Celsius when playing PUBG, and Joe Bob the extreme PC builder’s CPU is at 65-degrees Celsius when running PUBG, that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with your system.
It just means that Joe Bob the extreme PC builder has taken their cooling to the… well… extreme. And, your “normal” temperature only looks hot in comparison, when, in fact, it is actually fine.
So, the bottom line is that you shouldn’t freak out if your CPU’s core temps aren’t extremely low. You should only freak out if your CPU’s core temps are extremely high. And, with the information in this guide, I think you’ll have a better idea of how to figure that out.