Why Managing Your CPU Heat Matters

CPU on fire

Whether you are building a new computer or the temperature of your computer keeps heating up, being able to manage how hot your CPU gets is a crucial part of keeping your computer running fast and efficiently.

The reason why it is so important to manage your CPU heat is that an overheated CPU will cause performance issues. There is a safety system built into the CPU, that will lower its performance in order to keep it at a safe temperature. Without that safety system, the CPU is at risk of permanent damage.

Now you know that managing the temperature of your CPU is crucial; not only to stop it from causing damage but also to keep your computer running at peak performance.

Here are a few tips to figure out the temperature of your CPU, and how to keep your CPU cool.

How Hot Can Your CPU Get Before It Causes Damage

You should aim to have your CPU be around 60 – 70 Degrees Celsius (140 – 160 Degrees Fahrenheit) as this is the ideal temperature to have your CPU be running its best.

Having your CPU run from 70 – 80 Degrees Celsius (160 – 175 Degrees Fahrenheit) is still okay for your computer, but you should keep a close eye on the temperatures because you are getting to the very hot territory. You should keep in mind that these higher, but still safe temperatures could still be affecting the performance of your CPU because it is cutting back on its power in order to keep the CPU from overheating.

Once we get temperatures hitting over 80 Degrees Celsius (175 Degrees Fahrenheit) is when you know something is wrong with your cooling, you need to fix this right away because leaving your computer on at these temperatures can cause permanent CPU damage.

What you should take away from this is that keeping your CPU at a safe temperature by spending a little extra money on cooling can help extend the lifetime of your CPU performing at its optimal level, and you won’t have to sacrifice performance for safety.

How to Tell If Your CPU Is Overheating

An overheating CPU can be the reason why you’re having sudden drops in FPS or why it takes so long to load up and export a project from an application like photoshop.

Most modern CPUs have a thermal protection system built inside of them, which will stop certain functions of the CPU, and slow down your computer, but at the same time, it will prevent your CPU from overheating.

The CPU does this by slowing down its clock speed or shutting off access to some of its cores, this is the CPUs defense mechanism against heat. Although it helps prevent the CPU from overheating it also takes away the maximum potential that you can get out of it.

Therefore, if you’re having sudden drops in FPS it is a smart idea to check and monitor your CPU temperatures before and during your gaming sessions. You might also find that it only overheats during very CPU intensive scenes which may mean you only need to turn a few shadows or animations off, but it could also mean the sheer overload of everything you’re using at once is causing your CPU to heat up.

Other frequent issues that occur with overheating are black screens that occur randomly or your computer shutting off at unexpected times.

I have also made a list of reasons your CPU could be overheating.

  • Slow down in CPU Performance/Poor CPU performance
  • CPU throttling
  • Black screening
  • Blue screening
  • Computer shutting down and restarting
  • Loud CPU fan
  • Sudden drops in FPS

If your computer is experiencing any of these issues it’s possible that your CPU doesn’t have sufficient cooling because it is overheating.

You should also keep in mind that there can be a variety of different causes of the issues above, but if you’re experiencing any of these, then checking and monitoring your CPU temperature to see if overheating really is the problem is a good idea.

Why Your CPU Temperature is so High and How to Fix It

Even if you have a sufficient cooling system built into your computer it’s still possible that your CPU could overheat. There are a variety of factors that can cause your CPU to overheat which will in turn cause damage to your system.

Here are some common reasons why your CPU is overheating

  1. Bad cooling system
  2. Poor airflow
  3. Dusty computer
  4. Broken fans
  5. Old/expired thermal paste
  6. Overclocking

1. Bad Cooling System

Your first problem may be a bad cooling system. having a good cooling system is a very important part of building a computer. If you don’t have a sufficient cooling system the heat generated from the computer will stay inside the case warming everything up.

What an effective cooling system does is transfer the heat from the inside of the computer to the outside replenishing the hot air with cool air; that way you constantly have the hot air moving away from your computer’s components removing the heat off of them. While cool air is moving through the inside of your computer cooling everything down.

CPU cooler cooling CPU

An insufficient cooling system may have a not very effective heatsink, which is the part of the CPU cooler that takes the heat directly from the CPU and transfers it away; transferring it to a fan or liquid depending on what kind of cooling system you have.

Also having a stock air cooler is usually fine for normal use, but if you’re thinking of overclocking your CPU it’s a good idea to upgrade to a better CPU cooler such as a liquid cooler. The reason for this is that a stock cooler doesn’t have a good enough heat sink, and fan.

Therefore, it can’t keep up with the demands of an overclocked CPU.

2. Poor AIrflow

What can also be holding you back is having poor airflow inside and outside the computer.

Poor airflow happening inside the computer is caused by poor fan placement. This poor fan placement can create hot pockets inside of your computer; while everything else is being cooled the areas where there is no airflow can become extremely hot and in the end damage whatever is there.

The ideal fan placement for a computer is to have the air flowing from one side of the case to the other. You want to have a good balance between intake fans and exhaust fans. Having intake fans in the front of the case brings the air from the outside and pushes it in, then having exhaust fans in the back of the case brings the air inside the case to the outside.

In doing this, you will have a consistent airflow keeping your whole computer cool.

This technique is also very useful to people who have big air coolers that shoot air from side to side (not up and down). The reason for this is that you can use the push-pull fan formation on the cooler as well keeping your CPU warm and allowing you to have very good airflow through your CPU cooler.

Another thing you should keep in mind is where you place your computer because having good airflow outside of your computer is just as good as having good airflow inside of your computer.

having your computer in a dusty corner or on a carpet cause a lot of dust to come inside your case which makes your computer hotter; I will get into this in the next step.

Also, if your computer is in an enclosed area like inside a desk it can make the outside air around the computer become very hot. If this happens your computer will only be transferring hot air back inside of it.

3. Dusty Computer

Now’s the time to get your hands dirty and clean out your pc because dust could be the reason why your CPU is so hot.

Having a very dusty pc could be the reason why your CPU is overheating because dust gets stuck on fan blades restricting airflow moving more dust inside the pc. Having dust clog the airflow of the CPU cooler, and power supply can be very damaging because it will cause your CPU and power supply to heat up.

If the power supplies intake is clogged, it can cause the power supply to overheat burnout destroying your motherboard, which can destroy your CPU.

With that being said we can avoid all of this by cleaning your pc about every 6 months. It usually takes around 6 months for your pc to get all dusty depending on your environment.

You can easily clean the dust off of your pc using antistatic clothes, and compressed air for all the hard-to-reach places. It is also important to get in between each fan blade front and back, getting rid of the stubborn dust that’s probably stuck there.

You should also make sure to clean the heatsink of your CPU because it’s very easy for dust to be trapped inside of it; Although it can be very hard to clean if you don’t have a can of compressed air.

However, as long as you consistently clean your computer you won’t have to worry about stubborn dust build-up, and most importantly it will keep your CPU clean.

If you need a more in-depth guide to cleaning your PC (click here).

4. Broken Fans

Every now in then, you should do a thorough check of your computer to see if anything has stopped working or to make sure nothing is broken.

One of the most common things that can break inside your computer is the fans. For the most part, fans last a pretty long time, but excessive use can lead to worn-out bearings, which will make the fan less effective, thus ruining the airflow inside your pc.

5. Old/Expired Thermal Paste

applying a lot of thermal paste to cpu during installation

Thermal paste is used to connect the heatsink to the CPU. If the thermal paste is old or expired it can lead to poor heat transfer, which in the end will make your CPU overheat.

I have a more in-depth guide on how thermal paste works and how it helps keep your CPU cool.

However, I can give a brief explanation of how it works in this article

A metal heatsink and CPU might look perfectly flat to the naked eye, but there are actually small microscopic imperfections that air can go through. What thermal paste does is it fills in those imperfections and connects the heatsink and CPU together.

The reason why this is so effective is that heat doesn’t travel as well through the air, so the thermal paste allows the heat to transfer from the CPU to the heatsink very effectively.

If you have really old thermal paste, or your thermal paste happens to be expired, then the heat won’t be able to travel as well from the CPU to the heatsink causing the heat to get stuck inside the CPU making the CPU overheat.

To change your thermal paste you will need to turn off your computer, take out the CPU cooler, and get a knife or something the scrape off the thermal paste, after that you should be good to apply your new layer of thermal paste.

6. Overclocking

Overclocking can raise the temperature of your CPU by a lot. What overclocking your CPU does is push it to its upper limits, past the base core speeds. This then enhances the performance and speeds up your CPU.

However, the harder your CPU works the hotter it will get, and because you’re using the CPU past its based performance it will get very hot, and if you don’t have a really good cooling system built into your computer; then your CPU will overheat and get damaged.

Here is an article I wrote that goes more in-depth about overclocking.

Can Your CPU Get Too Cold?

In short, yes your CPU can get too cold, but it is very very unlikely you will ever reach this point.

Unless you are in a freezer and using liquid nitrogen to cool your CPU, it is pretty much impossible for your CPU to be too cold.

The average temperature of a room is about 22 Degrees Celsius, and if you’re using a typical CPU cooler then your CPU will never go under room temperature.

That being said there have been overclocking competitions where people have used liquid nitrogen to cool their CPU and even then, there have been no issues with the CPU being too cold.

Do You Need to Warm Up Your Computer Like a Car?

You do not need to warm up your computer like a car because all the major parts of a computer don’t move. A car needs to warm up because they have moving parts that will break if they are not warm.

If you’re asking this question because your computer is slow when it starts up it’s because many programs are still starting up and loading in the background.

Therefore, if you are experiencing this and want to speed up the loading process of your computer you should uninstall unused programs, or turn off the auto start on them so they don’t load up when the computer turns on.

Conclusion

This article is part of a series click here to get the full guide on how your can increase your CPU performance.

Lucas Coulson

I first got into building my own computer when I was around 12 or 13. The first computer I had ever built didn't work. So I kept researching to figure what I did wrong. I really enjoyed researching, learning, and building computers, so I decided to turn it into an online business, and here I am.

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