When a CPU (central processing unit) overheats, usually at temperatures over 176°F (80°C), the built-in failsafes will force the computer to instantly crash and shut down. If the CPU stays at temperatures higher than 176°F for too long, it easily risks suffering irreparable damage. Moreover, the PC’s motherboard can break down, too. However, no operating system displays the CPU temperature by default, so here is how to check CPU temp on your PC to find out if your computer is overheating.
How to Check CPU Temp
An overheating CPU initially leads to random freezes and resets. If the processor continues to overheat beyond this point, its lifespan is reduced, and parts of it can melt. Below, we show you a variety of methods for how to check CPU temperature.
1. How to Check CPU Temp in BIOS
Due to the importance of checking CPU temp, all motherboards come with temperature readers, and the BIOS was the first place where users could see their CPU temp. To check CPU temp from the BIOS, follow these steps:
- Boot up the PC. If the PC is already booted, reboot the system.
- The first screen displayed during the booting process will have the manufacturer’s logo, along with an indication as to what key to press to get into the BIOS menu. This key is usually F2, F10, or Delete.
- The time window to press the BIOS boot key is limited, though. If the screen showing the manufacturer’s logo changes, reboot the PC once more and try again.
- The CPU Temperature will be listed under the Hardware Monitor tab or set of options. If the PC’s BIOS does not have a Hardware Monitor tab, the system might be too old.
- Most manufacturer systems, however, have a BIOS driver listed on their web page. Update the BIOS using the driver, then allow the system to reboot and successfully boot into the operating system.
- Now, proceed to reboot the system, boot into BIOS, and then look for the Hardware Monitor tab or menu again.
The option to check CPU temp in BIOS is useful, but it is not always helpful. If a computer crashes to the point of shutdown, users rarely get to immediately know why it happened. While this sort of crash usually implies that a component overheated, it is not always the CPU.
2. How to Check CPU Temp in Linux
Psensor is by far the easiest way to read an accurate and up-to-date system CPU temperature on Linux. If Psensor is not already installed on your Linux computer, it will need lm-sensors and hddtemp to function properly. However, Linux installation is fairly easy.
Just enter the following commands with Debian or Ubuntu:
- $ sudo apt-get install lm-sensors hddtemp psensor
- sudo sensors-detect
3. How to Check CPU Temp in Windows 7, 8, and 10
Although Microsoft Windows has more users than Linux, they have yet to implement an easily accessible tool or widget which can give users a way to check their CPU temp. The operating system focuses more on processor and memory activity, rather than their temperatures.
While monitoring processor activity is important as well, keeping the CPU below a specific usage threshold leads to longer hardware life.
Most modern motherboards and cooler fans come with drivers and software which give the user more control over how the system runs. Not all users are fortunate enough to come across specific hardware monitoring software for their components, however.
Apart from the chipset and motherboard drivers and software, users who own a nVIDIA GPU have access to a hardware monitoring tool called nVIDIA System Monitor. The Tech Exploring team highly recommends the nVIDIA System Monitor, as it is a great tool that enables users to check the CPU temp easily, as well as a comprehensive array of other information.
For non-nVIDIA Microsoft Windows users, the Tech Exploring team can recommend Open Hardware Monitor. The tool is accurate, easy to use, lightweight in terms of RAM and storage space, and free.
Both programs are compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit of the following versions of Microsoft Windows: Vista, 7, 8, and 10.
4. How to Check CPU Temp in Mac OS
If you own a MacBook, and you want to check its CPU temp, you have the option of downloading an app that can help you do that. The good news is that once you install the app, you will be able to see your CPU temp in your menu bar.
The app is called iStat Menus 6, and it is a professional, advanced system monitor for your Mac, that not only monitors the Mac’s CPU, but also sends you notifications, features a Notification Center widget, comes with improved accessibility, and it has additional options such as dual line menubar clocks.
When it comes to CPU, it provides highly detailed information, including current usage for individual cores, load averages, history graphs, CPU frequency, uptime, as well as a list of apps that use the most CPU.
You can use for free the first 14 days, to get a feel for what it can do. Then, if you like it, you can buy a Single License for $17.84, or a Family License for $23.79.
How to Optimize CPU Temp
Now that we went over the different methods of how to check CPU temp, we can move on to optimization and maintenance.
CPU Temp Optimization
While idle, Intel CPUs have temperatures ranging from 82°F (28°C) to 100°F (38°C). AMD CPUs run at slightly higher temperatures by default.
If the idle temperature of a CPU is higher than 104°F (40°C), you may need to:
- install more cooling fans in their rig, or
- increase the default speed of the fans they already have.
Nevertheless, a CPU can overheat from more than just over usage.
Users should perform regular maintenance on their rigs. If dust settles inside the PC, it can impede the flow of incoming and outgoing air, and also act as a blanket for several components. Unless a customized PC case is involved, the best overall air flow has the air intakes on the front and on the top of the rig, and the output at the back and on the side.
Taking the airflow direction into account, users should make sure that the interlinking cables inside the PC do not clutter or impede any of the fans.
With dust regularly cleaned out and cables out of the way, the other best measure to ensure a low CPU temp is to re-apply the layer of thermal paste. Intel processors with average-to-high usage usually require less frequent thermal paste application than their AMD counterparts. Only re-apply thermal paste once the previous layer has mostly degraded. Make sure that the layers of thermal paste are always thorough but thin. Thick layers or frequent re-application could insulate the CPU.
More Than Just Maintenance
Experiencing high CPU temperatures after regular maintenance could point to the presence of hardware issues. The first step in trying to lower CPU temp would be to increase the speed of the cooling fans via the appropriate software. With increasing rotations per minute, cooling fans produce more noise.
If the fans are not compatible with any software, then the hardware issues risk becoming problems.
As software continues to grow and update, it requires more resources. Replacing the heatsink and core cooler fan with any available and compatible larger variants should be the first upgrade, as it has the highest impact.
If the current heatsink is the largest available for the particular CPU type or for the casing itself, the next step would be acquiring and installing additional cooling fans, or upgrading the currently existing ones.
If high CPU temperatures are still present, and if the CPU is several years old, then there is the possibility that the CPU and/or motherboard require upgrading altogether.
The Tech Exploring team hopes this guide on how to check CPU temp and optimize rigs will keep your processors blasting for as long as you need them. If you know of other methods of how to check computer temp, or of any other programs that can help you check computer temperature, share your experience in the comments below.
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