How to lower CPU temperature in 2023
You need to keep your CPU temps as low as possible, here are 10 methods that should help
Have you ever experienced a full system shutdown right in the middle of playing a video game? This could be caused by a plethora of faults, but one very common reason for a PC to shut down is when the CPU reaches unsafe temperatures.
What happens when a CPU gets too hot?
When a CPU reaches a temperature it deems unsafe, a safety mechanism triggers called thermal throttling. A thermal throttle reduces the maximum processor usage because it’s exceeded safe operating temperatures. This causes the CPU to run slower and generate less heat, allowing the cooling solution to catch up.
This sudden slowdown is often what causes sudden full system crashes. Thermal throttling itself, however, is not a problem, it’s a solution. The problem is excessively high temperatures. And High temperatures are the enemy of PC components.
Running a component outside of its safe operating temperature is not only warranty-voiding but also extremely detrimental to its integrity and longevity, and is just generally an all-around bad idea. Overheating CPUs, if left unchecked, also have the potential to damage CPU sockets, rendering motherboards useless.
If all of this sounds scary, don’t worry, it can be easily prevented. Here are some easy ways to reduce CPU temperatures and stop overheating.
How to reduce CPU temps and keep them down
There are a few ways to reduce CPU temperatures:
- Clean the dust and debris from your computer’s cooling system, including the fans and heatsinks. Dust buildup can insulate the CPU and impede heat dissipation.
- Improve airflow in your computer case. This can be done by adding more fans or making sure that the existing fans are working properly.
- Undervolt your CPU. This can be done through the BIOS or through software such as Intel XTU or Ryzen Master. Undervolting can reduce power consumption and heat output.
- Use high-quality thermal paste between the CPU and heatsink. This will increase thermal conductivity and help to dissipate heat more efficiently.
- Overclocking your CPU can increase temperatures, so consider reducing the overclocking or disabling it altogether.
- Check the thermal throttling of your CPU, if your CPU is thermal throttling, which means it’s slowing down to prevent overheating, try to solve that first.
It is important to note that these solutions may not always be effective, and in some cases, a more powerful cooling solution may be necessary.
Allow better airflow
One extremely simple way to ensure acceptable CPU temperatures is to have the correct airflow configuration within your PC. Of course, open airflow cases are excluded because they’re an entirely different beast, but for your ‘normal’ PC cases there are a few configurations you need to understand.
First, we have ‘Positive pressure’: this configuration puts more air into your PC than is being exhausted, so there’s hot air almost stagnating within the PC. The opposite of this is the ‘negative pressure’ configuration that consists of more air being exhausted from the PC case than is entering. This creates a pocket of void space that ideally we’d like a nice stream of air to fill.
These two configurations are less than ideal. The only way it would work efficiently is if you had access to and full control of every single fan to compensate for either the positive or negative difference.
The ideal configuration is ‘neutral pressure’ meaning you have just as much air entering as you have exhausting, creating a flow of air that doesn’t get caught up or stagnate inside your PC case.
Cable management is a factor in not just CPU temperature control but overall temperature control. Messy cables can disrupt a clean flow of air and create object resistances we don’t need when trying to create a free-flowing efficient cooling environment. Keep those cables in check.
Location of your system
Another common reason for CPU temperatures to skyrocket is by situating your system in a poorly ventilated area. Regardless of how efficient your airflow configuration is, or how well-rated for airflow your case is, your CPU will get hot if you don’t have any cool fresh air getting to it in the first place.
Clean your PC
Fans are solely responsible for the intake and exhaustion of air to and from your PC, so it’s imperative that you keep them well maintained. Fans experience much higher air exposure than most PC components as they’re the only hardware responsible for pushing air through your PC. All this air exposure brings with it dust and debris.
Like everything else in your house fans get dusty and require regular cleaning. Don’t be ashamed, PCs in the cleanest of houses still get dusty, it really is inevitable. All this dust can cause more than a few problems, from electrical issues to fan failures, and you don’t want any of these things happening. To clean your fans (and the rest of your PC) simply take it outside and clean it out with a can of compressed air. If you’re an avid gamer and feel you’re going to be doing this a lot, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy a compressor of some sort to save you buying a can of air every few weeks.
Remove the screws from the back of the side panel
Remove any screws securing your side panel to your PC’s chassis.
Carefully remove the side panel
Remove the side panel itself and any dust filters you wish to clean.
Use a can of compressed air (or compressor) to remove residual dust
Now using your compressed air, blower, or compressor, remove the dust from your PC being careful to place your PC in a well-ventilated area and a place you don’t mind getting a little dusty.
Blow the dust off from the fans
Make sure you never allow the fans to spin when blowing them as this can cause damage to the fan’s motor – they don’t like to spin when unpowered.
Use the compressed air to dust off the power supply fans
Don’t forget about blowing dust out of the PSU, as this is the component that’s most likely to suffer a damaging short at the hands of excessive dust build up.
Refit and re-screw the side panel
Replace the side panel and any accompanying screws.
Open air vs closed case
There’s been a long-standing debate in the PC space that open-air cases are advantageous in terms of airflow. This is, however surprisingly, counterintuitive as open-air cases cause a few more issues than they fix. However, they do look amazing when done right. Without a closed directional system the cooling capabilities become more inefficient. The open case also invites in much more dust due to the absence of various filters. Because of these simple facts, open-air cases are out. Unless you’re fine with cleaning your PC every week or so.
Re-apply thermal paste
There’s been a long-standing debate in the PC space that open-air cases are advantageous in terms of airflow, they are however surprisingly counterintuitive as open-air cases cause a few more issues than they fix, they do however look amazing when done right.
Without a closed directional system the cooling capabilities become more inefficient, the open case also invites in much more dust due to the absence of various filters.
Due to these few simple facts, open-air cases are out. Unless you’re fine with cleaning your PC every week or so.
Invest in a better CPU cooler
Stock coolers are great for the bare minimum cooling capacity, the coolers that work just well enough to be functional. You shouldn’t expect to get respectable CPU temperatures with mediocre cooling solutions at best, though. Installing aftermarket cooling solutions can get a little pricy at the high end, but the difference in temperature can be night and day. Of course, there are budget options available but as with anything, budget options have limitations. Better to go with a CPU cooler with no compromises like the ASUS Ryujin II for example, especially if you plan on overclocking your CPU. AIO or (all in one) coolers work magic in terms of reducing CPU temperatures and keeping them at bay. AIO coolers offer an excellent mid-way between the sometimes disappointing performance of air coolers in comparison to liquid-based coolers, and the scarily daunting custom water cooling solutions. AIO installations follow the same basic models and you can find a tutorial in the article outlined above, just in case you run into any issues.
Reapplying the thermal paste can work wonders when attempting to lower your CPU temperatures, thermal paste becomes dry and cracks when left unchanged for long periods of time. As it’s a thermally conductive compound it’s also subject to thermal decomposition so the more you use it the lower its longevity.
You can increase the thermal pastes life span and the efficiency of said paste by purchasing higher quality paste. but generally, thermal paste can already withstand a number of years of use but this number is subjective and situational so we won’t outline how long thermal paste is supposed to last.
We will however, advise that you change your thermal paste once every one to one and a half years, to ensure proper performance. Or if you remove your cooler for any reason it’s always best to reapply.
If you’re unsure about the logistics of applying thermal paste, check out this article on how to properly apply thermal paste.
Invest in more fans
How many fans do you have in your PC? if the answer is three or less, you could probably benefit from an additional fan or two (providing your case supports extra fans). We outlined the importance of airflow configurations earlier but if you can, you should add more fans to your airflow setup. You’ll be adding a stronger airflow aiding your PC in achieving a lower operating temperature.
Get a semi or fully modular PSU
Cable management is imperative to none restrictive airflow as we mentioned earlier. One aspect that can help with cable management is using a fully modular PSU. Knowing the difference between None, Semi and Fully modular PSUs is important and outlined in our article here. If you’re unsure what PSU is right for you, why don’t you take a look at our best PSU for gaming feature?
Set higher fan speeds in motherboard BIOS
Manually adjusting the CPU fan or fan curve in your motherboard’s BIOS (basic input-output system) can work well when attempting to keep high CPU temperatures at bay. By default, CPU fan control is set to ‘Auto’ – this curve profile is designed to be a hybrid between noise and effectiveness. In general, allowing the motherboard to control the CPU fan speed based on a temperature variable is smart and effective, but there’s some cooling performance to be had by simply adjusting the curve. If you’re a headset gamer and aren’t phased by a little extra noise erupting from your PC then you can achieve better temperatures by creating a more airflow heavy curve. But of course, having your CPU fan spinning at 100% speed for the foreseeable future will do nothing for its longevity. Contrarily, if you’re a gamer more conscious of noise, you can try adjusting the curve more steadily. The next few steps may look scary, especially if you’re not accustomed to navigating a motherboard BIOS. You do have the potential to break your PC in here, but if you follow the steps closely you’ll be just fine. Your motherboard layout will look slightly different, but most have access to fan controls in the ‘Easy mode’ section. If you’re unsure just look up your motherboard manual or check out: How to check what motherboard you have.
Enter your motherboard BIOS by pressing the ‘DEL’ key at POST
Enter the BIOS by pressing the Delete key when the PC first posts.
Enter your fan control software. In our case it’s ‘Smart Fan 5’
Enter the fan control section.
Set the ‘CPU fan speed control’ to manual
Now go to CPU fan speed control to manually set the speed.
Move each node on the curve to adjust it.
At 50%, you should have cool temperatures with low processes and idle speeds. Make sure you adjust the temperatures when gaming to maintain low temperatures.
Hit ‘ESC’ when you’ve finished adjusting your curve and then hit ‘Save and exit’
Once finished, press Escape and then save and exit.
Why is your CPU too hot?
A CPU can become too hot due to a variety of reasons, including:
- Overclocking: Overclocking a CPU means running it at a higher clock speed than its manufacturer-specified limit, which can generate more heat than the cooling system can handle.
- Poor ventilation: If a computer case does not have enough fans or ventilation, the hot air generated by the CPU and other components cannot escape, leading to an increase in temperature.
- Dust buildup: Dust accumulation inside the computer case can block the airflow, leading to an increase in temperature.
- Improper thermal paste application: Thermal paste is a substance that helps transfer heat from the CPU to the heat sink. If it is applied improperly, the CPU can overheat.
- Faulty cooling system: If the CPU’s cooling system, including the heat sink, fan, or liquid cooler, is not functioning correctly, the CPU can overheat.
- High ambient temperature: If the room temperature is high, it can cause the CPU to overheat.
- Running resource-intensive applications: Running applications that consume a lot of CPU resources, such as video editing or gaming, can generate more heat than the cooling system can handle.
- Aging CPU: Over time, the thermal interface material (TIM) between the CPU and heat sink can degrade, leading to poor heat dissipation and causing the CPU to overheat.
No need to panic straight away, a processor is designed to run at very hot temperatures. Of course, the lower the temps, the better performance and longer life your CPU will have but it isn’t always the end of the world.
Why is a high CPU temperature bad?
A high CPU temperature can cause a computer to malfunction or shut down to prevent damage to the hardware. Additionally, high temperatures can lead to thermal throttling, which can cause the CPU to slow down in order to reduce heat, resulting in reduced performance.
In extreme cases, high temperatures can cause permanent damage to the CPU, leading to costly repairs or replacement.
How hot should my CPU be when gaming?
This is a very open question and depends on a lot of variables such as where the PC is located, the case, the CPU, the CPU cooler, and how many fans the PC has… to name but a few.
A ‘standard’ gaming PC (if you can even standardize such a thing) should be seeing temperatures between 158°F (70°C) and 176°F (80°C) while under heavy CPU load.
But obviously, the more efficient your cooling solution and the lower your CPU temperature when under load the better. If you can get a CPU temperature of 114°F (46°C) under load then great, your CPU will thank you in the long run. You can find the best CPU temperature monitoring software here.
How hot should my CPU be at idle?
The temperature of a CPU at idle varies depending on several factors such as ambient temperature, cooling system, and the specific model of the CPU. Generally, a CPU temperature of 30-50°C is considered normal for most CPUs when idle.
It is important to keep the temperature within the safe operating range specified by the manufacturer to prevent overheating and potential damage to the components.
What does CPU TDP mean?
TDP stands for Thermal Design Power and it is a measure of the amount of heat that a CPU generates. Specifically, it is the maximum amount of heat that the cooling system in a computer is designed to dissipate.
The TDP is measured in watts (W) and it is an indicator of how much power a CPU requires to operate. A higher TDP value typically means the CPU will consume more power, produce more heat, and require a more powerful cooling system.
A lower TDP value means the opposite. It’s important to note that TDP should not be confused with the actual power consumption of the CPU, as the actual power consumption can vary depending on the workload and other factors.
TDP is more of a reference point for the cooling solution that needs to be used with a specific CPU.
How to lower CPU temperature FAQs
How do I change my CPU temp limit?
When it comes to the temperature limit of your CPU, it is important that you should not change this. There is a reason why manufacturers choose a limit for the CPU. If the CPU operates above this temperature it can have dangerous consequences.
You should ensure that you are sticking to the amount that has been set by the manufacturer. Typically, when you reach the temperature limit, this will cause the CPU to shut itself down to prevent overheating.
A CPU that reaches its max temperatures and beyond this will be impacted significantly, and this will likely cause lasting damage to the CPU.
While you can overclock the majority of CPUs, you should never attempt to adjust the temperature limit. The CPU is not intended to work about the max temperature levels, and will become unstable if this happens. This can cause irreversible damage to your build.
What is a dangerous temperature for a CPU?
A dangerous temperature for a CPU will change slightly depending on the type of CPU you own. They will all have varying temperature limits. However, typically anything over 80 degrees, is very dangerous for a CPU.
100 degrees is boiling point, and given this, you will want the temperature of your CPU to be significantly lower than this. The lower the temperature, the better your PC and its components will run overall.
The temperature of your CPU is likely to fluctuate depending on how heaving it is being used. For example, an idle PC typically should run at around 35 degrees. If an idle PC reaches 50 degrees, this is a serious issue.
When the PC is working at its full capacity, it should ideally sit at around 60 degrees. Any higher than this can be dangerous.
Ensuring your CPU remains within the mandated safe operating temperatures is imperative to the function and longevity of your PC, and will prevent it from becoming an expensive smoke machine. This applies to the majority of your PC hardware – the cooler it is then the longer it should last, so keep yourself and your PC safe by keeping the temperatures in check.
It’s not only your CPU that’s at risk either. High CPU temperatures will eventually lead to damage to your CPU socket or even motherboard, resulting in yet more expense to replace.
This tragic eventuality is easily avoided by using at least one of these 10 methods outlined above. Happy gaming.
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