If you’ve used a PC, chances are you’ve experienced a spike in central processing unit (CPU) temperature at some point. Sometimes, it’s the result of aging hardware. But it can also happen during periods of heavy use.
Either way, having your computer overheat is a relatively common problem. Unfortunately it can have significant implications, often foreshadowing later issues or a decline in peak performance.
That’s why we should all try to keep tabs on CPU temperature and know exactly how to check for it. Luckily, there are several different ways to do so, including a DIY method and a variety of software tools to consider.
In this guide, we’ll look at how to handle the basics on your own and then explain how you can use a third-party CPU temp monitor to stay up-to-date. While the DIY approach may be more appealing to experienced users, monitoring with software is often more convenient and easier to do.
How to check CPU temp from your BIOS/UEFI
First, let’s look at the DIY method for checking CPU temp on a Windows 10 computer. In this procedure, you’ll rely on your device’s BIOS
or UEFI (the contemporary equivalent of a BIOS interface)
to check CPU temperature, as well as other hardware information and settings. It’s also important to remember that different methods may only apply to some users. Here’s how you’ll get started:
- Open the Windows Taskbar at the lower left corner of your screen.
- Select the Settings button, indicated by a white gear icon. It should be just above the Taskbar icon and your PC’s shutdown options. This will open a new index and search bar under the Windows Settings header.
- Scroll down to the Update & Recovery tab at the bottom of the Windows Settings index.
- Select the Recovery tab in the left sidebar. The new sidebar should load alongside the Update & Recovery panel.
- Scroll down to the Advanced startup heading and select the Restart now button. Your device will power down as usual and begin to restart. It should interrupt just before your typical boot and login procedures, and it will provide several advanced startup options.
- Select the Troubleshoot button.
- Select the Advanced options button. This is also where you can view the system restore and startup settings, as well as other recovery options.
- Select restart. This should load your BIOS / UEFI interface, which for many Windows 10 users will include a CPU temperature readout.
The primary advantage of this method is that it uses only your existing PC systems for monitoring. That means you don’t have to add any new costs, install additional software, or deal with account information for your registration or login. It also cuts out the risk of choosing the wrong software and getting saddled with malware or spam
This is a good solution if you already prefer to directly manage your BIOS or UEFI for any other reason, since checking CPU temperature will be especially easy to integrate with your existing routine. It’s also just good to know in case you experience issues with a software-based CPU temperature monitor.
The main drawback of this method is the amount of time it takes from start to finish. You’ll need to restart twice whenever you want to check your PC’s temperature reading, and also click through several different options and menus as you go.
From a practical standpoint, this also makes it more difficult for you to quickly gauge the severity of a problem as it’s happening. And because it only provides a one-time, static temperature readout, it cuts back on your workable data while troubleshooting.
Plus, it’s important to remember that not all users will have access to the same interface. Some of the information may be different depending on your device and software. Between the amount of time involved and the lack of detailed or uniform temperature information, this method will certainly appeal to a narrow group of users.
Monitor CPU temp with software
Now that we’ve covered the BIOS/UEFI method, you may appreciate the potential benefits of a software solution. Most use your device’s built-in digital thermal sensors to measure temperature. While some options may cost a bit more than the DIY method and all third-party software comes with potential risks, you’re likely to enjoy a much more user-friendly experience.
With a growing space for independent monitoring software and several standout options, software is a viable monitoring solution for the typical user. Monitoring software usually provides a more dynamic readout and additional ways to keep tabs on your hardware.
Cost is definitely a factor, however. Some options are free and provide a relatively simple experience, but others may involve subscription costs. In exchange for a fee, users tend to enjoy much deeper functionality. You can also shop around for the most intuitive interface and best functionality for your routine and budget.
Monitoring software provides a much more in-the-moment look at your CPU’s temperature. Instead of a static reading, most monitoring software provides a continuously updated temperature readout. This means you can easily monitor how your routine behaviors impact the temperature of your device, which gives you a better opportunity to take preventative steps and avoid critical heat issues.
For most users, this type of configuration is also practical because you’re getting real-time information that’s easy to access and absorb. When your computer is overheating and you’re trying to keep up with work, clicking on a Taskbar icon for a quick temperature check is much more efficient than multiple restarts.
Third-party software can sometimes have recurring costs, as well as the typical risks associated with downloading and installing software that may not be properly vetted. To avoid accidentally installing malware, do your research and read through user reviews for any software or app you’re considering.
Otherwise, the disadvantages of software are minimal. Monitoring programs occupy a relatively small amount of space on your PC and work just like any other software. You’ll even find a variety of free options with little research. And to make it even easier, we’ve done some of the research for you.
Third-party software recommendations
There are many options out there and lots of resources you can use to compare services. Here’s a list of 5 popular free and paid options with a few quick notes about each.
Prioritizes accessibility with clear information and support. It also offers both free and paid versions.
Simple and easy-to-use tool with clear temperature readouts for all of your processor cores. Developers can also customize their copy and add their own features. It’s free to use, but you also can choose to donate funds to the team.
Popular with gamers because of its well-tailored support and visually simple layout. It also provides support for in-game monitoring, particularly helpful if you’re overclocking your hardware
. It’s free to download.
Another popular freeware option that provides more functionality than most no-cost monitoring software. They can even cite NASA as satisfied customers.
A great open-source option that offers monitoring for a variety of components in a streamlined and customizable interface. It’s available for free, but you can donate to the developers.
What is the ideal CPU temp?
The ideal operating temperature for most devices will vary depending on your type of use, for instance, if you overclock or run resource-heavy programs
. Chances are you can find the exact specifications for your hardware by looking through your owner’s manual or doing research online. It still helps to remember some basic rules of thumb regarding CPU temperature, or to develop your own based on experience.
- Most users should be looking for an average running temperature below 140°F (60°C). Cooler temps, in general, are better when it comes to PC hardware.
- Temperatures between 160°F (70°C) to 195°F (90°C) may be a cause for concern.
- Anywhere above that range? Your hardware is under serious stress at over 195°F (90°C).
Why is my CPU overheating?
Most users encounter heat strain at your busiest periods of use, especially when you’re trying to run multiple programs and apps at once. While temperature spikes are typically associated with heavy use or stress from overclocking, there are other factors you should be aware of.
- Poor maintenance, accumulated dust, malware, bad ventilation, and even undetected hardware problems can all contribute to heat-related issues.
- Older hardware is more susceptible because of lower heat tolerances at the date of manufacture.
- Thinner builds with performance components can also sometimes get too hot for comfort, simply because there’s more opportunity for heat to travel.
Tips for minimizing temperature issues
The best way to avoid overheating is to use your device conscientiously. Close down any passive applications that you don’t need, and try to stick to a regular maintenance schedule
. Dusting your workspace and keeping your device clean can have a big impact on longevity and especially on your computer’s running temperature later in life.
You can also make small adaptations to your workspace in order to promote good ventilation, such as adding an external cooling system
or rearranging obstructions that can prevent ideal airflow. You can even consider elevating your device for better airflow in extreme situations.
Keeping your computer malware-free is another easy way to prevent overheating. Since malware runs off of the same energy and hardware as legitimate software, it can easily lead to overheating and performance issues.
More about CPUs
The CPU is one of the most important components
in devices like your tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. Although they’re sometimes referred to as a processor, CPUs actually feature a separate processing and control unit to guide behavior. The control unit works in tandem with the processor unit, and in doing so, the control unit manages how the processor unit (and memory) responds to new input.
Without an operational CPU, computers can’t execute their most basic functions, so you can’t really have a computer without one. Curious to learn more about the ins and outs of most CPUs? For a comprehensive background on the history and mechanics of your CPU, you can read our full guide on the subject
. The more you know, the easier it is to effectively maintain and even customize your device over time.
Be careful when overclocking
Overclocking is a procedure that can improve your device’s speed and responsiveness, but it comes with a lot of risks. The risks will compound if you have an older device, limited existing hardware capacity, or poor ventilation.
An overclocked CPU is much more susceptible to heat build-up, which is why up-to-date components, good ventilation, and regular maintenance are crucial. Even with the best hardware and design, overclocking tends to stress components and reduce their life expectancy. For most users, the added performance of overclocking is a trade-off that inevitably means fewer years of optimum use.
In spite of the risks, overclocking is an increasingly common way to boost performance, especially for PC gamers. This makes monitoring computer temperature extremely important when using an overclocked CPU. Some systems provide their own management software, but you can find more info on upkeep and safety in our guide on How to Overclock Your PC’s CPU
Conclusion: Check your CPU temp regularly
With easy options for free CPU temperature monitoring, it’s the perfect time to start keeping regular tabs on yours. Most users won’t find any reason to check every day, but software solutions now make the process easier than ever. While some heat is normal and to be expected, monitoring your CPU temperature is a great way to protect your technology investment.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.