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(Pocket-lint) - A hot PC is an unhappy PC. Keeping an eye on the temperatures of your CPU and GPU can be a good way to see if there's an issue. But how do you do that? Well, it's a lot easier than you might think. 

Modern computers are intelligently designed with sensors that enable self-monitoring of temps. This means that your computer knows how hot it is and can use this information to stop it from overheating. There are temperature limits on modern components to stop self-destruction. 

So you can be sure that it's fairly impossible to completely break your machine from it getting too hot. Two things will happen before then, one is thermal throttling and the second is powering off. 

What is thermal throttling? 

Both CPUs and GPUs get hot when under heavy load. If you're doing intensive tasks like gaming, video editing, rendering and more then both processors can get toasty quite quickly. 

To prevent the components from breaking when the temps reach near maximum thermal throttling kicks in. This is where the CPU and GPU will intelligently drop performance to encourage cooling. When back to a safe operating temperature the components can then ramp back up to return the performance you need. 

As you might have gathered a thermally throttled device won't run as well. This will have a negative impact on your computer's performance which you'll see in different ways. It might feel more sluggish or you might see a significant drop in your FPS when gaming.

If things are really overheating then you might see bigger problems like game crashes, and inexplicable visual glitches. 

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How to measure CPU and GPU temps easily

There are various different ways to monitor your temps and keep an eye on your system. Most motherboards have accompanying software that can give you the data you need. Asus Armoury Crate and MSI Centre are particularly good for this. 

However, if you want more detail then we'd highly recommend HWMonitor. This is a free tool that you can download and install with ease. HWMonitor is great because it not only gives you temp readouts for your various components, but also does it on a granular basis. 

For multi-core CPUs (like the Intel Core i9-12900K for example) you can get readouts for all the cores individually and the entire package. The benefit here is you can diagnose problems this way. If some cores are particularly hot while others aren't then that might indicate an issue with the spread of thermal paste or the contact between the CPU's integrated heat spreader (IHS) and your chosen CPU cooler. 

We value HWMonitor because it also registers max temps for all the things as well. So if you're worried that your PC is running hot, but when you finished doing what you're doing or ALT+TAB and find the temps look fine then this may put you at ease. Open this software up before you start gaming or doing your intensive workload, and then it will track how toasty things got. 

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See temps at a glance


If you'd like to be able to see your temps at a glance with even more ease then there are other options.

There are several CPU coolers that you can purchase which have displays built into them. The likes of the NZXT Kraken Z73 and Corsair iCUE H150i ELITE LCD have screens capable of showing both CPU and GPU temps constantly. 

So all you need to do is turn your head to see if your system is running ok. Of course, this isn't a free solution and it's not as accurate as HWMonitor, down to the temps of specific cores. But there's certainly something pleasantly reassuring about merely turning your head to see a readout without disturbing what you're doing. 

Running too hot? 

Worried your machine is running too hot? Well, what is too hot?

This can vary from component to component. The RTX 3090 from Nvidia, for example, has a max operating temp of 92 degrees C. The Intel Core i9-12900K can reach a max of 100 degrees. It may be the case that too close to this temp causes thermal throttling, but these components can also often run in the high 80s and 90s with no issue. Indeed, some top-end components are renowned for running hot, even with superb cooling.

It's best to check online what the max temp of your components is and try to decipher recommended optimal temps. 

Improve cooling 

There are some steps you can take to improve cooling if you're worried that things are too hot:

  1. Clean your fan filters and case to remove dust blockages and improve airflow
  2. Replace CPU (and GPU) thermal paste on ageing components
  3. Upgrade your CPU cooler for an all-in-one liquid cooler or consider a custom loop liquid cooling upgrade
  4. Purchase a case with better airflow and move your components to it
  5. Adjust the fan curve in your motherboard software so your fans spin up faster and earlier to prevent overheating
  6. Open a window and get more air into your room
Writing by Adrian Willings.