Computers, as with most electrical appliances, are not indestructible and are not built to be run ragged without a little help. This is especially true of homebuilt PCs that might not have been built with the care and quality assurance of a professionally built model.
One of the most common problems homebuilders find is CPU overheating, which can crash a computer irreparably if you’re not careful. That means it’s always sensible to keep track of your core CPU temperature, particularly in hot weather or when you’ve been running your PC for hours and even days on end or are experiencing performance issues.
You will need a thermistor cable or thermocouples and RTDs to measure the CPU temperature directly. However, if you do not have access to these, or you’re a little worried about opening up your rig, there are easier ways to check the temperature which don’t require anything quite so severe.
Indeed, every modern CPU comes with digital thermal sensors built-in, so all you need is a good bit of software.
A good CPU temperature
If your CPU is idle then a healthy CPU temperature would be around 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) though this temperature is sure to soar when you’re using the CPU to complete intensive tasks such as music creation, video or photo editing or video gaming. Indeed, under a heavy load, a CPU can safely run at anywhere approaching 95 degrees Celsius. Anything above that, however, and you’re approaching dangerous territory.
If you really want to put your CPU through its paces and see what it can handle then you can run a stress test through a program like Prime95. This will push your CPU to its limits to test how far it can be pushed without breaching a dangerous temperature and could be a useful benchmark.
Monitoring your CPU temperature
This is as easy as downloading the right program. There are dozens of software programs that will scan your CPU and tell you exactly how hot your CPU is running, your fan speed, clock speed and what kind of load you’re currently putting on your computer. Cam by NZXT is perhaps the most user-friendly option and is completely free to use. It also has an overlay mode so you can run it concurrently with other software programs. For gamers particularly, this is an invaluable tool.
What to do if my CPU is running hot?
There are several things you can do such as ensuring your computer is free of dust, applying fresh thermal paste between your CPU and CPU cooler and simply considering putting less pressure on your machine. Either way, it’s always good to give your PC a break every once in a while!