Worried your PC is running too hot? It’s easy to get paranoid when you’ve got a searingly hot laptop burning a hole in your trousers or the fan noise from your desktop computer is drowning out the roadworks outside.
Normally it’s nothing to worry about – laptops and PCs have built-in safeguards to prevent serious overheating. But if your computer is constantly crashing or there’s a funny smell seeping out of the box, it might be wise to take its temperature. Here’s how to do it and to find out what a safe running temperature is.
What temperature should you take?
When we talk about taking your PC’s temperature, we’re generally talking about measuring the temperature of the processor. Other components can get warm, most notably the graphics card (if you’ve got one – most laptops won’t have), but it’s the processor we’re most concerned with.
How hot should my processor run?
Before we show you how to check your processor’s temperature, it’s worth asking the question: how hot is too hot?
Every processor (or CPU) will have a ‘maximum operating temperature’ – the highest temperature it can run at before it will shut itself down to prevent the chip from burning out.
You can normally find the maximum operating temperature for your processor by searching for its model name on the CPU World website.
You might be surprised just how hot processors can get. The Intel Core i7-6600U inside my laptop has a maximum operating temperature of 100°C, for example, and regularly runs at between 70-80°C.
If you don’t know the precise model name of your processor, the software we recommend below will reveal this.
How do I check my PC’s temperature?
There are plenty of apps that will give you a processor temperature readout, but my long-standing favourite for general PC diagnostics is a small app called Speccy. There’s a free version of Speccy to download from Piriform’s website, which is perfectly fine for the job.
In a first-class display of hypocrisy, the Speccy installer will also try and install a piece of software called CCleaner – which, irony fans, is designed to remove unwanted crap from your PC. CCleaner is actually pretty good, but untick the box if you don’t want it.
Once Speccy is installed, click on the CPU section on the left of the window and Speccy will display the average temperature of the processor and that of each of the processor’s different cores.
As you can see, my CPU is a little on the toasty side, with the 80°C+ temperatures marked in red. The noise coming from my laptop’s fans are a firm indication it’s feeling the stress, but I do have about eight different apps open at the moment!
If your PC is within a few degrees of its maximum operating temperature, it might be time to take action. Check that all the vents on the computer are clear of obstructions and dust, for example. If it’s a laptop, don’t do anything stupid like placing it on top of a duvet or anything else that will insulate the base or block its airflow.
If your computer is randomly and suddenly shutting down, that’s normally a sign of overheating. If Speccy shows it’s close to top temps when you leave it running for a while or put the computer under stress (by playing a game, for example), it’s time to check all your computer’s fans are working properly. Take it down to the repair shop if you’re not confident of opening up the PC yourself.
Now click here: Laptop won’t turn on? Here’s how to fix it