Do you ever notice your computer running slower than usual or shutting down unexpectedly? If so, you may be experiencing an overheating CPU, which can be a major headache for any computer user. But what exactly is CPU overheating, and why is it such a common issue?
Computer overheating occurs when the Central Processing Unit, or CPU, gets too hot due to inadequate cooling or poor ventilation. This can cause your computer to slow down, freeze or even shut down without warning. Not only is it frustrating to deal with, but it can also lead to permanent damage to your computer’s hardware.
But fear not, there are steps you can take to both fix and prevent CPU overheat. We’ll walk you through how to identify the signs of an overheating CPU, shed some light on why it’s happening and provide some actionable tips on how to prevent it.
First things first — what is a CPU?
Simply put, the CPU, or Central Processing Unit, is the “brain” of your computer. It’s responsible for processing and executing instructions that allow your PC to perform tasks such as running programs, browsing the internet and playing games.
Think of it like a chef in a kitchen, the CPU is the chef who receives the recipe, chooses the right ingredients and follows the instructions to prepare the dish. In the same way, the CPU receives instructions from your computer’s software, accesses the necessary data and processes it to perform the task you want it to do.
In terms of its physical appearance, the CPU is a small chip located on the motherboard, often hidden underneath a heat sink or fan. It’s an all-important component of your system; without it, your PC wouldn’t be able to function.
For Windows PCs, there are two leading CPU manufacturers in the market — AMD and Intel. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and AMD is known to run natively higher temps, but the company has always been adamant that this is not something to be concerned about. Apple computers, on the other hand, are powered by Apple’s proprietary CPUs.
What are the signs of an overheating CPU?
If you suspect that your CPU may be overheating, here are some signs to look out for:
- Your computer is running slower than usual — It’s like it’s slogging through molasses, taking forever to complete even the simplest tasks.
- Your computer suddenly shuts down or restarts — This is called “thermal throttling,” your computer’s way of self-preservation, halting the CPU from being damaged by excessive heat.
- Your computer’s fans are working harder than usual — You may hear them whirring loudly or notice that they’re running at full speed constantly.
- You feel an unusual amount of heat coming from your PC — If you can feel the heat radiating from your computer, it indicates something is amiss. You can also feel this with a laptop, when you try to type something and the case is just uncomfortably hot.
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, preventing any potential damage to your computer’s hardware is important. Ignoring these signs of CPU overheating can result in permanent damage and data loss.
Once you suspect your CPU is overheating, it’s crucial to check the actual temperatures to confirm the issue. Here are some programs you can use to monitor your CPU temperatures:
- Core Temp — A free program that shows the temperature of each core of your CPU in real-time.
- HWMonitor — Another free program that monitors your CPU’s temperature and other hardware components such as your GPU, hard drive and motherboard.
- SpeedFan — A program that allows you to monitor the temperature of your CPU and adjust your computer’s fan speed.
The acceptable temperature range for CPUs varies depending on the model and brand, but generally, the optimal temp for most is between 30°C to 40°C when idle or under light load and 65°C to 80°C under heavy load (when gaming or running CPU-intensive tasks like Auto-CAD).
If your CPU temperature exceeds 80°C, it’s considered overheating. The maximum temperature before thermal throttling occurs for Intel CPUs is typically around 100°C, while for AMD CPUs, it’s about 95°C.
Why is my computer overheating?
Understanding why the CPU is overheating is the first step in addressing the issue and preventing potential damage. Here are some common reasons that could be contributing to the problem:
- Poor ventilation — If your computer’s fans and vents are blocked by dust or other debris, the CPU can’t properly cool down. Make sure to regularly clean your computer to ensure proper ventilation.
- Inadequate cooling — If your computer’s fans are malfunctioning or your cooling system is not powerful enough, the CPU can overheat quickly.
- Overclocking — Overclocking your CPU, or pushing it beyond its designed limits, can generate excessive heat and cause overheating.
- High CPU usage — Running demanding programs, such as video editors or games, can cause your CPU to work harder than usual and generate more heat. Too many unsupervised background apps can also cause this issue.
- Malware — Some types of malware can cause your CPU to work harder than usual and generate excessive heat.
How to stop a computer from overheating
If you’re dealing with an overheating CPU, don’t fret. There are several steps you can take to help cool down your computer. Here are some solutions to try:
- Clean the dust — Over time, dust and debris can clog your computer’s fans and vents, reducing the airflow and causing your CPU to overheat. Use a can of compressed air to blow out any dust or debris from your computer’s fans and vents.
- Check the integrity of your cooling system — If you’re using a desktop computer, ensure your cooling system is functioning properly and all fans are spinning at optimum speed. Liquid and AIO coolers also tend to have leaks and failing pumps, so watch out for those as well. If you’re using a laptop, ensure it has proper ventilation, and be mindful to not operate it on surfaces that generate heat, like the bed or the couch.
- Reapply thermal paste — The thermal paste between your CPU and heatsink helps transfer heat away from your CPU. If it’s degraded or worn out, your CPU can overheat. Consider replacing it with a high-quality thermal paste. However, it’s better to call for professional help if you haven’t tried doing so before.
- Stop overclocking — Overclocking your CPU can generate excessive heat. Consider resetting your CPU to its default settings or reducing the overclocking frequency.
- Check for malware — Malware can cause your CPU to work harder than usual, generating excessive heat. Use anti-malware software to scan your computer regularly and remove any infections. If the infection is quite severe, consider wiping and reinstalling your OS.
- Stop unnecessary background apps — Running too many programs simultaneously can put unnecessary strain on your CPU, generating heat. Disable any unnecessary background apps to help keep your CPU cool. Usual suspects for this are antivirus programs, messaging apps like Skype and many others. Some apps might even run as soon as you boot your PC, so turn off those features.
A note on laptop CPUs overheating
Are laptop CPUs different from PC CPUs? Yes, laptop CPUs tend to run hotter as they have different sizes and architecture from their PC counterparts. And because they’re in such a thin case, their temps are not comparable to regular PCs. As long as it maintains 40-50°C on idle and 65-80°C under load, you should be alright.
Need a quick CPU overheating fix? Call Jim’s I.T!
CPU overheating is a common issue that can cause significant damage to your device. However, with a little bit of knowledge and some preventative measures, you can help keep your computer running smoothly.
If you’re still experiencing CPU overheating issues with your device, don’t hesitate to contact us at Jim’s I.T. Our laptop and PC repair specialists can help with all kinds of problems causing your CPU to overheat. We’re dedicated to providing fast, reliable and professional service to help you get your computer running at its best.
Do you have questions or would like to book a service? Get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to help!