As games have grown in intensity and detail, so have their hardware requirements. Even games that are commonly seen as low-quality games, like Minecraft, can eat up your PC’s resources like popcorn before the movie starts. Though the GPU and RAM take the brunt of this load, a CPU can also suffer and overheat easily. Let’s look at what the average CPU temperature should be while you’re gaming.
Average CPU temperatures are seen as safe when they range between 60oC and 80oC (140oF and 176oF) while gaming. This varies depending on the CPU model, game, and cooling. This is getting dangerously close to the 90oC (194oF) danger zone, so improved ventilation or cooling is recommended.
There are a number of aspects that negatively affect the temperature of your CPU while you’re gaming. It is imperative to understand all of these factors. The CPU is the primary computing component in your PC, so it’s never a good thing if it overheats. If your CPU is getting close to the danger zone, don’t worry; we have a few practical solutions that you can try.
When Is An Average CPU Temperature Unsafe?
Experts generally consider a CPU’s temperature safe if it hovers around 60oC (140oF) while it’s actively working and not more than 40oC (104oF) when it’s idle. Though the temperature can still safely go above this range, it should never be allowed to reach 90oC (194oF). Though the CPU may not burn up at this temperature, it could deteriorate the circuitry and reduce its lifetime.
The chances are that your CPU won’t reach temperatures that high, though. There are two measures in place to protect the CPU from overheating.
What Will Happen If My CPU Overheats?
These days, chances are that you won’t suffer too much damage if your CPU overheats. That’s because of two measures that help prevent critical damage to your CPU and other PC components if the temperature gets too high. These two measures are:
Most modern CPUs are equipped with automatic ways to slow down a CPU once its temperature increases too much. This is called “thermal throttling.” Once the CPU reaches dangerous temperatures, it will automatically slow down its processing speed in order to keep it from overheating.
You will notice your PC getting sluggish and stuttery when you reach this point. If you’re playing games, your framerate will start to drop drastically. You will often hear the CPU fans spin faster, especially on gaming laptops. All of this is to protect the CPU since a CPU that burns could damage other hardware components as well.
BIOS / UEFI CPU Overheating Protection
Modern motherboards have a BIOS or UEFI setting that monitors the CPU temperature and takes the necessary steps to prevent overheating. Usually, the BIOS will simply shut down your PC when the CPU reaches that temperature, which is generally around the 75oC (167oF) mark.
Some people disable this feature in the BIOS because they find it irritating that their PCs always shut down while they’re in the middle of a game. That’s like putting a Band-Aid on a cracked finger; it may hide the problem, but it’s not a solution. There’s a reason why they developed overheating protection.
So, if your computer is prone to a lot of sudden glitching and stuttering while you’re playing games, or If your PC randomly shuts down mid-game, there’s a good chance that your CPU is overheating.
Why Do CPUs Overheat?
A CPU is basically a silicon wafer with millions of microscopic transistors on it. These transistors are like tiny switches that store data in on and off positions, resembling binary code.
Electrical current flows through the CPU to operate these transistors. The massive amount of energy used and released during the normal functioning of a CPU causes heat to be released. Since modern CPUs can perform billions of calculations in a second, this heat quickly adds up and could cause severe damage.
Technology and computers had improved in leaps and bounds since the early days of the PC when CPUs required no dedicated cooling technology at all, and a few disasters in the Pentium 4 era proved that cooling is necessary and should not be removed while the computer is running, especially while gaming.
How To Reduce The Average CPU Temperature
There are a few excellent ways to reduce average CPU temperatures, which is especially important while you’re playing games or performing other processing-heavy operations like video encoding.
Any cooling system has two essential parts to it. First is removing the heat from the CPU and getting it as far away from all the electronic components as you can, as quickly as possible. The second, which is related but worth mentioning separately, is to get cool air on and around the CPU.
We will now go through at a few ways to lower your CPU’s average temperature. These range from expensive but straightforward to more complex but cheap. It’s always good to implement as many cooling techniques as possible. For the most part, it’s impossible for a CPU or a PC to really be “too cool.”
Improve Airflow Around Your CPU
As we’ve seen, the key to cooling is removing the hot air and adding more cool air. It’s easy to accomplish this by improving the ventilation and airflow around your CPU. This can be done in two primary ways.
1. Open Your PC Case
Sometimes just a simple thing like opening your PC case will drastically affect your CPU’s temperature. This is because the airflow in your PC is now almost unrestricted, so the fans are not just moving hot air around inside the case; they are actually pulling cool air in from outside of the case.
The downside of this is that it also introduces more foreign objects, like dust, to the sensitive electronics of your PC. It’s also an accident waiting to happen since the electronics are now exposed to your Monster or Mountain Dew. This should ideally not be a permanent solution but rather be used as a test to see if you can reduce the average temperature of your CPU this way.
2. Clear Up Space Around Your CPU
Modern PCs can quickly get cluttered. Especially if you buy components more along the entry-level lines, your motherboards and cases are often smaller and much more cramped. This means that the hot air doesn’t have as much room to get away from the CPU, and some of the heat from other components may add to the CPU temperature.
If you can, invest in a large desktop PC case and a more oversized, gaming-focused motherboard. Otherwise, see what you can do to clear up as much space as you can around your CPU to improve the airflow around it. This could mean moving your graphics card to another slot or tieing cables and wires away with cable ties.
Clean Up Your Heatsink And Fans
After heat, dust is probably the second most significant threat to your CPU’s health (and that of all electronics). Dust forms a blanket that holds heat in, while it also clogs the areas where air should flow, reducing ventilation. Apart from that, dust can get into your fans’ bearings and cause jams, making them turn more slowly, increasing your CPU’s average temperature.
It’s a good idea to open your PC case and give it a good cleaning once in a while. This should be done carefully since you should also avoid getting static electricity inside your PC. You can carefully remove the CPU’s cooler. Once it’s released, clean out the fins of the heatsink and the blades of the fan using a can of compressed air. Be sure to remove all dust and clean it out as well as you can.
While you’re at it, you can use the compressed air to clear any dust from your motherboard as well. It mainly accumulates around the CPU, so this is really important. Clean up your RAM and graphics card as well, since dust isn’t good for them, either.
When you’re done, remove the excess thermal paste from the CPU and the bottom of the heatsink, and replace it with a generous blob of fresh thermal compound from a tube before returning the cooler to the top of the CPU. It’s shocking to see how much this could improve your CPU’s average temperature.
Get Better Cooling
If you’re not afraid of spending a bit of money, there are plenty of CPU coolers out there that are designed to lower your CPU’s average temperature. Some are absolutely massive, like the Coolermaster V8, while others are only slightly larger than the stock cooler you got with your CPU but with better fans or more heat-conductive heatsinks.
You may even choose to invest in liquid cooling. These devices have evolved considerably since the early days, and spillage has been reduced to the point of not being worth mentioning. The liquid is much better at cooling than air, so you should see a very noticeable improvement in your CPU temperature with a good liquid cooling system.
Though your CPU may not carry the most weight when you’re playing games, it is still the core processing component of your gaming PC, and it will be under massive amounts of strain. Most people don’t want to replace their CPU every few months, so keep your eye on its average temperature. Don’t let it die an early death. It’s easy enough to keep your CPU cool.