A gaming PC needs regular maintenance!
This is a truth that most of us had to learn the hard way, particularly those who started gaming back in the days when they knew close to nothing about computer hardware. And whenever we had to face that nasty old-school “blue screen of death”, the culprit was almost certainly overheating.
Now, it is only natural to be concerned about the well-being of your pricey gaming machine, and the best way to tell if your PC is running unusually hot is to track component temperature via built-in sensors.
That is precisely what we will be discussing in this article: how to track your CPU/GPU temperature, what the optimal gaming temperature is, and what the causes of increased temperature might be.
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Optimal Gaming Temperature
Acceptable temperature thresholds are a bit lower today than they used to be, mainly due to the more intricate technology that makes up modern processors. These thresholds differ further from manufacturer to manufacturer and from model to model, so it’s impossible to pinpoint a single exact number that represents the ideal gaming temperature.
So, what are the approximates then?
The two companies have listed the maximum safe operating temperatures to be 95 and 100 degrees Celsius for Ryzen and Core processors respectively, but those are the temperatures you are unlikely to hit unless there’s an issue with the cooling or if you’ve pushed the clock further than what your cooler can handle.
When putting either a Ryzen or a Core CPU under heavy load, the temperature should hardly ever go over 85 degrees Celsius, assuming that you’re using the stock cooler and the factory clock settings. If it does, then something is not right, but more on that later.
You can refer to this table, which shows the average CPU temperatures for some older AMD and Intel processors.
|Processor Series||Average Temperature|
|Intel Core 2 Duo||45°C – 55°C|
|Intel Pentium II||64°C – 75°C|
|Intel Pentium III||60°C – 85°C|
|Intel Pentium 4||44°C – 65°C|
|Intel Pentium Mobile||70°C – 85°C|
|Intel Pentium Pro||74°C – 86°C|
|Intel Celeron||65°C – 85°C|
|Intel Pentium||65°C – 75°C|
|AMD Sempron||85°C – 93°C|
|AMD Phenom X3||50°C – 60°C|
|AMD Phenom X4||50°C – 60°C|
|AMD Phenom II X6||44°C – 56°C|
|AMD A6||45°C – 56°C|
|AMD A10||50°C – 60°C|
|AMD A12||55°C – 65°C|
|AMD Athlon II X4||50°C – 60°C|
|AMD Athlon FX||45°C – 60°C|
|AMD Athlon||85°C – 95°C|
|AMD Athlon 64||47°C – 60°C|
|AMD Athlon 64 X2||47°C – 57°C|
|AMD Athlon 64 Mobile||80°C – 90°C|
|AMD Athlon MP||85°C – 94°C|
|AMD Athlon XP||80°C – 90°C|
|AMD Duron||85°C – 95°C|
|AMD K5||60°C – 70°C|
|AMD K6||60°C – 70°C|
|AMD K6 Mobile||75°C – 85°C|
|AMD K7 Thunderbird||70°C – 95°C|
|AMD Opteron||65°C – 72°C|
Once again, there are two major GPU manufacturers to choose from today. These are Nvidia and, once again, AMD. However, while these companies design and make the GPUs, most of the graphics cards you’ll find on store shelves are actually manufactured by other companies. These companies, such as Asus, Gigabyte, EVGA, MSI, or Sapphire, implement their own custom cooling solutions.
That, however, does not change the maximum safe temperatures supported by the Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon cards. Both of these are capped at roughly 95 degrees Celsius as their upper limit, although Radeon cards tend to run hotter due to the more robust GPU architecture used by AMD.
Much like the CPUs, most cards shouldn’t go over 85 Celsius even when under heavy load. Of course, as mentioned above, the quality of the cooler used by the company which manufactured the graphics card will affect the average temperature, and cheaper models of a specific GPU will usually run hotter than the pricier ones.
Now, there are two primary types of air-cooling used for GPUs:
- Open-air – The most common type of graphics card cooling solutions, they can utilize one, two, or three fans to push air through the open heatsink. They can benefit greatly from proper airflow inside the case, as well as from having some case-mounted fans to help expel the hot air from the case.
- Blower fan – Seen on most reference models and not quite as popular, this cooling solution completely encloses the card and relies on a single blower fan to suck cool air in and blow hot air out of the back of the card, and thus, out of the case. These cards tend to be run hotter than those using open-air cooling and are only really preferable in cases with limited internal space and/or poor airflow.
But there is yet another issue to consider: most, if not all modern graphics cards come with smart fan technology. And what does that mean?
Essentially, the fans will be sitting idle until the temperature reaches a certain threshold, most commonly around 30-40 degrees Celsius. This feature was implemented in order to reduce the power consumption and the noise produced by fans when a card is not under load. This might make the card seem like it is hotter than it should be while sitting idle.
As before, a non-overclocked card with properly functioning fans should hardly ever go over about 80 degrees.
|Nvidia GTX 950||95°C|
|Nvidia GTX 960||98°C|
|Nvidia GTX 970||98°C|
|Nvidia GTX 980||98°C|
|Nvidia GTX 980 Ti||92°C|
|Nvidia GT 1030||97°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1050||97°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti||97°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1060||97°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1070||94°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti||94°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1080||94°C|
|Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti||91°C|
|Nvidia RTX 2070||89°C|
|Nvidia RTX 2080||88°C|
|Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti||89°C|
|Nvidia Titan X||94°C|
|Nvidia Titan X||94°C|
|Nvidia Titan V||91°C|
|AMD RX 460||64°C|
|AMD RX 470||75°C|
|AMD RX 480||80°C|
|AMD RX 560||62°C|
|AMD RX 570||74°C|
|AMD RX 580||72°C|
|AMD RX 590||78°C|
|AMD Vega 56||75°C|
|AMD Vega 64||85°C|
The temperatures listed for Nvidia cards are those specified as the maximum safe temperature on their respective official pages on the Nvidia site. The values listed for AMD cards are the average temperatures reached when the card is put under heavy load and can serve as a good rough estimate of how hot your GPU should get when doing the heavy lifting.
How To Keep Track of CPU/GPU Temperature
Thanks to the numerous sensors built into CPUs, GPUs, and motherboards, you can see exactly how hot each component is running. But what software can you use to see these values?
The Motherboard BIOS
The most basic way to check the temperature and all the other relevant values is through the BIOS. Simply restart your PC and access the BIOS by pressing Delete during the boot-up sequence.
However, the obvious drawback to using the BIOS is that you have to restart the PC if you wish to access it. Still, it is the most convenient way to check the temperature if you will not be doing it regularly since it doesn’t require installation of any third-party software.
The CPU/GPU Utilities
Intel, Nvidia, and AMD all include useful utilities with their CPUs and GPUs.
For CPUs, those are the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility and the Ryzen Master Utility. Both of these programs will provide great insight into various specifications, allow for easy overclocking, and most importantly – allow you to see the current temperature of your CPU.
As for GPUs, there are the Nvidia Control Panel and the AMD Catalyst Control Center. As before, they allow you to see a range of data and access many of your graphics card’s functionalities, temperature monitoring included. However, hardware manufacturers also include their own overclocking utilities that can serve the same purpose: MSI Afterburner, Asus GPU Tweak, Gigabyte Aorus Graphics Engine etc.
Third Party Software
OpenHardwareMonitor is an entirely free utility that lets you monitor most of the important data: temperature, voltage, fan speeds, and more. However, the program is still in its beta development stage, so it is not guaranteed to work with all systems and components.
AIDA64 is a highly popular and extremely powerful utility that has a remarkable range of functions, obviously including a temperature monitor. However, it is not a free program, so you will have to use the trial version unless you buy it.
Does Temperature Affect Performance?
Something that you’re probably wondering is whether lower temperatures will make your PC perform better and whether high temperatures will have the opposite effect.
The answer is quite simple: no. As long as the temperature is within acceptable parameters, you will not see a performance decrease. A CPU could be running at 30 or at 80 degrees Celsius and it will not affect performance in the least.
What To Do When Dealing With High PC Temperature?
There could be several reasons for increased CPU and GPU temperatures:
- Dust buildup in the heatsink
- Poor airflow inside the case
- High ambient temperature
- Defective cooler, power supply, or the CPU/GPU itself
So, what should you do:
1. Clean The Heatsink(s)
If you have had the PC for over a year and have never cleaned it, then there could be some significant dust buildup inside. There are several ways to clean this out yourself, and you can read up more on it in our article on how to clean your PC of dust.
2. Check The Airflow
The reason your components might be overheating is because of poor airflow i.e. the CPU and GPU fans aren’t getting enough cool air to run through the heatsink. If this is the case, motherboard sensors are likely to show increased temperature as well. Also check your CPU cooler and ensure that it is clean.
The best way to improve airflow is by installing a case fan, ideally two: one on the front to suck cool air in, and one on the back to blow hot air out. Should your case not support a front-mounted fan, a single fan mounted anywhere on the case (rear, top, side) can still be of great help.
And, in the case that you cannot or don’t want to buy any extra fans, you could always just keep the computer case open, as this will prevent excessive heat buildup inside.
3. Check The Ambient Temperature
This is a major problem for those living in hot climates, although even those in more temperate regions might have to deal with it during the hotter summer months.
There is very little that can be done in this scenario apart from the previous two steps. However, it is advisable to make sure your cooling is running at optimal capacity i.e. that no power saving/silent modes are enabled.
If it turns out that your stock coolers simply cannot handle the ambient temperature, then there is no choice but to upgrade.
4. Take It Up With The Store
If your PC is overheating like crazy despite having taken all the appropriate measures, then you could be dealing with a defective component. Now, that could be anything: the power supply, a fan, or even something with the CPU or GPU itself.
Apart from checking if the fans are spinning properly when not in silent mode, there is little you can do to check for defective hardware unless you are a hardware expert yourself – but if that were the case, you wouldn’t need us to tell you what to do.
The bottom line is, if you suspect defective hardware, contact the store where you bought the hardware or turn to a certified technician.