You shouldn’t put your computer in a hot environment because that could damage its parts. Overheating is bad for electronic devices in general. And if the temperature gets too high, they can completely break down.
Indeed, this is most true of your central processing unit. Keep your computer’s central processing unit (CPU) within safe temperatures to keep your machine running smoothly. As more tasks are placed on a CPU, its temperature will rise. However, with the right cooling setup in place, you can rest assured that your CPU won’t overheat, even under heavy load.
Improving cooling or upgrading to a CPU that can run at lower temperatures are the only two primary options for lowering your processor’s thermal load. There are, however, numerous options for enhancing your computer’s cooling system. In this article, we’ll go over nine different strategies for bringing your CPU’s temperature down. You should read on if you want to know how to reduce the temperature of your central processing unit.
What makes a CPU a CPU?
Although the central processing unit (CPU) is the most essential part of any computer, it cannot perform its tasks without the assistance of other parts. The silicon chip is installed in a dedicated socket on the device’s motherboard or mainboard. It’s not the same as memory, where data is temporarily stored. Furthermore, it is not the same as the graphics card or graphics chip, which is responsible for generating the video and 3D graphics that fill your screen.
Central processing units (CPUs) are assembled by packing billions of tiny transistors onto a single silicon chip. These transistors perform the arithmetic required to execute the programs saved in your computer’s RAM. They function like tiny gates that can be activated or deactivated to transmit the ones and zeros that underpin all of the device’s functionality, from playing videos to sending emails.
Miniaturization of these transistors is a common theme in the development of central processing unit technology. Since then, we’ve seen a steady increase in processing power, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law.
A computer’s central processing unit (CPU) is responsible for a wide range of tasks on a modern desktop or laptop computer. Instead of a traditional computer processor, mobile devices and some tablets use a System on Chip (SoC), which integrates the CPU with other necessary components. CPUs from both Intel and AMD come equipped with integrated graphics processing units and on-board memory, expanding their capabilities beyond those of a traditional central processing unit.
What does a CPU actually do?
A central processing unit (CPU) is the brains of a computer; it is responsible for processing all of the calculations requested by an application or program. There are essentially three phases to this operation: fetching, decoding, and running. The CPU reads the instruction from RAM, determines what it means, and then executes it using the appropriate CPU components.
The calculation or instruction being carried out may involve simple arithmetic, comparison, the application of a function, or the relocation of data in memory. Everything in a computer is represented numerically, so the central processing unit (CPU) can be thought of as a very fast calculator. The resulting task load could include tasks such as booting Windows, playing a video from YouTube, or performing a spreadsheet calculation of compound interest.
The central processing unit (CPU) in modern computers acts as the “ringmaster” of the system, directing data to the appropriate pieces of specialized hardware at the right time. When you shoot a fuel drum, the CPU must tell the graphics card to display the resulting explosion, and the CPU must also tell the solid-state drive to copy an Office document into RAM for faster access.
Cores, clocks, and costs
Once upon a time, central processing units only had one core. The modern CPU has multiple cores that allow it to execute multiple instructions simultaneously, effectively making the chip the size of multiple CPUs. These days, two or four cores are standard in most CPUs. The standard number of cores for a CPU is six, while high-end processors can have anywhere from eight to a whopping sixty-four.
Multithreading is a technology used by many modern processors. In this scenario, a single physical CPU core serves two independent execution paths (threads) at once, giving the impression of two “logical” cores to the operating system. Because they share the same resources, these virtual cores aren’t as potent as their physical counterparts, but they can still boost the CPU’s multitasking performance with compatible programs.
When researching CPUs, you’ll notice that the clock speed is featured prominently in the marketing. The “gigahertz” (GHz) number indicates the number of instructions a CPU can process per second, but this is only part of the story. When comparing CPUs from the same generation or product family, clock speed is the most relevant metric. A faster clock speed indicates a more efficient processor, all else being equal. In contrast, a 2020 computer with only half the processing power of a 2010 computer will accomplish less.
That being said, how much should you spend on a central processing unit? Several of our buying guides feature recommended central processing units (CPUs). For a rough sketch, however, you won’t need to spend more than $250 unless you’re an extreme gamer or intend to edit videos. Avoiding the newest hardware and instead using a CPU from the past few generations can help keep costs down.
These are 8th, 9th, or 10th generation Intel central processing units. The name of the item can be used to identify the generation. The Core i7-6820HK is a 6th-generation processor, while the Core i5-10210U is an 11th-generation one.
Similar functionality can be found in AMD’s Ryzen CPUs. Ryzen 5 2500X is a second-generation CPU built on the company’s new “Zen ” core design, while Ryzen 9 3950X is a third-generation processor. The Ryzen 4000 series of processors was initially released for laptops and APUs, with only a small percentage of the total available for desktops through system builders. Since there has been some confusion over whether the Ryzen 5000 belongs to the fourth or fifth generation of AMD Ryzen CPUs, it is safe to say that it is the most recent and that AMD has recently unified the Ryzen 5000 brand across all of its mobile, x86, and x86-64 platforms.
How To Lower Cpu Temperature
1. Clean Out Your Computer
If your CPU temperatures are too high, the first thing you should do is open up your computer and clean it out, especially if you have an older computer or if you keep your computer in a dusty area.
If dust accumulates in your case, it can hinder the efficiency of your case fans and reduce airflow, preventing your CPU from receiving the cooling it requires. Regularly dusting your computer is a crucial part of computer maintenance. It’s especially crucial if you own a laptop, as the already limited airflow in these devices can be further impeded by dust accumulation, leading to significantly higher temperatures in the central processing unit (CPU).
Excessive dust accumulation inside your system and on your case fans can reduce airflow, raising both the temperature inside your case and the CPU’s operating temperature.
If dust has settled on your computer, you can quickly and easily remove it by using a can of compressed air. It’s possible to get three cans of compressed air for less than $20, and they’ll last you for a very long time.
My own air compressor sees regular use in the service of both home improvement and auto maintenance. To further disinfect my computer, I use the air compressor (with the blow gun attachment). The air compressor’s increased pressure makes this a great solution. To avoid damaging any of my internal components, I just have to hold the hose at a greater distance.
Make sure to clear the dust from the fans in your computer and the areas around any openings in the case that allow air to enter or leave.
2. Reapply Thermal Paste
After giving your computer a thorough cleaning, you should reapply thermal paste to the CPU and other components. Higher temperatures could be the result of the thermal paste breaking down between the processor and the heatsink/fan in an older computer or one that hasn’t been serviced in some time.
A drop of thermal paste, about the size of a pea, can be applied to the CPU’s back before the cooler is reinstalled. Your CPU cooler’s force will evenly distribute the paste.
In that case, you should clean the contact point on the CPU cooler and the back of the CPU by removing the cooler. Most of the leftover thermal paste is scraped off with a razor blade, and the rest is wiped away with a lint-free cloth. If you want to get the job done right, wet the cloth with 90% isopropyl alcohol, but a dry lint-free cloth will do just fine.
A drop of thermal paste the size of a pea should be reapplied after they have been cleaned. Check out our best thermal paste guide if you’re in the market for some new paste.
3. If You Have Bad Cable Management, Fix It
After you’ve finished cleaning your case and reapplying thermal paste, you should double-check your cable management. A less-than-perfect approach to cable management is acceptable. However, if the situation is dire and there are cables dangling over the main components or a large number of unused cables are blocking airflow, this may be a factor in the increased temperatures of your CPU.
Poor cable management like this could be preventing enough air from circulating inside the case to prevent overheating.
If that’s the case, you may want to reorganize your cables to improve ventilation inside your case. Check out our post featuring 23 examples of effective cable management for some ideas.
4. Upgrade Your CPU Cooler
If your CPU temperatures are still too high after you have de-gunked your PC, reapplied thermal paste to your CPU/CPU cooler, and made sure your case has good cable management, you may want to consider upgrading your CPU cooler.
Of course, you may have more serious issues if you already have a good CPU cooler. But if you’re using the stock cooler and your temperatures are high, upgrading to a good air cooler or even an AIO liquid cooler may help you bring your processor’s temperatures back within the normal range.
Here are two resources to consult when looking for a suitable CPU cooler:
- Highest-Rated Air and All-In-One CPU Coolers
- CPU Coolers that Use Less Space
5. Add More Case Fans to Your System (or Reconfigure Them)
It could be that your case isn’t allowing enough airflow into your system if you have a solid CPU cooler installed or have recently upgraded to one but are still experiencing higher-than-normal CPU temperatures. In that case, you may want to see if you can install some extra fans in your current case to improve the airflow within your computer.
You may be able to bring down the high CPU temperatures by installing additional case fans.
Even if you have a large number of fans installed, you may benefit from rearranging them. If all of your fans are set to intake and none are set to exhaust, the positive pressure in your case will prevent as much heat from escaping as usual, potentially resulting in your CPU running at abnormally high temperatures. However, if all of your case fans are set to blow air out, the negative pressure inside your case could cause your CPU to run hotter than usual.
Also, try adjusting your fans to see if that helps with lowering your CPU temperatures if they aren’t set up properly (where you have the same amount of air coming in (or at least a fairly similar level) as going out).
6. Upgrade Your PC Case
If none of the preceding solutions work, or if you are simply looking for the most effective means of reducing CPU temperatures, you may want to consider upgrading to a computer case with improved ventilation.
The Core X71 full tower case from Thermaltake features extensive cooling-related ventilation and the ability to accommodate additional cooling-related fans.
A larger case (more space means your components won’t be as closely quartered) with a ventilated front and top panel and plenty of options to install more fans will provide better airflow than a smaller case.
See our PC Case Buying Guide for some suggestions.
7. Speed Up Your Existing Fans
Using a program like SpeedFan to force your fans to operate at higher speeds is one way to potentially increase airflow in your system, thereby helping to keep your processor cooler. Your system and CPU will run cooler if you increase the speed at which the fans in your case spin because more air will be able to flow in and out of the enclosure.
8. For Laptop Users, Get A Laptop Cooler
I remember my first laptop was pretty terrible, and it sucked when I tried to play World of Warcraft. That laptop couldn’t even handle World of Warcraft on the lowest settings. If I turned the graphics settings down, I could play the game at 20 frames per second. The laptop (and processor) would become so hot after 20-30 minutes of gameplay that the framerate would drop to below 10 FPS, rendering the game unplayable.
In order to play the game without the frame rate dropping below 10 frames per second, I had to resort to some creative measures. These included connecting the laptop to the TV via HDMI, placing the laptop on top of a large window fan, and using an additional keyboard.
A laptop cooler can give your system the extra cooling it needs to stay within the normal temperature range if it’s getting too hot to use your laptop.
Of course, modern laptops can be equipped with quite potent CPU and system coolers. If your laptop’s processor is getting too hot, a laptop cooler could be worth a try. You could also use a sizable window fan.
9. Lower the Temperature in the Location Your PC is Operating
And if all else fails and you’re sure your CPU is fine, perhaps you’re trying to operate in too warm of an environment. Generally speaking, the higher the ambient temperature is where your computer is being used, the hotter your CPU will get. Prime95’s CPU usage increases dramatically in an 80 F environment compared to a 65 F environment.
Consequently, if you’re experiencing issues with your CPU’s temperatures, you should take into account the temperature of the room in which you’re running your computer.
How important is the CPU?
CPUs aren’t as crucial to system performance as they once were, but they’re still critical to how quickly your computer can respond and how fast it can run. Higher clock speeds are generally better for gamers, while more CPU cores are better for more serious work like CAD and video editing.
Your CPU is just one component of a larger system, so it’s important to make sure you have plenty of memory and fast storage to feed it. Since you want to strike a good performance-to-cost ratio throughout your PC, your graphics card is likely to be the biggest unknown.
Knowing what a CPU does will help you choose the right computer. Make use of this resource to learn more about the top-tier AMD and Intel processors currently available.
Need to Lower Your CPU Temps? Try the Nine Steps Above
One of the nine solutions listed above (or a combination of them) may be able to help you bring down your CPU temperatures to a more reasonable level. However, if none of those solutions work, it may be time to upgrade a faulty component. Check out our CPU Buying Guide if you’re in the market for a new processor.