Checking your PC’s CPU temperature is similar to checking your car’s oil: You don’t need to do it daily, but you’ll need to check your processor’s temperatures every few months. This is especially true if you regularly strain your system with heavy loads like you’ll do with the best CPU for gaming. Ultimately, keeping your CPU temperatures under control improves performance and reliability.
Luckily, checking your CPU temperature is simple and doesn’t require you to open up your PC and stick a thermometer inside. Instead, every CPU comes with built-in digital temperature sensors, so all you need is a bit of software to read the measurements in Windows 11, Windows 10, or other operating systems.
Below we’ll break down how to check your CPU temperature, what a safe range of temperatures is for a CPU, and what to do if your CPU’s temperatures are too high.
Checking your CPU temperature is as easy as installing and using monitoring software and then reading the output. The same techniques apply to Windows 10 and Windows 11.
There are multiple programs to choose from, with the best tools for checking CPU temperature, including Core Temp(opens in new tab), NZXT’s CAM(opens in new tab), AIDA64, HWiINFO, or HWMonitor. For more advanced users, or if you’re overclocking your CPU and want more in-depth measurements, Intel’s eXtreme Tuning Utility (XTU) and AMD’s Ryzen Master software are designed by the chipmakers and also offer expansive options.
These are just a few examples of many, but we’ll show you how NZXT’s CAM and Core Temp work because we have found that these two are the easiest to install and use. CAM is developed by PC case(opens in new tab), power supply, and CPU cooler manufacturer NZXT. You can download it here(opens in new tab). While CAM is intended to be used with the company’s products, it works really well as a casual monitoring tool in Windows 10 or Windows 11, even if you don’t have any NZXT hardware. You can use the software in Guest Mode to avoid creating a user account, and you can also disable the program from starting automatically with Windows if you don’t plan on using it often.
Once installed, CAM offers an easy-to-use user interface (UI). The first block (PC Monitoring) tells you the CPU’s status, which shows the load, temperature, clock speed, and cooler fan speed. You can click on this block to access further details, as shown in the second image in the album above.
As you can see, the current temperature of this system’s CPU is 36 degrees Celcius (C), which is a healthy idle temperature.
CAM also has an overlay, which automatically turns on when you enter a game when CAM is running. This overlay can show you your CPU’s status while in-game, providing you with temperature measurements during your favorite game.
You can also use the Core Temp tool, one of the best CPU temperature tools for Windows 11 and Windows 10, to monitor the temperatures (download here). This is a simpler tool that works with a more basic UI. Just be sure to untick the freeware option during installation.
Core Temp provides temperature measurements for every core in your CPU. The left-hand side of the measurements shows the real-time temperature of each CPU core, and you can also see the measurements in the taskbar. But we’re more interested in the Min and Max columns, which show the absolute minimum and the absolute peak temperature recorded while the program runs. So, for example, the CPU in the above image has had a minimum temperature of 32C and a maximum of 51C and is, therefore, running at a normal temperature.
If you want to check your PC’s CPU temperature during normal use, you can leave Core Temp running while you perform common tasks. However, if you want to measure the maximum possible temperature, you can check by running a Prime95 stress test for about 30 minutes (download here) in Windows 10 or Windows 11. Just be aware that this program puts an extremely heavy load on your PC.
The best way to monitor your temperature while gaming is to game for a while and then check back in with the program to see the maximum recorded temperature. You should be concerned if this figure is at or beyond 95C. Anything between 80C and 95C has room for improvement.
You can check your CPU temperature in the system BIOS or UEFI, but be aware that this will only show your CPU temperature at idle. That means you will see much higher temps when you are booted into Windows 10 or another operating system.
It’s pretty simple to enter the BIOS to check your CPU temperature. On the majority of platforms, you reboot the system and click delete or F2 repeatedly as it restarts. Not all motherboards list the CPU temperature in the BIOS, but nearly all enthusiast or DIY motherboards do. Once you’re in the BIOS, you will see the temperature listed in the Hardware Monitor section, which can also be named PC Health Status or Status, among other similar names. Again, only use this as an indication of idle CPU temperatures — you should also check from within Windows 10 or Windows 11 to get a better idea of CPU temperatures when you’re using the PC (see below).
If your CPU temperature exceeds 80C under load, you should check your system to ensure the CPU’s cooling is adequate. Here’s a checklist of things to look for:
- Is your PC clean and free of dust (including the radiator and intake fans/filters)?
- Are all your PC’s fans spinning under load?
- When was the last time you applied fresh thermal paste between your CPU and CPU cooler? If it’s been over three years, consider re-applying the thermal paste.
- Does your model CPU cooler specify a higher cooling capacity than your CPU’s rated TDP?
For SFF PCs and laptops, it’s possible that there’s minimal cooling, as the device was never intended to be used under high loads for extended periods of time. For example, most laptops come with very compact cooling solutions that work well for short-term performance bursts but need to slow down during extended gaming sessions to stay below the shut-off threshold. Gaming laptops(opens in new tab) are often bulky because they’re packed with extensive cooling systems.
If you are using a full-size gaming PC, however, and think your cooling should be adequate, you may want to re-apply thermal paste to your CPU. Most thermal paste’s performance seriously degrades after about three years. Applying fresh paste (here’s a list of the best thermal pastes) and cleaning the system from dust can offer much better cooling power and significantly better performance.
Additionally, as part of any PC tune-up, you’ll want to make sure that your cooler is adequate. Many of the stock CPU coolers that come either bundled with the CPU or installed in pre-built systems aren’t adequate to give you the full performance of the chip. This often applies to Intel CPU coolers on Core i5 and above processors. You’ll need to follow the stress testing steps outlined above to check CPU temperatures under load in Windows 10 or Windows 11 to ensure that the cooler doesn’t get overwhelmed by the CPU when it is under heavy load.