CPUs are mainly driven by incremental steps in electrical energy in order to execute computational processes as their instructions required. This ramping up and down of power draw generates heat leading to higher CPU temperatures. As such, the higher the workload, the higher the power, and the more heat that accumulates. But so long as the installed cooler can stabilize the CPU’s temperature during this operation, it will continue to run within its optimal performance settings. In this article, we will discuss normal CPU temperature ranges while gaming and idle.
What is CPU temperature?
CPU temperature is the calculation of heat energy on the entire processor die. Normally there are sensors installed on the die (inside the integrated heat spreader) to measure it. But there are also instances where external (motherboard) thermometers double-check the values. Unlike GPUs, there is no hotspot value, since a CPU is compact enough to have more or less uniform temperature readings throughout its embedded chips. The standard unit when measuring CPU temperature would be in degrees Celsius (°C).
Why is CPU temperature important?
CPU temperature is important because it establishes the thermal performance limits of the hardware. Which is typically referred to as the Tj max or maximum junction temperature of the processor. As a self-protection mechanism, the CPU is built to throttle itself down whenever it reaches or goes beyond the Tj max. This is to prevent permanent damage caused by overheating.
Therefore, the goal is to keep CPU temperatures at a considerably cool rate to maintain its performance levels. In fact, on some occasions, the lower the temperature, the better the performance. Ryzen’s Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) feature, for example, theoretically attempts to squeeze every last bit of performance (within the CPU’s design limits) at every degree of temperature that the CPU cooler can spare.
What is a normal CPU temp while gaming?
A normal CPU temperature range while gaming usually hovers around 65° to 78°C (149° to 172.4°F). This is if the cooler matches the required (real-world) TDP limits of the CPU. In cases of less optimal thermodynamics, CPU temperatures can reach upwards of 80°C or even greater. Though, higher CPU temperature values should only represent very brief spikes and not be sustained.
By official specification, CPU temperatures are still technically allowed to reach upwards of 80°C or even greater. But this is often not considered normal. Because sustained CPU temperatures well above 80°C are too hot which is when the risk of thermally throttling down, overheating, and the effects of slow heat degradation become substantial.
The CPU should always be matched properly with a cooler capable of effectively handling computationally demanding workloads. This will provide wider performance headroom while gaming.
Normal CPU temp while gaming test results
Our normal CPU temp while gaming tests resulted in an average CPU temp of 55.6°C, a minimum average CPU temp of 44.1°C, and a maximum average CPU temp of 68.1°C. The CPU temperatures stayed surprisingly cool while gaming even in its SFF ITX case due to the installed Corsair iCUE H100i RGB Pro XT 240mm (more details below).
|Excellent||Normal||Abnormal||Average gaming CPU temp from our tests|
|Gaming (60-70% load)||60 °C||65-78 °C||85+ °C||55.6 °C|
What is a normal idle CPU temp?
A good and normal idle CPU temperature range is around 35 to 50°C. A CPU should typically not exceed temperatures of 45-50°C when idle. Anything significantly higher is considered abnormal.
By our definition, a CPU is considered idle when it has a utilization percentage of less than 10%. At this level, a sufficiently modern CPU is barely using any power for any complex processes. It is simply running background tasks or very simple apps.
Though idle CPU temperatures may spike above 50+°C (104+°F) occasionally, the CPU is far from any concern that is related to heat generation. Your biggest concern is if the idle CPU temperature values are abnormally sustained above 50+°C.
Normal CPU idle temp test results
Our normal idle CPU temp tests resulted in an average idle CPU temp of 48.6°C, a minimum average idle CPU temp of 41°C, and a maximum average idle CPU temp of 67°C. CPU temps were higher in this SFF build because the Corsair iCUE H100i RGB Pro XT 240mm was set to the quiet preset which we find ideal for when the PC is idle or running basic tasks along with the fans being bearly audible.
|Excellent||Normal||Abnormal||Average idle CPU temp from our tests|
|Idle (10% lower)||30 °C below||35-50 °C||50+ °C||48.6 °C|
*Note: The PC we used to test normal gaming and idle CPU temperatures is a SFF (small form factor) Ncase ITX build containing a Ryzen 7 3700X CPU cooled by a Corsair iCUE H100i RGB Pro XT 240mm Water Cooling Kit and an RTX 2060 Super GPU. Therefore, if you have a larger form factor system that is adequately configured you should see lower normal gaming and idle CPU temps.
Also, keep in mind that higher frequency CPUs such as the AMD Ryzen 7000 Series and Intel 13th Gen Raptor Lake run just fine at higher CPU temps than the “normal” gaming and idle CPU temperature averages we are used to. Lastly, there are different technical factors such as your PC’s form factor and cooling configuration along with environmental factors that could affect results such as your ambient room temperature.
What causes high CPU temperatures?
More cores and threads – CPUs with a higher number of physical and logical cores tend to require more energy to use, and thus generate more heat when it ramps performance levels upward.
Drawn power too high (via base design) – certain architectures, like Intel’s 11th Gen Rocket Lake, are designed to simply extend the performance life of their aging 14nm process designs. As such, higher-tier processors (Core i9 11900K, Core i7 11700K) under this category tend to eat up a lot of power and therefore, generate lots of heat as well.
Drawn power too high (via overclocking) – overclocking CPUs feed way more power into the hardware in an attempt to match the high clock frequency a user sets. This generates a tremendous amount of heat, often requiring the use of heavy, double-fan tower coolers, or 240/360-rad AIO coolers on modern processors.
Incorrect thermal paste/thermal pad configuration – CPUs might show abnormal temperature values if the cooling contacts are not applied properly, or are too old. The integrated heat spreader (IHS) will not be able to complete the contact surface for dissipating heat efficiently.
Mismatched cooler – the CPU may also suffer from abnormally high temperatures when the cooler just isn’t designed to cool a specific tier of CPUs. For example, single-fan tower coolers are typically built to handle CPUs that draw about 65 to 100 watts of power. Beyond that, abnormal readings usually show up.
Bad case airflow – extra heat is accumulated if the case itself does not provide enough airflow to dissipate the heat blown away by the CPU cooler. This could easily raise the default load temperatures by almost 5 to 10 degrees Celsius (+9 °F) if not addressed properly.
How to check (and monitor) CPU Temperature?
To check and monitor CPU temps, you can use these recommended diagnostic and benchmarking software:
Core Temp – a very simple CPU monitoring app that lets you observe CPU temperature from the taskbar.
GPU-Z – mostly functions as a GPU monitoring tool, but you can actually scroll down its metrics graphs to see CPU performance as well.
HWInfo64 – an application for listing computer parts, with quantitative measurements available in real time. Under the CPU section, which is usually right at the top, the temperature values are shown in two different categories.
Piriform Speccy – Similar in basic design, but much simpler than HWInfo64. The summary section only lists the CPU name, clock frequency, process node, and temperature. Check the dedicated CPU section for more real-time details.
MSI Afterburner – A widely used app for optimizing GPU performance, but you can actually scroll down its metrics graphs to see CPU performance as well.
RivaTuner Statistics Server – comes with MSI Afterburner. Benchmark is provided as an overlay, and for the CPU, you can either show individual core temperatures, or a single package.
How to prevent your CPU from overheating?
Use a PC case with good airflow – Lots of fresh cool air should flow through your components regularly by using mesh cases, making sure that the direction has one flow.
Use good quality speed-adjustable case fans – better RPM means more air flowing in, but do note the level of noise as speeds really ramp up. In particular, a CPU cooler’s flow direction must be in sync with the flow direction of the main exhaust fan. It also helps quite considerably if the main exhaust fan behind has an equal or slightly higher airflow rate than the CPU cooler (use PWM for best results).
Clean dust from PC regularly – compressed-air cans are an easy way to prevent dust from accumulating inside the PC. Recommended to do every two weeks, or at least every month to save the compressed-air can for much longer. Electric blowers are usually overkill unless doing deep cleaning sessions (for cases not maintained for an extended period of time), though you can still use them if you want to.
Make the ambient temperature as cool as possible – any method of shifting/manipulating ambient room temperature will naturally also cause CPU temps to change accordingly. Using aircon, for example, or playing games on colder, rainy days.
How to lower CPU temperature?
Apply more aggressive fan curves – you can go to your motherboard’s BIOS to tweak the CPU’s fan settings:
- Make sure to select the correct fan header on the motherboard where the main CPU cooler is connected.
- Manually edit the curve by adjusting the points to whatever temperature and fan speed percentage you see fit.
- You can also automatically do so by selecting a sort of ‘Performance’ or ‘Maximum’ option on your BIOS (depends on the motherboard, and may not be the best option depending on your cooling setup).
Use a more robust cooler – installing a better cooler designed for higher TDP values may be the only thing that you need for an instant solution. Here are a few pointers:
- Stock Intel coolers from 10th Gen and later are only meant for Core i3 processors (at stock boost frequencies).
- Stock AMD coolers are only meant for Ryzen 5 processors when using stock frequencies. (limited PBO)
- Effective single-fan tower coolers like the Vetroo V5 or Snowman T4 are mainly designed for Ryzen 5 and Core i5 CPUs. However, they can also be somewhat used for Ryzen 7 or Core i7 CPUs at stock frequencies, at the cost of increased RPM and noise.
- Competitive dual-fan tower coolers today like the Arctic Esports Duo 34 or Scythe Fuma 2 are robust enough that they can cool 125+ watt TDP CPUs like modern Core i7 processors.
- 240 and 360-rad AIO coolers are still your best option if you want a combination of very low temperatures and very low fan noise. They are also the only effective options once you hit the 200+ watt TDP range (overclocked high-end CPUs).
Set power limits – tweak the power drawn so that just enough is always used whenever possible. This is similar to undervolting, only you are simply setting a maximum wattage value on the CPU instead of voltage per frequency curve. Follow the steps provided by your particular manufacturer for this method. For example, Intel users can use Intel Extreme Utility (XTU) to set power limits.
Use the CPU’s stock frequencies – less recommended from a product category standpoint, but can be a temporary measure until better cooling solutions are found. If you have a K-SKU Intel CPU for example, you may just simply run it at default boosting frequencies rather than overclocking it to both save power and reduce heat generated.
Manually throttle down the CPU – less recommended, but usable in more extreme situations. Disable CPU features one by one in the BIOS. For example, you can lower boost frequencies, or disable certain cores. This will lower the default power draw, thus lowering temperatures.
CPU temperatures are pretty much the bread and butter of performance allowance metrics for PC enthusiasts. It is simpler compared to balancing GPU temperature, but also quite complex, given the higher number of factors that users can change, swap, or tweak by default.
Although, even if the temperature is always related to a computer’s potential performance, CPUs are a tad bit more resilient. You can get away with at least five or ten more degrees, give and take, and it still won’t cause a significant degradation impact on the chip.
As such, the only real priority that you have with them heat-wise is to prevent thermal throttling, something quite easily achievable by just staying far away from the Tj max value by at least 25 degrees Celsius (+45 °F) or so.
CPU Temperature FAQs
What is a good CPU temp?
Good CPU temperatures on standard gaming workloads are supposed to be around 65 to 75°C (149° to 167°F). Around 83°C (180°F) is still somewhat acceptable-ish, so long as the workload is of a pure CPU-intensive type (graphics rendering, software compiling, etc.).
What temp should my CPU be?
The temperature of your CPU should align perfectly with the heat dissipation tier of its cooler. Consider checking for potential issues if the cooler cannot maintain room temperatures during idle, 60 to 70°C (140° to 158°F) degrees during gaming, and more than 75+°C (167+°F) to under 84-°C (183-°F) under max loads.
Why is my CPU temp so high?
This can be a combination of factors. But if the CPU itself is still operating normally, the most likely culprit would either be the subpar cooler performance or incorrect/inadequate thermal paste application.
How hot can a CPU get?
The CPU can get to around the mid-80 degree Celsius before it becomes too dangerously close to thermal throttling (Tj max value). Even before then it is usually not recommended to keep temperatures this high by just gaming alone.