In this guide, we will take a detailed look at CPU temperatures and tips on keeping them within safe operating limits. You will learn about everything that you need to know regarding what is considered a safe temperature, overheating, its causes and consequences, and some preventive measures to prevent overheating.

What CPU temperature is safe?

Ideally, the idle temperature should be equal to the ambient temperature. But we do not live in an ideal world. So, there is no one magic temperature that can be considered the safest. Instead, there is a range of temperatures at which the CPU operation can be considered safe. This range varies by processor models. But as a general rule of thumb, anything below 50C should not be a cause for concern.

What are the causes of overheating?

Overheating can have various causes. These hardware and software issues and poor ventilation.

The hardware issues that are most likely to cause overheating are worn-out thermal paste and accumulation of dust and debris inside your machine. Thermal paste is a special substance that is applied to your CPU die before you mount your cooling fans on top of your CPU. It has a very high thermal conductivity which helps to quickly transfer any heat that the processor generates to the CPU cooler above it. With time, however, this coating of thermal paste can degrade and wear out, resulting in poor contact between the CPU and the cooler. As a result, heat cannot be efficiently expelled and starts accumulating which results in high idle temperatures.

Another cause of overheating is poor ventilation. This can be caused by the accumulation of dust and debris or the blockage of vents. The former will always happen unless you keep your computer in a lab environment with highly sterile air. However, this accumulation is not really as problematic as thermal paste degradation. So, you need not fret too much over it. The latter can occur when you use your laptop while in bed, for instance, and your blanket covers the vents resulting in the disruption of airflow. The less air that can flow the less heat it would carry out of the system, resulting in high average CPU temperatures.

Now we will briefly take a look at the causes of overheating that have roots in software issues. Sometimes, you may have noticed in the task manager that an otherwise unimportant background service is running at 90% usage. It is difficult to exactly pinpoint the root cause of this. However, the most likely causes are that either your PC has been infected with malware or that the latest Windows update you installed contained some bugs.

What are the consequences of an overheating CPU?

Despite what some may have you thinking, CPUs are an incredibly resilient piece of technology that won’t die (permanently, that is) on you just because they have crossed a threshold temperature. Instead, it would shut down before any damage can occur with the help of its intricately designed protection circuitry. However, there are still some reasons why overheating is not desirable.

First, your PC becomes unbearably slow and can come to a complete crawl the hotter your CPU runs. The processing power that could have been better utilized doing your tasks is instead wasted away as heat, resulting in frustration.

Second, as the “protection instinct” kicks in, CPU fans start spinning faster and faster to quickly expel heat. The result is increased fan noise which, though not deafening, is uncomfortable for most people especially if they are trying to engage in a task that demands focused attention.

These are the main consequences of an overheating CPU, though very occasionally you might experience a system shutdown or restart.

How to prevent overheating?

There are multiple ways through which you can prevent overheating of your CPU. There are multiple freely available utilities that you can download to monitor your CPU temperature continuously and check whenever temperatures start going too high. A notable application for this purpose is the free and open-source Open Hardware Monitor utility. However, you don’t necessarily need such a utility as even your own hands and lap are often a good enough indicator of when your laptop is getting too hot. That being said, it can’t hurt if you use one especially if you have a Desktop PC.

Other than monitoring CPU temperatures, you can also occasionally add a heavy load to your CPU with another popular utility known as AIDA64. This can help you check the temperature peaks your CPU hits and know if it is overheating. This is important in that computers are not made to be kept idle and the temperatures that matter the most are the ones when you are engaged in some kind of computational work such as video editing or gaming. We recommend running the software every 6 months.

In a year or two, depending on your usage, your CPU’s thermal paste will probably degrade enough to prompt you to replace it. You can use the previously mentioned tip of regularly monitoring your CPU temperatures to learn when exactly you might want to have your thermal paste replaced. This is also a good time to clean the dust and debris that has accumulated inside your system over the course of time for which you had been using your PC.

A lesser-known but still pretty useful tip is to install a utility known as ThrottleStop. What it does is that it reduces the voltage at which your CPU is running resulting in a reduction of CPU power consumption without noticeably affecting performance. The result is less energy wastage which otherwise results in heat accumulation near the CPU die. Undervolting is a pretty safe operation and the worst that could happen is that your system would crash and restart if you undervolt it too much. To do it properly, you can watch a couple of YouTube tutorials on how to optimally adjust the settings of the software. The entire process should take you somewhere between 10-20 minutes.

Last but not the least, we will discuss some final tips before we wrap this discussion up. If you use your laptop in your bed, place a hard surface like a clipboard underneath it to prevent airflow blockage. Keep your windows and drivers up to date so that you regularly receive bug fixes. If you have a Windows PC, there is already a built-in antivirus known as Windows Defender installed. So, you don’t need to install a third-party antivirus application. That being said, we caution against relying too much on your antivirus software and use good judgment and avoid downloading software from shady sites.

What CPU temperature is safe?

  • The ideal idle temperature is one that is equal to ambient
  • Below 50 is also fine as an idle temperature, generally speaking

What are the causes of overheating?

  • Worn-out thermal paste
  • Poor ventilation
  • Viruses and software bugs

What are the consequences of overheating?

  • Your PC becomes unbearably slow and hangs up frequently
  • Uncomfortable fan noise

How to prevent overheating?

  • Regularly monitor your CPU temperatures
  • Run a load test with AIDA64 once in a while to see the upper limit of your CPU touches
  • Undervolt your CPU using the ThrottleStop utility
  • Replace thermal paste regularly every year or two
  • Place a hard surface underneath your laptop to allow adequate ventilation when using your laptop in your bed
  • Avoid shady websites


In this article, we discussed the causes and consequences of an overheating CPU and the preventive measures you can take to avoid them. We will now briefly recap the main highlights of our discussion. The major causes of overheating are worn-out thermal paste and poor ventilation and the most likely consequences are the PC coming to a creeping halt or your CPU fans generating too much noise. Occasionally your system might crash too. The preventive steps you can take to avoid overheating are to regularly monitor your CPU temperatures and have your thermal paste replaced every year or two.

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Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq

Umar Farooq has developed a passion for computers ever since the time his father brought home the first family computer in 2002, a time when broadband internet was still in its infancy and almost every PC component was at least an order of a magnitude less powerful than the typical ones available today. Recently, he decided to start writing on this website to help tech rookies not be too enticed by overly hyped marketing terms they barely understand and get the best deal for their money.

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