Is it dangerous to run a processor at 100% for a long time?

Usman Mubashir January 30, 2013
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I use BOINC software to help scientists with need processing power and I was wondering whether it is safe to let my laptop run for days at full throttle?


  1. Anish Parameshwaran
    February 9, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Initially, you won't feel much of a difference, but it will wear down after some time and this may result in slower clock speeds and/or overheating.

  2. Julia Samson
    February 7, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    The replies so far addressed the issue of heat and the chips - and the replies are right on track.

    But the biggest issue has been overlooked - the battery. You should be concerned with heat and the battery, and the design of the battery charging system. Unless it is designed to handle it, running a laptop for extended periods plugged into "house" power will cause significant heat build-up and, most importantly, will degrade the battery and significantly shorten its life. And we all know how expensive batteries are.

    Laptop battery electrical design varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Your manufacturer can tell you what is best. My Apple Airbook is designed to be run off battery, then charged only for a short period until the battery is charged, then run off battery again. [This datum comes from the Apple engineering via AppleCare.] Many laptops are designed to allow running off "house" power for extended periods. A 2011 Toshiba has this design. You can usually tell this is the case if, when running like this, the batteries themselves do not feel hot.

    Another big heat generator is the display. Let your display completely blacken (or even better power off) when not used. Windows has energy savings controls that may help with this. If you can't turn your display off, you may want to attach a separate monitor, have the operating system use only the separate monitor (if this is possible), then turn the monitor off at the monitor's power button. This will prevent heat build-up, power drain, and screen burn-in.

    Most laptops are designed with two types of cooling fans. There are some obvious ones, usually places near air holes, that can be heard, and you can typically hear them turn on and off. You can also feel the air flow increase and decrease as the fans come on and off. The second type of fan is small and is glued onto the chip itself. Typically CPUs have these, and often graphics card CPUs have them too. These small fans can fail without you knowing. Some laptops offer diagnostics that will monitor the fans and let you know if they, or the temperature probe fails. If your laptop does not have a diagnostic that monitors the fans, and performs a shut-down if an over-tempurature occurs, install one. This will protect your investment.

    A good rule of thumb when checking for how hot is too hot - if you can't hold it comfortably it is too hot!

  3. Abhishek Ambre
    February 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Running your processor at full speed will shorten the life span eventually. But still if u want to prolong its degradation try installing a liguid cooling system which will keep ur system much cooler rather than regular fans.......

  4. Chris Hoffman
    February 4, 2013 at 4:54 am

    Bear in mind that this will also increase your electrical bills!

  5. Alex Perkins
    February 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    In the right conditions, no not really. It will reduce the lifespan of the CPU some, but if you coll it enough so that max temps stay below 70°C then it should be okay.

  6. Aditya Bhat
    February 3, 2013 at 6:58 am

    no if u have enough cooling and enough air circulation
    nothing will happen to your laptop

  7. Anupa Somasiri
    February 2, 2013 at 11:38 am

    If you have sufficient cooling and a good PSU, then it will be fine. But keep in mind, that laptops are not very great at running BOINC.

  8. Indronil Mondal
    February 1, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    as long as they dont over heat everything will be fyn

  9. Dimal Chandrasiri
    February 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    There is no effect immediately! But you'll definitely ware out the processor! If you are stressing the Processor to it's limit, use a good cooling method.. A water cooler maybe! that would help the processor to be in a good working temperature and would less damage with heat!

  10. Junil Maharjan
    January 31, 2013 at 5:28 am

    It might heat up too much.

  11. Wong Wee
    January 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Processor can be operated at 100%, only if there's adequate cooling.

    Like what others have said, running it at 100% will shorten it's lifespan.
    But modern processors are designed to run for decades on end, say 25 years?
    So if running it 100% will shorten the lifespan by 50%, you'll still get 10 years of runtime. Which is way more than you'll be keeping the processor for.

  12. Oron Joffe
    January 30, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Let me add my 2p worth to the discussion. As everyone else has pointed out, it wouldn't be good news for the CPU, and probably not for the ancillary equipment either.
    That said, the big enemy of electronics (and also of mechanical components such as the hard disc and exhaust fans) is HEAT. If you can keep the heat down, you will extend your laptop's life, so see if you can come up with an effective cooling system.
    Try to keep the temperature of all components at well below 50 deg. C and preferably lower. You can use software such as speedfan to monitor the temperatures inside the laptop.

  13. Usman Mubashir
    January 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    well, I think science can do without 2.5 GHz of processing power :p

  14. susendeep dutta
    January 30, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Your processor at first place will shutdown your laptop if it continues to be in 100% state for longer time.It would be better to get a powerful system so that it's capable of handling such tasks.A processor running at 100% consumes more energy and thus stresses your battery so the possibility of frequently replacing your battery increases rapidly.

  15. Switchblade Rebirth
    January 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

    With a laptop, no in the long term.

  16. Jan Fritsch
    January 30, 2013 at 10:27 am

    In general it shouldn't have any effect as long as your processor and the rest of the system is properly cooled. We used to have regular desktop computers used as servers that have been running for 6 years or more with very little downtime per year (~98% availability).

    With a laptop however it is not advisable.

    Even if your laptop has one or two exhausting fans, even if you use on of those fancy laptop coolers the problem that remains is that a laptop is a closed cased with very little airflow. So despite all cooling efforts there will be certain parts heating up quite a bit which may have effects as the mentioned shortened lifetime or even unexpected failure within a rather short time.

  17. James Johnston
    January 30, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Processors are designed to run at 100% but I wouldn't never want to run a processor at 100% long periods of time. It will shorten the life of your processor and your processor will run hot. If you are running your processor at 100%, watch your case temp and processor temp. You may need to add more cooling fans.

    If you are running at 100% all the time and your not forcing the system to do that, then it might be time to upgrade computer hardware. But you are using a laptop so that may not be possible.

  18. ha14
    January 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

    pay attention to the temperature to not go beyond the specification.

  19. sanjay kohra
    January 30, 2013 at 8:52 am

    yes.. running a cpu at full capacity for extended periods will shorten it's lifespan. A combination of heat and flow of electricity through the chip causes changes to the components within the chip at the atomic level, known as electromigration. Here's a brief (and very simplified) explanation

  20. Alan Wade
    January 30, 2013 at 7:33 am

    They are designed to run at 100% but only with sufficent cooling. You will shorten the life span of your processor by running it on full throttle, there are too many variables involved to say by how much though.

  21. DalSan Mack
    January 30, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Although there may not be an immediate noticeable effect to running the processor full speed days on end, it most likely will reduce the lifespan of the processor. Having an excellent cooling system, such as liquid cooling, would reduce the effects some, but the processor as well as other parts of the pc may fail sooner than if it were not to be run as hard for so long. I cannot say how likely or if it is guaranteed to happen because situations like these can go against the probability and odds of premature failure, such as has been proven with running a pc and hard drives non-stop for years without fail, but then again some people have seen hardware failure from doing so, also. All I can say is that it is not the best idea to do so as it uses more electricity and energy, thus creating more heat through the circuitry and creating more wear and tear on various parts.

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