“I wish my computer was hotter” said no one ever. Overheating PCs may lead to unexpected shutdowns, lost data, and hardware damage.
Any PC can benefit from simple measures to lower computer temperatures. Proper cooling will contribute to PC performance and component longevity. Best of all, it’s easy to do.
How to Check PC Temperatures
Checking PC temperatures is simple. Knowing what to do with that information takes more know-how. HWMonitor allows you to check both the temperature of your PC parts and the voltage readings. When it comes to processes like overclocking, upping the voltage of your parts will raise PC temperatures and contribute to overheating.
Programs like HWMonitor read out three major variables: CPU (central processor unit) temperatures, GPU (graphics processing unit) temperatures, and fan speeds. These variables change as your PC takes on more work. PCs taking on gaming or intensive processing are “under heavy load”, while PCs in an unused state are “idle”. Idle temperature readings differ from temperatures received when a PC is under load.
It’s normal to have separate temperatures for differing PC parts. A GPU that is double-dissipating, meaning it has two fans, will reach cooler temps than a CPU with a single stock cooler. If any of your parts are reaching 70-80 degrees Celsius while idle, you may have a overheating problem on your hands. This issue is not cause for immediate concern. PC parts, by design, are meant to take a lot of heat. Measures should be taken, however, to prevent further heating.
We’ll start with free fixes to address excessive heat.
Clean Your PC
Dust builds up in any PC, no matter how modern or spacious the case. The dust clogs up vents and fans and traps hot air. A regular cleaning can help maintain a cooling flow of air.
WARNING: Before you proceed with cleaning your hardware, you need to prepare two simple things.
- Make sure the system is powered off and the power cable unplugged.
- Before you touch any internal components, ground yourself to discharge static electricity in your body. To keep yourself “grounded” throughout the procedure, wear an anti-static wristband. Alternatively, ground yourself on a massive piece of metal, like a radiator, and avoid clothes that contribute to static charging (e.g. sneakers, woolen sweaters).
To clean PC parts and components, you’ll only need three items:
- a can of compressed air
- a microfiber cloth
- 99% isopropyl alcohol
A common first step is to clean each and every fan in your PC. This includes your CPU fan, external fans, and your power supply fan (although you should not separate this fan from its unit). Blast them with a can of compressed air to rid loose dust, and clean the blades with your cloth and the alcohol.
Simply cleaning the fans will create a big change in your PC. Dust settles in your PC because your fans are clogged or under-performing. If you take your PC to a repair shop, this is often the first thing PC repair technicians do.
Other parts will require a quick once-over will your cloth. Do not worry about leaving your PC dust-less. Just try to clean as much noticeable dust as possible.
Set Higher Fan Speeds
Default fan configurations can contribute to overheating. Your fans may be running too slowly to actually cool down PC parts. Some GPUs show high temperatures because the GPU driver software only activates the GPU’s fan under certain load ranges. That’s when you should take control of your fan speeds. Programs like SpeedFan provide just this service.
Click the Up Arrow to increase the fan speed percentage. 100% is the max speed your fan can reach. Keeping every fan at around 50% will keep your PC running at a cool temperature under idle conditions. To maintain these safe temperatures, you may have to change your fan speeds when your PC is under a heavy load.
MSI Afterburner, an overclocking tool, provides options to automatically raise fan speeds when your playing games or committing intensive work on your PC.
Most users ignore component cables, which can take up a fair amount of space. This may contribute to overheating and dust collecting problems. If your cables are strewn around, you cannot maintain proper airflow inside the PC case. This means your PC cannot intake cool air and exhaust hot air efficiently, trapping in heat and dust. To overcome this issue, zip-tie, move, and configure your cables to create more free space inside your PC.
Managing component cables may sound risky. Cable management requires unplugging components and plunging them back in. Yet, taking the plunge will contribute to easier component replacement, better airflow, and overall cleaner look.
Maintain Proper Airflow
Maintaining proper airflow is vital to keeping a cool PC. Yet, maintaining proper airflow isn’t just about keeping your computer clean. It has to do with fan orientation as well. Proper airflow doesn’t simply require added fans. It also means maintaining a middle ground between positive and negative pressure.
Positive airflow is when cool, outside air is rushed into the system. Negative airflow is when hot, inside air is rushed outward. Aim for neutral airflow, wherein an equal amount of cool air is rushed in and hot air is exhausted out. If you’re ever confused about how to orient your case fan, there should be an indicator on the fan itself to show which way air is being directed.
These measures aren’t expensive, but upgrading or replacing PC components to lower temperature readings may end up saving your computer parts and energy. If your PC is shutting down every so often because of overheating issues, it’s typically better to spend some dollars to ensure the safety of your parts rather than springing for a new computer.
Reapply Thermal Paste
Pre-built PC users could care less about thermal paste, but a quality thermal paste (UK) is crucial for proper temperature readings. Thermal paste fills in the space between the heat-sink and the component. The heat-sink distributes the heat created by your PC components to metal sheets. The metal sheets are then cooled off by fans.
The better the quality of your thermal paste, the more heat transferred between your component and your heat sink. A low quality thermal paste will stop doing its job over time, causing PC parts to heat up. Reapplying thermal paste on an old CPU heat sink will lower the temperatures taken on by that part.
You can only reapply thermal paste to two components: your CPU and your GPU. It’s easier to reapply thermal paste to your CPU than your GPU, as these components are often separable. Reapplying thermal paste to your GPU will void the warranty, as you will have to open the unit.
Buy Larger Fans
Most fans that come with your original case are small and will not provide the best fanning for your system. This is especially the case if you’re looking to install next-gen, high capacity PC parts like the latest GPUs.
Fans are often cheap, durable, easy to install, and can drastically improve your PC’s airflow and general temperature readings. Before you try to buy the biggest fan you can find, look up the specifications of your PC’s case. More often than not, these specs will clarify how many fans you can mount, the size of the fans, and where they should be located.
Remember to orient these fans in a way that will provide proper ventilation and airflow. If you need help finding a new fan, check out our list of the best cooling systems for your PC.
Upgrade Your CPU Cooler
This may only apply to CPUs, but upgrading any fan in your PC will automatically cool all other parts by achieving better airflow. There are two essential types of upgrades you can make to your CPU cooler: bigger or liquid. Both are definite upgrades from a stock CPU cooler.
Larger CPU coolers will provide bigger heat-sinks and fans, which will dissipate a larger amount of heat from your CPU. This is due to the larger surface area of the heat-sinks which absorb larger amounts of heat cast from CPU activity. Larger CPU fans and heat-sinks require a larger space, so make sure your cooler will fit your case before springing for the largest you can find.
Liquid coolers, on the other hand, don’t require much space around the CPU. Instead, they absorb heat through specific liquids and cool the liquid using a large radiator mounted within your case. Liquid coolers are more difficult to install, given the radiator mounting.
Do I Want a Cooler PC?
The answer: correctamundo. Not only can high temperature PC parts lead to random shutdowns, they can also lead to permanent damage to your PC. Even if you aren’t having immediate overheating problems, remember that a cooler PC is a happier PC. Keep your components clean, your cables managed, and your PC away from overly hot conditions (i.e. playing my mixtape) to have it running optimally.
Have you ever had overheating problems? How did you try to keep your PC cool? Let us know in the comments below!