How to Troubleshoot a CPU with High Temperature
Do you notice your computer slowing down, restarting, or shutting down randomly?
If so, a high CPU temperature might be the problem.
CPU temperature should ideally run between 30 – 40°C, with some going as high as 70-80°C. Anything above that, especially in the 90°C zone, and you’re asking for throttling and failure to occur.
Here’s an in-depth look at determining and troubleshooting the cause of a high CPU temperature.
Lack of Thermal Paste
Thermal paste fills in the gaps between a CPU processor and the heatsink and aids in efficient heat transfer.
Running a CPU with no thermal paste is like driving a car without oil. And what happens when you ignore obvious warning signs, like a check engine light? Instant engine failure.
Here’s a quick guide on how to apply thermal paste to a CPU:
To check if your CPU needs new thermal paste, locate the heatsink and remove it from the processor. Wipe off any excess paste and squeeze a pea-sized amount of paste onto the processor. Place the heatsink back on the processor (which will evenly spread the paste outward) and monitor the temperature over a few days using Speccy.
Too Much Dust
Cleaning your computer out can do wonders for the temperature gauges.
Too much dust can clog fans and heatsink fins, but fortunately, cleaning the inside of your computer is easy:
Ground yourself by touching metal to avoid electrical discharge to computer parts. Using compressed air from a 6-inch distance, blast away clumps of dust from fan blades, the power supply, motherboard, and all other components. For hard to reach places, use a Q-tip dipped in >90% isopropyl alcohol.
Heatsink Incorrectly Seated
If you applied thermal paste and your CPU temperature isn’t decreasing after a few days from the brief break-in period, then your heatsink may be improperly seated.
When this happens, the heatsink is not making full contact with the processor which may cause it to overheat.
To fix this, simply remove the heatsink and reapply it to the processor. Make sure it’s aligned with the mounting points around the perimeter of the processor and lock it in place using a screwdriver or via tabs, depending on your heatsink.
A serious malware infection will cause your CPU to work harder and your computer to run at a snail’s pace.
Some common malware infections that cause a spike in CPU temperature include:
- Viruses (System infectors, File infectors, and macro)
- Trojans (Backdoor, Rootkit, Exploit, among many others)
- Worms (Email, Internet, Network)
Malware that uses a large number of resources tends to create high CPU temperature and noisy fans; notable examples are the Bitcoin Miner Viruses (Otorun, Kolab, BTMine).
Popular (and free) anti-virus and anti-malware programs include:
- Windows Defender
Use one of the above programs or a combination of programs to identify and remove any malware on your computer.
Invest in a New Heatsink/CPU Cooler
A CPU cooler keeps your chip cool by pulling heat up from the CPU and towards the baseplate/heat pipes.
The heat transitions from gas to liquid via the condenser and cools down through the heatsink fins and fan. This “cooled down liquid,” or coolant, makes its way back down through the evaporator so it can be used again.
The entire process is essentially re-using the same heat that was originally generated by the CPU. So if your CPU cooler/heatsink is out-of-date, then the re-use of this heat won’t be cooled down.
Popular CPU coolers/heatsinks include the Noctua NH-D14, Dark Rock Pro 3, Deepcool Gamer Storm Assassin II, and the Scythe SCFM-1000 Fuma.
Overclocking is when you increase the CPU’s speed/clock rate through the BIOS setting, which increases the overall performance of your computer.
But at a small cost: overclocking = more CPU heat generation = higher temperature
This isn’t always the case, though. If you invest in a good heatsink/CPU cooler set up, then your CPU should continuously stay cool.
But if you excessively overclock with a subpar cooling system, the CPU will overheat, throttle, and may cause a system failure.
If you need a refresher on how to disable overclocking, check out this guide.
There are many reasons for having high CPU temperature, and much of the troubleshooting will come from trial and error via different methods. Fortunately, cooling a CPU is relatively easy using one, or a combination, of the above solutions.