How to check your PC’s CPU temperature


Is your computer’s CPU too hot? If your PC starts spontaneously shutting down, locking up, or acting sluggish during intense tasks, overheating could be the issue. Keeping tabs on your CPU temperatures is crucial when you’re overclocking your PC’s processor, too—you don’t want to accidentally push the performance pedal too far to the metal when you’re supercharging your pricey Core i9-11900K or AMD Ryzen 5900X, especially given how hard it is to acquire processors these days.

Bizarrely, Windows doesn’t offer any way to check your computer’s CPU temperature. You could dive into your system’s BIOS to find the information, but that’s a lot of hassle to find a simple sensor reading. Fortunately, several free programs exist that make it easy to see your processor’s temperature.

How to check your CPU temperature

The fastest, easiest way to check your CPU temp is using the aptly named Core Temp. Be mindful during installation though! Like many free programs, it tries to install bloatware unless you uncheck some boxes during setup.

Once installed, open Core Temp to see a no-frills look at the current state of your CPU, including an average temperature reading at the bottom of the window. If you want even more detail, click the Show hidden icons button in the system tray located at the right edge of your Windows taskbar. You’ll see a temperature listing for every individual CPU core in your computer.

core tempBrad Chacos/IDG

Per-core CPU temperature readings provided by the Core Temp app.

Core Temp’s Settings menu allows you to tweak exactly what you’ll see in the system tray, and how you’ll see it, but the default configuration makes it dead-simple to see if your CPU is overheating or performing as expected.

Core Temp isn’t the only option though. HWInfo is an in-depth system monitoring tool that provides deep details about every piece of your PC’s hardware. If you choose to run it in sensors-only mode, scrolling down to the CPU section—the dedicated section, not the CPU temperature portion of the motherboard listing—reveals current temps and other nitty-gritty details.

nzxt cam Brad Chacos/IDG

NZXT’s Cam monitoring software.

NZXT’s Cam software is another popular option with a diverse skillset. Its slick interface is easier to read at a glance than those on most other monitoring tools, and the program shows all sorts of useful info about your CPU, graphics card, memory, and storage. Cam also includes an in-game FPS overlay and overclocking tools, among other features. You can use NZXT’s Cam mobile apps to keep tabs on your software when you’re away from your PC, too.

Open Hardware Monitor and SpeedFan are other well-regarded monitoring tools that can track system information. You’ve got options! But for simply checking your computer’s CPU temperatures, Core Temp’s straightforward focus can’t be beat.

ryzen tdie vs tctl Brad Chacos/IDG

If monitoring software (like HWInfo here) displays two CPU temperatures for Ryzen processors, look for the “Tdie” reading.

Finally, note that if you’re running an AMD Ryzen system, including 3rd-gen models like the ferocious Ryzen 9 5900X or the more modest Ryzen 5 5600X that’s the best gaming processor for most people, you may see two different CPU temperature readings. You want the “Tdie” reading, depending on how the program you’re using displays the info. It’s a measurement of the actual heat on the die.

The alternative “Tctl” reading is the control temperature reported to your cooling system and sometimes includes a temperature offset to ensure universal fan speed behavior between the various Ryzen chips. Any of the programs above that list a single temperature account for the offset already.

What’s the best temp for your CPU?

The maximum supported temperature varies from processor to processor. Most of the free monitoring software mentioned above lists the information as “Tj. Max.” That stands for the temperature junction, or the highest operating temperature of the hardware. If you don’t see the information for some reason, search the CPU World website for your CPU’s model number to find the information. Every program listed above displays your processor’s model number, so it’s easy to find.

But that’s the maximum temperature—the point at which your processor freaks out and shuts down to avoid damage. Running anywhere near that hot regularly is bad for the long-term life of your hardware. Instead, follow this general rule of thumb regarding CPU temperatures under load.  

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