What’s a Good CPU Temperature For Gaming?

So you’re playing a game on your computer and notice it’s louder than usual. What’s a good CPU temperature for gaming? Most games are demanding on hardware, and it’s normal for computer temperatures to rise when you’re playing games.

The problem is when temperatures get too high. What’s a good CPU temperature for gaming? And when should you worry about it? I’m a little obsessed with tracking my computer’s temperatures, so I did a little digging for you.

Before we get into that, it’s important to clarify a couple of points. There are lots of factors to consider when it comes to CPU temperatures. For one, every CPU is different and has various power demands, so the heat output can vary drastically from one to the next.

Secondly, most CPUs come with a stock cooler, but the stock cooler is not very good and can struggle to keep up with temperatures, not to mention they’re quite loud too. And other factors such as PC case design, fan flow, ambient temperature, overclocks, and others, can also affect the CPU temperature.

For that reason, it’s hard to say what’s a normal CPU temperature. Nevertheless, there are some temperature guidelines you should know about.

What’s a Good CPU temperature for Gaming?

Under 60 Celsius (140°F) is a good CPU temperature for active gaming. A CPU won’t run into issues until it reaches temperatures greater than 80 Celsius, and most can handle up to 90 degrees. Ideally, when under a heavy load, a CPU with a good cooler shouldn’t reach more than 60 celsius.

Another point to consider is most games are designed to use more of your graphics card (GPU) than your CPU. There are some games that are very CPU intensive, mostly ones that have big scenes with either many players, NPCs, or effects.

However, the majority of games are not very CPU intensive, which means your CPU won’t usually get very hot when playing games. Nevertheless, if you feel like your CPU is getting too hot, even though it’s not under a heavy load, there are some things you can do to lower the temperatures.

In some cases, a CPU is actually operating within factory-acceptable temperature limits, but you would prefer it if it was cooler. Hot CPUs can make the fans spin faster which can create a lot of background noise. I’ll cover some tips on how to lower CPU temperatures in a moment.

Programs to Check CPU Temperatures:

First things first, you’ll want to download temperature tracking software. There are lots available. Here are a couple of free ones that I use:

1 – MSI Afterburner

MSI Afterburner is a great tool, and I think it should be installed on every computer. It not only monitors temperature data but you can also overclock your graphics card, create fan-curves, track RAM usage, and much more.

2 – Open Hardware Monitor

Open Hardware Monitor is another free and lightweight program to track CPU temperatures. It can track pretty much every sensor on your computer, and it can be added as a desktop gadget too.

Another one worth mentioning is CPU-Z but it does not have temperate readings. The reason I recommend it is because it does have some other tools that are beneficial, including a stress-test benchmark. You can run the benchmark along with temperature software to see what temperatures your CPU reaches under full load.

Once you have one of these installed, open a game, let it run for a while, minimize, and check the CPU temperatures. Does your CPU get hotter than the recommended range mentioned earlier?

What Happens When a CPU is Too Hot?

Most modern CPUs have lots of thermal protection steps that will protect the hardware from permanent damage, even when it gets too hot. When a CPU gets too hot, it will underclock to consume less power, and eventually shutdown.

The good news is your computer will probably shut down before any real damage but that’s not something you want to risk. Worse case, the CPU fries itself, and that could damage other hardware in your computer too, although that’s very rare.

What’s a Good Idle CPU Temperature?

When a CPU is idle, it’s not being actively used. A good temperature range for idle CPUs is between 30 to 50 Celsius. The idle CPU temperature will also depend on ambient temperature, air-flow, and case design.

Easy Ways to Lower CPU Temperature:

There are lots of ways to reduce your CPU temperature, and I’ll cover some of the most beneficial and beginner-friendly ones below:

If your idle CPU temperature is higher than the range above, it could be either the computer case has poor airflow or the stock cooler has issues. In the case of poor airflow, what you want to do is clean all the fan vents on your computer, front and back.

1 – Clean Intake & Outtake Fans

It’s common for intake fans (usually on the front of the case) to build up dust that blocks fresh cool air from being pulled in. A simple case-fan cleaning session could bring down CPU temperatures by a few digits.

Generally, it’s a good idea to clean your computer from time to time, all kinds of debris can build up in there. Bear in mind, you don’t really need to be a computer expert to clean the fans, it’s very straightforward. You can usually do it without removing anything besides the panels.

2 – Adjust the Location of Your Computer

One common mistake most people make is having the rear of the computer directly facing a wall with very little room to breathe. Another one is setting the computer on a carpeted floor. These can lead to problems down the line, including high temperatures. This is where the ambient temperature comes into the picture.

Ideally, a computer should not sit directly on the floor, especially on a carpeted floor, because it’s more likely to pick up dust, and the carpet can block the bottom power supply intake fans.

Moving the computer or rotating it so the fans can bring in more air can reduce the temperature. If possible, I recommend placing the computer on a desk. Make sure there are no objects blocking the front or rear fans.

3 – Buy or Upgrade the CPU Cooler

If your computer still uses the stock CPU cooler, it’s probably time to upgrade. Stock coolers are enough to keep the CPU from burning but they’re usually very loud and don’t keep temperatures as low as they should. There are plenty of budget-friendly CPU coolers on the market, and installing one can dramatically lower temperatures.

In most cases, they’re relatively easy to install, but it depends on the type of CPU, motherboard, and case you have. It’s best to check if your parts are compatible with the cooler before you buy it.

Note: One of the best-selling budget-friendly CPU coolers of all-time is the Cooler Master Hyper 212.

Other ideas:

  • Re-apply cooler thermal paste
  • Add or upgrade case fans
  • Water-cooling units cool better than air coolers
  • Disable any overclocks
  • Increase fan-speed curve
  • Disable CPU Turbo-boost (sacrifice some performance)
  • If on a laptop, invest in a laptop cooler

The Bottom Line:

If you regularly play games, a good CPU temperature, under full-load (100% usage) even after hours, shouldn’t be more than 70 Celsius. If your CPU is getting more than 70 Celsius, there’s likely an issue, and you should try one of the steps mentioned in our lowering CPU temperature section.

About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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