CPUs go through a wild fluctuation of temperatures every time you use them. Whether you’re browsing, multitasking, or gaming will determine how hot your CPU is running. Additionally, the intensity or demands of each application will determine how hard the CPU needs to work, which also increases its temperature.
The hotter your CPU gets, the higher the risk of decreased performance and, with temperatures exceeding 90°C, the higher the risk of damage in the long run. Knowing how hot your CPU should be running for different tasks and monitoring your CPU’s temperature in contrast can help you prevent these risks.
80°C is a safe temperature for your CPU to reach but staying at this temperature for long periods isn’t good for the CPU. At 90°C, your CPU is overheating, which can cause damage to the CPU and premature death. 80°C is OK when gaming but should not be maintained or reached when only browsing or multitasking.
Keep in mind that while 80°C is technically not a dangerous temperature, it should only really be reached under high stress. In this article, I’ll explain what temperatures your CPU should be averaging, as well as common causes for overheating.
Average CPU temperatures vary depending on the task you’re using it for. Since every application and task requires different amounts of power from your CPU at different times, we must use an average range of temperature. In this section, I’ve outlined the average temperature ranges for a healthy CPU while performing various tasks.
A good rule of thumb, for starters, is that an idling CPU should rest around 40°C to 50°C. Since your CPU is under a minimal load when idling, it shouldn’t be generating much heat. If your CPU idles at a higher temperature, like 70°C, it might mean that a fan isn’t working properly, or simply isn’t strong enough.
When gaming, your CPU goes through a wide fluctuation of temperatures. It should run hotter when loading graphics and environment than it does when fewer things are being loaded. On average, a healthy CPU will run between 60°C and 70°C.
At times, even a CPU well-equipped with cooling might jump up towards 80°C if you’re playing a large game, but it shouldn’t stay there for long. Your CPU should certainly not be reaching 80°C when playing smaller indie games or even most esports titles.
It’s good practice to monitor your CPU temperature when playing your favorite games to make sure they aren’t placing too much thermal stress on your CPU. If they are, you’ll want to figure out what part of your system isn’t doing its job to avoid damaging the CPU.
Browsing is a relatively undemanding task for a CPU, and shouldn’t drive its temperature up very high. On average, browsing should only put your CPU at around 50°C to 60°C, but not much higher.
Even browsing in multiple windows with several tabs in each shouldn’t cause your CPU to get much hotter than that. It may spike above 60°C if you’re downloading large files or something of the sort, but it shouldn’t remain above that for long.
Multitasking, like gaming, can have a wide range of temperatures. The actual temperature of your CPU will depend largely on the demands of the applications you’re running, meaning a 3D rendering software or large server will require more CPU power than running a few Microsoft Office applications simultaneously.
On average, multitasking should only get your CPU to 60°C to 75°C. Some applications require more power and can drive your CPU above 80°C at times, but it should not remain there for long. If it does, your fans are likely not doing enough to keep it cool, or your applications require more than your CPU is capable of.
Temperatures exceeding 90°C often lead to thermal throttling. When this happens, your CPU scales back its output to allow it to cool off. This leads to slower performance and, if the CPU doesn’t reduce its temperature enough, can cause damage.
In this section, I’ve outlined the three main temperature ranges to expect from a CPU and their effects on CPU performance.
This is the typical range of operating temperatures for all tasks on a healthy CPU. So long as your CPU is operating within this range, you have nothing to worry about. The CPU won’t get so hot as to cause thermal throttling, and the chance of damage to the CPU is virtually zero.
In this range, your CPU is bordering on overheating. It’s not unusual for CPUs to surpass 80°C, but it shouldn’t remain above that for very long. If it stays in this range for long periods of time frequently, your CPU may start to degrade and die prematurely, but not as fast as it would if the temperature exceeds 90°C.
At this point, your CPU is overheating. Exceeding 90°C leads to thermal throttling, and if your system is unable to run the CPU at a lower temperature while running the application you want, it can cause premature CPU death and degradation. As a rule, make sure your CPU stays below 90°C.
There are a variety of common causes for an overheating CPU, four of which I’ve outlined in this section. If your CPU is exceeding 90°C, you’ll want to investigate these causes to see where your system is underperforming.
First and foremost is the cooling system you have in place. Liquid cooling systems do a great job of keeping the CPU below 90°C, and even generally below 80°C, but they are expensive. Most gamers have a fan setup, but if the fans are malfunctioning or not powerful enough, they will fail to keep the CPU at a safe operating temperature.
Thermal paste, or compound, is that thick, gooey substance applied to your CPU. Over time, this will dry up and thin out, which makes it much less effective. If your compound is drying up or hasn’t been changed in a while, this could be the reason your CPU is overheating.
When a CPU is nearing the end of its lifespan, it can sometimes fail to direct the fans properly. When this happens, the CPU isn’t making the fans work hard enough, which means it isn’t receiving enough cooling. It can also cause your CPU to work harder than it needs to, which also raises the temperature drastically.
If you suspect this is the cause, you should test your CPU (and your motherboard, to be safe) to see if it’s losing functionality.
Naturally, games and applications that place high stress on your CPU will cause it get hotter than it normally does. In extreme cases, this high stress can cause the CPU to overheat, which will cause thermal throttling and likely mean you won’t be able to run the application or game smoothly.
Check your CPU temperature if you suspect this to verify whether or not the task is outside of your CPU’s capabilities.
At the end of the day, 80°C is alright in short bursts, but should not be maintained longer than necessary. Chances are that if your CPU stays around 80°C for an extended period, it’s not getting enough cooling. The risk here is that a short burst of additional temperature can put it over 90°C and cause issues for your system.
Is 80°C Hot for a CPU While Gaming?
It’s not a dangerous temperature (yet), but it should be avoided. Make sure your CPU has a solid heatsink fan and your case has ample cooling and airflow to keep your CPU below this while gaming.
Is 80°C Hot for a CPU in a Laptop?
The averages in this article apply to laptop CPUs as well, but troubleshooting is a little trickier due to the design of laptops. If your laptop CPU is exceeding this temperature frequently, make sure your laptop has room for air to flow into it and that you aren’t running unnecessary applications in the background.