The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is responsible for several functions on your PC. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to call it the system’s core since all the computer instructions go through the CPU for processing.
Being the important component that it is on your system, proper maintenance for the CPU is imperative. As such, we highlight aspects regarding a commonly expectable problem; overheating.
A Summary of Whether CPU Overheating Causes Damage
CPUs are fit with dedicated cooling units because of how fast they heat up. The cooling units are responsible for keeping the CPU at an optimum working temperature, otherwise, overheating would occur. Some severe cases of overheating go beyond simply heating up and result in fires.
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Can Overheating Damage CPU?
The CPU, as an individual component, comprises several parts within it. During planning and assembly of the CPU, several aspects about it are determined to give it a specification profile.
Specifications indicate detailed information about a device, and in this case, the main bit is the indicated working temperature of the CPU.
All electrically powered components produce heat when in use. As such, they have an optimal temperature range that would allow them to function with no problems. Because of this, even a CPU will remain functional only when it’s working under its specified working temperature range.
Another point worth considering about CPUs is that they heat up quicker than most other onboard components on your PC. The reason for it is that all commands have to go through it, and there’s virtually a consistent stream of instructions to execute, so the CPU is always working.
All that said, it’s the reason CPUs have a dedicated cooling unit assigned to serve them. Several modes of cooling a CPU are available, and this fact reinforces how imperative cooling is for CPUs.
Overheating can wreck a CPU, and that’s why cooling is such an integral aspect concerning their usage. Always ensure your CPU receives proper cooling.
What Temperature Can Damage a CPU?
CPUs come in different makes and sizes, with varying specifications. As such, some CPUs may generate more heat than other lower-rated CPUs.
This point implies is that it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact temperature point that can damage all CPUs regardless of specification. Compared to processors from a decade or more ago, however, recent CPU models perform better with regard to heat issues.
That said, a general temperature guide does exist that can be applied to most CPUs nowadays. It allows you to realize whether your CPU has heat-related issues or is working within expected limits:
41°C – 59°C: This is the normal temperature range when a CPU is idling or running most of the basic applications, including background apps.
60°C – 72°C: This is still an optimal temperature for CPUs. The temperature rise may be due to running more complex operations or running more resource-intense programs.
73°C – 80°C: These temperature readings are seen when one is overclocking their CPU.
81°C – 90°C: These readings are observed when pushing overclocking to the extreme or when running more resource-intensive programs. If you experience these readings when neither activity is happening, it would be prudent to check your CPU’s cooling unit.
Above 91°C: You’d ideally never want to have a CPU reach this temperature range. Throttling may occur or even permanent damage.
How to Tell If CPU is Heat Damaged?
When a PC’s CPU isn’t functioning properly, several problems arise. Depending on the level of damage in question, it might even be impossible to complete the booting procedure.
That said, a lot of things can go wrong with a CPU. To accurately diagnose that whatever problem your CPU is having is heat-related, some distinct indicators come into play:
Trouble with CPU fan
If you’ve recently frequently experienced problems with your CPU fan, you can be sure that the CPU isn’t getting proper cooling. It can start running louder than usual or not spin at all. In the long run, this issue ends up causing damage to the CPU if not addressed.
Should your CPU fail you after experiencing fan trouble, it would be a safe guess that the heat damaged it.
If your CPU fails and you suspect it has something to do with overheating, you can also try physically examining it.
In some extreme cases, the CPU can get so overheated that it starts to burn. You can find soot marks and even burn marks around the CPU, which are a clear indicator the damage was caused by overheating.
Can Overheating CPU Damage Motherboard?
Although rare, the CPU managing to damage the motherboard because of overheating is possible. It can mainly happen under two scenarios:
Raising ambient heat levels in the PC Case
The PC case houses several other components also attached to the motherboard. All these components produce their heat emissions.
Because of that, there is a cooling fan responsible for doing away with the overall heat inside the case. CPUs have a dedicated cooling unit to service them as well.
When the CPU’s cooling is failing, and it overheats, the excess heat now present can raise the ambient temperature levels in the PC. This rise in temperatures can damage some components, including parts of the motherboard.
Sometimes when a CPU overheats, it can go beyond just raised temperatures to even create small fires. A fire can destroy both the CPU and any other nearby component, the motherboard especially, since it’s attached to it.
How do You Know if Your CPU is Overheating?
Diagnosing CPU overheating problems is simple if you know what signs to look at. The following are some of the common indicators a CPU is experiencing overheating issues:
The OS in use on your PC will often have tools embedded into it that continuously monitor the state of the computer and attached peripherals. In this case, the resource responsible will alert you of the spiking temperature changes and suggest some simple remedies.
Lags and Stutters
While using your PC, you inevitably notice how it performs when performing various tasks. Overheating can cause a drop in CPU performance. So, when you observe a decline in how commands are handled, run diagnostics on your CPU.
Frequent unscheduled shutdowns
CPUs generate considerable heat as they operate, which can bring down their efficiency. To counter this problem, CPUs are fit with dedicated cooling units.
PCs also include an integrated feature that automatically shutdowns the computer when the CPU overheats. When a computer starts to experience frequent power-downs without your command, it could be a sign the CPU is overheating.
State of CPU fan
When starting up your PC, and you fail to hear the CPU fan spinning, that’s an indicator that the CPU won’t get the proper cooling it needs and can potentially overheat.
What Can Cause CPU to Overheat?
CPU overheating can result from several factors. We highlight a few of them below:
Overclocking is a feature that allows some CPU models to run at clock speeds higher than usual. Using this feature puts more strain on the CPU, generating more heat than usually experienced.
If overused, overclocking can make the CPU overheat. It can also lead to faster degeneration of the CPU if unchecked.
Failing Cooling Unit
Considering the type and intensity of work CPUs perform, they generate heat consistently. Because of that, they need consistent cooling to keep them working efficiently.
When the cooling unit responsible for dissipating the CPU’s heat fails, the CPU inevitably accumulates more heat than it can handle. With the means to do away with the heat impaired, overheating soon occurs.
Ambient PC temperature
The CPU is attached to the motherboard, housed in the PC case. Within the case, there are several other parts that go into making your computer.
They generate heat while in use too. For this reason, there’s a cooling fan that is responsible for dissipating this heat out of the PC case.
Should this ambient temperature exceed a specified range, it can potentially affect the temperature of other onboard components, the CPU included.
How do I Fix My Overheating CPU?
A few remedies are available to help alleviate an overheating CPU. Depending on how you’re using your PC, some of these fixes may not apply to your particular needs:
Cut Down on Overclocking
Overclocking pushes the CPU beyond its normal working limits. With the extra strain created, more heat is generated than usual when a CPU overclocks.
If used too frequently, this feature can cause overheating issues for the CPU since it would be operating at higher temperatures over a prolonged period.
Re-Applying Thermal Paste
Thermal paste is an integral part of the CPU cooling system. It increases the efficiency of heat dissipation directly from the CPU to the heat sink.
With usual computer usage, some experts say replacing the thermal paste every year can go a long way in minimizing incidences of CPU overheating.
Check the CPU fan
- Ensure it’s fitted in place and receiving the proper voltage needed to operate. Otherwise, it would be underperforming, which can lead to increased temperatures.
- Clean it and remove dust and any other elements that may clog the blades and prevent efficient rotation.
Check other PC fans
To make sure they’re all doing their part. If these fans aren’t being efficient, unwanted heat can build up in the PC case. This heat can then end up affecting the CPU.