How to Test Your Computer's CPU Temperature

Find out if your computer is running too hot

Using a free monitoring program, it's possible to check the internal temperature of your computer's CPU to see if it is running too hot. If your PC is showing symptoms of overheating, such as the fan constantly running or the screen frequently freezing, such utilities can help you determine if you need to take steps to cool down your PC.

Illustration of a laptop with a thermometer on its screen, running a "temperature"
Lifewire / Adrian Mangel

Make sure the CPU temperature checker program you use is compatible with your computer's operating system.

What Is the Ideal CPU Temperature?

You can look up temperature specifications for your computer's Intel or AMD processor, but the maximum temperature for most processors is around the 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) range. Your computer will likely shut down on its own before it reaches that upper limit.

Optimal operating temperature is 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) or below, according to the SpeedFan temperature monitoring program, though many newer processors are comfortable at 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).

If you have an Intel Core processor, you can use the Intel Power Gadget tool, which shows the current temperature right next to the maximum temperature for easy comparison.

How to Test Your Computer's Temperature

Several free temperature monitoring programs are available that can show you the CPU temperature as well as other system details such as the processor load, voltages, and more. Some programs can also automatically adjust the speed of your computer's fan for best performance. The programs you can use depends on your OS.

Windows CPU Temperature Testers

Temperature monitors available for Windows PCs include:

  • SpeedFan: In addition to monitoring fan speeds, voltage, and processor temperatures using your computer's internal sensors, SpeedFan can also determine your hard disk's temperatures. The lightweight application offers manual fan control and easy-to-understand charts and graphics.
  • Real Temp: Real Temp is designed specifically to monitor temperature for all Intel single, dual, and quad-core processors. In addition to displaying the temperature and load of the processor, it shows you the CPU's safe maximum operating temperature. Real Temp also tracks your highest and lowest temperatures.
  • CPU ThermometerCPU Thermometer is another free Windows CPU temp tester that's simple and effective. The program shows the temperature for each CPU core. You have the option to switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit.
  • Core Temp: Core Temp supports a wide range of CPUs and can show the temperature for each core beside your Windows 10 notifications. It includes a useful overheat protection option that notifies you when a critical temperature is reached. Core Temp includes many other options as well: showing the highest temperature per processor or including the temp for all cores, letting you monitor other things like load and RAM utilization, changing the temperature polling interval, and showing lots of detailed CPU-related information like bus speed and maximum VID.

Core Temp will try to automatically install a video game along with the CPU tester. Make sure to remove the checkmark next to that option during setup.

Linux and Mac CPU Temperature Testers

Linux users can read the CPU temperature from a shell prompt via the lm_sensors package. You can also use the Intel Power Gadget tool if your PC has an Intel Core processor.

Mac users should download System Monitor. System Monitor is a software suite for macOS that sits on the menu bar. In addition to the CPU temperature, it also displays the processing load, RAM consumption, disk activity, storage space, and more.