What Is Thermal Design Power?

An explanation of TDP for PC parts

When reading reviews of CPUs or graphics cards, you may come across the term TDP. Learn what TPD is and how it affects PC performance.

Close-up of computer CPU fan
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Definition of TDP, or Thermal Design Power

A component's TDP, which stands for thermal design power (or thermal design point), is the amount of power the cooling system needs to dissipate in order to keep the chip at or below its maximum temperature. For instance, a 244-watt TDP on a graphics card means the cooler can siphon out up to 244 watts of heat to keep the GPU in check. A high TDP indicates better performance; however, the higher the TDP for a graphics card or CPU, the more power it consumes.

How Much TDP Do You Need?

If you intend to use a third-party cooler with a CPU or GPU, it must be rated at or above the TDP of the part the cooler will be attached to. In addition, if you are planning on overclocking the part, you will need a cooler that is rated well above the TDP of the part in order to properly cool it. Failure to have a properly rated TDP cooler can shorten the lifespan of the graphics card or CPU in addition to causing thermal shutdowns when the parts are pushed too hard.