Using a free monitoring program, you can check your computer’s internal temperature, driven mostly by the CPU, to see if it’s running too hot and in danger of overheating.
The biggest clue that your computer is not running at an ideal temperature is if you’re experiencing any symptoms of overheating, such as the fan constantly running and the computer frequently freezing. However, most computers naturally run hot, so a system utility that can access your computer’s internal temperature sensors can help you decide if you need to take steps to cool your laptop or desktop down further.
What’s the Ideal CPU Temperature?
You can look up temperature specifications for your particular computer’s Intel or AMD processor, but the maximum temperature for most processors is around the 100° Celsius (212° Fahrenheit) range. Before you get to that upper limit, though, your computer will likely have all sorts of performance problems and may be shutting down randomly on its own.
Optimal operating temperature is 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit) or below, according to the SpeedFan temperature monitoring program, though many newer processors are comfortable around 70° Celsius (158° Fahrenheit).
Programs to Test Your Computer’s CPU Temperature
Several free temperature monitoring programs are available that can show you the CPU temperature as well as other system details like processor load, voltages, and more. Some of them can also automatically or manually adjust the speed of your computer’s fan for best performance.
Here are several that we’ve used before:
Windows CPU Testers
SpeedFan: In addition to monitoring fan speeds, voltage, and processor temperatures using your computer’s internal sensors, SpeedFan can also access S.M.A.R.T. info to determine your hard disk’s temperatures. The small application offers fan control, charting, and easy-to-understand graphics.
Note: Don’t let this site’s “download” advertisements fool you. Download SpeedFan through the “SpeedFan 4.52” text link in the Download section.
Core Temp: This is one of the more popular temperature monitoring tools out there for laptops and desktops alike. The program supports a wide range of CPUs and can show the temperature for each core in colored numbers right in the notification area (next to the clock).
Core Temp includes a useful overheat protection option that you can enable to be notified when a critical temperature is reached. In addition to, or in place of, the alert, Core Temp can automatically open a program of your choice or even shut down, sleep, or hibernate the computer.
This program 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.
Note: During installation, Core Temp will automatically install a video game along with the CPU tester. If you don’t want it, then make sure to remove the checkmark next to that option a few pages in during setup. It’s definitely an option and not necessary to have in order to use Core Temp.
Real Temp: Real Temp is designed specifically to monitor temperature for all Intel single, dual, and quad-core processors. In addition to showing the temperature and load of the processor, it also shows the CPU’s safe maximum operating temperature and how far from this maximum temp yours is running at. Real Temp also tracks your highest and lowest temperatures since you opened the program.
CPU Thermometer: This is another free Windows CPU temp tester that’s really simple but effective. The program shows your computer at the top along with temperature next to each CPU core. Options let you change between Celsius and Fahrenheit and start the program when Windows starts.
Linux and Mac CPU Testers
System Monitor is a software suite for macOS that sits on the menu bar so that you can easily glance down at various activity monitors. There’s, of course, one that shows the CPU temperature on your Mac but also the processing load, RAM consumption, disk activity, storage space, and more.
Temperature Monitor: We haven’t tested this program but it is another option for finding CPU information on a Mac if you don’t like System Monitor (which you should try first). Know, however, that Temperature Monitor is no longer being maintained but it is still available for download if you want to use it.
Linux users can read the CPU temperature from a shell prompt via the “lm_sensors” package.
Note: Intel Core processors running under Windows, Linux, and macOS can also have their temperature tested using the Intel Power Gadget tool. It shows the current temperature right next to the maximum temperature for an easy comparison.