Heat is a normal by-product of computer processes and operations, which shouldn’t be alarming up to a certain level.
However, if your CPU gets hot suddenly, it can indicate a major underlying problem.
There’s a whole range of factors that lead to a CPU suddenly running hot, which you can avoid and solve with proper care and maintenance.
CPU Suddenly Overheating (Causes, Fixes)
1. Check The CPU And Cabinet Fans
The main thing that increases your CPU temperature, especially at idle, is a faulty CPU fan.
When the system is idle, it shouldn’t run hot, and you shouldn’t hear the fans working.
If the CPU is hot, and you don’t hear the fan working, you need to inspect the fans.
To check your fan is working properly:
- Turn off your computer, unplug all the connections, and open the case.
- Turn the fans with your hand to make sure they can move mechanically.
- Now, plug the connections again and turn on the system, checking if the fan is working or not.
- If it’s not, you should replace it, preferably with a stronger fan with a higher speed.
- Check all the fans attached to the CPU, GPU, and the case, to make sure everything is okay.
Even if the GPU’s fan isn’t working, it can lead to higher temperatures in other PC parts, including the CPU.
If the fan’s working properly, you need to check for other issues.
2. Check If The Vents Are Blocked
Another crucial factor that leads to CPU heating is improper ventilation.
Your PC has vents in the back of the case to ensure proper and sufficient airflow and prevent overheating.
If these vents are blocked, the CPU may get hot.
Make sure nothing is blocking these airways by inspecting everything inside or outside the case.
Ensure the case isn’t pushed against a wall or any obstructing surface.
The same applies to laptops.
If you look at the sides of your laptop, you’ll see holes or grille-like surfaces on the bottom or side of the laptop, designed to provide airflow.
Some of these vents draw air inside, and some push it outside the laptop.
Ensure nothing obstructs these vents to rule out improper airflow as a probable cause for CPU heating.
To do so, when the laptop is working, preferably running a heavy app, check out these vents to see if they blow out any hot air.
If there’s no hot air coming out, the vents are most likely clogged, and you need to clean them.
To avoid blocking airways, you need to place the computer in a well-ventilated area.
Don’t put it in places where it will attract dust, such as in front of windows.
For laptops, put them on cool pads to allow proper ventilation and always give your PC enough breathing room.
If your room is hot, cool it down using a fan or AC, but don’t leave the case of your desktop PC open.
You may increase the airflow in and around the system, but you’ll attract large amounts of dust, leading to clogged fans and increased heat.
For laptops, never put them on fluffy surfaces like pillows, blankets, or carpets.
The particles from these surfaces easily get sucked in by the fans, making them clogged.
3. Increase The CPU Fan Speed
Even if the fans aren’t faulty, they may not work fast enough to cool down the CPU effectively.
After cleaning the fans and making sure nothing keeps them from working properly, you can increase the CPU fan’s speed to make it more effective.
There are different ways to go about that, and one of them is through the hidden fan settings in the BIOS.
To do so,
- Press Windows + I keys together and open the “Settings” app.
- Click on Update & Security.
- Locate Recovery on the left pane and click on it.
- Click Restart Now under Advanced Startup.
- Select Troubleshoot and click on Advanced options.
- Select UEFI Firmware Settings and click on Restart.
Now, the PC boots in BIOS.
- Search for the fan settings among the options listed on the BIOS page.
Depending on your PC manufacturer, you may need to find it under different options.
You may need to search around a bit.
Some manufacturers allow you to determine and regulate the fan speed by choosing from different values, while others require you to disable the CPU fan silent mode to make it run at maximum speed.
Use Third-Party Apps
If you think you don’t have enough skills to run your computer in the BIOS or fear that you may mess up something, you can leave this job to a third-party app.
There’s a wide range of apps that take care of the CPU fan speed.
SpeedFan is one of the best fan-monitoring apps that help you monitor and regulate the performance and speed of your CPU and cabinet fans.
It also helps in monitoring other parameters, such as CPU temperature, Vcore voltage, and HDD temperature.
This free app allows you to monitor the average, minimum, and maximum speeds of up to five cabinet fans and the CPU fan.
However, SpeedFan only works for Windows 10 and doesn’t work on laptops.
You can use it to monitor speed fans, but you can’t change them.
Another great third-party app is HWMonitor, which is also free and works on Windows.
It allows you to track up to three cabinet fans and the CPU fan’s speed in real-time and their minimum and maximum speeds.
You can see and save a lot of system performance stats, including the CPU voltage, motherboard voltage, power usage, and core temperature.
It’s simple to use, and you can change the speed of your CPU fan through its interface.
4. Maintain And Regularly Clean Your PC
Laptops and PCs can draw and accumulate dirt, dust, and other debris from outside.
These particles can turn into layers of dust over time and obstruct airways and fans.
If these layers form on the CPU, they can act as an insulation layer, trapping the hot air inside the device.
Always make sure your computer’s innards are clean and dust-free.
These dust layers can lead to many other problems besides CPU heating.
Note that cleaning and dusting your computer’s innards isn’t something you do whenever you run into a problem like overheating.
Instead, you should do it regularly, especially if you live in a high dust environment, have a pet that sheds hair, or smoke near your PC.
Yes, smoking near your PC can also lead to ash buildup and obstruct airflow.
How To Clean A Desktop Computer
Here’s how to clean your desktop PC:
Turn off the system and remove all the cables and peripherals, especially the power cable.
You could make sure the electricity inside the components is fully drained by pressing and holding the power button for a few seconds.
That’s because compressed air may contain moisture that can cause trouble if it reaches or gets trapped inside the components.
Take the PC to a well-ventilated room or your backyard or balcony since you’ll be blowing dust out of the computer.
If your room isn’t well-ventilated, be prepared to clean the room and wear a mask to avoid inhaling the dust.
Open the case and the side panel by removing the screws.
If the side panel has a fan attached, disconnect the fan’s power cables.
If you can easily remove any components, it’s better to do it because you can also clean the area underneath the component.
Grab the can of compressed air and release the air by holding the trigger.
Clean all parts of the computer this way, including the CPU itself, RAM slots, and circuits.
Finally, you could clean the components using a damp cloth to ensure there’s no dust residue.
How To Clean A Laptop
Opening a laptop’s panel to clean it isn’t easy and everyone’s job, so it’s better to do it without opening the laptop.
To clean the inside of a laptop, use a can of compressed air and blow the dust outside.
Some laptops have fans encased inside removable panels, making them easy to clean.
You can easily unscrew the panel and open it to clean the fan by blowing dust outside.
Take out the fan and clean the area underneath it, which is, in most cases, full of dust.
Use a microfiber cloth or lint-free fabric dampened with contact cleaner to make sure there’s no residue after cleaning.
5. Reapply Thermal Paste
The heat sink is another essential factor that regulates the temperature around the CPU and cools it down.
If the heat sink isn’t properly attached to the CPU, or more commonly, the thermal paste is old and dry, you’ll experience raised CPU temperatures.
If you built your own PC or have changed the thermal paste before, you may have put the heat sink not exactly in the right place or applied too much or too little of the thermal paste.
Although reapplying thermal paste isn’t difficult, it takes a good amount of knowledge and skill to apply it properly and avoid spills.
If you don’t have enough skill or don’t know your way around the computer, it’s better to leave it to a professional.
Particularly, if you use a liquid-based thermal paste instead of silicon-based types, you’ll run the risk of short-circuiting in case of spills.
To check the thermal paste,
- Unplug your PC and remove all the cables, including the power cord and connectivity cables.
- Remove the case’s side panel and locate the CPU’s cooling fan.
- Unscrew the cooling fan and disconnect the motherboard cables.
- Now, you should clean the old thermal paste completely with a microfiber cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol.
You could also use Q-tips instead of the microfiber cloth.
- Rub the cloth or Q-tip gently on the heatsink and the CPU until all the old thermal paste is gone.
- Rubbing alcohol will evaporate quickly, but use a dry microfiber cloth on all the surfaces to make sure everything is clean.
Here’s the sensitive part where you should apply enough thermal paste to cover the whole heat sink without spilling on the CPU screws.
Apply a pea-sized drop of thermal paste and leave it there.
You could gently spread the paste across the CPU, but it’s unnecessary.
All you need to do is put the heatsink back on the CPU and wait until it dries.
Then tighten all the screws and connect the cables.
Finally, clean all the internal parts of the case, especially the fans and filters, using a blower or compressed air.
Applying thermal paste on a laptop CPU could be a little more complicated because each laptop brand has its own way of disassembling.
Therefore, it’s better to search your laptop brand and see exactly how to open the back panel and locate the CPU.
However, applying thermal paste is the same for laptop and desktop PCs.
6. Reduce The Load Of Your PC
Sometimes the CPU temperature rises not because of hardware issues but for software-related reasons.
Some CPU-intensive programs raise CPU temperatures significantly.
Games, video editing programs, and even antivirus software can be so CPU-intensive that they heat it up while using.
If you aren’t sure which programs push your CPU to its limits, you can use the Task Manager and see which programs use the most CPU resources.
Decide which of these programs can be deleted to reduce the load on the CPU, although it’s not always possible.
For example, removing your antivirus software isn’t a good idea, but you can use less-intensive alternatives.
In addition, you can manage your time to avoid multitasking and run these intensive programs while you aren’t using any others.
This way, you reduce the load on your system and make sure it doesn’t put any strain on your system.
Some programs run in the background and won’t allow you to notice them.
These programs are mostly bloatware, malware, and viruses that engage your CPU resources massively without you noticing.
It’s vital to have a strong and effective antivirus installed on your system to delete these programs.
However, if you have to continue overclocking or need to run CPU-intensive programs simultaneously, you can invest in a high-quality CPU fan or change your PC’s cooling system.
Liquid cooling systems involve tubes filled with water that runs throughout the system to absorb the generated heat.
You can get them in kits and have them installed by a professional.
7. Don’t Overclock
Overclocking is another major culprit that raises CPU temps.
Since overclocking involves pushing your computer to its limit, it has to increase the operating voltage to maintain the components’ stability.
This increased voltage leads to more power consumption and increased temps.
That’s why some manufacturers state that overclocking voids their warranties.
If you overclock your system regularly, and the raised CPU temps appeared when you started overclocking, that’s the main culprit.
Even if you think overclocking isn’t the main cause of increased CPU temps, you should always monitor your PC’s temperatures to ensure it doesn’t damage your components.
Check your CPU temps before starting to overclock your system and make sure they’re not high already.
If so, avoid overclocking or take steps to make it safer, like not raising the voltage.
Is High CPU Temperature Dangerous?
CPU and computer heating is a normal issue because heat is a natural by-product of power consumption.
The CPU and GPU are the two most important components that are always hot.
Modern computer systems are designed and made with this issue in mind and effective cooling solutions.
They also feature “Thermal Throttling,” which reduces the PC’s performance when it reaches a certain temperature.
You may wonder when you should worry about the heating problem and when it’s natural.
It’s when the CPU or the whole system can’t cool down that you should worry about.
Overheating can damage the internal parts of your computer.
For example, it may warp or crack the plastic components.
If these physical damages occur to the wires, they may melt and cause electric shocks.
In severe cases, the excess heat can fry your CPU or GPU.
However, you don’t need to worry about these problems most of the time because modern computers have failsafe systems that automatically shut down the computer when it reaches a certain temperature.
That said, you can use some programs, such as Core Temp, to monitor your CPU temperature and make sure the temps don’t exceed 80 to 90 degrees Celsius.