Video Games

Optimal CPU and GPU Temperatures for Gaming Computers

The GPU and CPU in your computer are more than just extremely important to its operation. These two hardware components, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) perform differently in different environments, which means unless both of these components are at the optimal temperatures, one or both of them will wreak havoc on your gaming system in terms of performance.

Before we discuss what the optimal temperatures are for your CPU and GPU, let us first tackle why temperature is so crucial to your computer’s overall health and performance.

Is Temperature Really Important When It Comes to Your CPU and GPU?

The short answer to the question: “Is the temperature really important when it comes to your CPU and GPU” is a very resounding YES, even if most of us do not pay enough attention to these temperatures.

The reason why temperatures matter with regard to the CPU and GPU in your computer is not very difficult to figure out. Just like the components in an automobile, certain parts of your computer will perform better or worse depending on the temperature. This is why, in a car, it is so crucial to keep your radiator full. Otherwise, the engine will overheat and you may even damage that engine and other surrounding parts. Similarly, you will notice that your car doesn’t run optimally when it’s really cold outside, which is why the proper oil and anti-freeze is so important.

The CPU and GPU in your computer both work according to these same principles, even if the method for cooling these components is drastically different. The biggest problem for CPUs and GPUs is, of course, heat. When your computer is running a lot of different programs or handling a lot of data at once, such as when gaming on the ultra settings, these components can then overheat. Too much heat can then damage or crash your computer completely, ruining your game and perhaps your entire gaming setup.

The cold could also be a problem for a computer, but the low end on the recommended optimal temperature scale for the CPU and GPU is fairly difficult to reach, mostly because people rarely play their games in a cold or outdoor setting.

To solve the problem of overheating in the CPU and GPU your computer relies on constant and consistent airflow. This airflow is the result of a system of fans that are designed to cool the machine, or at least keep these two components at an optimal temperature for their operation.

What Is the Optimal Temperature for Your CPU and GPU?

The optimal temperature for your CPU and GPU is different, as is the manner in which each of these parts is cooled. Therefore, we will look at each component separately.

CPU Optimal Temperature

The question: “What is the optimal temperature for a CPU” does not have a clear-cut answer. That’s because the [optimal] temperature range for CPUs varies depending on the manufacturer and type of CPU, as well as the age of the processing unit.

The older Intel processors, for example, work optimally at a temperature that ranges from 60 degrees centigrade to 85 degrees centigrade. This optimal temperature range changes for Intel processors as you move to the newer ones being produced, such as the “Intel Core” range of processors. With these newer Intel CPUs, the perfect temperature range is 50 degrees centigrade to 65 degrees centigrade, substantially cooler than in the older models. We suspect this change in the optimal CPU temperature for Intel processors is the product of new and improved fan technology, but the reason for the temperature change in these newer Intel processors has never been fully explained by the company.

When looking at the popular AMD CPUs, we see that the temperature ranges for optimal performance follow a similar pattern to those of Intel. In these renowned processors, the older central processing units, such as the AMD Athlon and the AMD Athlon 64 Mobile, the optimal temperature ranges from roughly 75 degrees centigrade to 90 degrees centigrade. Compare that range to that of the newer AMD CPUs, such as the AMD Ryzen and the AMD A10, and you see an optimal temperature range that goes from 50 degrees centigrade to 60 degrees centigrade—a noticeable difference that can also probably be explained away by better fan efficiency in the new models.

When taken together, all of this information seems to suggest that the CPU in your personal laptop or desktop computer prefers a lower temperature when that CPU is newer and a slightly higher temperature range when the CPU is an older model. Thus, if you have one of these newer processors it is vital that you have a high quality plan in place for keeping the temperatures lower, such as an airier case that improves air flow to these components, and a top-notch fan system designed to dissipate the hottest of temperatures. You should also download one of the many utility programs that enable you to monitor the temperature of your CPU and GPU and make changes when the temperatures are exceeding the recommended range.

By taking these very crucial steps, you can help ensure that the CPU in your new computer will continue to work at optimal levels and produce the type of performance you look for as a gamer.

GPU Optimal Temperature

So what about the optimal temperature in the Graphics Processing Unit, or GPU, which is so important to gaming? Do you need to take some steps to keep this component cool? Actually, not really, but you should monitor the temperature to ensure all the parts are working correctly.

The reason why GPUs are different than CPUs is that the former rely on a different system for keeping them cool and at optimal temperatures. This system is designed to prevent overheating of the GPU, which could cause a lot of problems with—and damage to—your gaming setup.

A GPU typically has onboard fans; fans that will kick into high gear when the GPU is beginning to overheat. These onboard fans do a great job of regulating the temperatures of the GPU to keep it working at optimal levels.

Generally speaking, the perfect temperature for a GPU in your computer is very similar to that of the older CPUs—about 65 degrees centigrade to 90 degrees centigrade. As a user, it is imperative that you monitor and maintain a temperature in this range, which will then keep the graphics processing unit operating in tip-top shape.

As a gaming enthusiast, monitoring and maintaining an optimal temperature for both your GPU and CPU could translate to much greater performance within the games you play and your overall gaming system.

Next we will describe briefly how to check the temperature of these hardware components using two different methods.

How to Check the Temperature of Your CPU and GPU

Checking the temperature of your CPU and GPU is not very difficult. Here we will describe two ways for checking these components: in the BIOS system and via a utility program.

Every computer has a BIOS screen, but unless you know what you are doing we recommend you never make any changes to this system or you may risk permanent damage to your computer. The BIOS screen on a computer will show you the temperature of various components within the machine, including the GPU and CPU. To access this screen, follow the steps outlined below:

  • Turn your computer off and then restart the computer.
  • As the computer is booting up, hit the delete key on your keyboard. You may have to press it two or three times for the BIOS screen to appear.
  • Once you have accessed the BIOS screen, you should be able to see the temperature of the CPU and GPU.
  • If the information you are looking for is not on the first screen, keep scrolling until you find the temperature.
  • Exit the BIOS screen (without making any changes) and allow your computer to start normally.

The second way to check the temperature of your CPU and GPU is through a utility program. This program may already be included with your new computer, or you may have to download the utility program from the website of your computer’s manufacturer.

Once you download and click on the free utility program, you’ll be directed to a page that will allow you to see the temperature of both the CPU and GPU. Depending on the type and brand of utility program you use, you may also be able to do other tasks, such as over-clock and modify the speed of your GPU and CPU fans in an effort to bring rapid cooling to the machine.

Understanding the optimal temperature for both your CPU and GPU—as well as monitoring those temperatures on a regular basis—is the best way to keep your gaming setup working at a consistent level of performance.

image credit: Michael Saechang, Flickr

About the author

Sam Frazier

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family.

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