Us gamers like to push our hardware to its absolute limit, squeezing every last bit of performance from our silicon. However, when does “hot” get too hot? At what temps do our processors and graphics cards start to become unstable?
There’s no one answer to this question, as every CPU and GPU model has a different temperature tolerance.
Here in this guide we will show you the maximum safe temperatures for your hardware.
What Should the Temperatures of my PC Components be When Gaming?
The ideal temperatures vary vastly across different CPU and GPU models (learn about the difference between CPU’s, GPU’s and APU’s), especially when comparing models from different manufactures or models that are years apart.
However, there has been a general trend of decreasing temperatures over the years. Today’s CPUs and GPUs run much cooler than their counterparts did 10 or 15 years ago. This trend is the result of greater efficiency, as well as more intricate designs that have lower temperature tolerances.
Optimal CPU Temperature While Gaming
In the past AMD CPUs operated at much higher temperatures than Intel processors, due to inefficient design and old technology. However, modern day AMD Ryzen CPUs actually now run at slightly cooler temps than Intel 7th and 8th gen CPUs.
Generally for modern Intel processors, your idle temps should not be higher than 40-45°C, and your load temps should not be higher than around 80-90°C.
For AMD processors, your idle temps should not exceed 40-45°C, and your load temps should not go over 75°C.
If your CPU temps are abnormally high, there is likely a problem with your cooling system or an unsafe overclock.
Factors that go into CPU Temps
Apart from what CPU you have, there are a bunch of factors going into what your CPU temps will be.
1. Your CPU Loads
This factor is probably pretty obvious to everyone, but the more load your CPU is under, the hotter it will run at. The more cores that are being utilized, the hotter the overall chip will be.
2. You CPU Cooler
If you’re running the puny little Intel stock cooler, don’t expect your temps to be great.
- Running an aftermarket heat sink with a good fan will help drastically decrease your CPU temps.
- Running a good AIO watercooler will further decrease your CPU temps and allow you to do some sick overclocks.
- Running a custom loop with two 360mm radiators will make your CPU run very very very cool.
However, just because a cooler is an AIO water cooler does not mean it’s automatically better than every air cooler out there. The effectiveness of your cooling solution is determined not by how much heat your system can store, but is instead determined by how effectively your system can expel heat. While water is much better at holding heat than some aluminum fins, it is also much more difficult to cool water down as the specific heat of water is so high. There are many high-end air coolers that are better at dissipating heat than cheaper AIO coolers.
3. You CPU Overclock
Overclocking you CPU will result in exponential increases in temperature while your clock speeds will only increase linearly. Even when running a good aftermarket CPU cooler, you processor will get over toasty after a good 5 GHz overclock.
4. You Thermal Paste
The type of thermal paste your use can make a small difference in how hot your CPU is running. Using a cheap $1 tube of thermal paste from India will not help your temps, but then again using the highest end Grizzly Kryonaut compound will only give you temp improvements in the low single digits.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what thermal paste you use as long as your are getting something with good reviews unless you are an extreme overclocking enthusiast trying to get every drop of performance from your hardware.
5. The Ambient Temperature of Your Room
The ambient temperature of your room is a factor that people often forget about when explaining their CPU temps, as it doesn’t seem to be part of the PC system. However, the ambient temp of your room has a measurable effect on your CPU temperature, especially at lower idle temps. If you live in a warm place and don’t have much air conditioning, your CPU will run slightly hotter than the guy from Northern Minnesota that is too cheap to heat his room.
6. Your Case Airflow
How the airflow in your case is affects your CPU temps especially if you are using an air cooler because no matter how good your CPU cooler is, if the warm air doesn’t leave the vicinity of the CPU, even the best cooler isn’t very useful.
Generally, a PC with higher airflow will result in lower CPU temps as warm is is pumped out quicker and cool air is pumped in quicker. Airflow depends on both the fan setup you have in your case and the design of the case itself.
It’s difficult for cases with air filters and small form factors to have good airflow, as air moves the best when it has an open and unobstructed path.
Optimal GPU Temperature While Gaming
The maximum safe temps for your graphics card is slightly higher than those of CPUs.
For the most part, you don’t want your graphics cards running hotter than 85-95°C, though some Radeon cards are designed to run at even higher temps.
Generally, idle temps shouldn’t exceed 45-50°C in your graphics card, take note of this when you are overclocking your GPU. You may want to consider underclocking your GPU as a stopgap if you don’t have a better cooling system on hand and your GPU idle temps constantly run high.
Factors that go into GPU Temps
Apart from factors like ambient room temperature, your case fan setup, and the types of loads that are being put on your video card that also affect the temperatures of all your active PC components, the main determinant in your the temperature of your graphics card is it’s own cooling system. There are three main types of cooling systems dedicated graphics cards use.
1. Open-Air Cooler
This is by far the most common graphics card cooler on the market today, with probably 90% of cards having some sort of open air cooler. The prototypical graphics card with the double fans is using the open-air cooler.
An open-air cooler operates by have fans pull in air from the outside of the card into a heak sink that covers the whole of the PCB. After carrying away some of the GPU’s heat, the warm air exits through the open sides of the heatsink.
Generally, open-air coolers on graphics cards feature two ~80mm fans mounted side-by-side, but compact ITX graphics cards use only one fan and some higher end cards feature up to three fans.
2. Blower Style
Instead of using fans that cover the entire surface of the heat sink that exhausts air from all four sides of the heat sink like on open-air coolers, blower style coolers intake air from inside the case using one blower fan that intakes air from the end of the graphics card and exhausts out of the other side of the card to the exterior of the case. Along the way, the air crosses the heat sink and carries heat away from the card to the outside of the case.
The blower style cooler is a rarer type of cooler is more cost effective and simpler to make than open-air coolers. As a result, cards with blower style coolers are usually slightly cheaper.
Blower style coolers are most commonly used on reference cards because of the lower cost and better compatibility on OEM systems.
Blower fan cards are usually worse that managing temperatures than open-air coolers (and are louder too), frequently running at temps are few degrees higher than cards that have good open-air coolers.
However, blower style coolers actually superior for small form factor builds where there is little interior case space as open-air coolers can quickly heat up the interior of a small ITX case as warm air stays inside the case, quickly heating it up.
3. Water cooled
Some high end graphics cards come with build in AIO water cooling systems. These AIO coolers are very similar to CPU AIO coolers, except that the waterblock is already attached to the graphics card.
AIO coolers deliver the lowest temperatures, as the external radiator, even if it’s a small 120mm, enables much quicker dissipation of heat because of more surface area and bigger fans.
However, water cooled cards are significantly more expensive than their non-water cooled counterparts, usually costing upwards of $100 more.