Got a new gaming PC and worried you might cook it while gaming? Wondering what a normal CPU temperature is while gaming? A normal Intel or AMD processor should be around 45 to 50 °C, and shouldn’t exceed 80°C.
I’ve been a gamer all my life, from Pentium to the latest AMD Ryzen CPUs, I’ve had a wide variety of processors under my PC’s hood. Thankfully, I’ve never burnt a CPU (knock on wood), even though summers go up to 46°C where I live. So, getting a modern CPU to fail due to temperature is hard. Sure it may throttle, but there are some serious failsafes in place to prevent straight failures.
Defining “normal CPU temp while gaming” can be tricky. It depends on many physical factors that we will discuss in detail in this article, so you can have a smoother and cooler gaming experience.
You probably know how much stress a video game can put on your system. Sure, many modern games offload most of the graphical load to the GPU, but a lot of calculations still happen on the CPU side. Some games that require complex calculations, for example, real-time strategy games like Command & Conquer and Age of Empires, are notoriously taxing on the CPU. The more load on the CPU, the greater power it will need to run, and as a result, produce more heat.
While gaming, your PC, especially the CPU, needs to run at peak performance, so you don’t feel any frame drops or input lag in the game. Generally speaking, most modern games consume around 70-90% resources a CPU has to offer, of course, that also depends on how old your processor is. As we know, with more power comes more heat; Spider-Man knows this as well.
So what is an optimal or normal CPU temp while PC gaming? A simple answer would be anything under 80 °C is a good CPU temp. However, we all know it is not that simple.
The temperature limits depend on what type of CPU you are using. Whether you are running the latest AMD processor or an older Intel CPU, the limits vary a lot in most cases.
These days, the good CPU Temp while gaming range lies somewhere between 75-80 °C.
There are several conditions that influence CPU temperature like the duration of peak performance and overclocking. We will discuss all these below.
Modern games assign most of the physics and graphical heavy work to the GPU. That wasn’t the case before, and most games only ran using the CPU back in the day. A CPU has some breathing room if it’s not defective or isn’t bottle-necking the processor.
That doesn’t mean the CPU gets a free pass when it comes to loads, there are several games that are taxing even on the most expensive gaming CPU, either by having a lot of units on-screen or with their notoriously bad optimization.
In my opinion, the CPU temperature when gaming should be around 75-80 °C at max during load. Idle CPU temperature should be significantly less.
If you are hitting temperatures above 80 °C on a relatively modern CPU during video games then you should be concerned. Even more so if the idle CPU temp is high. Here is how you can determine what is causing high temperatures during your long gaming sessions.
It may seem surprising, but Windows doesn’t have a tool that allows you to measure CPU temperature. You can check the load and performance but you can’t see the CPU temperature. Thankfully, there are third-party tools that can help you see active CPU temps even during games.
I highly recommend MSI Afterburner, a great tool that displays not only temperature but also gives you more control over your gaming PC. You don’t need MSI motherboards or graphics cards for it to work on your device either. Some features are exclusive, but temperature measuring isn’t.
You can also use Ryzen Master Utility for AMD CPU and Intel Extreme Tuning Utility for Intel processors. They display almost everything you need to know about your CPU temps while gaming and provide you with safe overclocking tools as well. The Ryzen Master Utility, as the name suggests, works only with Ryzen processors which include B350, B450, X570, X470, X370, and X399-based chips. The Intel tool is dedicated to Intel processors.
I personally use HWMonitor simply because it gives accurate data on CPU and GPU temperature during a session. Usually, I don’t like immersion-breaking overlays displaying FPS and CPU Temps constantly. This is where HWMonitor shines as it records the lowest and highest CPU temp, giving you a rough idea of how taxing a game session was.
The NZXT CAM application is pretty great when it comes to accuracy. Yes, the chassis maker also has an app and to my surprise, it works wonderfully. It gives real-time data on CPU temp, fan speeds, and even the clock speed of your CPU. It works with all PCs, even if you don’t have an NZXT case.
Here are a few ways you can manually spot your PC getting overheated:
The PC will reboot automatically. This may happen as soon as the CPU reaches unbearable and damaging temperatures. It may result in a Blue Screen or, depending on what motherboard you are using, a CPU temperatures warning screen when the PC turns on. Usually, this happens when you are in the middle of a game, resulting in a lot of frustration if you are playing multiplayer or saved the game an hour ago.
Some motherboards come with a dedicated temperature alarm that can trigger when it gets overheated. You’ll need to look at the manual to know what the alarm sounds like.
Another simple way to spot a CPU getting overheated is the fan noise. Most fans start making whirring noises when running at maximum RPM. If you constantly hear your fans working overtime, it might be because they are trying to cool the PC down.
When it comes to shortening the lifespan of your CPU, yes, high CPU temperatures while gaming are dangerous. Worried about your CPU physically catching fire? Well, modern CPUs have fail-safes in place to avoid any physical damage. The processor will automatically slow down when it gets to a certain temperature. You will experience jitters or programs not running properly when that happens.
The processor will also turn itself off to avoid permanent damage and display a warning when you reboot the PC. So, you don’t have to worry about it getting super hot and burning down the whole PC with it. High CPU temperatures can warp the materials of your hardware. Any plastic in the vicinity is prone to get damaged as well. If you want to use your PC for a long period of time and want it to run reliably, it is best to keep the CPU and GPU temperatures lower at all times.
Keeping normal CPU temps while gaming is easy but requires regular maintenance. Your PC requires upkeep to run properly, especially if you're going to use it for 6-8 hours at a time. I know how intense weekend Warzone sessions can become. Here is how you can keep it running in great condition for a long time:
Dust is the number one enemy of your PC, doubly so if you have a furry friend at home. Cat and dog hair can affect the well-being of your PC and it may require regular cleaning sessions. If you have carpeted floors, the frequency of cleaning will be double. I don’t make the rules.
Dusting the chassis from the outside is well and good, but you need to open it up and clean the insides as well. Dust is always going to accumulate and can seriously affect the internal airflow if neglected for a long time. Less airflow means less cooling, which in turn leads to overheating issues.
Dust is also notoriously hard to get rid of, as it can make its way inside seemingly impossible places. No, this wasn’t a Star Wars joke, I was being serious. I recommend using compressed air on parts that are hard to reach. I’ve also used a blower on my PCs before but make sure you don’t use it up close and discharge any static electricity after you are done. Compressed air is the safer and easier bet, though, so if you are unsure, go with that. Just make sure that you take the PC outside to clean it. It will be surprisingly dusty, and you don’t want the dust to linger in your gaming room.
A PC chassis may look amazing but it can have bad airflow management. This can result in higher than normal CPU temps while gaming. It may seem like a problem of the past, but I’ve seen some modern PC cases completely throw airflow out the window. So, make sure you get a good-quality PC case for your gaming build.
Bad cable management can severely hamper the CPU performance as well. Especially if you are going to use a beefy GPU with a powerful CPU. Cable management can take some time to sort out, but it is well worth it in the long run. If you are unsure how to go about it, there are several YouTube videos that can help you. I like JayzTwoCents’ take on this.
At the end of the day, you can always take your PC to a professional and have cable management done there. Remember, zip ties are your friends.
If you are air cooling your PC, you’ll need fans and a proper way to establish “push/pull” air. Generally, you'll need one exhaust fan and one intake fan, but you can increase the number as much as you like. Some chassis allow 3 fans on the front and a few fan placements on the top. You can have three intakes with one on the back and one on the top act as exhausts. Remember, hot air rises, so having one additional exhaust at the top can help.
Additionally, many mid-range chassis come with generic fans that are not that great. Getting proper fans that have high CFM (cubic feet per minute) can lower the temperatures significantly.
The ambient temperature gets ignored most of the time, but they are equally important. If you are air cooling your PC and your room temperature is at 40 °C, you’ll be blowing hot air inside already. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to deal with ambient temperature except by getting air conditioning.
Another solution is to get a water cooling system installed on your PC. However, this is still dependent on ambient temperature somewhat, so it might not be as effective as simply having a CPU cooler room.
If you’ve been using your PC for quite a while, it might be time to change the crusty old thermal paste. Here is a handy and detailed guide on how to change thermal paste by Intel. It also applies to AMD processors. Remember, don’t overdo it and only use a small amount of thermal paste.
Overclocking may sound cool, but I can verify, it is absolutely not cool when it comes to CPU temperatures. It may get you some initial boost in FPS, but if it's not paired with some great cooling solutions, it will heat up and throttle performance in the long run. Trust me, you don’t want to see frames drop in the middle of an online firefight.
Thinking that you never overclocked your processor? Well, some modern pre-built systems come with overclocked components by default. So, I recommend toning down the overclock in hotter months of the summer. You may lose some frames, but you will gain a reliable and longer-lasting CPU. You can use tools provided by the manufacturer or, if you are confident, do this directly with BIOS.
There you have it, a comprehensive guide on what normal CPU temp while gaming should be, why it is caused, and how you can resolve it. Hopefully, this guide will make your PC run cooler for years to come. Unless you are eyeing that latest CPU that’s out of your budget and just need someone to tell you to upgrade, just “Go ahead, buy that expensive CPU champ”.