Fix: CPU Overheating

Is your CPU overheating? Here all possible solutions to this common issue. Learn how to cool down your CPU with these easy solutions!

The central processing unit (CPU) and the graphics processing unit (GPU) are the two pieces of hardware that produce the most heat in any computer.

How much heat a CPU (or a GPU) will produce depends on its power draw. A bigger power draw usually means better performance.

However, if a processor’s temperature goes above its maximum limit, it can start throttling and finally overheating, resulting in a system shutdown.

If you are having issues with a CPU overheating, this is where you will find a solution to those problems.

Let’s fix that CPU!

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Table of ContentsShow

Fix 1: Dust Off Cooler

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Any CPU from these past ten years or more can’t work without an active cooler. In other words, you most probably have a cooler on your PC.

Over time, dust will almost always start gathering inside of the system. Usually, the dust that accumulates in the computer isn’t a huge issue, but it can become one if left unattended for a long time.

This is especially true if a lot of dust is stuck in the CPU’s fan/cooler.

dust stuck in CPU fan

So, if you have never cleaned your computer from dust before, this might be the reason why your processor is overheating.

Here’s a quick guide to help you with cleaning your PC:

  1. Bring your PC outside (there is going to be a lot of dust).
  2. Take the side-panel screws off your computer (a screwdriver may not be needed if there are thumbscrews).
  3. To get rid of the dust, you can use an anti-static microfiber cloth, a compressed air can, or an electric blower.
  4. Your main focus should be the CPU coolers, its fans, and the case fans. If needed, remove the fan from the cooler for some in-depth cleaning.

Once you think the PC is clean enough, close it up, plug it in and test it out. Make sure to use the right monitoring software for accurate temperature readings.

Fix 2: Troubleshoot Your Air Cooler

If dusting the entire PC didn’t improve thermal performance, the problem might be with the cooler itself.

But, wait. That does not mean that you should immediately get out and buy yourself a new cooler. First, let’s try to do some troubleshooting.

Fix 2.1: Check If The Fan Is Working

First things first, you’ll have to check whether the fan is actually working. If you don’t have a PC case with a window/glass panel, you’ll need to open it up.

So, leave your computer running, open the side panel and look inside to ensure that the fan on the CPU cooler is spinning. If it isn’t, maybe try running a game to ensure that the CPU hits that temperature threshold to start the fans spinning.

After all this testing, the fan doesn’t spin; you will need to replace it.

Fortunately, most CPU coolers have interchangeable fans, so you can basically replace them with any other fan you can find. Just make sure it is the right size.

Fix 2.2: Make Sure CPU Fan Is Plugged In

The fan might not be spinning because it simply isn’t plugged in.

This can happen when a computer is being moved around, or maybe it was never plugged in correctly, so it finally lost proper contact.

However, before you start poking around in the PC, make sure it is completely turned off this time. Also, press the switch on the back of the case to shut off power to the PSU. We also recommend pressing the case’s power button several times to empty all capacitors of power.

You can now safely reach into the PC and look for the fan cable. Trace it to its end and see if it is plugged anywhere. If it isn’t, look for a 4-pin (sometimes 3-pin) header with the writing CPU_Fan around it.

Usual CPU Fan header location
Usual CPU_Fan header location

Keep in mind; you can also use the CPU_OPT and CPU_PUMP headers.

After you’ve plugged the fan in, leave the case open, boot the PC and see whether it spins up. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to resort to a more expensive solution.

Fix 2.3: Adjust Fan Curve

When the CPU fan spins up as intended, but you’re still having overheating troubles, the fan curve on your PC may be simply not aggressive enough.

You can adjust your computer’s fan curve either through your motherboard’s software or BIOS.

Fan curve adjustments in NZXT Cam software
Fan curve adjustments in NZXT Cam software

Check out AI Suite for ASUS boards, SpeedFan, Easy Tune for Gigabyte, Argus Monitor, NZXT CAM, and others.

If the software does not pick up your fans, it’s best to use your BIOS for fan control. To get to your system’s BIOS, restart the computer and immediately start spamming the F2, Delete, or F10 keys (depends on the motherboard brand).

Once you get into your BIOS, start looking for fan control options and make sure to select the correct fan (CPU).

BIOS fan curve
BIOS fan curve

You can also play around with the case fan curves to push the temperatures even lower. Keep in mind; this will increase system noise.

Fix 3: Troubleshoot Your AIO

Water coolers or AIOs work a bit more differently than regular air coolers. They are also more expensive and have more failure points like the pump, tubes, radiator, and fans.

Although today’s AIOs are much safer and are built to last.

However, it is still definitely possible that the AIO is the cause of CPU overheating in your system, so let’s troubleshoot it!

Fix 3.1: Ensure Pump Is Plugged In

The pump is the most important part of every water cooling loop. Its role is to pump the water into the radiator, where it’s cooled and then pulled back into the pump to cool the processor.

If the pump is plugged in the wrong header or isn’t plugged at all, there’s a risk of CPU overheating.

To check that, resort to the same guide we shared above about plugging the CPU fan in. However, this time, instead of looking for the CPU_Fan header, try to find a CPU_PUMP header. This header is best for AIO pumps because it cannot be controlled and always runs at 100%.

Not all motherboards have this header, though. Alternatively, you can use CPU_OUT or CPU_FAN headers.

Fix 3.2: Ensure Pump Is Running At 100%

This step is crucial for any system with an AIO. The pump needs to be working at full power to ensure that the water runs through the water cooling loop as often as possible. Otherwise, your CPU can overheat.

If your pump is connected to the CPU_PUMPheader, you don’t have to do anything as your pump is already running at 100%.

CPU Fan Header AIO Pump Header Chassis Fan Header

But, if it isn’t, then you will have to head into your BIOS. So, again, restart your PC and start mashing F2, F10, or Delete.

Once you are in your BIOS, head over to fan control and select the pump. You should have the option to switch between PWM and DC. You can just select PWM, and the pump will always work at full speed.

Alternatively, you can adjust the fan curve to always ensure that the pump always runs at max speed.

Fix 4: Check And Replace Thermal Paste

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Thermal paste is an essential part of any computer of today. Without it, both GPUs and CPUs can overheat.

The purpose of thermal paste is to eliminate any gaps between a processor’s IHS (integrated heat spreader) and a cooler’s cold plate. By removing the air gaps between these two metal objects, heat can transfer much more efficiently.

Over time, the thermal paste in your computer can dry out. In fact, it is possible that there isn’t any thermal paste applied at all, which can be the cause of overheating.

So, you’ll need to check the thermal paste, clean it up and replace it. But, before you open up your computer, make sure to buy some high-quality thermal paste first, 90%+ isopropyl alcohol, and have toilet paper ready.

Again, make sure there’s no power in the computer!

To make this process a little bit easier for you, here’s a quick guide:

  1. Boot your computer and have it running for a few minutes to warm the CPU up. Don’t skip this step! This step heats up the thermal paste and will be easier to remove the cooler.
  2. Remove your PC’s side panel and remove the four screws on every corner of the cooler.
    removing PC side panel and four screws
  3. Start carefully pulling the cooler towards you. Once removed, put away the cooler and leave the CPU in its socket.
  4. Grab a piece of dry toilet paper, lightly wipe the CPU and then soak another piece of toilet paper with the isopropyl alcohol and lightly rub off the rest of the thermal paste.
  5. Finally, grab the thermal paste (usually comes in a syringe) and put a pea-sized dot in the middle of the processor.
    How To Apply Thermal Paste To A CPU
  6. Screw the cooler back in place, plug the fan/pump in and then boot your computer.

With thermal paste reapplied, CPU temperatures should be normalized. If not, there’s something else bottlenecking your PC.

For those having trouble with thermal paste, here’s a video from Linus Tech Tips that might help you in the process:

Fix 5: Stop Your Overclocks

Related:How To Overclock Your CPUThe Best CPU Overclocking Software For 2022

People rarely overclock their CPUs, but if you are one of those who do, it is time to tone it down a little bit.

That extra power going into the processor might be why it is overheating. So, whether you are using overclocking software or overclocking through your BIOS, it’s time to get your CPU back to its stock settings.

The easiest way to do that is to head over to your BIOS and hit reset to defaults. That will reset your CPU and RAM overclock and any other adjustments you have in your BIOS.

If you cannot access your BIOS for some reason, there is an alternative way to reset it. First, shut down your computer, turn off the PSU power button and open the side panel.

Here, you should be looking for the CMOS battery, a circular and silver object like in the image below.

CMOS battery

To remove it, press the little metal tab on the side. Leave it out for a couple of minutes and then put it back in by pressing it into place.

Boot your computer, spam F2, F10, or Delete to get into BIOS, and every setting should be reset to default.

Fix 6: Add More Case Fans

We’ve gone through the solutions that work for most people. But, if your CPU is still overheating, you might have to spend a couple of dollars for a real solution.

The cheapest way to resolve all of this is by adding more case fans.

More case fans for intake and exhaust can improve air circulation around your processor, ultimately improving temperatures. Fortunately, you can grab a couple of fans for cheap if they don’t have any RGB on them. Unfortunately, RGB fans are usually more expensive.

case fans

Keep in mind the fans’ size (120mm is the most common fan size) and whether you have enough space for more fans.

Additionally, you will need to have enough fan headers on your motherboard. Or you could get a splitter or a fan hub.

Finally, air direction. Fans can either be set as intake or as exhaust. We recommend adding a few to the front for intake and a few on the back (and top) for exhaust.

Here’s an image explaining which side is intake and which exhaust:

fan as air intake and air exhaust
Open side – intake, grille side – exhaust

Fix 7: Replace Your Cooler

Now, we’re moving over to more expensive solutions, unfortunately, but better than having your CPU overheat, right?

After trying everything from above, it’s possible that the cooler is dysfunctional or not powerful enough to cool your CPU.

Either way, you need a new one. But, of course, there are plenty of budget options out there that provide enough cooling for any processor.

It’s not a bad idea to go for high-end AIOs or air coolers. For example, Noctua’s air coolers are considered as some of the best on the market. NZXT’s AIOs are also a great example.

Fix 8: Replace Your CPU

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Finally, comes the worst possible solution and the most expensive one too. No one wants to come to this, but if buying a new cooler, adding more fans, or replacing the thermal paste didn’t fix your CPU overheating problems, there might be no other option.

It’s possible that the CPU’s heat spreader is warped or that the CPU die itself is dysfunctional. If you’re still under warranty, you can send it back to get a new one.

 If not, you will need to spend some money to get a new Ryzen or Intel system running.

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Branko Gapo
Branko Gapo

Keeping up with the incredibly fast evolution of computer technology is almost impossible. That's why Branko will be using his knowledge on this matter to share news and information on all the latest essential technological innovations and advancements related to CPUs.