I constantly hear people complain that their CPU is too hot, and they don’t know whether to be concerned or not. Depending on the processor, the manufacturer, how fast it runs, where the sensor is located, and what programs the system is currently running will you be able to determine what the temperature of the processor should be.

To give you an idea – if you are running basic operations, like having browsing the internet, chatting, or checking email, your processor’s temperature should not exceed 60 C. Currently, as I am typing this, I am running HipChat, Twitter, iTunes, AppleMail and Adium, I am at 40 C – on an iMac 21.5 in + i5 processor. This same operation on my Macbook Pro 2.4GHz would register at around 55 C – based on how the hardware is located.

What happens if my computer’s processor is too hot?

If a processor is running above normal temperature, one of the following will happen.

  • Computer runs much slower
  • Computer restarts often
  • Computer randomly turns off

Continuing to use a computer that has a processor that is exceeding its temperature will reduce the life expectancy of the processor.

What can I do to cool things down?

There are several things you can do to cool down your processor and improve your computer’s functionality.

  • Keep the computer clean – Over time dust, dirt and hair can build up and prevent air from getting in or out of the case. Be sure you don’t eat over your computer, too. Big, big mistake.
  • Improve computer’s environment – Your computer should not be in an enclosed space, such as a drawer or cabinet unless there is plenty of ventilation. The computer should not be in a tight space, there should be at least a two-inch space on both sides of the computer as well as in the front and back of the computer.
  • Run fan diagnostics – Make sure all fans in the computer are properly working. If you believe you are having spinning issues,listen for any abnormal noises to determine if the fans are properly working. You may need to replace your fans before there is any significant damage.
  • Alternative solutions – Cooling systems are always neat… and no, I don’t mean add ice to it.

How can I monitor my processor’s temperature?

Windows – CoreTemp is a compact, no fuss, small footprint, yet powerful program to monitor processor temperature and other vital information.

Mac – iStat Pro is a highly configurable widget that lets you monitor every aspect of your Mac, including CPU, memory, disks, network, battery, temperatures, fans, load & uptime and processes. High powered users should also look into smcFanControl.