How to measure the temperature of a processor realistically

Measuring the temperature of a processor is not complicated. Nowadays there are many applications that allow us to do it without too much effort, but unfortunately not everyone is aware of how to do it what tests to performhow you should interpret the results and which of those results are really important.

All of the above makes important errors are still occurring when measuring the temperature of a processor, and this is not something limited to ordinary users. For example, on more than one occasion I have been told that “these results must be wrong, I have the same processor as you and it does not go above 50 degrees”. I have also been told, with a frightened look on my face, “my processor goes to 85 degrees, it can’t be normal, a friend told me it has to be at 60 degrees”.

This kind of comments confirm that there is still a lot of misinformation around this topic, and that it is necessary to properly contextualize how the various temperature measurement tests of a processor have been performed so that, in the end, we can correctly interpret the results that have been obtained.

How to measure the temperature of a processor in a realistic way

I give you an example following what I have told you before. The person who told me that his processor does not go above 50 degrees I asked him, literally, what he did when it reached that temperature, and he told me that he was playing a classic arcade game via MAME while listening to music on Youtube.

Yes, it is a real absurdity, and i didn’t want to go any further, I didn’t waste my time explaining anything to him. For reference, as I write this I have Youtube open with my favorite music, Telegram and several tabs, Steam and iCUE and the CPU usage is around 1% to 3%, which makes the temperature of my Ryzen 7 5800X around 36 degrees on average.

From the above you will have already deduced something that I have told you in many reviews, and that is that the temperature reached by a component depends on many factors, but one of the most important is the workload to which it is subjected. Obviously, a processor working under minimal load will register a much lower temperature than one that is under more stress. This is why it is so important to measure the temperature of a processor under different workloads, in order to have a real and properly contextualized view of these values.

Applications to measure the temperature of a processor

How to measure the temperature of a processor realistically

As I said at the beginning of the article, there are many reliable applications today with which we can measure the temperature of a processor One of my favorites is AIDA64which has a free version that is quite complete for this purpose, since it displays the individualized temperatures of each core of the processor and offers an average of the CPU, which is the value that we should take as a reference.

However, we can also use the following applications Ryzen Masterif we have an AMD CPU, or Extreme Tuning Utilityif you have an Intel CPU. Both applications are also free, and provide a lot of information about very important aspects of the processor, including the temperature, the workload it is being subjected to, and also if any kind of thermal throttling is occurring, which is nothing more than a loss of performance caused by excess heat.

Any of these applications will help you to correctly measure the temperature of a processor, whether it is a laptop or desktop processor They are very easy to usebecause you don’t have to go into complicated configurations, just download them, install them and launch them. However, if you have any questions you can leave them in the comments and I will help you to solve them.

Tips for measuring the temperature of a processor

The first thing you need to be clear about is the configuration of your processor based on three keys that I will explain below:

  • Does it work at home frequencies or is it overclocked? Overclocking may improve performance, but it increases power consumption and temperatures.
  • Do you use a top-of-the-line cooling system or something more affordable? The dissipation system can make a very big difference, as a fan capable of dissipating 65 watts will not do the same job as one capable of dissipating 150 watts.
  • Do you have the power limiter enabled? This influences the maximum power consumption of the processor. It may improve performance, but it will also increase operating temperatures.

How to measure the temperature of a processor realistically

Those three keys give us some very important context, but we are not done yet. We must add other fundamental keys that will allow us to close all the information we need to correctly measure, and interpret, the temperature of a processor.

The first is the ambient temperaturealthough this is only important when we are in climates with very high temperatures, as they can affect the cooling system capacity. Secondly, we have the workload to which we subject the processor, an issue that we have already discussed at the beginning of the article.

If we subject the processor to a very small load, it is normal for it to register very low temperatures. On the other hand, it is also normal for its temperatures to soar if we maintain a workload that uses it at 100%. A processor can average 60 degrees with an intensive single-thread load, but reach 85 degrees when used for an hour with a 100% load. Both values would be normal.

We should also keep in mind that running a game does not always equate to having the processor at 100% utilization. There are scenarios where this is the case, such as when using processors that have only four threads, and in some cases four-core, eight-thread processors can also be put at 100% utilization when running certain games, but when using 6-core, 12-thread (or more) processors their utilization rate will never be as high.

How to measure the temperature of a processor realistically

To bring them to 100% utilization, it will be necessary to use specific testssuch as Cinebench R23. This test is one of the best for measuring the temperature of a processor both single-threaded and at 100% load, and will also allow us to get an estimate of its performance.

Finally, it is also necessary to take into account the particularities of each architecture, and of each type of processor, since there are designs that are prepared to work with maximum power consumption and temperature marginsall in an effort to deliver the highest possible performance by pulling the turbo mode scaling, which operates dynamically. So, for example, a processor like the Intel Core i9-12900K has a very aggressive turbo mode and a maximum junction temperature of 100 degrees.

This chip can exceed 90 degrees and work completely normally, as it will dynamically adjust the working temperatures to avoid damage and to maintain the highest possible performance. This is what I have also told you in many reviews, that most of the current processors trigger turbo mode to reach the maximum possible performance, which makes them reach very high temperatures, but once at that peak they start a stabilization process to avoid problems. This is nothing to worry about.

How to interpret the results and why it is good to measure, realistically, the temperature of a processor

How to measure the temperature of a processor realistically

Each processor can reach a different temperature under the same performance test for many different reasons. Many of them have already been mentioned, but two of the most important, and least often taken into account, are the architecture and the maximum number of cores and threads. A more advanced architecture than another will typically be more efficient in performance per watt ratio, and will have more controlled temperatures.

At the same time, two processors utilizing one same architecture but having a different number of cores and threads will also register different temperatures under full load. For example, a Ryzen 3 3300X, which has only 4 cores and 8 threads, is cooler than a Ryzen 9 3950X, which has 16 cores and 32 threads. This is totally normal, as the difference between the two is huge. It is also possible that a processor with fewer cores may register higher temperatures because it works at a higher frequency.

I wanted to clarify this because it is important when interpreting the results when we are going to measure the temperature of a processor. Continuing with the previous example, a temperature of 85 degrees will be abnormal for a Ryzen 3 3300Xbut it can be totally normal for a Ryzen 9 3950X. This is why context is so important, and to understand the particularities of the processor whose temperature we want to measure.

As for the results we obtain, the single-threaded performance test is an indicator that serves as a rough reference of the temperatures that a processor can reach with a light multithreaded load. A more intensive multithreading test already allows us to test the stability of the processor, but the ideal to make a full check is to subject it to a 100% load for at least 30 minutes.

This is why it is good to realistically measure the temperature of a processor by running tests of varying intensity, because we will be able to see how it behaves, if it registers any anomalies in terms of performance or temperature, and whether it suffers from any serious stability problemssuch as crashes, restarts or “screen of death”.

Blue screen

Not doing those tests can end up giving us more than one scare, and I can give you an example. A few years ago an acquaintance told me that he had taken his Ryzen 7 2700X to 4.3 GHz on all cores, and it was running fine. I asked him if he had tested it thoroughly and he said yes, he had run  “a few games”, and great. In the end it turns out that he had only tested it with Destiny 2, a game that pulls very little CPU, and that as soon as he tried a more demanding title, the computer kept crashing.

Under normal use, it is very complicated for us to take a processor like the Ryzen 7 2700X to 100% usage, but there are games and applications that can be demanding, and so it is advisable to push our CPU a bit to the limit, to check that it is able to withstand without problemsand that it will not give us any discomfort. On the other hand, this will also allow us to check that the cooling system we are using is capable of keeping our processor temperatures under control.

Well, how should I interpret the results of measuring the temperature of a processor? You have to put them in context with everything that we have said, and be clear about where the limit is that your CPU has. For example, a Core i9-12900K has that 100 degree limit, but a Ryzen 9 5950X has a maximum temperature of 90 degrees. In the former case, a temperature of 95 degrees with a sustained extreme workload for quite some time would be acceptable, but that same temperature would not be acceptable in the case of the Ryzen.

How to measure the temperature of a processor realistically, and why you should do it 34

On the other hand, it is also a good idea to that you take advantage of the results of a performance test such as Cinebench R23 to give it even more context. You can compare the results your processor has obtained with databases that are available on the Internet, and assess whether those performance results are normal or if they are below what they should be. This could indicate a serious problem, usually temperature, but maybe also power supply.

I want to come back to an important issue don’t get hung up on what you read on the Internetand I mean things like “my CPU runs at 60 degrees, it is not normal for yours to go up to 80 degrees”. For a current processor to run at 80 degrees can be perfectly normal, in fact in some cases it can even be a good result. Many of those comments you will find on the Internet are based on tests performed with a CPU load of just 30% or 40%, so do not get overwhelmed and follow the advice we have just given you in this guide.

Finally, and for reference, please note that in no case is it good for a processor to reach, or remain, in the 100-degree range. If this happens, it is best to stop testing and consider purchasing a higher cooling system, or if you have overclocked, back off, as you could drastically shorten the life of the processor, especially if you have raised the voltages to sustain the overclock.

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