How-To Geek

How to Monitor Your Computer’s CPU Temperature


There are two groups of users worried about the temperature of their computer: overclockers… and pretty much anybody with a powerful laptop. Those things just cook you! So have you ever wondered exactly what temperature your CPU is running at?

There are quite a few Windows programs that you can use to monitor the temperature. Here are two of our favorite options.

For Basic CPU Temperature Monitoring: Core Temp

The most important temperature to measure in your computer is the processor, or CPU. Core Temp is a simple, lightweight app that runs in your system tray and monitor’s the temperature of your CPU without cluttering it up with other stuff. It offers a few different options so you can customize it to your tastes, and even works with other programs like Rainmeter.

Download Core Temp from its home page and install it on your computer. Be very careful to uncheck the bundled software on the third page of the installation! This was unchecked by default for me, but other users have noted that it is checked by default for them.


When you run it, it will appear as an icon or series of icons in your system tray showing the temperature of your CPU. If your CPU has multiple cores (as most modern CPUs do), it will show multiple icons–one for each core.


Right-click on the icon to show or hide the main window. It will give you a bunch of information about your CPU, including the model, speed, and the temperature of each of its cores.


Take particular note of the “TJ. Max” value–this is the highest temperature (in Celsius) at which the manufacturer has rated your CPU to run. If your CPU is anywhere near that temperature, it is considered overheating. (Usually it’s best to keep it at least 10 to 20 degrees lower than that–and even then, if you’re anywhere close, it usually means something is wrong unless you’ve overclocked your CPU.)

For most modern CPUs, Core Temp should be able to detect the Tj. Max for your specific processor, but you should look your specific processor online and double check. Every processor is a little different, and having an accurate Tj. Max value is very important, as it ensures you’re getting the correct temperature readings for your CPU.

Head to Options > Settings to configure some of Core Temp’s more useful features. Here are a few settings we recommend looking at:

  • General > Start Core Temp with Windows: You can turn this on or off; it’s up to you. Turning it on will allow you to monitor your temperatures at all time without having to remember to start it up. But if you only need the app occasionally, it’s okay to turn this off.
  • Display > Start Core Temp minimized: You’ll probably want to turn this on if you have “Start Core Temp with Windows” on.
  • Display > Hide Taskbar Button: Again, if you’re going to leave it running all the time, this is good to turn on so it doesn’t waste space on your taskbar.
  • Notification Area > Notification Area Icons: This allows you to customize how Core Temp appears in your notification area (or system tray, as its commonly called). You can choose to display just the app’s icon, or display the temperature of your CPU–I recommend the “highest temperature” (instead of “all cores”, which will show multiple icons). You can also customize the font and colors here.


If the icon is only appearing in the pop-up tray and you want to see it at all times, just click and drag it onto your taskbar.


If you decide to show the temperature in the notification area, you may want to change the Temperature Polling Interval in the General tab of Core Temp’s settings. By default, it’s set to 1000 milliseconds, but you can move it higher if the blinking numbers annoy you. Just remember the higher you set it, the more time it’ll take for Core Temp to notify you if your CPU is running hot.

Core Temp can do a lot more than this–you can head to Options > Overheat Protection to have your computer alert you when it reaches its maximum safe temperature, for example–but these basics should be all you need to keep an eye on your CPU temperatures.

For Advanced Monitoring Across Your Entire System: HWMonitor

Generally, your CPU temperatures are going to be the most important temperatures to monitor. But, if you want to see temperatures across your system–motherboard, CPU, graphics card, and hard drives–HWMonitor gives you that and much more.

Download the latest version from the HWMonitor home page–I recommend the ZIP version, which doesn’t require installation, though you can also download the full setup version if you want. Start it up, and you’ll be greeted with a table of temperatures, fan speeds, and other values.


To find your CPU temperature, scroll down to the entry for your CPU–mine, for example, is an “Intel Core i7 4930K”–and look at the “Core #” temperatures in the list.

(Note that “Core Temperature” is different than “CPU Temp”, which will appear under the motherboard section for some PCs. Generally, you’ll want to monitor the Core temperature. See our note below about AMD temperatures for more info.)


Feel free to poke around and see temperatures for other components in your system, too. There isn’t much else you can do with HWMonitor, but it’s a good program to have around.

A Note on AMD Processor Temperatures

Monitoring temperatures for AMD processors has long puzzled computer enthusiasts. Unlike most Intel processors, AMD machines will report two temperatures: “CPU Temperature” and “Core Temperature”.

“CPU Temperature” is an actual temperature sensor inside the CPU’s socket. “Core Temperature”, on the other hand, isn’t really a temperature at all. It’s an arbitrary scale measured in degrees celsius designed to, in a way, mimic a temperature sensor.

Your BIOS will often show the CPU Temperature, which may differ from programs like Core Temp, which show Core Temperature. Some programs, like HWMonitor, show both.

CPU Temperature is more accurate at low levels, but less so at high levels. Core Temperature is more accurate and precise when your CPU get hot–which is when temperature values really matter. So, in almost all cases, you’ll want to pay attention to Core Temperature. When your system is idle, it may show impossibly low temperatures (like 15 degrees celsius), but once things heat up a bit, it will show a more accurate–and useful–value.

What to Do If You Don’t Get a Reading (or Temperatures Look Really Wrong)

In some cases, you may find that one of the above programs doesn’t quite work. Maybe it doesn’t match up with another temperature-monitoring program, maybe it’s absurdly low, or maybe you can’t get a temperature at all.

There are a lot of reasons this could happen, but here are a few things to check:

  • Are you looking at the right sensors? If two programs don’t agree, it’s possible–especially on AMD machines–that one program is reporting the “Core temperature” and one is reporting the “CPU temperature”. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Core temperature is usually what you want to monitor, as we mentioned above.
  • Make sure your programs are up to date. If you’re using an old version of Core Temp, for example, it may not support your CPU, in which case it won’t provide an accurate temperature (or possibly won’t even provide a temperature at all). Download the latest version to see if it fixes the problem. If you have a very new CPU, you may need to wait for an update to the program.
  • How old is your computer? If it’s more than a few years old, it may not be supported by programs like Core Temp.

We could write a book about monitoring CPU temperatures, but in the interest of keeping this easy to follow, we’ll leave it at that. Hopefully, you can get a general estimate of how well your CPU is being cooled.

Monitoring your temperatures is good, and something everyone should check on once in a while. But if your computer is regularly overheating, there’s probably a deeper cause that you need to look into. Open up the Task Manager and see if there are any processes using your CPU, and stop them (or figure out why they’re out of control). Make sure that you aren’t blocking any of the vents on your computer, especially if it’s a laptop. Blow the vents out with compressed air to make sure they aren’t filled with dust and dirt. The older and dirtier a computer gets, the harder the fans have to work to keep the temperature down–which means a hot computer and very loud fans.

Image Credit: Minyoung Choi/Flickr

Whitson Gordon is a writer, Windows geek, PC builder, metalhead, chopstick-using potato chip eater, and Midwest-to-Southern California transplant. You can follow his nerdy exploits on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Published 10/23/16
  • True Falcon

    OK. My review: First .... a WARNING! The installer for CoreTemp is very sneaky; it includes a default-ON selection for a game (something about building an empire) and it obscures the radio button between others. Look carefully - don't just click in a hurry.

    So I got it installed and ran it. Looked OK until I noticed three of my cores had a max of about 40ºC and the fourth had 73º as a max. Now I have been running Piniform Speccy for some time and have never before seen such an anomaly on this normally very well behaved HP Envy with I7-4770. So I tried to start Speccy to double check; this was early morning and I hadn't run anything that is at all processor intensive. But Speccy wouldn't load. OK, so now I'm getting a bit scared. Killed CoreTemp and uninstalled it; Speccy still wouldn't start. So I restarted (Windows 10 1607) and it hung on the word "restarting" for 3 minutes. Pressed power button and forced shutdown. Restarted and all is normal again, scanned with MalWareBytes and all is clean. Speccy runs and all cores are high 30sºC.

    Tried HWMonitor64 from the Zip; it's ok - I'll keep it around.

    My advice: avoid CoreTemp (YMMV). HWMonitor is OK so far, but I'm keeping Speccy too.


  • Ashley Smith

    Same here. It Tried to sneak in crapware. After reading your review, I instantly uninstalled Coretemp.

  • Erik Dubois

    did you notice this is in your

    VISTA ?? Recycling your articles ?

  • Shawn Kanyer

    Speed fan is another option.

  • Scott

    This article has been updated, not recycled. The URL remains the same.

  • David George

    Sorry--I don't agree True Falcon's rant (it's not a "review") at all. Users are given an option to install the game related add-on. I've installed CoreTemp (I have Speccy as well) on several machines and simply deselected that option.

    The info CoreTemp and Speccy provide regarding temperatures matches on all of my machines. I have noticed no anomalies whatsoever.

    Sounds like TrueFalcon's problems are his own.

  • Yes Speedfan excellent last I needed to use it.

  • Speedfan, seems to be dead.It has been deleted from it's homepage.

  • Franco Bluto

    Right no luck with Core temp on newer windows 10 builds or this Haswell Core i5 *for me * and it tried to sneak in malware

    .I dual boot normally activated 14393 AU and 14951 on metal and SSD respectively .and both drives have Speccy in win 10

    H W monitor would only work one time each time I download it here ,deleted that also .

    I gave up on all that drama and I use Speccy, it works fine and has a lot more features and better UI than the other two .

    I just have Speccy pinned to the task bar for a quick launch on this SSD but you can otherwise minimize it in a task bar on slower rusty metal when you need to it's not resource intensive at all .

  • Franco Bluto
  • Been using Core Temp for over a year now on Win. 7 Pro. No issues. When you download ANY program, pay CLOSE attention to each step involved while installing it.

  • Whitson Gordon

    SpeedFan is not dead. I just downloaded it from the website. I have a guide about it going up soon--still a useful program.

  • Whitson Gordon

    Thanks for the note on Core Temp--I knew it had crapware in it, but for some reason when I installed it it was unchecked by default. I'll make a big clear note in the post to avoid it!

    If I had my way, I'd avoid recommending any program that tries to bundle extra software, but sadly, with the current state of Windows software, that just isn't possible--you'd miss out on too many otherwise very useful programs. Core Temp is the best of its kind when it comes to monitoring temperatures. Thanks again for letting us know, though.

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