A temperature displayed on a CPU cooling pump inside a computer's case.

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?

Neither Windows 10 nor Windows 11 has a built-in way to see your computer’s CPU temperature, so you’ll need a third-party program for this. (However, it may be displayed in your computer’s UEFI firmware or BIOS.) 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. We’ve used it on Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7, and it works well on all of them.

Warning: Be very careful to uncheck the bundled software on the third page of the installation! While the program is free and works well, it tries to bundle junkware in its installer.

Uncheck the "Goodgame Empire" junkware in Core Temp's installer.

When you run Core Temp, 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.

Core Temp displaying CPU core temperatures in Windows 10's notification area.

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 temperature of each of its cores.

The Core Temp window displaying CPU core temperatures.

Take particular note of the “TJ. Max” value, if one is displayed here. 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. To double-check, note the model name and number of your processor displayed under “Processor Information” in the Core Temp window and search for its maximum temperature online. 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.

To configure some of Core Temp’s more useful features, head to Options > Settings. 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 times 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 it’s commonly called.) You can choose to display just the app’s icon or display the temperature of your CPU. We recommend the “highest temperature” (instead of “all cores”, which will show multiple icons.) You can also customize the font and colors here.

Core Temp's Notification Area settings.

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.

Core Temp in the Windows 10 system tray.

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 that, 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 “classic” version from the HWMonitor home page. We 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.

CPUID HWMonitor displaying hardware information.

To find your CPU temperature, scroll down to the entry for your CPU—in the screenshots here, for example, ours 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.)

HWMonitor displaying CPU temperature and voltage information.

Feel free to poke around and see temperatures for other components in your system, too. For example, you will likely see temperatures for your GPU and any solid-state drives in your computer. 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 when your CPU gets 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.

How to Monitor GPU Temperature

You may also be interested in keeping an eye on your GPU temperature. While Core Temp doesn’t display this information—it’s all about CPU temperatures—HWMonitor does.

However, you don’t need any third-party software to check your GPU temperature on Windows 10 or Windows 11. Since Windows 10’s May 2020 Update, the Task Manager has displayed GPU temperature information.

To find it, open your Task Manager. The quickest way to do so is by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc, although you can also press Ctrl+Alt+Delete and click “Task Manager” or search for the “Task Manager” shortcut in your Start menu and launch it.

In the Task Manager, click the “Performance” Tab. (If you don’t see it, click “More Details” at the bottom.) Your GPU temperature will be displayed under the GPU name in the left column.

GPU Temperature displayed in Windows 11's Task Manager.

To keep the Performance pane always on screen as a floating performance monitor, you can use “Summary View.” Right-click in the Performance pane and select “Summary View” to activate it—or just double-click in the left pane. Click Options > Always on Top first if you want to keep the floating pane always on top of other windows.

The Task Manager will let you monitor which programs are using the most GPU resources, too.

What to Do If you Suspect Your PC Is Overheating

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.

Profile Photo for Whitson Gordon Whitson Gordon
Whitson Gordon is How-To Geek's former Editor in Chief and was Lifehacker's Editor in Chief before that. He has written for The New York Times, Popular Science, Wired, iFixit, The Daily Beast, PCMag, Macworld, IGN, Medium's OneZero, The Inventory, and Engadget.
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Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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