In a previous article, I discussed the dangers of an overheating processor, the symptoms it can bring, and some solutions if a processor runs too hot. One of the methods that can be used to detect if your processor is overheating is to download software that reads your current processor temperature.

Your processor will very likely come with heat sensors on it. These sensors are used to feed information to the computer about the processor temperature. It can help the computer to make decisions about what to do with the processor, such as throttling its output to stop it from overheating i, or triggering internal mechanisms within the BIOS (the inner workings of the PC) to alert the user or shut the computer down when critical heat levels are reached.

It would be very useful if we could tap into these sensors to monitor how hot the processor is running. Thankfully, there is software that can manage that. There are several free options a user can download, and they’re all very good for what they do. For someone just coming into the world of processor temperatures, however, I would recommend RealTemp.

So, how do you use it?

First of all, download the file from this website.  It should go to your downloads folder as a zipped file. Once the download is complete, extract the file, open the new file, and double click on ‘RealTemp.exe’. The following window should appear:

RealTemp1

This window can be hard to decipher, so let’s break down the data we’re seeing and explain what’s going on.

RealTemp2

This area is describing your processor. From top-to-bottom, left-to-right, the information is; processor model number, the current processing power, the current processing power displayed as a multiplier, The CPUID, the processor’s current load, and the time the software has been running for. This is all a bit too much for someone who wants to look at the temperatures of their processor, but the load value is useful if you want to see how your computer tolerates heat during heavy processor action.

RealTemp3

What we are most interested in is the temperature. The above values are the temperatures for each core of the processor – given my processor is dual core, there are two values here.

The below values are cryptically labelled ‘Distance to TJ Max’. TJ Max is a specified value of the maker of your processor (and not an indicator of the closest closeout department store.)The makers state that the processor will work at optimum levels – just so long as the temperature are under the TJ Max value. This window will tell you the distance you are from the TJ Max value, not the actual value. As you can see here, I am 45 degrees Celsius away from overheating my processor. Keep your processor from reaching the TJ Max, and you should be fine.

RealTemp4

This is the minimum and maximum temperatures RealTemp has registered since boot. The times displayed are the times at which each record was met. It’s good to leave RealTemp running, then check this minimum and maximum to see how your processor fares.

So now that you know how to monitor your temperature – what’s ideal? While I stated that getting below your TJ Max is ideal, getting close to it (around 10 degrees Celsius below the TJ Max) is probably a warning sign that your heat sink isn’t as strong as you may like. The concept of an ‘ideal temperature’ of a processor varies from person to person, but everyone seems to agree that a temperature around the low 80s during heavy load is iffy, and anything at high-80s to low-90s is a warning. If you find your processor hitting these levels during heavy loads, even though you’re not hitting your TJ Max value, it might be worth investing in a new or better heat sink, if not for peace of mind.

In part 2 of this article, I’ll show you how to keep a close watch on your processor temperature using RealTemp.

~ Simon