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Monday, March 03, 2008

CPU Temperature Monitor: CoreTemp

CPU Temperature Monitor CoreTempIs your laptop hotter than a griddle? Does it suddenly shut down while running and seem to run slowly at times?

These are signs that your computer system is overheating.There are a couple of things you can do to try to cool down your over-priced heater to a reasonable operating temperature. But just exactly what is happening inside your computer?

Why do computer systems overheat?

Computer CPU's, the chip at the heart of every computer system, are comprised of millions of tiny transistors that go on and off billions of times per second. If you can imagine you wall switch doing that, think of the heat that would be generated. The same thing is happening inside your CPU and this flip-flopping is generating the heat that you feel coming off the PC.


Because computers are reaching the maximum number of transistors that can be put on one chip, CPU manufacturers are adding multiple processors running in tandem. These are known as multi-core processors and they are the current standard. Most home computers sold these days are dual-core but quad-core processors are coming out and the trend is to add more processors. This means more transistors and in turn, more heat is being generated.

Fortunately, CPU's come with a built-in shut-off switch that will suddenly shut down your PC before it fries from overheating. They also come with fans that sit on top of the CPU with sensors that turn on whenever the heat goes over a preset limit but repeated overheating could still permanently fritz your CPU. Then there's also the issue of possibly losing your work due to unexpected shut-downs. Obviously, ways are needed to make sure that this does not happen too often.Laptop Cooler

If you own a desktop computer, you can try adding additional heat sinks and fans that are more robust than the standard cooling fans that come with your system. If you have a laptop, about the only way you can add additional cooling is to buy a fan platform. This is just a base platform with cooling fans built in that sits under your laptop. Regardless of whether you use a desktop or laptop, make sure to check the cooling vents on your machine for dust that can accumulate inside. This may involve disassembly in order to remove any excess.  You don't want anything to disrupt the air-flow inside your computer housing.

If you want to see just how hot your CPU is getting, you can download a small free utility called CoreTemp.

CoreTemp allows you to monitor the CPU temperature in the system tray. How is this useful? It can tell you when your system is reaching it's temperature limits so that you can shut down some programs or just save your data before the system shuts down due to overheating. You can also generate a log which can be useful for trouble-shooting overheating issues.

Your computer may also slow down noticeably during periods when the temperature is high. This is because heat inside the transistors causes increased resistance, which slows down normal operations.

Currently, the best way to counter this is to have fans that cool the system down. Hopefully, technologists will come up with a better way to make CPU's run cooler in the first place, so that added precautions will eventually become unnecessary.