The CPU is the chip inside your computer that’s responsible for most of the day-to-day number crunching. In short, it’s the part that does most of the work to make Windows and applications run.

The ideal temperature is as cool as possible, since a hot-running processor could cause problems ranging from unwanted system crashes to physical damage to the processor itself. You can keep it cool by increasing fan speeds, but also by fitting a more efficient CPU cooler which can also keep temperatures lower without making a racket in the process. You'll find some recommendations here.

How hot can a CPU get before it is damaged?

Most modern CPUs, including AMD's Ryzen, have a protection feature that automatically shuts them down if they get too hot, so actual damage is unlikely.

But it is still worth checking how hot your CPU is getting as allowing it to run very hot for long periods of time isn’t a good idea as it could lead to premature failure. You can see your CPU temperature in the BIOS but one of the easiest ways is to download the free Core Temp utility. 

Install and run it and you will see the temperature for each CPU core of the CPU. Importantly, you'll also see the Tj. Max figure, which is the temperature at which the chip will throttle back performance to avoid damage. Although an old chip, you can see the Tj. Max is 100°C. 

CPU Temp home screen

You can leave it running in the background while you play a game or run any other application. Then, after a few minutes, you can switch back to it and check your temperatures.

Best CPU temperatures

At idle, you should expect to see temperatures between 35 and 50°C (95-122F), and when playing games or running any apps which put a high load on the CPU, you should expect them to rise to 60-85°C (140-185F).

How to lower your CPU temperature

Certainly, temperatures should remain lower than your CPU's Tj. Max figure and if not, there is likely some problem. That could be that your CPU cooler isn't fitted properly or there isn't sufficient thermal paste between it and the CPU. Or your cooler might be inadequate, in which case you should consider replacing your CPU cooler, especially if your PC has a standard heatsink and fan. You can often fit extra case fans, which will aid airflow and, when fitted correctly so they blow air in the right direction, should aid the CPU cooler in keeping those temperatures down.

If you have a laptop, make sure any fans aren’t clogged up with dust (use a vacuum carefully to suck dirt and debris out) and invest in a laptop cooling stand. This can be either a passive design that acts like a giant heatsink, or an active one with its own cooling fans built in.