Heat is among your computer's worst enemies. When the CPU overheats, the computer may slow down, become unstable and even stop working entirely if its internal components are damaged. If your computer exhibits these symptoms, improve its stability and performance by lowering the temperature of its CPU.
Why a CPU Overheats
A typical desktop or notebook computer has a CPU cooler consisting of a metal heat sink and a fan. The heat sink moves heat away from the processor and the fan forces the heated air out of the computer through a vent. A CPU generally overheats because the cooling system has failed -- the heat sink is no longer seated firmly, the fan has stopped working or the exhaust vent is blocked. A CPU may also overheat because the load placed on it is too high.
Lowering the CPU Temperature in a Desktop Computer
To cure overheating in a desktop computer, opening the computer's chassis may be necessary. Hire a professional if you are uncomfortable with this. Confirm that the CPU fan works and check the intake and exhaust vents for dust and debris that could block airflow. Make sure that the computer's internal cables are neatly organized and don't impede cooling. If you continue to experience a problem, you may need to replace the CPU cooler with a more efficient one. A new cooler may reduce the maximum temperature of your computer's CPU by as much as 20 degrees.
Lowering the CPU Temperature in a Notebook
Assuming you can hear the fan operating, blocked air vents are the most likely cause of CPU overheating in a notebook. If the vents are blocked because of household dust, dislodge the dust with a can of compressed air. Avoid using the laptop on surfaces that could impede airflow, such as carpets and blankets. In addition, check the computer's power usage -- in Windows, you can do this by double-clicking the battery icon in the system tray. Make sure that all options are set to "maximum battery life" or "power saving."
Lowering the CPU Temperature in a Tablet
Most tablets use low-power CPUs that do not require fans. However, it is still possible for a tablet to overheat in certain conditions. Avoid using your tablet for extended periods in direct sunlight and lower the screen's brightness. The lights that illuminate the screen generate heat and can increase the temperature of the CPU.
Monitoring CPU Temperature
A modern computer has thermal diodes that monitor the temperature of the CPU and other key components. If you aren't sure whether your computer's CPU is overheating, install software to access the computer's thermal diodes and display their readings. Real Temp, Open Hardware Monitor and HWMonitor are three utilities that can monitor the temperature of your computer's CPU.