Why is Your Computer Overheating? (Reasons & Fixes)

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Why is your Computer Overheating? Computers consist of multiple parts which, while moving to perform computational tasks, generate heat.

Among all components, GPUs i.e., Graphics Processing Units and CPUs i.e., Central Processing Units, generate most heat.

Moreover, the total amount of heat produced by a computer increases when these parts are made to work hard.

When a PC i.e., Personal Computer is unable to cool down adequately and quickly, it might stop working and high temperatures may easily damage heat-sensitive components.

PCs are equipped with one or more fans, which help release heat by maintaining a steady airflow.

Depending upon a PC’s components and usage, fans are placed on GPUs, CPUs, and near other heat-generating or heat-sensitive areas.

In order to protect a computer’s internal components, there are both free and paid tools that measure CPU and GPU temperature.

They can also display other information related to system hardware. Some tools also issue alerts when temperatures rise above 60º C.

How to Determine If a Computer is Overheating?

How to Determine If a Computer is Overheating

Start by touching your PC to determine if it is overheating, as your device will be fairly hot to touch.

Additionally, loud whirring noises of PC fans running at full speed, extreme slowdowns, and unexpected shutdowns are some other signs of a computer overheating.

Frequent freezing and crashing of your PC suggest that in order to minimize damage due to overheating, the CPU chooses to shut down resource-intensive tasks.

In case your computer starts making loud whirring noises or becomes hot when too many tabs are open in your browser, multimedia files are being edited, or you are gaming it is definitely getting overheated.

You must immediately close these programs to give your PC a break and time to cool down.

Additionally, you might want to install a thermal monitor software if your computer is overheating quite often.

By doing so, you can monitor your PC’s temperature at different times of a day, making it easier to analyze if and when your computer is overheating.

What Happens When a Computer Overheats for Too Long?

If a computer is unable to cool down for long durations of time, its outcomes will vary according to the amount of heat being generated and its CPU’s design.

Initially, you will notice your PC freeze or crash.

If overheating issues are not resolved at this stage, they will eventually lead to BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) error.

If your computer has an in-built overheating alarm, it will start ringing frequently and your system might start shutting down and restarting in an attempt to reduce heat being produced.

Furthermore, your PC’s fans will spin non-stop at full speed trying to release all accumulated heat and its screen will start appearing pixelated.

Remember, if you do not shut down, cool, or at least give a short break to an overheated PC, its motherboard and other hardware components will start melting.

Reasons Why Your Computer is Overheating

When your computer is generating a lot of heat, you need to immediately take action or it could result in permanent damage to hardware or loss of data.

Not only will it result in increased electricity consumption, but also in wear and tear of electrical components.

Thereby, reducing efficiency and lifespan of these components. Read on to find out why your computer is overheating: reasons and fixes.

Faulty Fans

When your computer is being used for several hours without being turned off even once, its internal components start generating more heat than usual.

Generally, PCs that are designed properly for air flow and are equipped with multiple fans do not face overheating issues.

However, if these fans stop working or are not working as well as they are supposed to, they might not be able to lower a PC’s internal temperature.

Malfunctioning fans generally make a lot of noise. Therefore, if there are continuous loud whirring noises coming from your PC, you must check whether or not its system fans are working properly.

As soon as your computer is turned on after several hours of rest, its fans probably operate with a low humming sound.

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However, if your system’s fans are loud as soon as it starts up, it is a clear indication that your system’s fans are not working properly.

Check with a flashlight to see if all visible fans are fully functional at their optimal speeds.

In case a fan is rotating slowly, you must enter your computer’s BIOS settings and change fan settings to 100%.

Even after changing this value if a fan is not spinning at its full capacity, it is time to upgrade your PC’s fans.

Overtime if PCs are not maintained and cleaned properly and regularly, fans will slow down due to dust accumulation.

To check if a fan is damaged due to dust accumulation or wear and tear, unplug it from your computer and try spinning it manually, after you have cleaned it thoroughly.

If it stops rotating abruptly then this fan is definitely damaged.

Solution:

Taking apart a CPU or GPU fan is not necessary if they are not working properly or at all. Purchasing a new one which meets your system and cooling requirements is necessary.

Also, you might want to add heat sinks and an external PC cooler to help reduce heat significantly.

Fans connected to your PC’s motherboard can have their speed and performance manipulated through BIOS settings.

Additionally, other fans installed in your computer can be individually controlled through software applications.

You must increase the speed of any and all fans that are closest to these major heat producing components.

Not Enough Airflow

Your PC might be functioning properly, but sometimes your computer is designed and placed in such a manner that air flow is obstructed.

This prevents it from cooling down quickly, which eventually results in overheating.

Another factor that prevents proper airflow is incorrect configuration of fans.

Every fan in a computer must blow air uniformly i.e., in one direction to allow air to flow freely.

However, since fans are sometimes configured incorrectly, they end up blowing air against each other.

This not only traps air but also any surrounding heat and ultimately leads to overheating.

Solution:

Your PC must be placed on a strong, plain surface, without any obstructions on any sides.

Side-panels or other parts of your computer must not be removed for it to cool quickly, as this will lead to accumulation of too much dust.

Moreover, CPU casing maintains a certain pressure inside its walls, which gets disturbed once parts are removed unnecessarily.

Total number of fans present in your PC is always decided by its CPU casing size. Computers with larger cases can have up to 5 fans.

If your CPU casing happens to be small and there is not enough space for fans and vents, you must replace your CPU’s casing.

As such scenarios may otherwise result in huge losses in terms of data and internal components.

Remember, fans in your PC and external air cooler must be configured in such a manner that all air flows in one direction, ensuring quick dispersion of heat.

CPU Intensive Programs

There are certain programs like video streaming platforms and media editing software which use a lot of power from CPUs.

When your computer runs for long durations, these CPU resource-intensive tasks consume most of its CPU’s power and generate a lot of heat.

At times, temperature rises steeply and your PC might have to use all of its disk space by creating a virtual memory on its hard drive to continue operating.

Solution:

Open Task Manager and look for all applications under its CPU column.

In order to relieve CPU from resource intensive tasks, end all tasks which are consuming too much CPU power.

Right click on each task and select the End Task option.

Another method to lower your PC’s temperature is to first overclock its CPU, then either set clock value at default or underclock it.

However, you must be careful while doing so, as overclocking to use up all of its performance power will also result in a steep rise of CPU temperature.

Set up external cooling systems at a fairly low temperature to diffuse and prevent damage caused by overheating.

Too Many Programs and Browser Tabs

You probably multitask and therefore want your computer to work in a similar manner.

However, CPUs tend to overheat when too many programs are running all at once.

All actively running programs must share and operate by using a fixed number of resources provided by your CPU.

Therefore, to reduce pressure on your CPU simply minimizing tasks is not enough.

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Solutions:

You cannot use multiple applications simultaneously, so rather than allowing them to run as background processes that will ultimately increase CPU temperature, you must close them and open them as and when needed.

With no unnecessary processes running actively, CPUs are able to work at a normal rate with negligible heat production/generation.

Multiple browser tabs have a similar effect on your computer. Bookmark tabs you might want to view again and close any and all remaining tabs which are not actively in use.

Some browsers have in-built tools which identify the total amount of power being consumed by each tab.

Use this information to determine how much power each tab is consuming and then close all tabs which are clearly consuming considerable amounts of power.

Dust Accumulation

Dust accumulation is a primary root cause behind numerous computer problems.

With air flowing through your computer, it is natural that dust and dirt will accumulate in and around ventilation ducts.

However, serious problems arise when over time dust starts accumulating in other internal components and reduces airflow.

This accumulation of dust eventually leads to overheating, as your computer becomes unable to cool off quickly due to being coated in layers of dust.

Solution:

Unplug your computer, remove all connecting cables, take it outside and remove CPU casing.

Be prepared with a vacuum cleaner, a can of compressed air, cotton swabs and small brushes, which can reach all deep crevices.

Start cleaning and ensure all components are free from dirt and dust, not just fans or ventilation ducts.

Once your PC is clean, reassemble it and you will notice a significant change in temperature after it is switched on.

Similarly, also clear any junk files and useless applications that have accumulated in your computer, as bloatware also contributes to extra heat generation.

Degraded Thermal Paste Layer

Thermal paste is a material which when applied on your CPU and GPU, helps release heat as it is made of a highly conductive material.

Since it is also a highly degradable material, it tends to gradually become completely useless.

Solution:

Check your PC’s temperature using thermal monitoring software, and as soon as you notice CPU temperatures increasing, reapply thermal paste.

Use a thermal paste removal kit to wipe and clean up residue of previous coats before applying a fresh coat.

Internal Settings

Your PC might be set to consume too much power, due to its resource usage, brightness and resolution settings.

Solution:

Understand and adjust your PC’s settings to stop resource intensive programs from running without your permission.

Also, changing power settings, as doing so makes it easier for all devices to run on low power and prevent resource intensive tasks from running automatically.

Virus and Malware

Virus and malware are becoming increasingly common.

They can easily infect your computer and cause performance issues which eventually lead to overheating.

Solution:

Begin by installing a reputable antivirus and antimalware software. If you already have one installed, ensure that it is up to date, if not you must update it immediately.

Then regularly run malware and virus checks on your computer to ensure malicious software is unable to use up any of your computer’s power and resources.

Anti-malware and anti-virus software automatically delete all harmful files, thus preventing your PC from overheating.

Outdated Software

OS i.e., Operating System, drivers and other software when not updated regularly make your computer slow and buggy.

This causes your system to overheat because its processor needs to work harder in order to make up for any deficiencies in your system.

Solution:

Use a dedicated tool to keep all OS, software and drivers up to date.

Once you install and set it up, you do not need to monitor and download any updated drivers or software manually.

No Downtime

Computers are machines, and just like every other machine they need to be powered off once in a while.

If your computer has been running for hours on end it is bound to compute slowly and end up overheating.

Solution:

An easy way to stop your PC from overheating and cool it down quickly is to turn it off.

Start up your PC after a few hours and you will observe that it is running much more smoothly.

Additionally, RAM i.e., Random Access Memory becomes empty and capable of boosting computing speed, thereby completely eliminating any chances of overheating.

Outdated CPU

When your computer is on, its CPU generates heat. However, simply being powered on does not result in overheating unless there are any issues with your CPU.

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A poor-quality processor will generate more heat. Therefore, if and when you decide to upgrade to a newer CPU, ensure choosing a good quality processor within your budget.

If your CPU is old or outdated, even simple functions can easily cause immense strain on it.

A struggling CPU generates a lot of heat that is quite hard to reduce because it is possible that its fan might also be old.

Solution:

Consider upgrading your outdated CPU, not just for its inability to cool down. A newer CPU will make it easier for you to get all your computer related tasks done quickly.

If you cannot upgrade immediately, access Task Manager and regularly check for tasks that require higher CPU power.

Ensure ending unnecessary tasks to maintain CPU temperature.

Another way to keep your CPU cool is to install a new or replace an existing internal/external cooler for your CPU.

Your CPU’s temperature variations can be monitored easily using thermal monitoring software.

These tools come in handy because they provide real-time information and need not be accessed through BIOS settings.

GPU Cooler

All Graphics cards generate a lot of heat. However, since high-end GPUs are mostly used only for GPU resource-intensive tasks they generate even more heat.

This leads to a sharp rise in your computer’s temperature.

Solution:

Stop overclocking your GPU immediately. In order to determine all possible causes of GPU overheating, it is necessary that you stop overclocking it.

This process further increases a GPUs temperature.

In case your GPU is fairly new, possible causes for overheating can be issues related to its cooling system.

Cooling systems can be replaced or upgraded depending on GPU usage. Liquid cooled GPU coolers will prove much more effective for your PC, if you use your GPU for gaming or media editing.

Underpowered PSU

PSU or Power Supply Unit might heat up quickly and remain hot if it is too old or if your computer requires more power than it can supply.

Solution:

Upgrade to a PSU that is suitable for your computer, so as not to put additional burden on an incompatible unit and increase chances of overheating.

Next, check whether or not fans in your PSU start spinning as soon as your device starts heating up.

A PSU’s fans do not turn on till it starts generating a lot of heat.

Replace your computer’s PSU if it is getting close to being used for five years because it is not recommended that electrical devices be used past this duration.

Motherboard Overheating

It is possible that components onboard your PC’s motherboard might be generating excess heat.

Solution:

Start by observing which components are overheating by opening up your CPU after turning off your computer.

You will be able to easily find out exactly which components are causing overheating since; motherboard components will not cool down immediately.

Use a thermal paste removal kit to clean up all heatsinks close to overheating components and reapply new paste.

In case your computer’s motherboard is getting old and multiple components are heating up simultaneously, it is time to look for a new motherboard.

Old Hard Drives

Your computer might be overheating due to multiple HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) running in it.

Solution:

Begin by conducting a SMART check to determine every HDDs health and reliability.

If they are completely healthy and might last for several years to come, HDD stack’s temperature must be monitored regularly.

If they are close to their end, consider purchasing larger disks as replacement to reduce quantity and heat generation.

Also, if you do not need a huge storage volume, consider choosing SSDs (Solid State Drives), as they also increase a computer’s speed.

Conclusion

These aforementioned reasons and fixes are some of the most obvious reasons why your PC is overheating. Once you have determined any and all underlying reasons, you can implement an appropriate solution.

As soon as your computer starts cooling properly, it will start operating efficiently and consume less power.

Hence, you must ensure all proper checks are performed regularly so that none of these aforementioned components become a reason for your computer overheating.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers. He loves to cook when he is not busy with writing, computer testing and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin