Ever had, or seen a PC or laptop shut itself down for no reason? One of the most common causes of sudden shutdowns is an overheating component in your machine; usually the CPU. Anything from a cooler clogged with dust, to a faulty CPU fan can be the problem. But how do you find out this could be the problem without pulling your PC or laptop apart to find out?
This is where a tool like Open Hardware monitor comes in. It simply reads the data from the monitoring sensors present in just about all systems to give you valuable data about such things as; CPU, motherboard and graphics card temperatures and fan speeds, system voltages, load and clock speeds, hard drive temperatures and SSD reads / writes and condition. The amount of information shown by the program will vary depending on your hardware.
The program is portable, so download it and extract the zip file to the folder of your choice, then run the OpenHardwareMonitor.exe. Administrator rights are needed for all the sensor information to be available, so if you need to, right click the OpenHardwareMonitor.exe, and select ‘Run as Administrator‘.
Firstly, the program will start with two information columns; Value is the current reading for the given sensor and Max as you would expect, is the maximum recorded value while the program is running. Have a look at the CPU temperature information in more detail;
There may be a second set of CPU temperature values:
You might think the two different sets of CPU temperatures in both images would be the same, but as you can see, this is often not the case. CPU core values will nearly always be higher, and can be by as much as 15 °C or more, for one very good reason; the core values are taken from sensors inside the CPU core itself. The other value is taken from a sensor on the processor die. Although the core readings are accurate, the single temperature is the more important, because this is the number that AMD and Intel use to measure at which point the processor’s thermal throttling will come into play and when it will shut itself off to prevent damage.
If your maximum, or even current CPU temperature (not core) is over 60 °C and you don’t have a purposely overclocked system, it could be a cause for concern and further investigation is definitely a good idea. Just about all processor models have different maximum allowable temperatures, even different revisions of the same CPU, but the lower end of this limit starts at around 60 °C so it’s generally a good idea to keep any CPU under this number.
Although your motherboard should warn you if there is a problem with the CPU fan, it’s still worth checking as the numbers are at hand. If you only have one fan listed here, and it shows a name similar to ‘Fan #1’, that will be the CPU fan. All fans operate at different speeds, but as long yours is at least in the high hundreds, the fan should be fine.
If you have found your CPU temp is getting high, it might be time to power off the machine, unplug it, and have a look inside. Please don’t poke around inside your PC if you are not sure what you’re doing or don’t feel comfortable at the idea. Ask somebody more experienced. You might well find the CPU heatsink is rather clogged up like the example below:
Cleaning the dust and rubbish off of the cooling components should help to lower the temperatures to far more acceptable levels, and eliminate any stability problems which it may have been causing. Also check for clogged up air vents or fans on the case itself as good airflow plays a part in cooling your system as well.
On a side note, graphics cards are able to run their processor (GPU) at far higher temperatures, and as a result 70-90 °C is not uncommon and even 100 °C and above is not completely unheard of. Bear that in mind if you have a graphics card temperature reading in the Open Hardware monitor window.
Apart from the large amount of information Open Hardware Monitor gives you, it does have a few other useful features like a nice graph to measure values over time, which can be enabled by going to the ‘View’ menu and clicking on ‘Show Plot‘.
Another feature is a handy desktop gadget which can use any value from the main window by right clicking on the value and selecting ‘Show in Gadget‘. To enable the gadget, go to the View menu and click on ‘Show Gadget‘.
Open Hardware Monitor is open source software and is compatible with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows XP, Vista and 7. Version 2 or above of the .NET Framework is required. There is also a version available for Linux, see the website for more details. The software is still in beta, but has so far proved very stable.