If you are performing resource intensive tasks and the system becomes unstable, crashes, or even shuts down while being put under stress, it will be a great cause for concern. This could be a problem such as the CPU or GPU overheating, or an overclock that doesn’t work properly. Maybe the power supply simply cannot cope anymore with all hardware components running at full intensity.
Whether you’re someone who wants to test their PC components because of a possible hardware fault or have a new PC and want to make sure it runs stably at maximum load, you need a program to be able to put the system under a sustained load for periods of time to monitor the situation. Here are 10 tools to do just that and put your system under huge amounts of stress to check for faults or problems.
Note: As you might expect, there is some crossover between software that aims to benchmark your PC and software that stress tests PC components. They both want to push the hardware to its limits but for different reasons. As stability testing requires more time to stress the hardware fully, we are not including software that will only run for a short period of time.
HeavyLoad is a utility that aims to stress the main component areas of a PC. They are processor, memory, hard drive, and graphics. It can run these tests individually, selectively, or all together. Obviously, the maximum stress placed on the system hardware and the power supply will be when all tests are run simultaneously.
The Disk space and Available memory tests are not really there to put undue stress on those components, but rather continually write a large file to the drive and allocate/deallocate memory to the system simulating heavy load when all major components are utilized. There is an option to add more stress to the hard drive by using Jam software’s other popular included tool Treesize Free to simulate more heavy disc access.
The default is for HeavyLoad to run its tests continuously. You can change this by going to Options > Misc and enabling the “End test after” option. The default setting for that is 60 minutes. HeavyLoad comes as a setup installer or a portable Zip archive.
FurMark is a benchmark and stress testing tool designed especially for graphics cards (now also CPUs). It runs a very intensive “Fur” rendering algorithm that is well known for pushing the GPU to its absolute limits. There are a few settings that can be changed such as resolution, full screen mode, and anti aliasing. A few benchmark presets are available for 720/1080/1440/2160 or there’s a single button for running a stress test.
The benchmark’s default run time and an alarm for the maximum allowable temperature for the graphics card are found via the Settings window. Benchmark scores can be compared or viewed online.
Some extra third party tools are available from within the man window. GPU-Z is the very well known graphics card information tool from TechPowerUp while GPU Shark is a GPU monitoring tool from the same developer as FurMark. CPU Burner does what the name suggests and is a small utility to stress the CPU instead of the graphics card.
There have been reports over the years of FurMark killing graphics cards. This appears to be because it stresses the GPU far more than any normal game or application would. As a result, use FurMark with care as it could find a weakness in your graphics card that wouldn’t be an issue under normal everyday conditions.
There are also a couple of custom versions of FurMark that are branded for hardware manufacturers MSI and Asus. In addition to an OEM themed skin, there are some extra testing options that more advanced users might find useful. MSI Kombustor and FurMark Asus ROG Edition are free from the FurMark website. An EVGA version is available but several years out of date.
Cinebench is one of the most popular CPU benchmarking tools around and it’s nearly always found in written and video CPU reviews. Cinebench is based on the Maxon Cinema 4D rendering software, and like most 3D rendering applications (such as Blender), it pushes the CPU to its limits. The render test is split into tiled blocks with each being rendered by a CPU thread.
Although Cinebench runs a single benchmark by default, you can tell it to loop for a period of time, which is required for stability testing. Firstly, you can click the File menu and select “Advanced Benchmarks”. This adds a “Minimum Test Duration” dropdown menu to the main window. From there, you can choose a 10 minute throttling test or a 30 minute stability test.
The alternative loop option is to go to File and select Preferences. The prefs window has a “Custom Minimum Test Duration” where you can set the minimum number of minutes the test will run. The current benchmark run will finish once the time limit is reached. Cinebench is portable but extracts from the Zip archive to over 600MB.
OCCT is a tool that is known to put serious amounts of stress on your system components and is especially good at severely stressing your power supply. There are rumors it can even kill poor quality or cheap PSUs so is obviously a utility to be used with care. CPU stress tests include an OCCT test and a Linpack test, a standard 3D GPU test, and the mentioned power supply test.
There is also a useful temperature and voltage monitoring window where you can keep an eye on the values during any of the tests. Most stress test settings will be fine if left at the defaults and you only really need to change the timer to test for more than an hour. Click the clock timer icon to run tests until they are manually canceled. OCCT is a portable executable.
The unfortunate thing about OCCT these days is it pops up a 10 second donation nag window before you run any test. This becomes a bit tiresome if you want to run multiple tests or multiple runs of a test.
5. SiSoft Sandra Lite
Sandra is a well known hardware information and benchmarking application, the Lite version is completely free to use. There is an option to run a burn in test available from the Tools menu or window tab. This is achieved by simply running a number of the individual benchmark tests continuously placing good amounts of stress on the system. Setting up a burn in test is done with the help of a multi step wizard.
Several tests are available for specific hardware components, including processor, graphics card, video memory, system memory, physical disks, optical drives, and network (including WiFi). These tests can then be executed continuously, for a set time period, or for a specified number of loops. Steps four through ten of the wizard can probably be left at the defaults for most users.
As most tests are enabled by default that cover various system hardware components, it’s recommended to disable what you don’t need. It makes little sense to leave tests for hard drives or network running if you only want to test memory or the CPU.