Fix A Computer Overheating When Playing Games

If you think your computer overheats when playing games, here is a good way to test and diagnose the cause. Several components can overheat and cause problems while you are playing a game.

If left too long, you may end up in a situation where your computer won’t post anymore.

Other symptoms of overheating may include random shutdowns, freezing, crashing to the desktop, spontaneous restarts, or CPU throttling.

Diagnosing A Computer Overheating When Gaming

Ensure that no games are running or any other unnecessary applications are open.

Important: Make sure that any overheating isn’t being caused by overclocking before going through the trouble of diagnosing the issue.

1. Remove the case lid

Run through the following steps with your case’s lid removed.

This will ensure that you are dealing with each component individually, without the possibility of poor case cooling interfering with each component’s test.

2. Get thermal readings of all the major components

First of all, you need to get some temperature readings. You will need to download and install the following application to do that.

Install Speccy

Download the free version of Speccy from here, and install it.

After installing it, run it and look at the temperatures displayed after running the program.

Take note of the following temperatures specifically.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) temperature

A computer's CPU.

A CPU is the central processing unit needed for all computational tasks. It plays a role in processing certain aspects of games.

It has less to do with graphics rendering and more with things like AI, map information, character levels and skills, and more.

The CPU should be around 175 degrees Fahrenheit (79 degrees Celsius) or cooler in an idle state.

This means no programs running that can put the CPU under load.

GPU temperature

The GPU is the graphics processor on the graphics card. It, amongst other important components on the card, renders and displays a game’s graphics to the monitor.

The GPU should be around 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius) or cooler.

Motherboard or system temperature

Finally, take note of the motherboard temperature.

It should have a temperature of around 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) or cooler.

Keep some other factors in mind

The ambient temperature outside your PC’s case greatly impacts all these temperatures.

So these numbers aren’t written in stone and should be flexible for certain hardware exceptions and ambient external temperatures.

It’s only a guideline to give you a rough idea as a baseline measurement.

After noting down these temperatures, keep them handy, so you can make some comparisons.

3. Start a game with Speccy running

Start a game and play it for 2 to 3 minutes.

Press and hold down the ‘Alt’ key on your keyboard and tap the ‘Tab’ key until Speccy is returned on your screen, then release the ‘Alt’ key.

Note down the same component’s temperatures next to the idle temps.

Now let’s look at the difference to determine which components you need to look at.

4. Comparisons and isolating hotter components

Go over the temperature readings of the components once more and take the following action.

CPU Test comparison

If your CPU exceeds 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius), you must apply a fix for this.

How to solve central processing unit overheating issues

There are some awesome third-party CPU cooling assemblies on the market.

If you already have a decent cooler assembly on your CPU, shut down the computer and shift it to a decent work area.

Disassemble it and make sure that you have a decent-quality thermal paste applied.

Check that the CPU and heatsink surfaces are thoroughly clean, even from small dust fragments, before applying the thermal paste and reattaching the heat sink and fan assembly.

It provides outstanding cooling performance while keeping your system quiet.

If you feel an air cooler won’t be sufficient, consider an AIO cooler that provides superior cooling and very little noise.

GPU Test comparison

The GPU is such an important component for gaming. It takes a lot of punishment while gaming.

If, after 2 to 3 minutes of gameplay, you find the GPU temperature exceeds 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius), look into improving the cooling of your graphics card.

How to fix GPU overheating issues

Power off your PC and move it to your work area.

Ensure you have no other cards installed that are too close to the graphics card cooling fans.

Anything else closer than about 1 inch should be removed. You can move this card to a different slot if one is available.

If not, see if you can find a USB alternative if you need the functionality of that specific card.

If a card is too close to your graphics card, rerun a game and check the temperature of the graphics card. Otherwise, continue along with this procedure.

Remove the graphics card and set it on a clean, spacious work surface.

Remove the heatsink and cooling fan assembly from the card.

Check to see if there is a decent-quality thermal paste applied.

If you aren’t sure, remove the old thermal paste using some thermal paste removal fluid.

Ensure the surfaces are clean before applying the new thermal paste and re-attaching the heatsink and fan assembly.

If you want a step-by-step guide, please read our article on replacing your GPU’s thermal paste.

Also, ensure the GPU cooling fan is spinning nicely and free. If you lightly flick the fan with your finger to spin it up, check to see that it slows down gradually.

If the fan stops abruptly after spinning it up, it needs replacing.

There are excellent aftermarket graphics card coolers that are reasonably priced. This is an effective way to solve overheating issues on a graphics card.

Download the free MSI Afterburner and set up a fan control profile to ensure the fans are spinning to the correct speeds when the GPU heats up.

Here is an article showing how to speed up your graphics card fan(s).

Motherboard or system temperature comparison

If the temperature has risen significantly on the motherboard or system, there could be one of three problems.

Either the motherboard has an issue, the power supply needs replacing, or the case’s cooling is inadequate.

But seeing as you have removed the case’s lid, the case won’t be the cause of the overheating.

How to solve motherboard temperature issues

Disconnect all plugs to your PC and move it to your work area.

Start by replacing all the heat sink thermal paste for any heatsinks attached to your motherboard.

Check or replace the heat transfer compound for the north and south bridge chips or regulators with heatsink cooling. Do this anywhere you find some old thermal compound on a heatsink.

Also, ensure that the heat sinks are properly mounted and make good contact with the surface area where it’s meant to be cooling.

If replacing the thermal paste doesn’t help, it’s down to the motherboard or the power supply.

A standard desktop computer power supply.
A Computer Power Supply

5. Troubleshoot cooling issues of the case

If all your overheating problems were solved by removing the lid, go through the following process to resolve any cooling issues caused by the case.

Solve computer cooling issues

Make sure you have enough airflow moving through the case.

This means that you must have fans installed so that enough air gets drawn into the case and exhausted again.

Please refer to my other article, PC airflow optimization, to find out more.

The best cooling configuration

The ideal scenario is to have slightly more air drawn into the case than what is being taken out.

This will cause a slight positive air pressure inside the case.

There are a few benefits to doing it this way.

  • You can filter the air drawn into the case by filtering the intake fans.
  • You can ensure that the coolest air enters the desired location. This should be in the lowest position in the case and at the opposite end compared to the exhaust fan(s).

So if your intake fans are filtered, you can enjoy a limited amount of dust entering your PC.

We also discuss how to keep dust out of your computer, and the cooling method plays a big part in how easy it is to implement.

The best place for the exhaust fan(s) to be installed is either along the top or on the upper rear side of the case.

This takes advantage of the natural way that hot air always rises. Cool air comes in at the lowest level of the case and exits at the top.

Using larger fans is beneficial for keeping down the noise. This is simply because they can move larger volumes of air at lower RPMs.

By applying this method of PC case cooling, you will ensure that all the computer components won’t overheat and can contribute to them lasting longer.

If you live in a hotter climate, replacing your case with something larger might be a way to solve all of your cooling woes.

6. Make sure the wiring inside your case is tidy

Apart from the wiring or cable management adding the inner beauty of your system, it’s also important in another way.

One stray cable or wire can slow or even stop a fan completely.

Not only does neat wiring help you work on your computer a lot easier, but it also helps avoid stray wires or cables going where they aren’t supposed to.

So, take some time to tidy your wiring. You will be so glad you did after the job is done.