If you think your computer is overheating while playing games, here is a good way to test and diagnose the cause.
- Diagnosing a PC that overheats when playing games
- 1. Remove the case lid
- 2. Get thermal readings of all the major components
- 3. Start a game with Speccy running
- 4. Comparisons and isolating hotter components
- 5. Troubleshoot cooling issues of the case
- 6. Make sure the wiring inside your case is tidy
Several components can overheat and cause problems while you are playing a game.
The typical causes of overheating while gaming include an overheating CPU and/or graphics card, the room’s ambient temperature being too high, and insufficient PC airflow. From there, diagnosing more specific component issues will be required.
Games put more stress on your computer than ordinary desktop use. That’s why we need to test the temperatures of all your computer’s components during or after a few minutes of gameplay.
If left too long, you may end up in a situation where your computer won’t post anymore. That simply means that it won’t start up anymore.
A cooler running computer also means that it will deliver better performance, so you can enjoy it as it’s intended to run in terms of speed.
Diagnosing a PC that overheats when playing games
Here are some steps to take to establish the component that is overheating or causing a computer to overheat.
Make sure 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. To do that, you will need to download and install the following application.
Download the free version of Speccy from here, and install it on your computer.
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 CPU is the central processing unit and is 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 to do with things like AI, map information, character levels and skills, and more.
This means no programs running that can put the CPU under load.
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 temperature 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 for gaming computers
The ambient temperature outside your computer’s case greatly impacts all of 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
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 temperatures.
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 will need to apply a fix
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 surfaces of both the CPU and heatsink are thoroughly clean, even from small dust fragments, before applying the thermal paste and reattaching the heat sink and fan assembly.
The CPU cooler I recommend is the Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black. I talk more about it in my best premium CPU cooler article.
It provides outstanding cooling performance while keeping your system quiet.
If you feel that 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 computer and move it to your work area.
Make sure you don’t have any 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 was 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.
Make sure 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 how to replace your GPU’s thermal paste.
Also, make sure that the GPU cooling fan is spinning nice and free. If you lightly flick the fan with your finger to spin the fan up, check to see that it slows down gradually.
If the fan comes to an abrupt stop 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 up to the correct speeds when the GPU heats up.
Here is an article where we show you 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 temperature, 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 computer and move it to
Start by replacing all the heat sink thermal compound 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 itself or the power supply.
5. Troubleshoot cooling issues of the case
If all your overheating problems were solved by removing the case lid, go through the following process to resolve any cooling issues caused by the case’s cooling.
Solve computer cooling issues and causes why it may overheat
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 being 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 simply 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 computer.
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 due to the fact that 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 computer, it’s also important in another way.
One stray cable or wire is enough to 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 that isn’t supposed to.
So, take some time to tidy your wiring. You will be so glad you did after the job is done.
That covers all of the major components and how to diagnose and fix cooling issues for them.
Focussing on one component at a time allows you to apply focused effort to solve the issue.
Always remember to take your time. Rushing leads to mistakes and ends up costing you more money to fix.
It’s also highly recommended that you always use a high-quality thermal compound.
Cheap thermal paste tends to go hard sooner than it should. It ends up causing more of a heat barrier than a heat transference medium.
I hope this has helped, and I wish you the best of luck in making your computer run nice and cool.