Core Temp vs CPU Temp – Complete Comparison Guide

Austin
| Last Updated: June 2, 2021

Digital Advisor is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Have you had trouble differentiating between core temp and CPU temp? 

Worry no more because you're not alone. There are so many people out there who are also struggling with the issue just like you are. 

We have found that one parameter is best observed by those using the motherboard's BIOS and the other by those using third-party CPU temperature checking apps or programs. 

Let's start with a detailed discussion of the two. 

Photo credit: softlay.com

TL;DR: Core Temp vs CPU Temp

Both CPU temp and core temp are crucial aspects to consider in your computer. As temperature readings, they show you how cool or hot your device’s CPU is. Such data is essential for troubleshooting and keeping the PC healthy because extreme temperatures may ruin it. 

CPU temp gives you a basic overview of the CPU’s temperature status, while the core temp option gives you a more accurate and in-depth outlook on the same. 

CPU temps are less accurate and usually provide a higher figure in the range of 7-10℃ as headroom. You can use the CPU temps option for your idle PC or if you use it for light tasks like word processing.

Core temps are more accurate and suitable for PCs that work under intensive, CPU-dependent loads like gaming.

What Does Core Temp Mean? 

Core temp refers to a non-physical temperature measured in degrees on an arbitrary scale. It is not like the normal temperature that we all know, which is a real physical aspect of a body or object.

You can determine your computer’s core temp using programs, software, or apps such as HWMonitor, RealTemp, AI Suite, or Core Temp.

At this juncture, it is essential to note that depending on the context, core temp may refer to either the non-physical/arbitrary temperature or one of the programs known for checking the mentioned temperature. 

Core Temp app (Photo credit: comparitech.com)

In this article, our focus is on the temperature rather than the app or program. 

The unit for measuring the core temp may be either degree Celsius or degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the device or program you are using. Since it is usually expressed in degrees Celsius, you can always change to this option if your program uses Fahrenheit. 

Knowing your device’s core temp is crucial as it shows you how cool or heated up your device is. High temperatures may mean that the computer is overworking. 

What Does CPU Temp Mean?

CPU temp refers to the temperature of the Central Processing Unit, the computer's brain. Unlike the core temp, the CPU temp is a physical temperature. It is significantly affected by several factors such as:

Photo credit: forums.aida64.com

  • The temperature of the surroundings

  • Activity you are doing on the computer

  • Age of your computer

  • Internal temperatures of the other components of your computer

Each computer has a sensor within the socket of the motherboard that reads the CPU temperature. Since motherboards are different, the CPU temp value is usually higher than the actual temperature by 7-10°C because the sensor is physical. 

Reading the CPU temp at a value higher ensures that there is wiggle room for the device to self-regulate or warn the user that the system needs temperature regulation to perform normally and reduce delays and the risk of damaging the CPU or motherboard.

Similarities and Differences 

Let’s now look at some of the differences and similarities between the core temp and CPU temp concept. 

Core Temp and CPU Temp Differences 

Although the two are fundamentally temperatures for a given device, there are some differences between them, as we shall see below.

Physicality and Arbitrariness

Core temp is an arbitrary or non-physical temperature whose measurement scale is also arbitrary. We can look at it as a virtual aspect that can only be measured virtually using computer programs or applications like the ones mentioned earlier in the article. 

On the other hand, CPU temp is a physical aspect, just like the normal temperatures of objects or bodies, which we measure using a thermometer. In the CPU temp case, we determine the device’s temperature with the help of a sensor in the motherboard.

Computers measure CPU temperatures on a real, physical scale.

Means of Observation

To check the CPU temperature of a computer, we rely on the device’s BIOS. The BIOS is an in-built program that comes with the device straight from the manufacturer. However, it is possible to upgrade it to later versions for better accuracy. 

Checking the core temperature of a device the surest way involves using third-party apps that you have to purchase or download and install on your computer. Some of the most common apps or programs for checking core temp include HWMonitor, Core Temp, and RealTemp.

If you are to get the best picture of how cool or heated up your PC is, you will want to go with the core temp option because it is more accurate than CPU temp. CPU temp becomes erratic because its sensor is far removed from the CPU, the leading heat producer in the PC.

Core temp becomes accurate as the sensor is closer to the CPU and thus records the exact temperature, unlike the far placed CPU temperature sensor that may even record other components’ temperatures on the motherboard. 

Core Temp and CPU Temp Similarities

Core temp and CPU temp share some similarities, as discussed below.

They Are Both Affected By Both Internal and External Factors

Since your computer doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is affected by the interplay of external factors such as the room temperature you are using it in and the state of the location of use or storage. 

High room temperatures will make your computer’s CPU heat up, thus raising both the core and CPU temperatures. The same concept is observable when you live in a warm climate where ambient temperatures are high.

Inadequate ventilation also affects both CPU and core temp. It’s advisable to use or store your device in a place where it can enjoy a free flow of fresh air to allow the cooling system to function normally. Poor air circulation causes the PC to heat up and overwork, raising core and CPU temperature.  

The level of humidity also affects both core and CPU temps. Too much moisture in the air means that cold air gets into the device and may cause condensation of water, which results in short-circuiting. 

If the air is too dry, it produces static electricity, which may cause discharges when coupled with the increased heat conductivity. The PC thus keeps getting hotter, and the core and CPU temps keep increasing. 

The heat state of other internal components may also affect both core and CPU temperatures. High temperatures of internal parts raise both the CPU and core temps since they are all on the same motherboard and within the same case.

How Temperature Can Impact Performance

Although it is easy to say "lower temperatures are better", experts recommend that your computer's CPU should run a little warm to ensure a proper balance between the CPU's heat output and the cooling mechanism.

If you leave your computer in the cold in the shut state for a long time, you risk slowing down its performance or damaging some sensitive components when you power it on. Electric current traveling through the parts results in heating up rapidly, making them expand. 

Since the PC or desktop is compact and retains its original size, the components’ rapid expansion distorts their shape and breaks or bends them. 

Critical parts like the CPU and cores could be damaged in the process, leading to slowed performance or total breakdown depending on the extent of the damage. 

To avoid this distortion of internal components, it is advisable first to let devices in cold temperatures heat up to room temperature before you power them up. 

High temperatures may cause the following manifestations to the Core, CPU, and the computer at large:

High Temperatures Are Counter-productive

When your CPU and Core have to struggle with high temperatures, their productivity lowers since they have to work harder to perform a given task. 

If you are using the computer for intensive tasks such as editing videos or gaming, the CPU will have to work harder to complete each command or instruction cycle. 

The counter-productivity goes hand in hand with reduced task processing and execution speeds. As such, you will experience delays on your device, with tasks taking longer to complete.

Reduced Lifespan

Some electronics like CPUs and Cores are sensitive and have a finite lifespan that shortens when they run at adversely high temperatures. 

The gradual destruction of the Core and CPU means that they lose their functionality as time goes and thus, their performance also keeps going down from the optimum. 

Excessive CPU Noise

Every time the CPU and Core overheat, your computer’s cooling systems have to overwork to dissipate the heat, stay in good health, and operate at optimum levels. 

However, this comes at a price - too much noise. The same happens with fundamental cooling mechanisms such as the fans, as they too have to do more work to cool down the system. 

Shutting Down

Each computer comes with its internal sensors for detecting heat levels. When temperatures become unbearable, the device automatically shuts itself down to prevent possible damage to the CPU, Core, motherboard, and other critical components. 

Knowing the proper temperature at which your PC or desktop should operate ensures that you do not have nasty experiences such as frequently forced shutdowns, slow speeds, delays in execution of instructions, and the need for constant upgrades or new replacements.

How to Monitor Your Computer’s CPU Temperature

It is essential to regularly check on the CPU’s temperature to ensure your computer is healthy and operates optimally. You can consider the process as part of the regular checkup that helps you identify, diagnose, and correct issues as soon as they occur.

How Often Should I Check My CPU’s Temp?

Just like checking your car’s oil, which you do often but not daily, checking your CPU temperature can be a weekly or monthly activity. You can even check it once every few months if there are no underlying heating up issues.

Weekly checks are essential if you have overclocked your CPU or if you use it, usually strain it with higher loads like streaming, gaming, photoshop, and editing videos. 

If you only perform light tasks such as emailing, web browsing, and word processing, check your CPU temps every few months. 

How to Check CPU Core Temp

If you are a Windows user, you can check your CPU’s core temp using any of the following apps or programs:

Each of these core temp checking software has its unique characteristics, but either is suitable for your device. 

With the Core Temp app, you must be careful when installing by unchecking the “Goodgame Empire” bloatware. After installing the app, open it and check your CPU core temps under the “Temperature Readings” section at the bottom of the window.

Photo credit: digitaltrends.com

HWMonitor is more suitable for gamers. It checks the temperatures of the CPU, graphics card, motherboard, and hard drives

If you are a macOS user, you can use the following software:

How to Check My CPU Temp

You can check the temperature of the CPU using the in-built BIOS (Basic Input-Output System). Located in the motherboard, the BIOS is the first software that starts when you power on your PC. It ensures all the PC’s hardware starts and runs smoothly. 

Since the BIOS is old software, some modern devices use the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which is faster, works more smoothly, and has fewer limitations.

The BIOS or UEFI is accessible on the device through Settings>Update & Security>Recovery>Advanced Startup>Troubleshoot>Advanced Options>UEFI Firmware Settings. You will see the CPU temp from the System Hardware Monitor or the PC Health Status screen.

Basic Input-Output System (Photo credit: thetechlounge.com)

How to Reduce CPU Core Temperature

Because there are many reasons why your device's core or CPU temperatures go high, there are also many ways to reduce them. 

The specific way you choose depends on the exact reason for the overheating based on your diagnosis. However, several ways apply to all computers, as we shall see below.

Ensuring Better Airflow

You might have to lower your CPU's temperature by enhancing the airflow within the system. The best way to get the airflow right is to ensure that you use the neutral airflow mechanism whereby there is a balance between the air that goes in and that which leaves.

The neutral airflow is unlike both the positive and negative airflow. In the positive airflow, you have more air going in if you have more intake fans than exhaust fans, and you can't control the revolutions per minute (RPM) of each fan. 

The negative airflow happens when the exhaust fans are more than the intake obes, and again you have no control of each fan’s RPM. However, you can still adjust to shifting from either positive or negative airflow to the neutral overflow system.

Changing the Location of Your Computer

Your computer will heat up if you are using it in a poorly ventilated area where the airflow is minimal. You should always ensure that you are using your device in a well-ventilated area where there is enough clean air flowing in and out. 

Reapplying the Thermal Paste

Over time, the stock thermal paste wears off or dries out. Sometimes the paste may be nonexistent due to some accidental error. If you notice any of these scenarios, you must apply a high-quality thermal paste.

Using a better thermal paste ensures better heat transfer between the CPU and the heat sink, leading to better CPU core temperature regulation. 

Using Better CPU Coolers

As it happens, you can easily find a better aftermarket fan or CPU cooler. The stock coolers or fans usually work well, but they are not always efficient. An aftermarket cooling system comes in handy, especially if you have to overclock the CPU. 

Overclocking here means setting your computer's CPU to operate faster than it does at stock settings. 

Clean the Fans and Other Critical Parts

Perhaps the most basic way to reduce your device's CPU core temperature is to clean the fan and other essential parts. The fans ensure proper circulation of air in the system, but they also bring in the dust. 

The dust gradually collects on the fan blades, making them heavier. The fans then have to overwork to overcome the extra weight and function at optimum levels, resulting in excessive heat production. 

Always ensure that you clean your computer regularly to get rid of the accumulated or caked dust. A can of compressed air comes in handy when you have to perform this task. 

Photo credit: newegg.com

Bottom Line

Although both the core temps and CPU temps are crucial to the world of computing, the core temps prove more reliable since their sensor is closer to the heat source - the CPU, than the motherboard CPU temperature sensor.

Manufacturers like Intel later abandoned the use of CPU temps because they are errant and do not present the absolute temperatures because their sensor is far placed and may detect other components’ temperatures all over the space. 

You may want to rely on core temps if you use third-party temperature checking programs such as Core Temp. If you are using the motherboard's BIOS, the CPU temp is what you should be checking. 

People Also Ask

While you may have followed our discussion closely so far, you may still have some questions you would love to ask. We understand. It is not easy. In this section, let's look at some of the most frequently asked questions about Core temp and CPU temp. 

Are Core Temps Lower Or Higher Than CPU Temps?

Core temps are usually higher than CPU temps because of the core temperature sensor’s proximity to the heat source. They are more reliable than CPU temps, which are detected by a sensor on the motherboard. 

The motherboard CPU temp sensor may be inaccurate due to its distance from the heat source, which means it can be all over the place and may present a diode’s temperature in the CPU or the socket. For a normally working device, CPU temps are lower than core temps. 

What is a Good CPU Core Temp?

There is no one answer for this question that fits all CPUs because each user performs different tasks on their computer, and some are more demanding than others.

Tasks like playing games and editing videos generate more heat than most people's typical daily usage like email, word processing, and browsing the web. Games rely on either CPU, RAM, or GPU. Those that depend on the CPU will cause it to heat up if they are too intensive.

Photo credit: cputemper.com

It is also important to note that what is regarded as safe temperature readings mah differ between various CPU models. 

With that said, for intensive tasks like gaming, your CPU temperature should be within the 75-80°C range for a short time. In the idle state or when executing light tasks, it should be around 45°C to slightly over 60°C. 

How Will I Know If My Processor Is Running Too Hot?

You will know if your processor is running too hot if you notice any, all, or a combination of the following aspects:

  • Excessive noise, especially from the fans

  • CPU throttling (automatic slow-down)

  • Frequent automatic shutdowns shortly after booting

  • Automatic shutdowns after a prolonged period of use

  • Device hotness when you feel it with the hands, especially around the fan area

Is CPU Package Temp Important?

The CPU package temperature is the temperature that the sensor inside the CPU detects. Due to its proximity to the heat source, the package temperature sensor detects higher temperatures than the motherboard CPU temperature sensor. 

The CPU package temperature is critical because it shows more accurate quantities than the same purpose sensor on the motherboard. You have a truer overview of the CPU’s heat situation and can rely on the data to adjust or ignore the prevailing temperatures.

Austin

When the tech company I worked for restructured and I ended up jobless, I decided to put the wealth of knowledge and management skills to use somewhere new. I’d checked out a few buyer’s guides on the site in the past and reached out to the previous owner. A few months later, here we are. Now, I get to be behind the scenes, helping people find the best tech.