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Why Does Your PC Overheat While Gaming? (Read THIS First!)

Why Does Your PC Overheat While Gaming? (Read THIS First!)

Overheating is one of the major dangers that computers (especially gaming computers) face everyday. So why do they overheat and how can you prevent your PC from suffering this fate?

Why Does Your PC Overheat While Gaming?

Most PCs overheat because one or more of the following factors:

  • Too much dust buildup inside of the PC
  • The CPU is overheating due to being overworked
  • The GPU is overheating from rendering graphics that are too demanding
  • Not enough fans to properly cool the inside of the case
  • Low quality fans that do not cool properly
  • Broken fans / heat sinks inside the PC
  • Clogged or blocked vents on back or bottom of PC
  • PC is on carpet, leading to improper ventilation
  • Poor cable management leading to overcrowded PC case

As it turns out, computing is a power-hungry process that consumes lots of electricity. Components like your GPU and CPU demand a uniquely high amount of power in order to function.

While much of this power is used to perform complex computations inside of silicon chips, some of this electricity is released in the form of heat by your GPU and CPU.

Since gaming requires your CPU and GPU to work extra hard, it can also cause your PC to heat up very quickly.

To combat the heat generated by these components, PCs have cooling mechanisms that transfer heat away from your PC and away from its most critical components.

If your PC is overheating, it’s likely that its cooling system, such as its fans, are broken or inadequate.

It’s also possible that your PC is overheating due to an accumulation of dust inside the PC case, which traps heat and obstructs the PC’s cooling fans.

To prevent overheating, you’ll want to make sure that your PC’s cooling system is adequate and in good working order, you’ll also want to clean your PC regularly and keep it away from dusty surfaces (like carpet).

How To Stop PC From Overheating While Gaming

To stop your PC from overheating while you game:

  • Air Dust Your PC Bi-Monthly
  • Keep Your PC Off Of The Ground
  • Use High Quality Fans
  • Inspect HeatSink And Fans For Damage
  • Practice Good Wire Management
  • Know What Your PC Can Handle And Do Not Overwork It

Air Dust / Clean Your PC Bi-Monthly

Air dusting your computer is the first line of defense against overheating. Dust builds up very fast in computers, especially if you happen to live in a dusty area.

This dust builds up and negatively impacts the performance of your computer and its cooling system, potentially leading to overheating and, in some cases, hardware failure.

When I got my first gaming PC, I had no clue you were supposed to clean it. Well, I suppose I knew, I just didn’t know how important it was.

By the time I actually opened up my case to clean it (probably 6 – 12 months after I bought it), dust was practically encrusted on my GPU’s board.

I was lucky because it didn’t actually affect my GPU’s performance, but I was playing with fire.

You don’t have to go overboard with your cleaning. A bi-monthly dusting schedule should suffice for most PCs.

If you keep your PC on carpet flooring without any elevation, then you should air dust it more frequently, at least monthly.

To air dust your PC, all you need is a can of condensed air. Simply remove your PC’s side panel and spray the air over your PC’s components.

When cleaning your PC, pay special attention to the fans on your CPU cooler and graphics card, as these tend to accumulate the most dust and have the greatest impact on performance.

Keep Your PC Off Of The Floor

This tip is especially true if you have a carpeted floor. You do not want your PC directly on the ground because that’s where all of the dust lives.

Not only does placing your PC on the floor allow more dust to enter your PC, but it also strains the PC’s case fans.

In particular, if your PC has case fans along the bottom of the case, placing it directly on the floor will require its fans to work extra hard to suck in new air from its surroundings.

If you have to keep your PC on the floor, you can use a small piece of wood as a little platform for your PC. This will keep it further away from the dust and debris of your floor, while also putting it on the pedestal that it deserves.

If your PC is on the floor, you should clean it a bit more regularly. I recommend a monthly dusting just to make sure that it stays completely clean.

Some people are lucky and never have problems keeping their PC on the floor, so if you notice dust doesn’t really build up then you might be one of the lucky ones.

Use High Quality Fans / CPU Coolers

I know gaming PCs are expensive and it’s very tempting to drop all your money on a new GPU and save nothing for the fans. Try to push this temptation out of your mind because you have to keep your components cool.

If your CPU is overheating while you game, then it probably does not have a high quality cooler / heatsink.

Stock coolers (the cooler that came with your CPU) are not always built well, and sometimes they even crack and break.

I highly recommend spending some extra cash and picking up a high quality cooler for your CPU.

Afterall, it’s one of the most important components in your PC (and your PC will literally shut down mid game if your CPU overheats!)

Personally, I recommend Noctua brand coolers, since they’re silent and extremely durable:

Your case fans are just as important as your CPU cooler. The only difference is their main task is to move hot air out of your case, and fresh air into the case.

Your PC needs at least two fans. One in the front-bottom portion of your case (for intake) and the other in the back for exhaust.

You can add more fans to your build if you want, but they won’t make as much of a difference as these two. Make sure they’re high quality and durable because a broken fan will lead to overheating every time.

Again, Noctua are where I go for my case fans because they’re silent, affordable, and durable:

There are other brands like Arctic that make great fans as well so there’s nothing wrong with shopping around. Just don’t try to cheap out too much or you’ll wind up with a fan that breaks after a month of use.

Inspect CPU Cooler And Fans For Damage

If you don’t want to replace your fans unless you absolutely have to, then you should check to see if your fans have any issues. Inspect your fans for any cracks, dents, etc.

Even the smallest crack in your CPU cooler could cause your CPU to cool unevenly and overheat (speaking from experience).

If your cooler or a fan is damaged, you’re going to have to replace it. There’s no two ways about it.

If it’s damaged, it is not going to cool your PC properly and your PC will overheat when it has to do demanding things like gaming.

Now, beyond regular, physical damage, you should also look for other issues. Take a look inside your PC while it is running to make sure that your fans are all actually on.

It’s safe to run your PC with the case off, as long as you’re not leaving it off while you actually use the computer.

Also, make sure not to touch anything while your computer is running. Just simply observe that every fan is working. I went a literal year once before realizing one of my fans just wasn’t working at all.

Most of the time, you’ll have to replace a fan that isn’t working, but if you have an extra fan port available on your motherboard, you can try plugging your fan into a different port, first.

Practice Good Wire Management

If you bought your gaming PC second hand or if it was the first gaming PC that you’ve ever built, then you may have some poor wire management going on inside.

Wire management is a pretty difficult skill to master when building PCs, especially if you’re like me and are so focused on getting the thing to work you don’t worry about how things look.

If your wires are a mangled, crowded mess, then it’s much harder for your fans to cool down the inside of your PC because there’s not enough room to ventilate. This can and does lead to overheating quite often.

I’m not going to lie, untangling your wires and fixing them so that they’re no longer a tangled mess can be difficult.

I don’t recommend pulling your computer apart willy-nilly because sometimes it’s difficult to know where your wires should go.

I’ve literally had to look up my motherboard’s manual to figure out where to plug in components after unplugging them, because the actual motherboard might as well have been in an alien language.

Look up some good videos on cable management and PC building so you’ll have an idea of what you’re doing. Afterwards, take good pictures so you know how everything was plugged in before.

Then, when you’re ready, clear out your day and get to work putting everything back together in an orderly fashion.

Know What Your PC Can Handle

While it can be pretty fun to crank up your graphics in-game to the fanciest settings available, it may not be great for your PC. Doing this will push your GPU and your CPU to their limits.

When these components have to do more calculations, they get much hotter than they usually do and if you’re not careful, they’ll overheat. This overheating can actually be pretty dangerous if you’re unlucky.

Turning your graphics all the way up in an extremely demanding game could actually tax your CPU and GPU so much that it forces your computer to perform an emergency shutdown.

In the worst case scenario, one of your components could actually become damaged from the overheating.

If you want to increase your graphics and see what your computer can handle, do it gradually. If you’re on very low settings, try going to low settings, then medium, etc.

Don’t just jump up two rings above your weight class because that is practically asking for disaster.

Don’t get me wrong, you can play on higher settings if you’re willing to get 40-50FPS, or even 30FPS.

Once you start getting 10 FPS in-game, though, you’re better off just closing the game because it’s way too hard for your PC to run and by trying to run the game.

Signs Your PC Is Overheating While Gaming

If your PC is overheating while gaming, then your game will start to run at a very low framerate (5-20 FPS), will stay at that framerate for long stretches of time, and your PC may even shut down. Your fans may get very loud and your computer will feel very hot to touch.

The main signs of overheating while gaming are:

  • Low Framerate (when it was previously high)
  • Sudden PC shutdowns / restarts mid game
  • Loud fans (that are usually quiet)
  • Your PC is literally hot

These things alone aren’t necessarily signs of an overheating PC while you game, but if you’re experiencing them only while you game, then it is cause for concern.

If you usually get 60 FPS in-game, and all of a sudden it drops to 20 and stays there, then your PC is probably overheating.

If your fans randomly get extremely loud and they stay loud while you game, then your PC might be overheating.

Some fans are just loud, and don’t kick on until you do something demanding like gaming. So there’s not always cause for concern, but you should pay attention and recognize when something weird is going on.

Sometimes, you can literally feel when your PC is hot. This is especially true if you have a laptop, because the bottom of it will be fiery to the touch if it is overheating.

For a desktop, it’s harder to tell, but if you know where to check on your case you can figure out if it’s too hot. Although, this isn’t the most reliable method of checking for overheating.

Finally, if your PC is shutting down randomly mid-game then it is probably overheating.

If your computer doesn’t shut down any other time except when you start up and start playing a game, the most likely reason is that your computer overheats under load.

If it’s only one game, then there may be a problem with that specific game. But if it’s every single game, then it’s probably a problem with your CPU cooler (in my experience) or one of your fans.

How To Check PC Temperature

The best way to check your PC temperature is with third party software like MSI Afterburner or Speedfan. These applications will monitor the temperatures of your GPU, CPU, fans, and other components inside of your computer. There is no way to check your PC temperature without using these programs.

The only way to check your PC temperature without downloading an extra program is by going into your computer’s BIOS.

How you do this is different with every computer, and it will only tell you the temperature of your CPU, which isn’t very useful since your computer isn’t even really running while it’s in BIOS.

To really check your temps, you want to download one of the following programs:

MSI Afterburner

MSI Afterburner looks fantastic and it’s easy to read. It should work with most, if not all computers and it’s made by MSI so it’s completely trustworthy.

Speedfan

Speedfan is a very simple looking program but it does exactly what it needs to.

It isn’t as fancy as MSI Afterburner, but many prefer it because it is much more lightweight, so they can have it on in the background while doing other things on their PCs.

CPUID HWMonitor

CPUID is comparable to Speedfan, but it falls somewhere in the middle between Speedfan and MSI Afterburner.

It’s a bit fancier than Speedfan, yet not as fancy as MSI Afterburner. I personally use HWMonitor on my computer.

What Temperature Should A PC Be At While Gaming?

Your PC should be below 90 degrees Celsius (194 Fahrenheit) while gaming. Neither your GPU nor your CPU should go above 90 degrees Celsius. If they do it means that your computer is getting too hot and you should take a break from gaming. 80 degrees Celsius (176 Fahrenheit) is a good temperature to aim for.

You can’t really take a measure of your entire PC’s temperature, but you can look at each individual component and see whether or not your PC is getting too hot.

Programs like MSI Afterburner and CPUID HWMonitor help us monitor our CPU and GPU temperatures. These are the two most important temperatures to look at while gaming.

You should try to aim for 85 degrees Celsius (185 Fahrenheit) while you game, but if you go a little higher that’s fine.

If you’re constantly at or above 90 degrees Celsius, though, then something is wrong and you should take some precautions to prevent overheating.

Is It Ok If A PC Overheats While Gaming?

It is not okay if a PC overheats while gaming because overheating can lead to the PC and its parts becoming permanently damaged. If your CPU or GPU reaches or goes above 90 degrees Celsius (194 Fahrenheit) while gaming, then they are overheating and you should take a short break to let them cool off.

You definitely do not want your PC overheating while you game or do anything else. Overheating is not good for your computer, and it could lead to broken parts.

Most of the time, if your CPU or GPU gets too hot, your computer will perform an emergency shutdown. This will likely happen mid-game which is never good (for your rank or your save file).

Beyond that, though, constant overheating could lead to permanent GPU or CPU damage.

👋 Hey There, I'm Eric!

Since 2018, I've been making streams come true.

I like gaming, streaming and watching other people stream. I created this website to help streamers, viewers, and gamers answer questions they have regarding live streaming, gaming, and PCs. I am a Twitch affiliate and currently stream on Twitch 3 days a week. I also have a Youtube channel where I make videos about streaming. I hope you find my content helpful. Feel free to stop by one of my streams to say hi.