How to Keep Your CPU Cool in Windows

You are proud of your computer. It gives you entertainment and productivity, but there are times when everything goes wrong and you end up with a poorly performing machine. That’s what hit us, our machine, a AMD Ryzen 5 5600X desktop powered Windows 10, had given us a year of service. But then everything went wrong. Our CPU temperature nearly doubled, even when idle. We had to get to the bottom of things, and quickly!

Here are the steps we took to get our system working again.

Identifying the problem

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The objective of the project is to determine the cause of a temperature problem with our desktop computer. It has been working normally for over a year, but recently it has been warmer than normal. The office has been integrated into a Phanteks P360A Caseand we replaced the stock AMD cooler on our AMD Ryzen 5600X with a Be quiet! Shade Rock Slim 2 cooler.

We checked the temperature of our CPU using Core Temp, and it was far from the norm. Typically, our processor operates between 37 and 42 degrees Celsius. Sometimes it can be up to 50-60 degrees Celsius when we are gaming or doing video editing. But the problem we faced was a CPU temperature of 75 degrees Celsius, during our daily tasks which are mostly browser-based works, Slack and the GIMP image editor.

What caused our CPU to get so hot and how can we fix it? To figure that out, we had to do a little detective work. We start by looking at the running processes with Task Manager.

1. Right-click on the Windows Start menu and select Task Manager.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

2. Identify the process causing the problem. The identifier can be high CPU usage or power usage. If it’s power, the Power Usage Trend column can help determine if it’s working harder than normal. In our scenario, the energy consumption was very high, whereas it generally tends downwards. This is the source of our problem.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

3. If the process is importantfor example Windows Explorer, right click on the process and select Restart. This will reset the process and possibly fix the problem.

Windows 10 overheating

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

4. If the process is not importantt, for example a game service, right click on the process and select End Task.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

5. Reopen the app/tool ​​that was identified as the problem via Task Manager. If the issue does not reoccur, it has been resolved. In our example, we reopened Windows Explorer and navigated to a folder containing a project we were working on. After a while, the fans on our desktop computer sped up, indicating that the CPU was overheating again.

A little research suggested that Quick Access, the toolbar addition that provides quick access to recently opened files and folders, was the problem. To disable Quick Access, follow these steps.

1. Open Windows Explorer.

2. Click on View and then on Options.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

3. Under Privacy, uncheck Show recently used files and folders in Quick Access, then click OK. We will lose the automatically generated list of commonly used files and folders from Windows Explorer, but we are free to add our own files/folders to the list.

Windows 10 overheating

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

4. Check Task Manager to see if the power/CPU usage is now back to normal.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance is never exciting, but a little time spent now will pay dividends later. We must keep our PC clean, both physically and electronically. We also need to keep our system up to date and protected. So let’s check the task list and keep our PC running.

Keep the PC clean

Dust, dirt, and pet hair will get into your build, filters will clog, and your system will heat up. Ultimately, your machine will have to work harder and overall performance will suffer. Once a year, it is wise to clean your PC thoroughly, so that it works longer. Always perform these tasks with the power off and the PC unplugged from the outlet.

Wipe the outside of the case with a cloth and some IPA. This will remove fingerprints, grease and dirt.

  1. Regularly remove all filters from your housing and clean them. Clogged filters will restrict airflow, causing your case to heat up.
  2. Use a stiff brush to clean the fan blades and the inside of your case. Be careful, the components are fragile and expensive.
  3. Clean the inside of the case with cans of compressed air. Do this outside or in a garage as it will generate a lot of dust. A little isopropyl alcohol (IPA) can be used to clean stubborn stains. It will evaporate quickly, but give it time before plugging in the power.
  4. Clean your CPU cooler with the brush, compressed air and a clean rag. The fan will pull air over the heatsink, so both will need to be cleaned.
  5. Replace the thermal paste on your CPU. Thermal paste/compound often dries out and becomes more of an insulator than a conductor of heat. This should be done whenever a CPU or cooler is changed, or if a PC has been in storage for a while.
  6. Clean up your GPU and replace the thermal paste. Keeping your GPU clean and tidy will ensure you get the best performance from your investment. This should be done if a PC has been stored for a while.
  7. Make sure the power supply ventilation slots are free of dust and debris. Do not open the power supply to clean the inside, there are large capacitors which may give you a nasty shock.
  8. Wipe the outside of the case with a cloth and some IPA. This will remove fingerprints, grease and dirt.

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