CPU temperature can be measured in many different ways, but two of the most popular ways are by checking the CPU socket temp and by checking the core temp. The difference between these two measurements can seem confusing at first, but they’re actually very easy to understand once you know how they work.
Let’s take a look at what the differences are between socket and core temperature, why it matters, and when you should use one or the other to measure your CPU temperature.
System temperatures are typically measured using a combination of core temperature and CPU socket temperature, which are sometimes different. The difference between these temperatures is more than just an academic curiosity, certain performance issues can arise if you don’t understand their effects on your processor.
CPU socket vs core temp
The system temperature is comprised of two parts, core temp and CPU socket temp, understanding both will help you determine when your computer is being affected by overheating.
Mostly the core temperature is higher and needs more attention than the socket temperature. The core temperature is the main CPU within which heat is being produced whiles the socket is where the CPU sits on the motherboard and it’s heated via conduction.
Both socket and core temperatures are a function of heat production by an individual processor core, but that’s where their similarities end.
The socket temperature is primarily controlled by airflow through your PC case, while your processor cores are confined to their respective sockets and therefore air cannot directly affect them.
Instead, they rely on a heatsink and fan to pull away excess heat via convection. As such, these two temperatures tend to be independent of one another, you can have high or low socket temps with perfectly fine CPU cores (or vice versa).
However, if you do notice your core temps climbing higher than normal along with increased socket temp readings, it could indicate that something is wrong with either your cooling setup or fans. In general, you want to keep both readings as low as possible for optimal performance.
A CPU socket temp of 100 degrees Celsius might not be as problematic as a core temp of 90 degrees Celsius. The reason for that is because of how CPUs work. Most CPUs have multiple cores, each with its own built-in cooling mechanism (called a heat sink).
A single heat sink covers all cores on one side of the chip. Heat sinks pull in cool air from outside your PC and push hot air out through ventilation holes in your case or tower. If your heat sink gets too hot, it won’t be able to properly expel excess heat.
That could lead to thermal throttling when your CPU slows down to prevent damage, or even worse, permanent damage to your hardware.
So while high CPU socket temps are certainly causing concern, they aren’t necessarily a sign that something needs immediate attention.
However, high core temps should definitely raise red flags. Your CPU has several sensors located around each individual core that monitor internal temperature levels. These sensors send data back to your motherboard, where a special utility like Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) allows you to monitor them directly from Windows.
XTU also includes settings for adjusting fan speeds and voltages so you can manually control cooling at any time without rebooting your machine.
It’s important to note that most modern processors have built-in safety features designed to protect against extreme conditions like overheating. When your CPU detects that things are getting out of hand, it will automatically throttle itself until conditions return to normal operating ranges.
This means that high core temps may not always indicate impending doom, however, you should still try to keep your CPU within manufacturer-recommended limits as much as possible.
How hot should CPU cores get?
No matter what CPU you’re using, or how much you spend on it, heat is always an issue. But how hot should your CPU cores get in order to run well?
That depends on a number of factors, including how old and powerful your processor is, what your ambient room temperature is like, and whether you’re overclocking your machine or not. However, 90c is bad for a CPU.
One thing that will also affect temperatures (and which we didn’t mention above) is airflow inside your case. The more air can move around inside, the cooler things will stay, some fans are better than others when it comes to moving lots of air without creating too much noise.
The good news is that most CPUs have some kind of automatic thermal throttling mechanism built-in to keep them from overheating, but that doesn’t mean you can just ignore temperatures entirely
How do you measure temperatures?
When you have a computer running, you’ll usually have some way to measure its temperature. There are three main options available to you, thermal diodes built into your CPU and/or video card, a dedicated CPU or motherboard sensor, software-based monitors like SpeedFan or HWiNFO, and a digital thermometer.
Each of these methods has its own strengths and weaknesses, so let’s take a look at them in detail. I highly recommend using SpeedFan or HWiNFO to monitor temperatures in Windows, although I have seen people use CPUs or motherboard sensors in a pinch before.
If you’re using a Mac, you don’t really have any good software options for measuring your computer’s temperatures, at least not that I’m aware of, so you’ll probably want to use one of your system sensors if possible.
A digital thermometer that connects to your motherboard or processor socket, gives you a reading of your chip’s current temperature. Keep in mind that these readings may not always be precise, so it’s important to know how each works and what their limitations are.
For example, most manufacturers will tell you never to trust temperatures reported by your motherboard, and they’re right. Motherboard sensors often report inaccurate numbers because they’re placed near other components, which can skew results.
In addition, motherboard sensors can vary widely between different models and brands of motherboards.
What are thermal diodes in PC
Thermal diodes are usually located on either side of a processor die. These thermal diodes convert heat energy directly into electrical energy by means of an internal resistor with a known resistance value.
That voltage is then measured using any on-die digital circuitry that may be present (such as Intel’s Digital Thermal Sensor (DTS), digitized with an analog-to-digital converter, and then stored for further processing within system memory.
The main advantage of thermal diodes is their ability to measure temperatures in real time, meaning they don’t have to rely on software polling or other tricks to keep track of temperature changes over time.
The downside is that these sensors aren’t always present on every CPU or GPU out there, so if you’re trying to monitor something like your motherboard chipset or hard drive controller, you’ll need another method.
A dedicated sensor is a chip that measures its own temperature based on some form of analog measurement. Most commonly, these chips use a thermistor, which is simply a type of resistor whose resistance varies according to its surrounding temperature.
An example would be nichrome wire wrapped around a tiny piece of ceramic, when heated, it expands slightly and thus increases its resistance. This change can be easily measured using simple electronics.
The biggest benefit to having a dedicated sensor is accuracy. Since these chips are measuring temperature themselves rather than relying on outside data, they tend to provide more accurate readings than other methods.
On top of that, many motherboards include multiple onboard sensors for different parts of your system, which makes monitoring multiple components easier than ever before.
It may seem redundant to measure your processor’s temperature both at its socket and on its core, but each type of reading serves a specific purpose.
You shouldn’t be trying to control either temperature or compare them directly, so look at socket temperatures as a sort of a failsafe that tells you when it might be time to check your CPU heat sink and fan for dust buildup or other physical problems that would interfere with proper cooling, not whether or not your processor is set upright in your computer case.
If your heatsink isn’t doing its job properly, your core temperature will spike until you shut down your computer or remove whatever problem is causing issues. If something like that happens, it’s probably best to address any issues before starting again rather than running into more problems later on because your hardware wasn’t working correctly.
The socket temperature can also serve as an indicator of overall system health if it stays abnormally high for too long.