All electronics are prone to overheating. This can be extremely damaging to both software and hardware, and most PCs have components in place for heat dispersion and ventilation to prevent overheating.
If your computer feels hot or the fan gets loud, you may have too many browser tabs open, or you may be doing intensive tasks like playing games, editing multimedia files, or streaming videos online. If your computer is hot but otherwise working fine, give it a break and close the resource-intensive app for a while.
Common reasons why your PC is overheating
Too many processes and applications running simultaneously
Too many browser tabs open
Blocked air vents
Viruses or other malware
Overheated CPU or GPU
Dust buildup on your PC’s fans and vents
Computer overheating is usually caused by multiple factors. Dust, if left to build up over time, can block the fans and cause the CPU or GPU to overheat. Too many applications running at once can cause the fans to go into overdrive, and if this happens too many times, the fans might stop working.
How to cool down your computer
The best way to cool down your computer is to first figure out why your PC is overheating. Once you’ve identified the causes of the excessive heat, you can figure out what to do next — whether you need to physically clean your PC, improve airflow, or close some browser tabs.
Clean your PC
Cooling your PC can be as easy as simply cleaning it. Removing dust, dirt, and other particles that get into a PC can improve speed, performance, and air flow all at once. If you haven’t cleaned your PC in at least six months, your device is overdue for a cleaning.
Your computer’s air vents help prevent overheating by moving cooler air through your device. Using your laptop on a soft surface such as a bed or couch may block its vents. Use a table or lap desk and your computer should cool down.
Desktop computers also need sufficient airflow to keep cool. Rather than store your PC in a cabinet or on a carpet, place it on a hard, firm surface with plenty of space around it.
Check the fans
If the fans are working, you may only need to wait a short time for your PC to cool down on its own. But if your computer’s hot and its fans aren’t working properly or are too loud, it could be a sign that they’re blocked or malfunctioning. Try cleaning your PC, improving its airflow, or replacing the fans.
Reapply thermal paste
Thermal paste is a heat-conductive material connecting the CPU or GPU with the metal heat sinks that help dissipate heat to keep your PC cool. Thermal paste can dry out over time, especially if you regularly push your PC beyond its natural limits.
Thermal paste is located in the PC, so you’ll have to take your device apart to replace it. Unless you’re an expert, find an experienced technician to do this. Reapplying thermal paste can be an effective cooling method, especially with older PCs.
Use an external cooling system
Many laptops have ventilation systems that work by drawing in cool air from the bottom — this is why it’s better to use your laptop on a hard, flat surface. If your laptop is prone to overheating, try using a cooling pad that blows air upwards into your laptop’s vents.
Close programs or shut them down
The most straightforward way to cool down your PC is to close any programs that consume lots of computing power and push your disk usage up to 100% — namely video editing and gaming software. You can also try shutting down your device and letting it rest for a few hours.
Cooling down your computer will also clean up and speed up your PC. To help keep your computer’s operating system neat and tidy, use a top-shelf, free PC cleaner from a reputable provider.
How does computer cooling work?
Most computer cooling works by using air flow. The vents in your computer’s exterior casing allow cool air to enter while releasing the hotter air from inside. Fans facilitate air flow — and an increased whirring sound indicates your device may be a little too hot, as the fans are working overtime to keep things cool.
Other internal components also help with cooling. These are usually attached to the CPU or GPU, which generate the most heat through typical use. The heat sink is the main component that absorbs heat from these processors, and thermal paste is applied to the heat sink to conduct heat away from the CPU.
Your PC also cools itself systematically. This is what’s happening when you hear the fans speed up when opening certain applications or doing certain tasks. Cooling software provides automatic mechanisms to increase cooling when performing demanding tasks over an extended period of time.
How to prevent your PC overheating
To stop your computer from overheating, check both the physical and software components. Many solutions to computer overheating — like identifying resource-hungry apps, closing background programs, monitoring physical usage and heat exposure, updating your software, and scanning for malware — will also keep your PC cool in the long run.
When trying these techniques, be sure to monitor your CPU temperature to make sure everything is working properly.
Identify demanding applications
Some applications require a lot of computing power, which can cause your computer to overheat. You can solve this computer heating problem by checking your applications to see how much computing power they take up.
On Windows 10 or 11, the Task Manager shows which applications are the most demanding. Access the Task Manager by going to the Start menu or using the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + Esc. It usually opens up in Compact Mode, so click More details at the bottom-left corner to see more.
The Processes tab lists all the processes running on your PC and shows you the amount of computing resources used by each. If an application is using up a high CPU percentage, then that may explain why your PC is overheating and slowing down. Close the application and open it again later, when you have fewer apps running.
To close resource-intensive programs and background processes, highlight a particular app and select End task at the bottom right-hand corner of the Task Manager window.
To prevent computer overheating, try to use only one resource-intensive app at a time. Minimize the amount of open tabs in your browser, since each new tab consumes more RAM — especially if you’re playing video games or using web-based tools.
Close background apps and delete temporary files
Restrict background data and delete temporary files to preserve your computer’s resources and save storage space. A special cleanup program can keep your PC running in top form.
AVG TuneUp is specially designed to find junk files and other useless data taking up space in your PC. Unnecessary programs and other bloatware can cause your PC to slow down and heat up quickly.
AVG TuneUp seamlessly maintains your computer’s performance on a regular basis, making it a no-sweat solution for keeping your PC’s operating system clean and its hardware cool. And the patented Sleep Mode automatically snoozes apps when you’re not using them — preventing unnecessary tasks from eating up valuable CPU and RAM resources.
Optimize your GPU
Your GPU will have different optimal settings depending on what it’s being used for. To optimize GPU performance for a particular app, open the graphics settings in your system settings — find it by searching for it in the desktop search field. Depending on what you’re doing, you can optimize graphics for video games, video editing software, or your browser.
Keep your GPU cool by ensuring that your entire device is clean and dust-free, and that the fans are running as they should. You can install extra fans or another cooling system if your GPU tends to run hot. You can also monitor your GPU’s temperature to track when it heats up.
Just as dust and poor airflow can cause PC overheating, using your PC in direct sunlight can also cause your PC to overheat. Without adequate ventilation, even moderate air temperatures can heat up your PC.
The best way to reduce any physical impact on your device’s ability to stay cool is to clean it regularly, keep it out of direct sunlight, and ensure the vents are exposed to air. To clean your PC and keep it free of dust, use canned air and a microfiber cloth. Be sure to clean out the nooks and crannies, where the dust tends to get in.
Check for updates
Updating your PC and the software on it can also minimize computer overheating. Updated programs run faster and more smoothly than older programs, and they’re more secure — any exploitable vulnerabilities found will most likely have been patched up in the newest version.
In Windows 11 and 10, check for updates by opening the Updates & Security panel in the System Settings. Windows Update will show whether your PC is updated — but regardless of what your computer says, you can check for updates anyway, then download and install any updates available.
Check for malware
If your computer is overheating, you should also check for a virus or other malware. Many types of malware will rip through your computer’s resources and cause severe overheating. A quick virus scan can tell you whether it’s malware heating up your PC.
Install reliable antivirus software to prevent viruses and other malware from infecting your PC in the first place. The best antivirus apps double as virus and malware removal tools that will detect and remove viruses automatically.
PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) are not malware, but they do waste valuable disk space and can slow down your PC. A trusted PC cleanup tool will find and delete these programs and other unnecessary software.
Prevent overheating with AVG TuneUp
Regular maintenance is essential for keeping your PC in top shape. Like any other machine, computers benefit from regular cleaning. But caring for your PC’s physical components is only half the battle.
AVG TuneUp performs regular and automatic maintenance, cleaning out browser cookies, unneeded software, cache items, and junk files to keep your PC optimized and protect it from overheating. Speed up your PC and keep it cool with AVG TuneUp.
How do I fix an overheating computer?
Here are the basic steps to fix an overheating computer:
- Ensure the computer is in a well-ventilated area and the fans are working correctly.
- Clean the inside of the computer to remove any dust buildup that may be preventing proper cooling.
- If the problem persists, you may need to replace the thermal paste on the CPU or consider upgrading your cooling system.
What happens when your PC overheats?
When a PC overheats, it can cause immediate issues or long-term damage, depending on the seriousness of the problem. In the short term, your PC might freeze, crash, or become sluggish. If you don’t resolve the issue, it could even cause damage to internal components. If you notice your PC is hot to the touch or has a loud computer fan, work out why and cool it down.
How long does it take for a computer to recover from overheating?
The time it takes for a computer to recover from overheating varies depending on the severity of the damage. In some cases, the computer may recover quickly — if you check your GPU temperature and it’s high, this usually means it’s working hard but should cool down on its own. Whereas if you have a faulty fan, you’ll need to get it fixed.
How do I know if the CPU is damaged?
If the CPU is damaged, the computer may not turn on, or it could experience frequent crashes and freezes. You may also notice unusual behavior, such as sudden shutdowns or the blue screen of death.
Should I be worried if my PC is hot?
If your PC is hot, it’s generally a sign that something is wrong and should be addressed. While some heat is normal during use, excessively high temperatures can cause damage to the components inside your device.
How do you test if your PC is overheating?
To test if your PC is overheating, you can use software tools to monitor the temperature of the CPU and other components. You can also physically check the fans and other cooling systems to ensure they are working correctly.