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Intel Core i7 Temperatures

Jon Bach (President)

Intel Core i7 Temperatures

Posted on February 26, 2009 by Jon Bach

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There has been quite a bit of talk recently about Intel Core i7 CPUs and what temperature they should be running. The Core i7 CPUs have a TDP of 130W, and run quite hot compared to the Core 2 Quad CPUs we've used in the past. How hot is too hot? A Google search shows that there is massive confusion and misinformation around the web. In the absense of good information, I decided to find out for myself. As an Intel Premier Provider, I talked to an Intel engineer, and am writing to tell you what I found.

The first thing to note is that you're going to see a wide variation in temperature from one CPU to the next. It is important to understand how CPUs are made. Intel manufactures a large wafer of semiconductor material, which is then sliced up into pieces to make their CPUs. Due to standard margins of error caused by everything from humidity to gravity, the quality of the material varies over the surface of the wafer. When they build the CPU, they have to test it to see how good the quality is. The impurities and imperfections cause the CPU to run at higher temperatures, so they name the CPU based on its quality. If it tests extremely well, they program it to be a Core i7 965 CPU. If it doesn't test as well, they program it to be a Core i7 920 CPU. This process is called "binning." This doesn't mean that the 920 CPUs are low quality...each CPU is thoroughly tested for the speed at which it will be running. I could even speculate that since we don't see a supply shortage on 965 CPUs, that they have a surplus and are likely using chips that qualify as 965 to make 940 and 920 CPUs at times.

The point, however, is that each "bin" has some variation to it. If you have a CPU that just barely made the cut to be called a 940, it will run quite hot as a 940. If it just missed the mark to be a 940, they call it a 920 and it will run very cool as a 920. In practice, we see as much as a 10-20C variation in temperature per CPU when cooled with an Intel stock cooler. That's a big difference! Again, that doesn't mean that the hotter CPUs will not work just fine, but it does mean that it is very difficult to answer the question: what temperatures are normal?

When I talked to an engineer at Intel, I asked him for information on what temperatures the Core i7 CPUs will throttle at, and what temperatures are considered normal. I was surprised to hear him say that he didn't know the answer. He said he'd find out. A few days later, I got a call back, and I was even more surprised. He says that information is a trade secret, and Intel is not making it public. What?!?

The key to understanding this answer is to understand that to Intel, the only valid cooling solution is the Intel stock heatsink. They do a lot of validation on those heatsinks, to verify that they work properly under all conditions described in the technical specs of the CPU. From their perspective, the only thing the end user needs to know is that the stock heatsink is good. Use it, and don't worry about it.

Of course, the problem is that only generic, low quality machines use stock Intel heatsinks. I'm not knocking Intel here -- their stock heatsinks are actually quite good. However, we have found that many people want their system to run more quietly, or they want to overclock their system. Or maybe they just understand that running your CPU at lower temperature leads to the longest life possible, and therefore want the best affordable cooling they can get. The real world is very different from the way Intel thinks of it. I think they need to open their eyes to the fact that there is a huge amount of people running with 3rd party heatsinks, and help minimize their failures by providing the information necessary to ensure that their CPUs are being adequately cooled. Until Intel comes to this realization, Puget Systems will simply resolve to doing the testing ourselves. I'm happy to share this information, and while word straight from Intel is more authoritative than ours...what we have is better than nothing!

There are various ways to measure the temperature of your CPU, but the program we use is called CoreTemp. A program like this will read the sensor straight from the CPU. However, what the CPU sensor reports is not an absolute temperature, but rather how far the temperature is from the maximum safe temperature. So if your CPU's maximum temperature is 100C, and you're running at 60C, the sensor will report -40 as its value. There are two ways a program can report an inaccurate temperature. First, if the program isn't set with the right maximum temperature for your CPU, all the scores will be offset that that error. That's why a new version of CoreTemp was needed after Core i7 was released -- they had to program it with the Core i7 information. The other way the readings can be inaccurate is due to inaccuracies in the sensors themselves. These sensors were designed to safeguard the CPU from overheating, so they are highly accurate as the CPU approaches the maximum safe temperature. As the CPUs run cooler, they are known to have a lower degree of accuracy. There's a great page on the Real Temp website that talks about this in more detail.

What we have found is that Intel Core i7 CPUs have extremely good temperature tolerance. Not only are they made with a Hi-K silicon which is able to withstand higher temperatures, but they have very good power management. There are more transistors dedicated to power management on Core i7 CPUs than there were transistors in the original Pentium Pro CPU! What we've found is that the Intel Core i7 CPUs throttle down their speed starting at 100C. So, 100C is the maximum operating temperature of Intel Core i7. However, due to the great power management, we have never seen instability due to temperature. We can run full stress testing at 100C and have no errors. Of course, that's not a good idea, but my point is that the excellent management features reduce the risk of high temperature.



Our recommendation is to keep Intel Core i7 CPUs under 80C. That gives you a healthy margin in case you're running a heavy load on your CPU on a particularly hot summer day. Due to the manufacturing process of Intel Core i7, and the improved power management features, we're comfortable at up to 80C, even though this would be considered a very hot temperature with an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU.

In the long run, the cooler you run your CPU, the better. That's why we recommend the Puget Hydro CL1 for a CPU cooler, as we've measured it to significantly outperform the other coolers available, including the Intel stock cooler.


Tags: Intel, Core i7, temperature, throttle


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chevysales

excellent write up jon... just what users like myself wanted to know.

thanx

Posted on 2009-02-27 12:41:48
Robert

Jon

I planning my next computer and need this information about testing you've done.
Thanks for providing the cooling info.
The features I like best about my current
Puget computer are "cool & quiet".

THX

Posted on 2009-02-27 20:32:56
James

Awesome write up. I just came across this site. Never ordered anything from it but I will look into it for the future. I have been building custom PC's for locals for a few years now. The machine I built runs the i7 920. It is Air cooled with Cooler Master V8 on an EVGA x58 board. at idle I run 20°C and on normal load just slightly higher. took some major tweaking for this to occur. I love my i7 build. Keep up the good work Jon.

Posted on 2009-03-04 02:18:57
Kitty

@James

You must keep your workspace impossibly cold, considering 20c is less than 70f.

Posted on 2009-03-15 23:17:08
James

Basically^

Posted on 2009-03-20 13:31:08
Hunter

Thanks for the great write up. Very informative and helpful!!!!

Posted on 2009-04-18 22:04:49
Mike R.

Great article. Having just built a system using the i7 965, I was as confused as most about the temperature. I bought an aftermarket CPU cooler but decided to use the stock Intel one first and see what happened. A idle, the CPU temp is 38-40C. I have put the system under what would be a heavy load for my work, encoding video file, all Office products running, background music playing, etc. and my hardware monitor has never shown a temperature over 51C. I guess I will return the aftermarket cooler for a refund. Thanks.

Posted on 2009-06-07 15:53:23
David

Thank you very much for the information. Very helpful!

I currently run the i7 920, Prolimatech Megahalems heatsink - Scythe S Flex in Push and Pull configuration, and IC Diamond 7 Thermal Compound.

Idle to light load, 19C-24C
I've never seen it break 36C

I wanted to know the max rated temp I should allow the CPU to operate at. 80C - :)

Also, how my rig compares to others operating temps.

My case does have 2x 200mm case fans with an additional 120mm X 120mm X 25mm

Posted on 2009-10-03 05:43:54
martin

Thanks for article. I have 920 and i make 3d visualisation - and my proc have 75'c when Rendering in Turbo Mode - in Standart Mode have about 50

Posted on 2009-11-08 14:59:21
patrick

Having just fitted an i7 to an Asus P6T SE, temperatures started at 49.5c and steadily rose to 63.5C. I am not experienced in quad cores but I am assuming from this article that I am ok.
many thanks,
patrick

Posted on 2010-01-01 21:10:34
Lango

Cheers, I just brought a intel I7 and was concerned about it running at 65C - your article took a load of my mind.

Posted on 2010-01-11 01:35:32
Lars

Godd article. I was worried that my 920 was running too hot at 47c under load. (Crysis).
I'm running a zalman 990led cooler with two tornados + two Aerocool xblaster fans.

System Idles at 25 c.

Posted on 2010-02-27 20:38:49

I wouldn't call the 20c idle impossible.. In fact, using only the stock heatsink, my 950 idles at 23c. Admittedly, it's winter and the room is somewhat milder than it would be during the summer, but it's definitely not going to break for another 10 years if temps can be kept this low.

Then again... Maybe in 10 years we'll be using 8 and 16 core processors as standard, and the current i7's will be today's pentium IV's.

Posted on 2010-03-05 20:49:44
Simon H

Good article..Got a i7 930 2,8 ghz and got some probs with my new system. Just put all the parts together and checked the hardware monitor in bios. god damn 84c! It´s rising to that temp in just a minute. I got a Noctua cpu cooler with two 120 mm fans so that should´nt be the problem. And if i feel at the bars they are pretty cold. Now i wonder, could the harware monitor program show me the wrong temp?
What should i do?

very grateful for some help

Posted on 2010-03-06 15:51:26
Alex

What motherboard you got Simon???

Posted on 2010-03-22 21:35:27
CeeBee

I just put together a new PC using an i7 920. It's on a P6T SE board and I fitted a Cooler Master V10 - as subtle as a Hummer :O) There's 6X 2gb of Corsair sitting next door and a single fairly low spec graphics card (for now). It's just been in use for a couple of days and the ambient temperature is only around 10C. Everything is running at stock settings and the CPU temp is steady in the upper 30s. I'm using Asus Probe II to keep an eye on it for a while.

Posted on 2010-04-14 09:41:07
CeeBee

Oh - all inside a v well ventilated Antec 1200 case.

Posted on 2010-04-14 09:42:35
Matt

Thanks for this really good write up. I was starting to think there was something wrong with my new laptop before I read this.

Posted on 2010-04-14 20:59:04
Frank

"He says that information is a trade secret, and Intel is not making it public".

unbelievable !!!

The recommendation is to keep Intel Core i7 CPUs under 80C....my room in summer the normal temperature is 35-40...
long life to my 930 with stock cooler

Posted on 2010-04-17 22:30:01

So far with my Core i7 930 I have been able to keep it below 65C even under load while running heavy 3D rendering applications and video editing software. Currently running a V1 CPU Cooler by Thermaltake. While not under a load it's running around 45C on all cores.

MSI X58 DrMos MB
Corei7 930 2.8GHz
nVidia GeForce 9800GT x2
12 GHz DDR3 Crucial Ballistix RAM
HAF932 Case by Cooler Master

Posted on 2010-05-15 02:10:36
Nicholas Leavitt

Thank you so much for this article. I have been obsessing over the temp of my i7 930, I think my sensor is is a bit off because when I run prime 95 and have seen it get up to 80C (when overclocked to 4.2ghz) I touched my megahalems heatsink bars and they felt like they were warm, not hot at all. My northbridge does run really warm though, idles around 50-54. It's really interesting how intel is keeping this a secret. I feel like they cooked a batch of overcoocked cookies and are picking who gets what lol.

Posted on 2010-06-17 01:26:31
HellzWind

All right. Clear information, thank you. On the net it is indeed frustrating to find the right information about the i7's. Not to speak of the trade secret bs. Anyways my i7 is 950 model, 78/79c is the maximum temperature I get with the full cpu load that one would get by playing games. This summer when it's around 30c outside I´m not so sure if it is a good idea to use my computer for a game or two. Inside my room I have a fan blowing and a window open but it´s still relatively hot. Long Live OUR CPU's =[)

Posted on 2010-06-30 13:42:08
mamooti

this the best review aboutCore I7 CPU temperature.

Posted on 2010-09-08 09:46:48

I've been looking for a factual write up on the recommended temperature range of a Intel Core i7. I'd like to know how many Core i7 CPUs this write up is based on.

My personal experience follows: I keep my ambient temperature around my PC tower at 70 F. My i7 930 CPU is always overclocked to 3990 MHz and my hottest core runs at 70 C while video encoding my Blu-rays to Matroska format (in about 4 hours). I just don't like using optical storage anymore. I'm very much enjoying the value I'm getting out of my 930 CPU (42% overclock stable from a 920 is a great value over a standard clocked 970+).

I'm now very comfortable with my 70 C temperature (Hydro H50 Cooler - VERY quiet indeed.)

Posted on 2010-10-03 16:45:30

We based our observations with just over 100 Core i7 CPUs at that time. Since then, we've sold more than another 1000 Core i7 units, and continue to stand behind the accuracy of those numbers.

Posted on 2010-10-03 19:27:40
Bruce

Great write up Jon, clear and concise, glad I found it early in my searches. I see the temps I thought were a bit high are quite normal. Good work and thanks.

Posted on 2010-10-17 16:12:30
bruce

where in the f@#@k do i buy on of these Puget Hydro CL1 Liquid Cooling System 1366 lets make it a little easier ha?

Posted on 2010-11-03 02:36:38
Solomon

My Core i7 950 is running at about 79-80 celcius under full load (Tested with Prime95)
Stable OC at 4.0Ghz
Sound healthy?
Using a Coolermaster V8
Ambient temp: approx 23c
Don't know if it's good or bad?

Posted on 2010-11-10 13:19:41
picosuce

Antec 900 Air Cooled.
Using Coolermaster V8
Intel i7 930

idle low 30-34 C
load playing SC2 Ultra Settings 40-50 C

Posted on 2010-11-19 15:51:39
Bossxii

Thanks for the write up. I was concerned with my i7 950 on the stock heatsink so went to a H70 water cooler and reduced temps by an easy 15 to 20C. Stock CPU speeds sits 35C 100% load 60C range. OC'd to 3.8Ghz runs 42C idle and 75C under 100% load such as video encoding. I've never had a hiccup nor issue. If the CPU lasts 5 years vs 10 oh well, I upgrade every few years anyhow. :) Give me 2 good years and I"m happy.

$199 for a i7 950 was just to sweet a deal to pass up.

Posted on 2010-11-28 08:08:30
i7 920 @ 3,6

Thanks, this article helped me very well, because i have the i7 920 running @ 3,6 with a voltage of 0.920:P and my temp went from (on standard clock of 2,66) 20-25 degrees (celsius) to 35-40. Thats a big difference... but i have watercooling, so i think that saves my cpu:P but now i'm not longer concerned about my cpu getting too much heat;)
tip for oc'ers: if u are new to oc'ing, dont oc your system too much in one time, it can go terribly wrong... my system luckily runs very stable, but i oc'ed by adjusting my fsb from 133 to 145 and later to 165 (highest is 200, but doesnt improves much more running games:P) if u want to keep ur cpu alive for at least 4 years, i think a temp 40-50 C is fine ingame;)
hope this helped some now oc'ers;)
don't oc too much in one time!!

Posted on 2011-01-17 09:29:15
Paul

Thanks, that's just what I wanted to know. I recently overclocked my Core i7 920 to 205 clock w/ 20 multiplier = 4.1 GHz (stock voltages). It idles around 56C and operates no higher than 69 under full load. It is a little warm out the backside, but for the performance gain it's worth it running a little warmer :-)

Posted on 2011-01-21 12:51:41
Viktor

Very good article!
My Core I7 960 3.2 GHz (not overclocked) is running at 39~41C (idle), 50~60C (gaming COD:MW2) with stock cooler. Mobo: Asus sabertooth x58. I don't know if it is ok for everything default, but I dont stress a lot.

Posted on 2011-03-09 09:58:21
Tim

I finally found a straight answer regarding the confusion. Thank you, I feel better now. My i7 720QM runs between 47c and 63c (high end).

Posted on 2011-03-24 01:20:02

Thanks for the article.
I just finished running my new i7 2600K at 4.3GHz on iPrime95. I was getting core temperatures of about 77C although the maximum was 82C momentarily. I was using the overclocking tool provided by Asrock on my Asrock P67 Pro3 motherboard. I have a Noctua NH-U12P cooler on it.
The iPrime95 runs the cores at 100% flat out. My previous experience is just a few minutes of this torture test will sort the overclock out pretty quickly.

Grant

Posted on 2011-03-27 04:23:48
chris

i7 950 not overclocked doing video encoding cpu at 100% 62c, at idle 38c H50 water cooler and corsair case at normal room temp try to keep it at 72F

Posted on 2011-03-27 05:26:35

Thanks for that, I've had issues where my computer dies due to overheating - the heatsink fell out inside the case during a long trip and was quite badly damaged. Got it working again but missing thermal paste - and now I'm in a hot country! So having to keep the case open with a housefold fan blowing into it, just about keeping it under 80C!

Posted on 2011-03-30 21:33:17
Raad Bitar

Great article thanks

Posted on 2011-04-21 17:45:10
Karl

Fantastic article, great work.

Posted on 2011-04-22 03:22:21
Thom

My 2.66 i7 runs over 150C occasionally while outputting photoshop or lightroom should I be worried?

Posted on 2011-04-25 21:24:18

Thom: That number doesn't seem possible. Your CPU should be downclocking at 100C and turning off completely soon after. I suspect a reporting problem. Are you using the newest version of CoreTemp?

Posted on 2011-04-25 21:29:27
RE Luginbuhl

Very informative, interesting and clearly written. Great stuff.

Posted on 2011-04-26 10:41:18
ArmondG56

My Core i7 920 runs at 40c idle and when video encoding it gets up to 80c at 100% Cpu load. I've had the 920 since December 2008 with no problems and quite a few video encodings over the 2 1/2 years. I am using a Zalman heatsink.

Posted on 2011-05-22 21:03:40
Rahul Verma

I am having inetl core i7 2630qm processor and while playing certain games the temperature as measured by hwmonitor reaches around 85 to 90. As you have already mentioned the safe temperature is 80 so how unsafe the mentioned temperature range is for my notebook ?

Posted on 2011-06-04 16:58:19

Rahul, I wouldn't worry about that too much. Those temperatures are high, but not what I'd consider dangerous. This article was geared towards desktop CPUs, and we have experienced laptops being a bit hotter under load. Make sure you're on a hard flat surface when gaming, as that helps with ventilation. Also make sure to clean your vents regularly as the intakes will tend to gather dust quickly.

Posted on 2011-06-06 23:12:32

While idling with the stock heatsink, my i7 2600 will run at about 30~35 C. However, on a hot day, encoding a blu ray with Handbrake will send the temperatures to around 85~90 C. I am weary about running this for 2 hours at a time at such high temperatures.

Posted on 2011-06-09 13:00:22
Matt Bolard

I'm using a core i7 2620m dual core processor. When i play video games on it, it will usually spike to about 70-75 degrees Celsius. Does anyone have the same model and could help me out?

Posted on 2011-06-24 23:58:00
Carlos

This is the only article on i7 temps anyone can find on Internet. Thanks. Although it´s about desktop CPU, an i7 is an i7, anyway. I have a MSI lappy with the already old (!) i7 740QM, and was having a lot of headaches about temps, because I simply could not find a commom sense. While some people thinks 80C + is normal, others think it should be kept under 60ºC. I´ve purchased IC Diamond paste, but woudn´t have the nerve to repaste myself. Then I found this page... so my lappy, wich tops at 65ºC under full load, like 2 hrs gaming, is doing a formidable job, isn´t it? I had to work a lot to finally buy it, and I need it lasts at least 2 years, until I save enough for a new one.
Greetz.

Posted on 2011-07-12 22:36:41
Rksgrit

Great article,so glad I found it.It should be a "sticky" with google when entering "Correct intel i7 Temp".Im running a Dell XPS L502x with an i7 2630qm for "Audio Recording:DAW-cakewalk SONAR X1c EX."My temps go as high as 80C. but usually 45 to 60,with a double USB "under case fans" positioned over vent slots near[underside] the left side exhaust and another vent near the JBL subwoofer.These fans are always on,as soon as USB is engaged,they also have a port on the fans chassis so I dont lose the use of the USB port the fan took.The internal fan almost NEVER even switches on unless above 59C.My desktop[not yet arrived] is i7 2600K and will have "extra" cooling as I hope to OC to 4GHz to 4.4GHz.Very useful article THANK YOU.RK. 

Posted on 2011-10-19 06:22:33
ViV

thank you for clearing this up. i was panicking reading my core temps. they were around 48-51'C in 2 minutes of loading windows. around 50'C having just a few browser windows open. and around 70'C when watching a movie.
i have an asus U36SD-RX138V. and keep getting a blue screen. i was thinking it overheated, because i've tried putting on 2 different RAM.

Posted on 2011-11-14 23:06:57
Matt

 I find no reason to overclock anything as every game plays just fine with what I have, but I never use the stock cooler.  I've been using the

ZALMAN CNPS11X Extreme V-Shaped Dual Heatpipe Design on every CPU.  I also make sure I use a full tower case with lots of fans.

Posted on 2012-05-10 15:03:12
Pacafic Seal

hi, with i7 2760qm 2.4 mhz quad core processor, how do you control fan speed. I have arch linux and i am unable tomodulate fan speed. When the fan takes off around 64 C,it goes full with a loud sound. I have noted presence of  coretemp module but that only sjows cpu temp values, i cannot use it to modulate critical temperature of cpu and the fan speed. I have also installed lm_sensors but off no good. It does not allow to modulate cpu frequency, cpu temperature and fan speed.

sinc,

Posted on 2013-01-17 03:21:08

Usually you can control the fan speed in the BIOS, but if you are using a laptop it likely does not have many options for fan speed. In Windows you could try Speedfan, but I'm not sure about a Linux variant. I think your best bet would be to ask around on forums for your specific flavor of Linux to see if anyone has any suggestions.

Posted on 2013-01-17 18:35:42
Tech Beginer

I thought you said 100F

Posted on 2013-02-09 21:48:25
tamid

thank you for the information. What about the impact of the cpu
heat on the keyboard in laptops? Last week I bought dell 6430u with core I7 and
the keyboard is very hot, so much so that i can't type and I have to return the
computer (for less money of course). I took it to the lab and
they said that the cpu tempreture was 80-84 c and thats in the normal range. us
there a test or a standard heat for a laptop dey board?

Posted on 2013-06-07 08:09:21
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