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Using HWMonitor to Track Windows System Temps and Health

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  1. Working Through the Numbers
  2. Tips for Best HWMonitor Use
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Whether your system is new and state-of-the-art or long in the tooth with older components, it's important to keep track of internal temperatures, fan speeds, and system voltages. Ed Tittel explains how the free Windows utility HWMonitor can help you to prevent overheating.
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HWMonitor is a free, handy Windows utility that reads PC system health sensors and then reports on system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. It's the brainchild of French software developer Franck Delattre at CPUID.com, who is also behind the well-known PC monitoring tool CPU-Z. The HWMonitor output in Figure 1 shows nearly all of what this utility can report about a modern PC.

Figure 1

Figure 1 On a production PC, HWMonitor lists voltage readings, temps, and fan speeds from the motherboard, as well as CPU, GPU, and SMART hard disk temperatures.

Working Through the Numbers

Referring to Figure 1, let's work our way through the basics of what HWMonitor reports:

  • The motherboard is a primary source of the information that appears in HWMonitor. The Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6 motherboard on the machine in Figure 1 includes an ITE IT8718 monitoring chipset from Taiwanese chip maker IT Tech, Inc. This chip provides the values reported for voltages, temperatures (TMPIN0 is the CPU socket temp, TMPIN1 is an ambient motherboard temperature sensor), and fan sensors.
  • For CPUs that include built-in temperature sensors, HWMonitor can report those values. The program works with most Intel, AMD, VIA, and many types of ARM processors. Each of the cores in the QX9650 in this test machine reports an individual core temperature, as shown in Figure 1.
  • For graphics adapters with built-in temperature sensors, including the NVIDIA 8600 GTS in the test system, GPU core temperatures are reported.
  • For systems with SMART hard disk support (must be enabled in the BIOS to be reported), the system reports on all standard SMART disk temperatures. This test system also uses a pair of SATA drives in a RAID 1 configuration, but the Intel Matrix Storage Manager doesn't report on their temperatures, nor does it provide direct support for SMART reporting.
  • Systems with monitored power supplies (such as the Gigabyte ODIN or the Tagan JK family) can also report into HWMonitor with voltage, current, and output power and temperature readings. The SeaSonic S12 500W power supply in the test system lacks such capability, however. (For an example of such readings, see the CPUID home page for HWMonitor.)

Experience teaches savvy PC owners what kinds of temperature readings are "healthy" for their systems. Although manufacturers often cite acceptable temperature ranges that climb as high as 80° C (176° F), in practice you don't want to see values above 60° C (140° F), with a distinct preference for "cooler is better." As Figure 1 shows for the test system, readings in the range of mid-20° C range (mid-70° F) to high 40° C (under 120° F) are signs of a healthy, well-ventilated desktop PC.

HWMonitor is also a good tool for monitoring notebook PCs, which often run hotter than desktops, thanks to their compact enclosures and less vigorous ventilation (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2 Generally, laptops report much less data to HWMonitor than desktops do (notice the lack of voltage, fan, and GPU coverage here).

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