In this article, I am going to talk about CPU throttling and Thermal Throttling. I am very excited to share my knowledge on this topic as there is a lot of misunderstanding about these terms.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
What is CPU throttling?
CPU throttling is a process where the CPU reduces its clock speed. Normally your CPU should be working between the base clock speed and the Turbo clock speed. However, it can reduce its clock speed even lower than the base speed, and this is called CPU throttling.
This can be due to various reasons such as heat generated, battery life, the type of workload, etc. The technology that is used to throttle the CPU is called Dynamic Frequency Scaling, and what it does is use the optimal clock speed for a particular workload, to make your CPU more efficient. This is not something that should worry you as it is a normal process that happens in order to make your system more efficient.
What is Thermal Throttling CPU?
Thermal throttling is a process in which the CPU reduces its clock speed to prevent overheating. When the CPU overheats, it will reduce its clock speed to cool down and prevent damage. This is not something normal like the CPU throttling process and is often caused by faulty hardware, such as a damaged heat sink, the lack of thermal paste, a bad cooling solution, or CPU overclocking.
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What’s the difference between CPU throttling and CPU Thermal Throttling?
The main difference between CPU throttling and thermal throttling is the reason behind the clock speed reduction. CPU throttling is a process that is done intentionally in order to save power and use your CPU more efficiently, while thermal throttling is done to prevent overheating and damage. So, the only case that you should be concerned about is if your CPU is thermal throttling, as it is a sign of a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately.
Is CPU Throttling Bad?
No, CPU throttling is not necessarily bad and can actually improve the efficiency of your system as it is trying to run at the most optimal clock speed for a particular workload. However, when your CPU is throttling, your computer is underperforming, meaning that it needs more time to complete a task. In fact, many people are using throttled CPUs without even knowing it cause it is a process that happens behind the scenes.
Thermal throttling, on the other hand, is bad and is a sign of a problem with your system. If you are experiencing thermal throttling, you should either try fixing the problem yourself or take your PC to a professional to fix it. Keep reading because, in later sections, I am going to talk about how to know if your CPU is thermal throttling and how to fix it, but first, let’s talk about how to know if your CPU is throttling.
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How to Check if Your CPU is Throttling (Windows 11/10)?
If you suspect that your CPU is throttling, it is pretty easy to check if this is the case. If you are using either Windows 11 or 10, follow the steps below:
Go to the search bar, type in “perfmon.exe /res”, and click to run this with the run box.
When the performance monitor pops up, click on the ” Open Resource Monitor.”
At the Resource Monitor, click on the “CPU” tab
Look at the % of Maximum frequency and the graph to the right to see the % of the time your CPU is spending at each clock speed.
When this percentage is at 100%, your CPU is running at its maximum base speed. If your CPU is throttling, you will notice that this percentage will max out at a certain percentage (less than 100%) and never go past that.
Open several applications, play around, and at the same time monitor your CPU to see if it reached the 100% mark. If it doesn’t, you can be sure your CPU is throttling.
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Why is my CPU throttling?
There are many reasons that can cause your CPU to be throttled, and I am going to talk about some of the most common reasons below:
- Windows Settings. This is the most common reason your CPU is throttling. Many users don’t realize that there are Windows settings that can limit or throttle the performance of their CPUs. The culprit for this is usually the power settings. It is really easy to fix, and I am going to talk about it later in this article.
- CPU Thermal Throttling. Another common reason your CPU might be throttling is CPU overheating. This is very serious, and if your CPU is thermal throttling, your system is at risk of hardware damage. Be a bit patient because I will talk more in-depth later in this article about knowing if your CPU is thermally throttling and how to prevent this from happening.
- CPU Throttling and Running on Battery. If you have a laptop, you might notice that your CPU is throttling when you are running on battery. This is normal and happens because laptops will throttle the performance of the laptop CPU to save power when they are not plugged in. If you want to prevent this from happening, you can change the battery settings in Windows or use a program like ThrottleStop to change the CPU’s settings.
- 4 . VRM Throttling. VRMs (Voltage Regulator Modules) are a part of your motherboard that is responsible for supplying power to the CPU. The more powerful your CPU is, the more power it needs. If your VRMs are not that powerful, they will try to supply as much power as they can, and this will cause them to overheat and eventually lead to CPU throttling.
How to Stop CPU Throttling?
Now that we have talked about how to know if you are experiencing CPU throttling, let’s talk about how to prevent it.
Windows Power Settings
The most common reason for CPU throttling is because of Windows power settings, so you should first check your power settings. All you have to do is:
1. Go to Control Panel, click on “Power Options.”
As in the screenshot below, you will see 3 options, “Balanced,” “Power Saver,” and “High Performance.” If you have checked the “High-Performance” option, then your CPU is not being throttled by the Windows Power Settings. If you have the “Balanced” or “Power Saver” options selected, then this is most likely the reason for your CPU throttling. These two options will throttle the CPU to save power under certain conditions. Usually, they will throttle the CPU when the system is idle or when you are not doing anything that requires a lot of CPU power, but this is not always the case.
If you do not want to change the power plan but want to change the current settings, you can click on the Change Plan Settings > Change Advanced Power Settings > Processor Power Management.
Amongst other options, you will see some options related to CPU Throttling. You should care about the “Minimum processor state” and “Maximum processor state.” You should set these two settings to 100% to prevent your CPU from throttling.
Finally, after you have changed the settings, you should make some changes to the cooling policy of your computer. In the Processor Power Management Tab, you will see an option called “System Cooling Policy.” You want to set this setting to “Active” if it is on “Passive.” By clicking on “Active,” you are telling your computer to actively use the system fans to cool the CPU when it is under load, which will help prevent CPU throttling.
Running on Battery
To be honest, it is normal if your laptop is throttling while running on battery. Laptops will throttle their performance if they need to save power, and that’s why you should always have your laptop plugged in when you are doing something that requires a lot of CPU power. But if you still want to prevent your laptop from throttling, you can download a program called ThrottleStop. It will allow you to control the CPU’s power settings directly and prevent it from being throttled when you are running on battery.
If your CPU throttling is due to a weak VRM, you will not be able to do much. When VRM throttling happens, it means that your VRMs are not strong enough to supply enough power to your CPU or that the VRM heatsinks don’t work properly.
If you have recently overclocked the CPU and have been experiencing VRM throttling, you should revert back to the default settings.
If overclocking is not the cause, and you get VRM throttling when running your CPU at the base clock speeds, then your VRMs are not powerful, and you will have to change your motherboard.
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How Do I Know if my CPU is thermal throttling?
Now that we are done with how to stop CPU throttling let’s talk about the more serious issue of CPU thermal throttling and how to know if it is happening. First of all, thermal throttling happens when your CPU temperature becomes too high, and your CPU is throttling to prevent itself from overheating. With that being said, the first thing to do if you think your CPU is thermal throttling is to monitor the CPU temperature.
There are many programs that will allow you to do this, but I prefer to use Core Temp. It is a small program that is very easy to use and will show you the temperature of CPU cores in real-time.
After you have downloaded and installed Core Temp, run it, and you will see the temperature of each core of your CPU.
You will see something like the screenshot below.
As you can see, there are 3 columns: the first one is the live temperature of the CPU, the second is the Minimum temperature, and the last is the Maximum temperature.
The maximum temperature is the column that you should be interested in. Let Core Temp open and run some applications like a web browser or a game, and check the maximum temperature column.
If it is really high, then your CPU is thermal throttling.
If you don’t know what temperature is safe for your CPU, you can check your processor’s model TJunction temperature at the manufacturer’s website (The Thermal Junction Maximum temperature is the maximum temperature that your CPU can reach).
If you find out that your CPU temperature is close to or higher than the maximum T-junction temperature, then you know that the CPU is thermal throttling.
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Why My CPU is Thermal Throttling and How to Stop it?
If you have discovered that your CPU is thermal throttling, you need to know why it is happening and how to stop it.
The most common causes of thermal throttling are:
Lack of Thermal Paste
If you have recently built your own computer or plugged in a new CPU cooler, then it is possible that you have not applied enough thermal paste or you have applied it incorrectly.
The thermal paste is what transfers the heat from the CPU to the CPU cooler to dissipate the heat and if there is not enough of it or it is not spread evenly, then the heat will not be transferred properly and your CPU will start to throttle.
If you think you have messed up the existing thermal paste, then you can remove the CPU cooler and apply the thermal paste again. You can check the video below on how to do it.
This is another very common cause of thermal throttling. If your computer case is not properly ventilated or if there are too many cables inside, then the airflow will be restricted, and your CPU will start to throttle because of excessive heat. Another very common reason for poor airflow is dust. Your computer case is like a filter, and all the dust that goes into it, can easily clog up the vents and reduce airflow.
If you haven’t opened your computer case for a long time, then it is probably filled with dust, and when you open it, you will notice exactly what I mean.
All you need to do is clean the inside of your computer case and remove any cables that are not needed. Cleaning up the inside of your computer case can be easily done by using compressed air.
Finally, the last reason for poor airflow is the wrong fan placement. To understand how airflow work, you will need to understand how fans work.
Most computer cases have fan slots in the front and back. The fans in the front bring in the cool air from outside your computer case, and the fans in the back expel the hot air from inside your computer case.
To have good airflow, you should achieve a negative air pressure (more air flowing out instead of in).
Simply put, your computer should get more air out of the PC case than going in. This ensures that the hot air is quickly removed from your computer case, and the cool air can get in, keeping your components at a low temperature.
Many people make the mistake of putting all the fans as intake, thinking that more air coming in will help cool down their system. But this is not true, and you should find a balance between exhaust fans and intake fans.
I already mentioned that one of the causes of thermal throttling is poor airflow and the way fans work, but I would like to talk a bit about fans themselves.
In order to have good airflow, you need to have high-quality case fans that are functional, and that can push/pull a lot of air.
I have mentioned the word functional because there are too many cases of broken fans or too dirty to work properly. If you have a fan that is not working or is very dirty, you should replace/clean it as soon as possible because it can cause your system to throttle.
Related Article: How To Connect Extra Fans To Motherboard
The CPU cooler is what keeps your CPU cool, and if it is not good enough or not properly installed, then your CPU will start to throttle.
When buying a CPU cooler, you need to make sure that it can provide adequate cooling to your CPU, even under heavy load, and that it is properly installed. The CPU cooler specs mention exactly the amount of heat they can transfer. If you use a CPU with a higher TDP than the cooler can handle, your system will start to throttle. So before buying a CPU or water cooler, check its specs and ensure that it is able to prevent thermal throttling. When it comes to properly installing it, you should refer to the instructions manual for proper steps because not all CPU coolers are installed the same way.
The last and really common cause of thermal throttling is overclocking. When you overclock your CPU, you are essentially increasing its power consumption and heat output. This is why before overclocking, you should make sure that the VRMs of your motherboard and your CPU cooler can properly handle the increased heat.
If you recently overclocked your CPU and noticed that it is thermal throttling, then I suggest lowering the clocks and testing if the issue persists.
By this point, you should know what CPU and thermal throttling are, their causes, and how to fix them.
Just make sure to have a good cooling system that provides adequate cooling to your CPU, and don’t overclock it beyond its capabilities.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below.
Nick Ryley is a computer architect and the owner of The Pc Geekz.
His love for playing games got him interested in computers in the first place. He wanted to be able to build a gaming PC that could run all the latest games at max settings, and this has him pursuing a major in computer architecture!
He started this blog to help people out and answer some of the most common questions about computer building