PC Components

What Is CPU Throttling?

What Is Cpu Throttling 1

The CPU is the heart of your entire computer. From gaming to editing, your CPU is used for every task. It may go through some trouble now and again, especially with heat and voltage. One such issue is CPU throttling.

Quick Answer

CPU throttling is when your CPU dynamically reduces its frequency/clock speed due to either overexposed to heat or not receiving enough voltage in the first place.

In this article, we’re going to be talking to be about exactly what CPU throttling is alongside answering some commonly asked questions about throttling and whether it is harmful.

What Is CPU Throttling

CPU throttling is when your PC cannot perform effectively due to it being heated or not getting enough power from the system. While there are several other reasons why your CPU might bottleneck, for instance, a faulty motherboard.

However, in most cases, CPU throttling is generally due to your PC not getting enough ventilation, thereby heating, or just having a PSU that cannot drive enough power.

In more technical terms, your CPU’s core has a maximum temperature it can reach before it starts underclocking itself to produce less heat. This temperature directly correlates to the manufacturer’s testing. Going any higher would prove to be fatal for the CPU.

When the CPU is used for playing a game, your CPU demands more power from the PSU and ramps up its fans so that it remains at a relatively stable temperature. When either of these conditions isn’t met, your CPU will automatically start throttling so that it doesn’t damage itself.

In essence, a CPU dynamically scales its frequency (lesser clock cycles a second), leading to reduced performance in favor of lesser temperatures or voltage.

Causes of CPU Throttling

CPU throttling is caused by either your CPU not getting enough voltage or getting too hot. In either case, it’ll underclock itself, eventually leading to throttling. We’ll be taking a quick look at the most common causes of CPU throttling.

Lack Of Ventilation

If your CPU cooler isn’t able to exhaust hot air out, or if you don’t have ventilation inside your case, your CPU will quickly heat up. This can also happen if you don’t have a CPU cooler in the first place.

Bad Power Supply Unit (PSU)

A PSU that cannot provide adequate voltage to your CPU when needed will also lead to throttling. Since your PC requires a specific amount of current to reach higher clock speeds, a lack of energy will inevitably cause throttling.

User-Defined Limit

While not very common if you’ve been dabbling inside MSI Afterburner or your BIOS recently, you might have accidentally set up a user-defined limit that will have led to underclocking. Generally, this is due to an unoptimized fan curve.

How To Fix CPU Throttling

To fix CPU throttling, you’ll need to identify why it is being caused in the first place. After doing so, alleviating either the heating or the voltage issue should instantly fix CPU throttling.

Since we’ve identified two primary causes, overheating and a lack of voltage – we’ll be providing a few tips on how you can fix either of the two issues:

Overheating

  • Apply Thermal Paste: If you haven’t repasted your CPU in recent memory, the thermal paste will do wonders for your thermal conduction.
  • Clean Your Cooler: Dust and debris can often get stuck inside your CPU cooler, especially if you live in a dusty environment. Cleaning it with a can of compressed air should help your CPU breathe.
  • Check Your Exhaust: A CPU case with poor ventilation may trap the hot air inside your case. So, even if your cooler is working fine, there will be no way for the hot air to get out.

Undervolting

  • Check Your Pins: Make sure that every pin (especially the 24-pin connector) is tightly fastened to your motherboard. Some loose ends may lead to faulty operation.
  • Replace Your PSU: If you have a higher-end CPU and a PSU that doesn’t have the highest wattage – a replacement is due. Any PSU that is gold-rated from a reputable manufacturer should do the trick. 

Does CPU Throttling Affect Gaming Performance?

Yes, CPU throttling does affect gaming performance significantly. This is because your CPU will not be able to provide the performance it can, and your FPS will be bogged down. This is also referred to as a CPU bottleneck, wherein your CPU is the reason you cannot gain optimal performance.

Even if you have a high-functioning GPU, if your CPU thermal throttles, you won’t be able to get much performance out of it as while your GPU will be able to drive more frames, your CPU won’t be able to provide the necessary clock speed to do so.

Is CPU Throttling Bad For CPU?

Yes, CPU throttling is bad for your CPU. While yes, there won’t be any permanent damage if your CPU throttles, throttling generally indicates an underlying issue. This might be “undervolting” or overheating. When left unchecked, this may cause serve trouble to your CPU as it may be beckoning an issue.

Note

CPU throttling is common in older systems due to the accumulation of dust or the lack of thermal paste. Therefore, before you turn an old system on, make sure you’ve done your primary maintenance checks.

However, that may not always be the case. Sometimes, it may be indicative of just a bad case or PSU. 

Conclusion

CPU throttling is quite easy to diagnose, given that you know your CPU’s core temperatures. However, the maintenance part of the ordeal might be a bit hectic.

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