Question from Cory: I have a laptop with Windows 10 on it and it always runs hot. And it’s been that way since day one.
I’ve researched things I can do to make it run cooler but nothing I’ve tried has really helped.
The fan still runs constantly and the CPU temperature is running higher than it should according to the Core Temp app.
A guy I know who does IT work for our local hospital said I should try “Undervolting” the laptop to make it run cooler. He said it’s safe but I’m a little leery because I’ve heard that overclocking a computer can damage it.
I have several questions about this:
1 – I’m familiar with the term overclocking but I’ve never heard of undervolting. What’s the difference between them?
2 – Is undervolting safe or could it maybe damage my laptop?
3 – If it’s safe, can it really help the machine to run cooler?
4 – If you think it’s ok to do it, can you tell me how to undervolt my laptop?
Thanks for your help with this, Rick. I really appreciate it.
Rick’s answer: Those are excellent questions, Cory. And you were wise to ask them before just jumping headlong into a process that you don’t fully understand.
I’ll try to answer each of your questions in turn…
1 – How Undervolting differs from Overclocking
Overclocking is the act of increasing the clock rate that’s applied to a computer component over and above the clock rate that’s set for the component at the factory. The two components that are overclocked most often are the CPU and the GPU.
This faster clock rate makes the computer run faster, but it also makes it run hotter. And as you mentioned above, extra heat can damage one or more components inside the machine. Therefore, I don’t generally recommend overclocking a system for in most situations.
Simply put, undervolting is the act of lowering the amount of voltage that’s applied to a component. Very simply and straightforward.
2 – 3 – Is Undervolting safe and does it really help the PC run cooler?
When done correctly, undervolting a CPU or GPU is completely safe as long as you don’t overclock the component at the same time.
What’s more, when you undervolt a component without changing the clock speed, that does indeed result in it running cooler.
The resulting drop in temperature isn’t usually drastic, but a reduction of just a few degrees can make a big difference in regards to system stability and the overall lifespan of the computer’s hardware components.
4 – How to Undervolt a PC
Most PC motherboards allow you to try a range of voltages to see how much you can lower the voltage that’s applied to a component before the system becomes unstable.
Once you determine the voltage at which the system becomes unstable you can raise the voltage back up to the level that’s just above the one that caused the failure.
Important: Some motherboards will be rendered unable to boot back into the BIOS settings if the CPU voltage is set to a level that’s too low for the chip to operate with.
While setting the voltage so low that the CPU doesn’t work at all shouldn’t damage the CPU, the motherboard will be bricked until you reset the BIOS.
Therefore, I strongly recommend that you check the “Support” section of the motherboard manufacturer’s website for instructions for resetting the BIOS in case the need to do so arises.
In other words, make sure you know how to reset the BIOS before attempting to undervolt the CPU. Just sayin’.
Now that we have that important warning out of the way, let’s continue…
I don’t know anything about your laptop’s specific hardware components so I can’t provide you with step-by-step instructions for undervolting the CPU since the BIOS firmware that controls that setting varies from one motherboard to another.
What I can do is refer you to this handy guide that walks you through the process of undervolting a CPU using a free tool called ThrottleStop.
In regards to undervolting your laptop’s GPU, I recommend that not try it, for several reasons. I believe you should just stick with undervolting the CPU for now and see how it works out for you.
I hope this helps, Cory. Good luck!
Update from Cory: Thanks a lot for your help, Rick. I’ll give this a try by following the guide you linked to and I’ll let you know how it goes.