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The short version

If a CPU gets so hot that the system turns itself off because of a thermal trip signal just a couple of times, is it likely that the CPU will be damaged? Or does the trip do its job, turning it off before the CPU gets damaged? (This is with all default settings in the BIOS; I haven't raised any temp thresholds or overclocked anything.)

The longer version

I just got this Intel Atom D510-based fanless system, installed a 2.5" mobile SATA drive and two 2GB PC2-6400s, closed it up, and having checked everything was recognized in the BIOS, set about installing Ubuntu. After a couple of false starts related, I think, to the external DVD drive I was using, I got the install happily running along.

About three-fourths or so of the way through the install, having been running less than an hour, the machine turned itself off. I was actually out of the room at the time, but when I came back and turned it back on, it said it had shut down due to a thermal event. I went into the BIOS and saw that (at that point, having just been turned back on after a couple of minutes off), it was running 87C.

As near as I can tell from Intel's docs (PDF here), the max "junction" temperature for the CPU is 100C and it will raise a THERMTRIP signal at 125C. Yowsa.

Presumably there will be some back-and-forth with the vendor on this, I'm just wondering whether letting it get that hot a couple of times is likely to end up damaging it.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Yep, the idea is to cut off at the point where running at that temperature for any significant amount of time can cause damage. Running a CPU too hot for a very short period will probably shorten it's lifetime - but the average lifetime for a CPU is much longer than the time before it stops being useful in a modern world. (For example, my old Pentium 2 box still works, but nobody would ever use a P2 unless they had no choice)

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It shouldn't (but that's no guarantee that it won't), as long as it's only occasionally and not every 5 minutes. Obviously, if it's happening frequently then something is wrong somewhere - either with the cooling system or CPU itself.

The system is designed to shut the system down if it gets too hot (which it thinks it is doing), so as long as the trigger temperature is set correctly then it will protect the CPU.

I know that Intel chips used to start underclocking before shutting down if the temperature got too high for normal operations, but not high enough to warrant stopping.

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short answer: yes but it is not the cpu you should be worried about.

Long answer: A cpu electronic component is designed so that a certain % of a batch of them will work for a certain amount of time at a certain temperature. These variables depend on the application. space, military, medical, industrial, automotive, other and maybe more but you get the idea. Now the second thing you need to know: For every 10 degree celsius or kelvin temperature rise the expected lifespan is halved.

The most perceptible to these are capacitors(expensive to make better) and that is why motherboards tend to give up after a couple of years in a warm environment.

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