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I saw this video some time ago:

How may I know if a chip that needs cooling will reduce speed if temperature increases (maybe because the fan breaks)?

What about current CPUs and GPUs?

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You will definitely notice when it is running to hot. As a consequence of being to hot the electricity inside the chip will start to jump around randomly, and thus causing data to switch positions etc. This will cause all kinds of weird errors and bluescreens.

Fortunately all current generation chips will automatically run at a lower clock speed to prevent it from running to hot. They will even shut themselves down when necessary.

On top of that, if your CPU fan fails you will hear beeps coming from the motherboard.

(Cool n Quite with AMD systems, and Intel's equivalent is Speedstep)

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These two technologies seem to require operating system support so if the OS crashes and fails to deliver the signal to reduce speed the CPU may get burned? – Juan Apr 4 '12 at 7:56
It's all done on a much lower level. This is built in in CPU's. I think what you mean is that an OS can control this, with power management for example. If you choose energy saving, your OS will make sure your CPU is much more conservative with the CPU speed. If you choose maximum performance your CPU is less likely to lower the clock speed when you're doing light tasks on the PC. – Simon Verbeke Apr 4 '12 at 11:29
Do you have any reference that shows that any chip will lower clock speeds if temperature increases without OS support? – Juan Apr 4 '12 at 16:45

GPUs seem to do the same thing: see here

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