I run a small business and the CPU temperature in our primary server reached 102C.

I figured this was a dangerously high temperature, so to avoid damage to the CPU, I shut off the computer.

I noticed that the heat sink was on loose, re-seated it, turned the computer back on, and looked at the temperature in the BIOS setup.

It kept steadily increasing to 100C again, and I shut off the computer.

For now; our business is running on a backup server (a laptop), but unfortunately, our backup cannot run all of the tasks that the main server was able to (mainly due to expensive software licensing issues).

It is urgent that we have some additional services up tomorrow, but MicroCenter isn't open at this time of night. I believe the problem is the thermal paste, but is there a way to fix such an issue without buying new thermal paste?

What would be a good short-term solution for getting our main server back online?

  • 4
    What CPU do you have? What heat sink? When you re-seated the heat sink, did you clean off and replace the thermal compound? Is the fan on the heat sink spinning? What's your ambient temperature? Dec 14 '11 at 4:51
  • It's an Intel i7 CPU (not sure what specific model), and I was not able to clean off and replace the thermal compound, because I am not in the possession of any thermal compound, and all of the nearby stores are closed for the day. It is urgent to get the server online within the next few hours. The fan is functioning just fine at around 2000RPM. I'm using the stock heat sink and thermal paste.
    – bbosak
    Dec 14 '11 at 4:54
  • Are you 100% sure the heat sink is properly seated now? Can you run the server long enough to get the CPU information? I would suggest reducing the clock frequency until proper repairs can be made. Dec 14 '11 at 4:56
  • @DavidSchwartz I am sure the CPU fan is properly seated, and reducing clock frequencies seems to make the temperature increase at a slower rate, but it still would get extremely hot in just a couple hours at the rate the temperature is increasing. Is there a substitute for thermal paste I could use?
    – bbosak
    Dec 14 '11 at 4:58
  • Had you check the CPU temperature before? It could be running at 100C even before just you checked it today. It should be fine. Dec 14 '11 at 5:20

The CPU will not self-destruct from heat. It has a thermal safety that will shut it down before it suffers physical damage. Most likely, heat is not being conducted properly from the CPU to the case, so the case itself won't overheat. (It will actually see less total heat because the CPU will throttle.)

I'd recommend reducing the clock speed and multiplier in the BIOS. Then, as soon as possible, obtain a new heat sink and fan or make repairs to the existing one. The thermal compound should be cleaned off and replaced.

If you have some alcohol, you can re-use the existing thermal compound temporarily. Mix the existing thermal compound, in place, with a very, very tiny bit of rubbing alcohol (or water if it must be). That will make it liquid enough to reflow. Again, use very little liquid.

See if you can get the heat sink so that it is pressed tightly against the CPU and mates perfectly flat. Make sure there is no dirt or foreign objects of any kind between the CPU and the heat sink.

I've heard of things like toothpaste, vegetable oil, or butter used as a substitute thermal compound with varying degrees of success. Unless you have no thermal compound at all, I'd just live with the residue that's still on there, thinned a bit if possible. The more extreme solutions made some sense with CPUs without on-die throttling or integrated thermal spreaders that could easily physically damage themselves. Those extreme measures aren't needed on modern CPUs at stock clocks. Just get the right stuff when you can.

  • 3
    I'd clean the surfaces to bare metal and use them without compound before I started trying to use toothpaste, or oil :) No thermal paste is better than a potential insulator, as long as you have good surface contact and pressure between the heat-sink and the CPU. Dec 14 '11 at 6:15
  • 1
    @techie007 Believe it or not, the tests for those compounds actually show they work much better than nothing at all. At least, the toothpaste/oil/butter they tested did -- at least for a little while. They may dry out, disperse, rot, contaminate surfaces, or otherwise cause big problems in the long term. So I definitely wouldn't use them unless it was urgent to prevent physical destruction -- and that's not an issue on an i7. Dec 14 '11 at 6:20

You may want to use After-market CPU Coolers. There are products from brands such as Cooler-Master, ThermalTake, etc that offer these Coolers.

I personally feel the stock Heatsink+Fan from Intel for their i7 models are really inefficient. Even if Intel dont see anything wrong in the high temp, I am no way going to be comfortable knowing that my i7 is running at 100C

I use my i7 for Heavy-Gaming (good stress-testing & benchmarking) With the Cooler Master "Hyper N520" i have my temperatures of all my i7 Cores at around 35C(when idle) and 65C (Heavy Gaming)

And of course you may also want to clean out your CPU cabinet (Dust acts like a Thermal Blanket)

Along with this you also want to ensure that your Cabinet's Chassis fans are working fine - else the warm air doesnt get flushed out from within your CPU Cabinet. If you think they arent working as efficiently as they are supposed to, chuck them and get Newer ones


For a short term fix, i might suggest a box fan (preferably) outside the computer, blowing into the side of the case - get a LOT of airflow in and it might stay within safe temperatures. Airflow is more important than temprature, and i've once kept a PIV with a bad heatsink/fan going with one.


I use Core i7 CPU on development machine, and despite of Arctic Cooler Freezer Xtreme [1] and Aerocool enclosure with 500mm fan [2] it gets to 100C during parallel builds. It's OK for this kind of hardware.

  1. http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/cooling/cpu/57/.html?c=2
  2. http://www.h-online.com/priceinsight/347695

3 things: good thermal paste, well attached fan, good air flow.

I had similar problem last year with my Core 2 Duo on a P5B motherboard, with CPU reaching 95+ degrees Celsius, while normally it was around 60 before. I had a Scythe Mine cooler mounted using these dumb plastic push-and-turn bolts that were impossible to access without bending over backwards and cutting your fingers by the radiator. After opening the case I learned that the radiator was only hanging on the bottom two bolts. I decided to get a Noctua cooler - much, much better mounting, great paste, and now, after almost a year, the temperature is still around 32 degrees with ambient room temperature 25 degrees.

I'm not suggesting you should get something from that company. Almost any thermal paste and the bigger pass-though coolers are better than the stock ones provided with the CPU. You have to watch the correct airflow though. Pushing hot air from the GFX card towards the mobo or case wall isn't going to reduce the temperature too much.

  • 1
    OK... I wonder why the hell did I just answer a 2-month-old question? It was listed on the front page though.
    – Frg
    Feb 22 '12 at 18:50

Did you overclock it? Try not to overclock it.

I think 2000rpm fan is not enough for an i7 CPU, you should get a fan with at least 10000rpm.

Check the air flow, make sure it has 2 exits, one at the front and one in the back of your machine.

Clearing off some dust might help too.

Temporary solution - turn the air-conditioner to its coolest temperature and put the machine near it.

  • 3
    Please link to a 10k rpm cpu cooler.
    – Shawn
    Feb 22 '12 at 17:44
  • @Shawn, here & here.
    – Synetech
    Feb 22 '12 at 18:54
  • 1
    @Synetech I don't see any CPU coolers in those pics, just normal fans. :)
    – Shawn
    Feb 22 '12 at 18:58
  • @Shawn what’s the difference? A lot of CPU coolers use standard 80mm fans, so you can easily swap in a 10K fan for the 2K one that comes with it. Besides, just add “cpu” to the search query and you get more CPU-specific ones; and add some quotes to narrow it down. In fact, if you actually care, use the regular search instead of image search.
    – Synetech
    Feb 22 '12 at 19:02
  • 1
    @Synetech I suppose for aftermarket coolers that would be true. I was thinking of stock or stock-like coolers. I still think 10k is ridiculous and unnecessary for a nonoverclocked I7.
    – Shawn
    Feb 22 '12 at 19:09

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