3 Critical Stats Every PC Gamer Should Check
Building a desktop gaming PC is a great pastime, but games demand a lot from your PC. For that reason, there are three crucial metrics to keep an eye on, including component temperatures, frame rates, and disk health.
Unlike consoles and some pre-built PCs that are tested and re-tested, you won’t really know how well your PC is working until you start using it. For that reason, it’s a good idea to understand if your PC is getting too hot, which can damage all those brand new parts. In addition, components can deteriorate and perform worse over time. Keeping an eye on these three crucial factors will keep your PC buzzing and alerting you when it’s time to fix something that went wrong or replace a part.
Here are some tools to help you keep an eye on your PC and know when things aren’t working the way they should.
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If there is one critical factor for your gaming PC, it has to be the temperatures. If it gets too hot, only the bad will follow. Your PC may begin to struggle with stuttering, game crashes, or system-wide crashes under load. If your parts stay too hot for too long, they can also be damaged. Usually that won’t happen, because a system often shuts down before the heat goes too far.
Still, there are occasional surprises. Issues with some early Nvidia GeForce RTX cards such as faulty solder joints, as well as power consumption issues, came to light while playing Amazon’s demanding MMO, New World. Whether keeping a closer eye on the temps could have prevented some of those cards from dying is unclear, but that may well be the case.
When it comes to gaming, there are two main components to monitor for high temperatures: the CPU and the GPU. These two parts are the main drivers of heat in a PC case and are by far the most important for staying cool. In general, CPUs should safely stay below 80 degrees Celsius, while GPUs should stay below 85 degrees Celsius, although this can vary widely by specific GPU model. The best thing to do is check the manufacturer’s tolerances for your specific parts and then build in a safety margin below that number (say 10 degrees) as the ideal operating temperature. If you can’t hit those temperatures, you either need to rethink your system’s cooling, or your margin of safety was a little too enthusiastic.
There are many ways to keep an eye on these temps. If you want as little extra software on your PC as possible, the Task Manager in Windows 11 and later versions of Windows 10 can help.
Open the Task Manager, click the Performance tab, then scroll to the GPU section in the left navigation column. There you can see the temperature of your graphics card (or GPU on a laptop). Clicking it will also show graphs of active resource usage, as well as other key stats at the bottom, including temperature.
The thing about monitoring GPU temperatures in the Task Manager is that it’s not very practical without a second monitor because you can’t see what’s happening in the game. Still, this can be useful as a quick way to see what’s going on.
For a simpler in-game monitor AMD’s Radeon software can display an overlay that contains all sorts of stats, including CPU usage, GPU power consumption, and GPU temperature. Nvidia fans can get similar information using the GeForce experience, which also has a Performance Overlay feature. If you have an AMD graphics card with Radeon Software installed and configured, you can activate the overlay with Ctrl+Shift+O, while Nvidia users can press Alt+R after installing and configuring GeForce Experience.
Many gamers also swear by MSI Afterburner’s overlay, which works in tandem with RivaTuner Statistics Server to deliver a really cool looking overlay that can show stats like per-core usage for the CPU, CPU, and GPU temps, and even RAM usage . Be warned, there are a ton of options for this overlay and you can definitely overstate the real-time stats.
MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner Statistics Server display key stats with an in-game overlay.
You can turn to Afterburner to monitor CPU temperature, but you may also want to monitor CPU heat outside of gaming. If so, try something like core temperaturea free program that displays temperatures per core in the system tray, or other options such as: HW monitor and HWiINFO.
Another easy way to monitor CPU temperatures is to purchase a CPU liquid cooler with RGB lighting. These coolers can often be set to display specific colors that reflect the CPU’s temperature, such as blue when it’s cold and red when it gets too hot.
Once you’ve checked your temperatures, the next thing to keep an eye on is frame rates. Checking the frame rates will tell you if you should pick the graphics of that great AAA title from Ultra to High. It can also alert you to problems if your system is struggling to hit the gold standard of 60 frames per second for a game where you would expect it.
Monitoring frame rates is easy. As before, AMD Radeon Software’s overlays and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience can display frame rates. Another popular choice is: Frapswhich is a free program.
A final option we’ll mention is the built-in Xbox Game Bar, which has long ceased to be a simple bar. Now it’s a full-featured overlay just like AMD and Nvidia’s, complete with a framerate monitor. To activate the game bar, press Windows+G on your keyboard. then press the pin icon in the stats window to display it during gameplay.
The Xbox Game Bar stats overlay shows that this machine may want to roll back its graphics settings.
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The last important stat to check is the health of the drive. This is more of a long term goal if your internal drives are getting a bit long in the tooth. Newer drives shouldn’t really be checked as they haven’t experienced any wear yet. Still, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on them, and you may find a defect with a newer drive and take advantage of the warranty.
Monitoring the health of the drive requires third-party software, as Windows does not provide an easy way to keep an eye on your drives with a graphics program. A quick and easy way to check your ride is: CrystalDiskInfo, which can show you information about the health status your drive is reporting. Most disk manufacturers also offer their own disk health software, such as: Samsung magician or Crucial Storage Executive.
CrystalDiskInfo shows an overview of the status of your disk.
Once you have your software up and running, the easiest thing to do is to check whether it reports a healthy drive or not. Once it starts reporting that the drive is not healthy, it’s time to look for a newer drive.
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You can also get more granular by diving into the various attributes CrystalDiskInfo reports, but if you don’t want to get into that much detail, you don’t have to. Monitor the drive from time to time to see the overall condition of the drive.
There are a ton of other stats and settings to keep an eye on with a PC, but these three are some of the most important and will help you get the most out of your gaming rig.