Apple silicon – including M1 chips and new M2 chips –has a reputation for staying cool even under intense workloads. Intel Macs, on the other hand, notoriously work hot. They’re still capable computers, but they get hot quickly, which, in turn, slows things down. If you have an Intel-based Mac, you’ve probably experienced this computing heatwave firsthand. Rather than guessing at your computer’s temperature, however, there’s a hidden monitor built into every Intel-based Mac that lets you know exactly what is the internal temperature.
Why Your Mac Is Overheating (And Why It’s Bad)
I have already talked about this subjectwhen I mostly focused on laptops. Whether you have a MacBook or an iMac, however, the general principle is the same: you don’t want your machine to overheat.
Computers heat up because the internal components, namely the CPU and the GPU, generate heat during operation. Depending on your computer, you may not notice this while performing light tasks. However, once you start pushing the machine, you will feel the temperature soars.
It’s not that this heat will damage or break your computer. I mean, it’s absolutely possible, but the manufacturers make sure that’s never going to happen. A little heat is acceptable; the parts are designed to operate normally in a wide range of temperatures. However, when the chips start to get too hot…usually around 90 degrees Fahrenheit—your computer will slow down processing speed in order to cool things down, a process called “throttling”.
Throttling sucks, because it means you’re not getting the performance you expect from your machine. True, a slow machine is better than a burnt and broken one, but avoiding the overheating problem in the first place can help you prevent throttling before it kicks in, and push your Mac to its maximum potential.
While there are many ways to fight overheating, one is to keep an eye on your Mac’s temperature. And if you have an Intel Mac, you already have a monitor built into macOS.
macOS Hidden Temperature Monitors for Intel Macs
You won’t find these temperature monitors by searching through the apps installed on your Mac. You won’t even find them in Activity Monitor, a useful utility though. Instead, your Mac’s temperature monitor is in Terminal. Using Terminal probably seems intimidating to many users because it lets you control your Mac using only text commands. But you don’t need to memorize anythinge commands to use Terminal; a copy-and-paste command works just as well.
There are many useful Terminal commands that anyone can use (we covered a lot in this article) but we focus on the temperature monitors this time. There are two commands you can use here. The first one leave you Check your Mac’s CPU temperature stats. Copy and paste the following command exactly as is in a new Terminal window (quotes and all):
sudo powermetrics – smc samplers | grep -i “CPU die temperature”
If done correctly, Terminal will ask you for your password. Enter it (unfortunately, you won’t be able to see what you’re typing), then hit the return key. After a while, you’ll start seeing temperature readings, updating approximately every five seconds. Temperatures are written in Celsius, so you’ll have to convert to Fahrenheit yourself, but, after a while, you’ll start to figure out which temperatures are cold, warm, hot, and too hot.
Speaking of which, you will also have access one of my favorite data points in macOS: when things start to get too hot and your Mac decides it needs cool things down below, you will see (fan) written next to temperatures (if your Mac has fans, that is). This lets you know that the fans are starting to work harder to push hot air out of your machine. Fans are obviously a good tool for cooling computers, but they’re not perfect: if your processor is still heating up to dangerous levels…typically 98 degrees Fahrenheit, passing my terminal experience—you will start to see (Powerful) In place. When this reading appears, it means macOS is throttling your CPU to prevent the temperature from going overboard.
You can also check your GPU temperatures with the following command:
sudo powermetrics – smc samplers | grep -i “GPU die temperature”
Note that you will not see (fan) Where (Powerful) appear on this terminal windowonly temperature readings.
Options for Apple Silicon
While Apple’s suite of silicon chips don’t face as many heat ramps as Intel-based Macs, they can still overheat and throttle like any other chip. Unfortunately, this built-in Terminal command will not work on M1 and newer, becauseThe chips designed themselves differently from Intel chips in how they handle heat.
The only solid temperature monitor for Apple silicon available rIt’s dark now TG Prowhich has a cost. It’s usually $20, but at the time of this writingit is on sale for $10. If you’re looking for a temporary fix, the app offers a two-week free trial, so you can monitor your temperatures on M1, M2, or any other Apple silicon variant for 14 days for free.
Hopefully, as Apple silicon is adopted by more Mac users, developers will write more temperature monitoring apps for the platform. Hey, maybe Apple will even make their own, for free.
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