3 Critical Stats Every PC Gamer Should Watch

A modern gaming rig with a powerful PC tower and neon lighting.

Building a desktop gaming PC is a great hobby, but gaming demands a lot from your PC. For this reason, there are three critical stats you need 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 this reason, it’s a good idea to understand if your PC is getting too hot, which can damage all those new parts. Also, over time, components can degrade and deteriorate over time. Keeping an eye on these three critical factors will keep your PC running and alert you when it’s time to fix something wrong or replace a part.

Here are some tools to help you keep tabs on your PC and know when things aren’t working the way they should.

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Component temperatures

If there’s one critical factor for your gaming PC, it’s temperatures. When things get too hot, only the bad guys follow. Your PC may start to thrash under load with stuttering, game crashes, or system-wide crashes. If your parts stay too hot for too long, they can also suffer damage. Most of the time this won’t happen, as a system will often shut down before the heat gets too far.

Still, there are surprises from time to time. Issues with some early Nvidia GeForce RTX cards, such as faulty solder joints, as well as power consumption issues, were exposed when playing Amazon’s demanding MMO, New world. It’s unclear if keeping a closer eye on the times could have prevented some of these cards from dying, but it might.

When it comes to gaming, there are two key components to watch 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 to keep cool. Generally speaking, CPUs should stay safely below 80 degrees Celsius, while GPUs should be below 85 degrees Celsius, although this can vary significantly depending on the specific GPU model. The best thing to do is to check the manufacturer’s tolerances for your specific parts, then build in a safety margin below that number (say 10 degrees) as the ideal operating temperature. If you can’t reach those temperatures, you either need to rethink your system’s cooling, or your headroom was a little too enthusiastic.

There are many ways to keep an eye on these times. If you want as little extra software as possible on your PC, Task Manager in Windows 11 and later versions of Windows 10 can help.

Check your GPU temperature in task manager

Open Task Manager, click the Performance tab, then scroll down the left navigation column to the GPU section. There you can see the temperature of your graphics card (or GPU on a laptop). Clicking it will also display active resource usage graphs, as well as other key stats down, including temperature.

The problem with monitoring GPU temperatures in Task Manager is that it’s not very practical without a second monitor, since you can’t see what’s going on while gaming. Still, as a quick way to throw a look at what’s going on can be helpful.

For easier in-game monitoring, AMD’s Radeon software can display an overlay that includes all sorts of stats, including CPU usage, GPU power consumption, and GPU temperature. Nvidia fans can get similar insights using the company’s GeForce Experience, which also has a performance overlay feature. If you have an AMD graphics card with Radeon Software installed and configured, you can enable the overlay with Ctrl+Shift+O, while Nvidia users can press Alt+R after installing and configuring GeForce Experience.

Many gamers swear by the MSI Afterburner overlay, which works in concert with RivaTuner Statistics Server to provide a really cool overlay that can display stats like per-core usage for CPU, CPU and GPU times, and even the use of RAM. . Be warned that there are a ton of options for this overlay and you can definitely overdo the real-time stats.

A yellow taxi driving on an autumn country road in the Fortnite game.
MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner Statistics Server display key stats with an in-game overlay.

To monitor CPU temperature, you can turn to Afterburner, but you can also keep an eye on CPU heat outside of games. When this is the case, try something like Core Temp, a free program that displays per-core temperatures in the system tray, or other options like HWMonitor and HWiNFO.

Another easy way to monitor CPU temperatures is to get a liquid CPU cooler with RGB lighting. These coolers can often be configured to display specific colors that reflect CPU temperature, such as blue when it’s cold and red when it’s too hot.

Frame rates

Once you’ve monitored your temperatures, the next thing to watch out for is the frame rate. Checking frame rates will tell you if you should dial in the graphics on this killer AAA title from Ultra to High. It can also alert you to issues if your system is struggling to hit the gold standard of 60fps on a game where you’d expect it.

Monitoring frame rates is easy. As before, both AMD Radeon Software and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience overlays can show frame rates. Another popular choice is Fraps, which is a free program.

One last option we’ll mention is the built-in Xbox Game Bar, which stopped being just a bar a long time ago. It is now a full overlay, just like those from AMD and Nvidia, with a frame rate monitor. To activate the Game Bar, press Windows + G on your keyboard. then tap the pin icon in the stats window to view it while you play.

Halo Game Bar stats overlay in the upper right corner of Halo Infinite.
The Xbox Game Bar stats overlay shows that this machine may want to recall graphics settings.

RELATED: How do frame rates affect the gaming experience?

Disk Health

The last key stat to watch is drive health. It’s more of a long term goal once your internal drives get a bit long in the tooth. Newer drives shouldn’t really need monitoring because they haven’t worn out yet. Still, it can’t hurt to keep an eye on them, and you might actually discover a fault with a newer drive and take advantage of its warranty.

Disk health monitoring will require third-party software because Windows does not offer an easy way to keep an eye on your disks with a graphical program. A quick and easy way to monitor your disk is CrystalDiskInfo, which can show you information about your disk’s health status. Most disk manufacturers also offer their own disk health software, such as Samsung Magician or Crucial Storage Executive.

Crystal Disk Info showing the status of a Crucial P1 NVMe SSD.
CrystalDiskInfo displays a summary of your drive’s health.

Once your software is up and running, the easiest thing to do is just check if it is reporting a healthy drive or not. Once it starts reporting that the drive is unhealthy, it’s time to start looking for a newer drive.

RELATED: How to Upgrade and Install a New Hard Drive or SSD in Your PC

You can also get more details by diving into the various attributes reported by CrystalDiskInfo, but if you don’t want those details, you don’t need them. Just keep an eye on the drive from time to time to see the overall status of the drive.

There are a ton of other stats and metrics to monitor with a PC, but these three are some of the most important and will help you get the most out of your gaming rig.

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