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What Is CPU Core Voltage?

Helen Akers
Helen Akers

CPU core voltage is the amount of power that it takes to run a computer's central processing unit (CPU). It is measured in terms of voltage and can vary depending upon the size of the processor. Each central processing unit has an internal speed that determines the CPU core voltage. Faster processors usually require higher amounts of voltage to operate efficiently.

A central processing unit is sometimes referred to as the computer's hard drive. A processor is an important part of a computer's hardware components, but it is not the hard drive itself. Processors can be thought of as the "brain" of a computer system. All applications and functions must go through the processor and are controlled by it.

A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.

Without a CPU, a computer would not be able to operate. Electric current flows through the processor via a computer's motherboard in order for it to function. Computer manufacturers and designers come up with certain CPU core voltage requirements that will balance a system's performance and cooling requirements. Since the processor uses electricity, a cooling fan is necessary to prevent the system from overheating.

A Central Processing Unit (CPU).
A Central Processing Unit (CPU).

The voltage simply indicates the amount of electrical current. Higher voltages correspond to a greater use of electricity. When the required voltage is obtained from an electrical outlet, it has a lower risk of overheating than a mobile power source, such as a battery. In newer processors, cooling requirements do not necessarily correspond to the amount of required voltage.


A higher CPU core voltage can indicate that a processor has a greater capacity. Some designers are finding ways to reduce CPU core voltage while maintaining processor performance, in order to reduce the chances of overheating. Another concern with a high CPU core voltage is wear and tear on the processor. Higher voltages tend to result in shortened CPU lives, especially if machines are required to be powered on for extended periods of time.

Besides processor speed, core voltage can be determined by other factors, such as the design of the computer's motherboard. Older CPUs sometimes require more voltage than new PCs due to design improvements and innovations. Smaller laptop devices tend to be a challenge for designers as the cooling fans are not always adequate in preventing the batteries from overheating.

Smaller processor sizes can decrease the amount of required core voltage. Compressing the processor's transistors is one way to accomplish this without decreasing performance levels. Clock speeds can be maintained or even improved through this type of design strategy.

Discussion Comments


@MrMoody - Actually, it has nothing to do with the manufacturer, whether it’s AMD or Pentium. I’ve owned both and both deliver comparable performance.

The overheating issue has to do with the cooling mechanism. I believe that the Pentium processors come with a heat sink built on top of the CPU, if I’m not mistaken, whereas the AMD chips do not.

I usually add an extra heat sink to the AMD chips. I’m just pointing out that the Pentium chips come that way right out of the box.

I don’t know if Pentium does anything else to their chips, like adding extra cooling fans or stuff. You can always do the same with the AMD computers, in addition to the extra heat sink layer.

I've never had overheating issues with either my Pentium or AMD computers, but they were always properly cooled and well ventilated.


Years ago I had a friend build me an AMD computer, which he told me would be cheaper than a store bought model. Well, he was right, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

While he did a good job of assembling all of the components together, they were cheap components, and he didn’t provide adequate cooling. My computer processor would overheat and I would have to shut the system down for awhile to let it cool off.

It got to the point where I couldn’t use it for more than an hour at a time. That was ridiculous, and certainly impractical. Even with additional cooling fans, it would still get hot, until one day it just almost literally had a meltdown.

Since then, I have purchased a Pentium computer and have been happy with it. Pentium computers don’t have overheating processors like the AMD computers do.

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    • A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
      A dual core CPU mounted to a motherboard.
    • A Central Processing Unit (CPU).
      By: Gudellaphoto
      A Central Processing Unit (CPU).
    • A CPU.
      By: NorGal
      A CPU.