Whether you’ve just built your brand new PC yourself or received it pre-built, there’s something everyone should do before starting to fully use their new PC, and that’s a comprehensive stress test of your new system.
The temptation to get straight into the latest new game is strong, I know, especially when the new RGB’s are pulsing gently and the fans are gently whirring, trying to hypnotize you into a false sense of security.
But it doesn’t matter if your new PC looks perfect, or if it powered on just fine, there can sometimes be problems that you can’t see by simply admiring your PC and its components.
Some problems are hidden in the tiny recesses of the various parts that make a PC, and these problems won’t always show themselves right away.
Making sure your system is functioning exactly as it’s supposed to will not only help reassure you, it will also make sure you can return and replace any faulty components or issues while still inside your warranty period.
Stress testing will help to ensure that there are no hidden faults in your system, particularly faults that will only become apparent under significant loads.
This is why stress testing can scare or stress out some newer users, it’s a pretty intensive process that will push your system to the brink in order to make sure that it can work well within the specifications and tolerances it’s supposed to.
Some users dislike the idea of stressing their new system at all, but it’s far better to run a specialized test right at the beginning while you’ll still be able to RMA or get support.
If there is an issue with one of your components it could break down at the wrong moment during normal use, compromising any work you may be doing, as well as putting other componentry at risk. This is why a proper stress test is paramount.
Ideally, running a test on a new machine should last around 6 hours to ensure that each part of your system is functioning properly and is stable.
This means running a full system stress test, as well as RAM stress tests, CPU stress tests, GPU stress tests, and setting up SSD health monitoring alongside overall system monitoring that will help you to track your system metrics more precisely.
Running these specific tests as well as full system tests ensures that each part of your system is isolated while it’s tested, which will help you to identify problems far more easily.
This is especially important if you’re building your system yourself, as you will have to RMA parts to the specific vendor/manufacturer depending on which component is causing problems.
It’s also important to test if you’re planning on overclocking your system to gain increased performance. Completing a full round of stress tests will give you an idea of how much room you have to increase performance without causing thermal issues or other problems.
If your testing shows that you are well within the thermal recommendations for your various parts, it will give you the confidence you need to look into overclocking to crank up your performance with far less anxiety than simply winging it.
In order to make sure you’re aware of all the tools, you need to perform a full and safe stress test. I’m going to list some of the best monitoring and testing tools available. Some of these tools are totally free while some are paid, and downloading these tools will also require a stable internet connection.
With all that being said, let’s get into the software itself and show you everything you need to get started.
This is arguably the most important step of the process, as it will allow you to measure the temperatures of your componentry, and see how they react to the strain of tests or your own software.
It can also be useful to keep this software even after you’ve finished stress testing, in order to keep an eye on your PC’s performance under your own personal usage and to be able to immediately check for issues and overheating.
You may notice that some of the stress testing software we recommend include temperature monitors as well as other measurements, however not all testing software includes these, so having your own available will make sure you can run any test without needing to worry about what metrics it includes.
Speedfan is a relatively simple system monitor for Windows that is capable of reading temperatures as well as voltages and fan speeds of various components.
Speedfan is also capable of changing CPU fan speed settings which allows you to customize this setup. Be warned, however, if you’re not experienced with setting up fan profiles we recommend you read up on this or leave it as default to avoid causing unforeseen and unnecessary issues.
CPU-Z is a freeware monitoring app for Windows and also Android which is capable of showing various metrics including temperatures, clock speeds, and other highly detailed information about your componentry and how it is performing.
CPU-Z is far more in-depth than standard monitors but is also relatively easy to use and user-friendly, and can even monitor other components if required.
This monitoring software is another popular choice that functions similarly to the others available, providing accurate temperature information using the sensors built into your CPU and motherboard.
Open Hardware Monitor
This open-source hardware monitor is free and is capable of monitoring many of the same metrics as the other monitors, including fan speeds, voltages, clock speeds, and load limits as well as the temperature of course.
All of these monitoring systems work well, however, it’s important that you check the patch notes and recent updates to ensure that your monitor of choice is compatible with all the hardware in your system, to ensure that you’re getting the best and most accurate results.
SSD Health Monitoring/Testing
Not everyone is aware, but SSD’s actually need to be monitored as after long periods in use it’s possible for them to degrade and become less effective.
While many improvements have been made and SSDs have come a very long way in recent years, it’s still a good idea to make sure your SSD is at full health to give you maximum peace of mind.
Typically your manufacturer should have software that can help you monitor this, such as Samsung’s own Samsung Magician app which is capable of monitoring drive health, managing data, and protecting performance. This tool, in particular, works well and is very simple to use, however, there are others available.
CPU Stress Testing
In this section, we’re going to look at some great CPU stress testing software. Some of these tools are free while others are paid, and I’ve labeled this at the top to make things simple.
It’s also worth noting that not all these tools function the same way and many have slightly different features and means of testing CPUs as well as other components.
Intel Processor Diagnostic Tool (Free)
If your system has an Intel CPU there are few better options than Intel’s own stress testing tool. Intel is known for their industry-leading manufacturing when it comes to CPUs, so it stands to reason that their stress testing software would be one of the best available, as they almost certainly run many tests on their own products while testing and developing them.
This stress test will verify your CPU and check all of its functionality before the beginning of one of the most difficult stress tests possible. The test itself will push your CPU hard and help identify any issues quite effectively.
This tool can also be run successively and set to shut down automatically if the CPU begins to overheat, which will mean you can have peace of mind if you want to leave the test to run for a short while.
We don’t recommend leaving a stress test totally unsupervised for a long time however as your components could easily get damaged if something goes wrong and you aren’t present to set things right.
Cinebench R20 (Free)
This free tool by Cinebench is a long-standing and popular test that has been updated recently which has made it more challenging than ever as the scene that the CPU has to generate has become much more complex.
Cinebench R20 also has some neat features such as setting a minimum time that the test must run for, which can allow you to vary the stress you place on your PC, making it more challenging if you want to simulate quicker load times.
Due to the fact this tool tests the CPU by rendering a complex scene, this is a great test for video editors, 3D artists, and photo editors who need to make sure that they have the power to manage complex workstation tasks efficiently and in a timely manner.
Prime 95 (Free)
Prime 95 is one of the oldest free stress testing tools and functions a little differently to more modern stress testing systems.
This tool pushes your CPU to its limits by using it to find Mersenne prime numbers which a CPU will quickly build a lot of stress on the CPU despite its relatively simple system.
Typically it’s recommended that CPUs run Prime 95 for around 6 hours. A run of this length without any interruptions indicates that the CPU is well made and free of faults, and will be unlikely to fail or cause issues over the course of its life.
To prevent causing damage or wear to your CPU when running this test it’s best to monitor the temperatures closely and ensure that they don’t stray beyond the recommended limits, as this could adversely affect its performance in the future.
It is possible to vary the difficulty of Prime95 using slightly different tests profiles that come with the system, and it’s also possible to run a blended test that will stress both the CPU and RAM at the same time, which may better mimic general PC usage and can also save you from having to perform multiple separate tests.
You may have noticed that we recommended CPU-Z as monitoring software, however, you’ll be pleased to know that this great tool can also perform stress tests, making it a great tool if you want to spend less time downloading and more time testing.
CPU-Z has a great interface that’s easy to navigate and simple to use. The included stress test tool isn’t as intensive as some others, however, it creates enough of a workload to allow you to easily spot stability issues of faults that may require further testing or an RMA.
This is a paid tool that is geared towards enthusiasts and professionals who want access to very precise and intensive tools that can target multiple components.
This is a great tool for overclockers however it may be overkill for beginners or users who just want to make sure that their system isn’t faulty.
RAM Stress Testing
Stress testing your RAM is a step that many people either forget or overlook, as RAM is often seen as a very simple and stable component.
However, forgoing a test on such an integral component can be a real mistake and cause more hassle than running a few quick tests on it to make sure it’s working properly.
Faulty RAM can cause a host of issues including boot problems and sporadic blue screens that will leave a lot of users confused and concerned.
Again, I’ve listed some of the best tests that will enable you to easily see how well your RAM is performing.
Memtest 64 (Free)
The beauty of Memtest 64 is in its utter simplicity and ease of use. The tool does exactly what it needs to do, without overcomplicating and overwhelming users.
Simply pressing begin test will allow you to immediately begin testing your memory, however you are also able to set a number of loops and an emergency stop if faults are detected.
This makes Memtest 64 a great choice for beginners or those who want to simply check that their memory is functioning properly without wanting to deal with deeper analysis.
Memtest 86+ (Free)
Memtest 86+ is free, just like its counterpart Memtest 64, however, it isn’t as user-friendly and doesn’t function as an application in the same way as Memtest 64. This version of the stress test needs to be loaded onto a bootable flash drive using an auto-installer.
Once this is done you can simply plug the loaded flash drive into your system and set your PC to boot from the flash drive that contains Memtest 86+. This will begin stress testing your RAM automatically.
Should a fault be detected your display will show large red letters which means your memory is faulty and should be returned or replaced.
If your RAM is overclocked you can try lowering their speed and testing again to find a more suitable clock speed that still allows your RAM to function.
GPU Stress Testing
The GPU is usually the main focal point of most builds and is very often the most expensive individual component, capable of amazing performance for gaming and other tasks such as editing and modeling.
Making sure your GPU can withstand the heavy load gaming and working will put on it is paramount as this will be handling a lot of complex processing alongside the CPU.
3D Mark (Free/Paid)
This tool is mainly known as a benchmark tool, however, it is capable of providing a fairly good stress test for your GPU also.
During the benchmark test, your GPU will be forced to render several very challenging scenes which will put a reasonably high load on the GPU, but it will be a load more consistent with typical day-to-day usage rather than the extreme loads used by some stress testing tools.
Furmark is actually quite notorious as it creates an incredibly high-stress load that has been known to damage older GPUs when used for extended testing periods.
This massive stress is caused by the highly complex scene Furmark creates, and when the graphics card has to render this scene for an extended period it gets pushed to its absolute limit.
While modern graphics cards have protections to prevent them from getting damaged from this sort of demand, older cards often overheated because they lacked some of these modern overload protection features.
Some critics of this tool say that no game or software will use such a demanding scene for a prolonged period of time, however, the benefit of such a difficult test is that you’ll be sure your equipment is working properly if it can handle it for a reasonable amount of time.
Full System Stress Testing
Completing a full system test after making sure all your components are working properly is a great way to make sure that they also cooperate properly with each other and forms a logical final step in the testing process.
Passmark BurnIn Test (Paid)
Passmark is an incredibly easy-to-use and comprehensive full system testing tool that allows you to monitor all your critical components as well as your storage and even the audio system.
There are several versions however the paid version provides access to more advanced tests and would suit enthusiast users quite well.
PC Mark 10 (Paid)
This testing tool isn’t particularly demanding but it is a practical choice that puts your system under a realistic daily load, mimicking tasks such as gaming, editing, and browsing to ensure that your systems are all functioning correctly without potentially damaging your components.
This makes PC Mark a great choice for beginners but not so good for overclockers or enthusiasts who really want to test the limits of their PC.
Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Free)
This tool is great as it is free and will be able to test the CPU, memory, and GPU at the same time. It allows users to decide how long they want to test for and also provides a lot of information about each component from temperatures to throttling warnings.
Again, this tool is able to test multiple components and has a few unique features such as a tool for testing how well your system can perform with realistic limitations such as low memory and low storage space.