Stress testing a PC requires the right tools for the job. You’ll often need a variety of tools to get the job done right, and the tools can be used for:
- CPU stress tests
- GPU stress tests
- RAM stress tests
You’ll be able to stress test your PC if you’re trying to:
- Test an aging system
- Overclock a PC
- Find a component fault
We’ve included monitoring tools that should also be run alongside the key tools to test your CPU, GPU and RAM.
You’ll want to run these monitoring tools to have a better overall understanding of how your system is performing while being stressed with one of the main three components.
Tools to Stress Test Your CPU
Your CPU is the key component used when overclocking, and it can also cause a variety of issues in older PCs.
You may start experiencing blue screens or random restarts if there’s an issue with your CPU.
There’s also the chance, when overclocking, that the system will not boot properly. We recommend that you read our guide of how to overclock a CPU.
The tools you’ll need when testing for a stable processor are:
Prime95 may not have the world’s nicest interface, but it is often a go-to option when testing your CPU.
But this program really wasn’t designed for stress testing. The program was designed to find new prime numbers – a very intensive process.
The program has been used to find world record primes since 1996, but it’s the torture test that really shines for hardware enthusiasts.
When you run the torture or stress test, Prime95 will make use of:
• Floating point
There’s heavy usage of these two things, and the processor is fed a consistent workload to test the stability of the CPU. The program will ensure a high-stress environment for:
• Multi-core systems
• Multi-CPU systems
Processor caches are also tested, including: L1/L2/L3.
What’s nice about Prime95 is that when you run the executable, there’s a simple way to test the system: Just Stress Testing.
When you run this test when prompted, a balanced stress test will be performed on the system.
The default options work great, but you can choose to tweak them if you want to further stress your CPU.
IntelBurn is another great tool that pushes your processor to the limit – sometimes it pushes too much.
Despite the name, this program can stress test both Intel and AMD chips.
Related: AMD Ryzen vs Intel CPUs for gaming
You’ll want to make sure that you monitor your core temperatures when running this test because it will make your CPU heat up drastically.
If you don’t have adequate cooling, you may damage your CPU in the process.
IntelBurn is the main competitor to Prime95.
The software uses memory subsystems and floating-point arithmetic to stress your CPU. This program solves linear equations rather than Mersene Primes.
It’s recommended that you use IntelBurn for short-term stability since it can be very aggressive.
Keep in mind that temperatures can be as much as 20 degrees higher than Prime95, so you really do need high-end cooling to stress test with IntelBurn.
Tools to Stress Test Your GPU
Graphics cards can be overclocked or can be faulty, so a stress test will help you determine how stable your GPU is during periods of high graphics processing.
If you are looking to push your graphics cards limits then you should read our guide on how to overclock a GPU.
Two tools that are used most often to test the stability of your GPU are:
3DMark provides you with multiple options to benchmark your PC.
One downside with 3DMark is that it’s a paid program with a freemium option that has fewer features.
You’ll find that 3DMark provides benchmarks specifically for your graphics hardware.
But there are other options available, including VRMark and PCMark 10, that will help you stress test your system.
You’ll be able to monitor several different GPU aspects, including:
• Load • Temperatures • Framerate
• Clock speed
Unigine’s Heaven & Valley
Unigine provides fair GPU benchmarks, and it will be able to test the stability of your GPU, CPU and power supply.
In addition, you’ll also be able to better understand your system’s cooling capabilities.
There are also benchmark tests available with options to test your card’s limit.
You can even use the tool’s Superposition benchmark to test VR features of your card.
Extended stress tests can be performed with command line automation and reports available, too.
Tools to Stress Test Your RAM
RAM should also be stressed to ensure that your system is able to handle quick memory access. The tools that I recommend for stress testing your RAM are:
MemTest86 is software that is designed to uncover any issues that you may be having with your system’s memory.
The software may run in the command prompt, but it will provide one of the best overall options for testing your RAM.
Providing you with numerous tests, it will also show the number of errors that occurred during the tests.
High error rates will be a sign that your RAM has degraded and may need to be replaced.
Note: MemTest86+ is no longer a good option for testing your memory. MemTest86+ is different from MemTest86 and has not been updated for years.
Prime95 is a multi-purpose tool, and you can use the tool’s Blend test to be able to test your RAM properly.
The tool is the same tool that we reviewed above, and while it will test your memory for failure, it will not provide you with information on the number of errors during the test.
MemTest86 is the better overall option that will allow you to diagnose issues with your memory with much greater precision.
3 Tools to Monitor Your System During a Stress Test
When you stress test, you need to monitor your system from all angles. Software is available for this, too, including:
Core Temp is free and makes CPU monitoring a breeze.
What this program offers is real-time temperature readings based on the load on your processor and cores if you have an Intel processor.
AMD doesn’t have core temperatures provided.
Instead, AMD has just one temperature for the entire CPU. You can expand the program with plugins, and it does show some key data that’s good for overclocking:
MSI Afterburner is a powerful software with a nice interface and is supposed to be for graphics cards. But it’s very powerful when overclocking your GPU and provides you with options to:
- Run benchmarks in-game
- Overclock the GPU
- Set fan profiles
Afterburner is ideal for gamers that are trying to overclock their GPU to push their games to the next level.
You can have Afterburner running while gaming to be able to see how your GPU is performing.
If you want a more robust monitoring program, HWinFO64 is the best option for you.
The software is complex, so it’s often best used for anyone who has extensive experience with overclocking or needs a better overview of their computer’s operation.
The diagnostic software is able to track information pertaining to your:
Loads for all components can be monitored as well as fan speeds and more. While complex, the program provides a very nice overview of how your computer is running.
Stress testing your computer is a great option if it’s having issues or you’re overclocking it.
The tools we’ve reviewed will help you properly stress test the system to ensure that it can handle higher processing loads.