Is CPU performance affected by age?

Often, tech users ask similar questions like — What happens when CPU gets old? Does it get weaker?

CPU and motherboard

In this article, I’ll try my best to explain everything.

Does a CPU run slower as it ages?

There are two answers. Let’s understand it theoretically and practically.


Theoretically, a CPU should run at basically the same speed its entire life. Since there is no moving component, chances are very less or no chance that a CPU’s performance degrade by age. The only condition is CPU gets its needed food supplies which is electricity and decent level of cooling to dissipate the heat generated.

Practically, a CPU may get slower over time because of dust accumulated on the heat sink, and because of the thermal paste quality that degrade or evaporate. These effects cause the CPU to overheat, at which point it will throttle its speed to prevent damage. Cleaning the heat sink and reapplying the thermal paste should make it as good as new, though. If you’re asking this due to having an old computer slow down, there are other reasons (usually dying hard-drives or popped capacitors) that old computers will slow down over time.

Does a CPU get weaker, if overclocked?

No, unless you are overclocking it or putting more burden on it that it is rated for. System manufacturer often set a safe limit for their components, but offer little overclocking feature under best cooling advancements. Most CPUs die early because of wrong overclock settings used by hardware testers.

So, why is that what I buy today gets slower in future even if I use the same set of software for next four or five years?

The main reason could be software that made to run on modern hardware more efficiently. Software developers build or code software that run on new hardware as well as older hardware too with a small performance penalty. This is applicable from system software to application software. If you often update or upgrade software by time, things are becoming slow for you. You won’t notice in one or two updates, but it happens when it is for new hardware.

To make this more clear, think of an embedded system like a calculator where software never gets an update.

Does it get slower by time? No, it doesn’t. Does it work for long time? Yes, it works without a fail.

How can I improve my CPU performance?

Heat sink

The answer is simple, do a regular cleaning. Here, regular means — do dust cleaning every quarter month and deep cleaning yearly. Switch to efficient heat sink coolers, as stock ones are just okay ones.

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