Operating a CPU without a cooler is technically feasible for a brief period, but it is not advisable due to the risk of rapid overheating and permanent damage. The severity of the damage depends on the workload and CPU model.

Modern CPUs have thermal protection mechanisms that lower performance or shut down the system if the temperature exceeds a certain threshold to prevent harm. However, these mechanisms are temporary, and they should not be used for extended periods.

An overheating CPU can cause system instability, random crashes, error messages, and, in severe cases, permanent hardware damage. Symptoms of an overheating CPU include sluggish performance, unexpected shutdowns, and a loud or unusual noise from the cooling system.

Therefore, it’s crucial to use an appropriate CPU cooler to manage and dissipate heat away from the processor. CPU coolers come in various forms, such as air-cooled, water-cooled, or a hybrid of both. It’s essential to choose a cooler that is compatible with your CPU socket and can manage the thermal load generated by your processor under heavy workloads or overclocking.

To avoid damage from an overheating CPU, it’s important to monitor the temperature of your processor regularly using programs like HWMonitor or SpeedFan. If you notice any symptoms of an overheating CPU or high temperatures, take action to cool down your system by installing a proper cooler, reapplying thermal paste, or cleaning dust and debris from your cooling system.