Computer Cooling


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There are several aspects of cooling which we cover here. Cooling the processor on the motherboard and cooling everything in the case. As we mentioned earlier, cooling your components is critical. A few minutes with a fan not working in your system and your PC could overheat so badly that it could do irreparable damage to your computer, some computers have a BIOS that will sound an alarm or shutdown your computer if your temperature gets to around 150°F (65°C).

Processor Cooling

Cooling the processor is something that used to be quite easy a few years back processors needed no additional help to cool down, then they needed heat sinks. A heat sink is normally made of aluminum fins or pillars and works by increasing the area over which heat is dissipated, they are very effective, and not doubt you have seen them on many pieces of electrical/electronic equipment that have a heat problem. With processors increasing and increasing in Wattage, a few years back even heat sinks were not sufficient to dissipate all the heat they generated, hence the move to fans bolted onto the top of the processor. Many coolers now have combined heat sinks and fans.

There are a couple of things you want to take into account when buying a processor fan.

Processor type:- The fan will be labeled Socket A, Socket 478 etc. Get one to match your motherboard.

Processor rating:- How fast a processor it can cope with. eg up to 3.2GHz. This figure should be higher than your processor speed, in fact, the higher the better.

Noise:- The noise a fan generates is measured in Decibels (dB), the lower the number, the quieter the fan

Life expectancy:- Again the higher the better, although this may often be a trade off against noise. ie Ball bearing fans tend to last longer than lubricated sleeve bearing fans, but they also tend to be noisier.

Performance:- All fans are measure by the amount of air they shift in cubit feet per minute (CFM) the larger this number, the better. There will be similarities between this figure and the figure used for processor rating.


Case cooling

Let us start off with a few simple rules here first. Again as with the processor you want to keep all the components in the case as cool as possible in order that they run most efficiently. There are some simple ways of doing this.

  • The larger the case, the more opportunity there is for air to circulate naturally. Small case tend to keep all the air in a small place where it gets hotter and hotter.
  • Try to give components that get hot as much space as possible. This isn't easy to do in a modern case as most components have predefined locations, but the bigger the volume of (cool) air around a component, the cooler it will be.
  • Keep hot cards apart. If you have a graphics card in your AGP slot try to keep as much space around it as possible ie if your are plugging cards into PCI and DIMM slots and you have a choice, try to keep them away from the graphics card. Graphics card are notorious for getting very hot, some even have their own on board fan systems. Hard drives are another heat machine in your case. try to keep some space around hard drives by mounting floppy drives, secondary hard drives and optical drives carefully.

Think carefully about the airflow around the inside of your case. Ideally you want air coming into your case, circulating around all the hot components and then leaving again. Obviously fans can suck air into your case or blow air out of the case. Firstly check that you case has vents. Almost all cases have. This allows you to have a fan sucking air into your case and for the hot air to leave though the vents, or for a fan blowing hot air out of your case to suck cold air into your case through the vents. Some points to remember

  • If the fan and the vents are right beside each other the air will not circulate throughout the case cooling all the components , it will just pull air in through one and out through the other by the shortest route.
  • Two fans are better than one, although it would be good if one pulled air out and the other sucked it in. If they are both doing the same thing then this can cause problems too. Three fans are better again, although obviously the more fans, the more noise.
  • In order to encourage optimal airflow, consider one fan at the top and one at the bottom ideally one of them being on the front panel and one on the backpanel.
  • Don't rely on your power supply fan, they are often quite weak.
  • In order to see how strong your fans are and in which direction they are blowing try taking a piece of tissue paper and holding it against the fan.
  Computer maintenance - keeping you computer free of dust and dirt will obviously be critical as well to keeping your computers cooling system in tip top condition.  

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