Beating the Heat for Your PC
Here in Southern Illinois we went from a nice spring to a blistering summer seemingly over night. Temperatures jumped into the 90s with heat indexes well into the 100s and while this is not abnormal for summer here it hit so hard and fast I do not think most of us where prepared. This tied into the cost of cooling our homes and the various other economic factors of day can mean our poor PC could be getting pummeled. However a few easy tips can keep that PC from having a heat stroke.
First keep it clean, a PC is a huge electro-dust magnet. As it pulls air through it the dust in the air pulls down into the heat sinks and clogs them, restricting air flow. This is further aggravated by the fact that dust is a pretty good insulator, holding in heat that would otherwise dissipate.
Cleaning a PC is actually very simple, go to the local Wal-Mart and but a can of compressed air. Take the side panel off your PC after you have unplugged it. Use the compressed air to blow out the dust that has accumulated in the heat sinks and else where in the PC. Put the side panel back on and you should be ready to rock.
While you are cleaning your PC be sure to look at where it is located. Does the the PC have adequate air flow around it. You want at least 3” or 4” of clearance at the back of the PC, the front should be open with no obstructions and if you have a side vent you want it to have at least a 3” clearance as well thought it would be better if it was open.
To often I will work on a PC in a home where the desk has been designed to put the PC in this little box. This desk design is EVIL and will actually harm your PC, give it room to breathe.
Also make sure the room you have the PC in has adequate air flow. To often people will take a back room and create and “office”. This office however will be a smaller room off the main air flow path of the house. If you have a setup like this then at least put a fan so the room gets a good air flow to it.
Also consider a change in your computing habits. I personally leave my PC on all day. However if you are not going to be near your PC for the day consider shutting it down. At the very least change your energy management on the PC to allow for an S3 sleep mode or even Hybrid Sleep as introduced in Windows Vista. This drastically reduces the power draw of the PC and thus reduces the heat it generates.
If you are going to build your PC then you have the perfect opportunity to prepare for hot weather from the start. Smart case selection is a MUST for building a PC that will live in a potentially hot environment.
Antec a while back introduced the Nine Hundred which had at the time arguably the BEST air flow of any case on the market. Since then a lot of companies have copied the design concept but in my opinion Antec still rules. With three different price levels it is now possible to find the case that will fit your budget and still keep great cooling. For budget considerations the Antec Three Hundred is impossible to beat. At a price point of $60 or less there is no other case that provides the cooling potential of this case. The Nine Hundred Two is the second generation of the Antec Nine Hundred and is a nice evolution of this case design. The higher price point might push the build budget a bit more but you do get a little better cooling and of course there is the bling factor of all the lighting. Finally the Twelve Hundred is the bad boy of the line, a full tower case with enough fans to create a mini hurricane inside the case. The cost is a bit to the high side but it is arguably one of the best cooling cases on the market and the full size tower gives a lot of room to build in.
All three of these cases however come with a SUPER feature for keeping your PC cool, air filters. The filer system intercepts the air as it enters the case and catches most of the dust particles before they can get to the components. However you NEED to be sure and clean these filters. I personally suggest monthly. It does not take a lot of time and it keeps your PC free of dust and cool in operation.
Another way to cut the temperature while building is to put on a third party heat sink for your CPU cooler. While the stock heat sink and fan setups are adequate for the job sometimes we want to push the edge a bit. Good coolers from companies like Thermaltake, Zalman and Zigmatek can help reduce the CPU temperature by 5 to even 10 degrees centigrade. While it is really hard to burn up a CPU today due to new designs, the high heat can force them to slow down and this means your PC slows down. A little bit of extra cooling on a really hot day may be difference between your computer functioning normally or running like an old Pentium II.
Now there are of course other ways as well to cool the PC in a new build, as well as in an upgrade. Slot coolers allow you to either put an air intake in a specific location to help cool the PC or some designs work to give extra heat exhaust. Replacing case fans with higher speed fans will help as they move more air through the case, helping it cool better. However these come at the price is a big increase in system noise so be sure that the noise will not be an issue when considering this level of upgrade. A better solution might be multi-speed fans. This allows you to raise the speed when needed for extra cooling and lower the speed when you need quieter operation.
Last but not least is the PSU, yes the power supply can help cool your PC. Now most people consider this and instantly jump to the conclusion that the fan on the PSU will somehow help, WRONG. The key to your PSU helping with heat is to make it more efficient. 80Plus certified PSUs have less waste electricity and thus generate less heat. Not only do they save you a little money on your electric bill, they keep your PC a little cooler.
Now you may have noticed that in all these tips I have not mentioned liquid cooling. The reason is simple liquid cooling has a risk associated with it. You see if an air cooling system has a fan fail the computer might heat up but the odds are it will not be damaged and a simple fan replacement later all is fine. Liquid cooling systems are much more complex and if they fail there is the potential for a real mess, literally. It is not just the cooling fluid going every where however I am referring to. I have seen failed liquid systems actually burn up components. You see an air cooling system relies on the air. Even if the fan breaks the basics of the cooling is still functioning so while your cooling may be crap it is functional. A liquid cooling system relies on the movement of the liquid. If the liquid leaks out or the cooling pump fails the system has NO cooling at all and damage can ensue. Now I am NOT saying that air cooling will never damage a component if it fails but I am saying the chances of a failure in the cooling damaging a component is higher with liquid cooling.
At the end of the day however all the fancy parts and techniques for cooling your PC still comes down to rule number one, keep it clean.
So as you spend your time keeping yourself cool this summer, every couple of weeks be sure to check to make sure your PC is staying cool with you. because nothing can make YOU lose your cool faster than a PC that has lost it’s.
No comments yet.