Cooling Problems: A Five Step Approach

Is your computer a monster? Is it a fire-breathing dragon that can go howling through the latest games, the most intense video, and the heaviest of heavy duty number crunching?

If so, the analogy of fire-breathing dragon to computer may be particularly apt, because the inside of its case can run as hot as blazes. To prevent this, I favor a five step approach.

The first step is perhaps the easiest to deal with. Answer this: what is the room temperature where your computer is located? Cool, perhaps uncomfortably cool for some people, is best. This brings to mind a friend, a skinny, aesthetic fellow, who spends hours running a demanding 3-D animation program on his PC.

He liked a room temperature near 80 degrees, while his computer would have preferred something in the range of 68 or so. Actually, he was shortening the life of his machine by running it under these conditions. Finally, he was persuaded to wear a pullover, and turn the thermostat down. My friend is reasonably content with the compromise, and his computer lives on.

Now, the second step: have you noticed the design of computer desks? How there’s a cubby hole set aside for the computer itself? Usually, a PC will just barely fit into the things.

If you get such a desk, use the cubby hole for instruction manuals, textbooks, put a vase there, anything but a computer. The walls of the cubby hole block air vents, restricting the airflow inside your computer’s case. Hot air pools up, letting the temperature climb higher, like the inside of a oven.

No matter how strong the exhaust fans are in your PC, it has to be able to pull some air in through the vents to breathe, you might say. Give it a chance. Keep it out of the cubby hole.

Also, keep it out of direct sunlight. That is the third step. Ask yourself this: why does a cat like to sleep in the shaft of sunlight that comes through a window? The answer is obvious. It’s warm there.

Now, imagine a computer, with a dark colored case sitting before that same window. It will get hot without even running!

When your cat gets hot, it can get up and walk away. Your computer can’t. So, keep it out of sunlight.

The next step is one of the most practical, and addresses the problem directly. The surest way to lower the temperature inside your PC’s case is to add another fan.

This is a much simpler operation than it may sound like to the beginner. All you have to do is open up the case, mount the fan with four screws, and either connect it to a lead coming from the case’s power supply, or plug it into a 5V receptacle on the motherboard.

The rub comes when you don’t have a place to mount another fan. This is often a problem with smaller size cases.

Modification, cutting a new fan port, is a job best left to an experienced hand. I have done this sort of thing, but only on a completely empty case. Everything, motherboard, hard drive, and all, comes out first. No metal shavings, or metal dust should be allowed to reach your PC’s components.

The fifth step, if the others fail, is liquid cooling. At one time, this was viewed as a drastic option, and I can well remember how leery many of us were when this new technology came on the market. Yet its fascination drew me to try it, on a PC I put together from scratch.

The effectiveness surprised me. It tamed what could have been an otherwise insurmountable cooling problem, and has performed admirably in the many months since.