Although most organizations place a heavy emphasis on data center cooling, it is sometimes easy to forget that desktop PCs also need to be kept cool. Excessive heat can result in the failure of any number of hardware components. Here are 10 simple tips for keeping your desktop PCs cool during the hot summer months (and beyond).
1: Make a habit of spot-checking fans
In just about any organization, help desk staff routinely travel to users' desks to diagnose and repair hardware problems. When doing so, it is a good idea to make sure that the PCs fans are working. Once in a while, a power supply fans and case fans burn out. When this happens, there may not be any immediate symptoms. If you can spot the problem and correct it before symptoms begin to appear, you might be able to save the user a help desk call.
2: Stay on top of the dust
In my years in IT, I have seen more heat-related problems caused by dust than by anything else. If dust clogs the air intake on a PC, air does not move properly through the case and the PC can overheat. Make sure that the cleaning staff dusts users' PCs as a part of its regular cleaning regiment.
3: Use the shortest cables possible
Whenever you repair a PC, try to avoid using excessively long cables. Long cables can take up space within the case and inhibit airflow. I recently saw a PC using a power supply that had been intended for a full-size tower case. This power supply had extra long cables that took up almost every bit of space within the computer's case. The problem was only detected when the user recorded a clicking sound, which ended up being caused by one of the wires coming into contact with the CPU fan.
4: Add more fans
Sometimes, power users require PCs that generate a bit more heat than the average desktop. For instance, a PC containing several hard drives might run hot. If you have PCs like this in your office, see whether the cases can accommodate any extra fans. Case manufacturers will often leave room for the installation of additional fans. I have also seen instances of PCs equipped with fans that are smaller than the case can accommodate.
Computer fans can be surprisingly cheap. Last year, I was able to purchase several dozen case fans for about 50 bucks.
5: Avoid enclosing the PC
A lot of desks are designed more for aesthetics than functionality. Some include a computer cabinet that is designed to keep the PC out of sight. The problem with such cabinets is that they prevent air from circulating. As a result, the computer keeps recycling the same air, heating it a little bit more each time it passes through the case. The temperature may eventually rise to the point that components begin to fail.
6: Make use of cable guards
Some computer cases are equipped with special channels for the cables. Using these types of channels or other cable guards helps keep the cables off to the side so that they do not block airflow through the case.
7: Check the BIOS temperature settings
Take a look at the temperature-related BIOS settings. Most newer PCs have BIOS settings that can be configured to shut down the PC if it reaches a certain temperature. Some PCs also have BIOS settings that will generate an alert if the CPU fan or the case fan fails.
8: Hibernate PCs when they aren't in use
Here's a really simple thing you can do to help control heat: Configure the PCs to go into hibernation mode during periods of inactivity. Not only does this help to save electricity, but it also gives the PC a chance to cool down.
9: Use solid state hard drives
Another great option for controlling heat is to begin replacing traditional hard drives with solid-state drives. Solid-state drives do not contain any moving parts and therefore operate at a cooler temperature than regular hard drives do.
10: Consider alternative cooling products
Occasionally, you may find that you have to be a little bit creative when it comes to figuring out how to cool a high-end desktop PC. If installing additional case fans isn't enough, you can use other cooling products. For example, memory heatsinks and hard drive coolers can help bring down the temperatures of individual components. If you find that not enough air is circulating through the case, you might look at installing a cooling unit into an empty drive bay. Of course, if you want to go all-out, you can always use liquid cooling.
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.