PCs

10 ways to keep PCs cool this summer

Guard against hardware failure by following a few easy tips that will help your PC beat the heat.

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.

About

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.

23 comments
colonel.jack.o.neill
colonel.jack.o.neill

I like the idea of putting a powerful fan at the back og the case to raise the case interiot pressure high enough to keep dust out.Never thought along those lines GREAT IDEA!!!! :-))))

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Put it in front of an air conditioner. Kills two birds with one stone: cooler and less dust. :-) Maybe the system doesn't need an extra fan if you would of bought a quality case in the first place. My current case has minimal dust inside. Has a case fan in addition to a stronger power supply than what was included originally [the old PS wasn't bad either but this one is even stronger].

vidmantas
vidmantas

Do not put a lot of fans - better check direction of air flow It is better to have right installed 2 fans not 4 fans all blow inside the case :)

CadWizard
CadWizard

I just faced this to the extreme this week at work. The temp in CA hit the 90's and the PC controlling our plasma cam crashed from the heat. I ultimately opted to install a Super Cyclone Blower above the comm port to keep it cool and installed an H2O620 Liquid Cooler both from Antec. The H2O620 has a seperate mounted radiator and fan combo, the suggested config is as a rear exhaust fan, probably to keep the radiator clear of particulate matter. But our system is already in a well vented and heppa filtered clean cabinet, just no AC. So I installed it in the front panel as intake, which dropped the ambient temp in the case by 10 deg. The CPU heat sink/electric pump for the sealed coolant system lowered the CPU operating temp at 100% load by 39 deg. from 117 F to 78 F

thanabalan
thanabalan

Rather than using special made fan, I prefer to use table fan to cool up my box as it's much more reliable, fast cooling and cheap! :)

cd003284
cd003284

A few other ideas... For environmental factors, I'd add sun, humidity, and exhaust space of at least 6 inches, better yet 8-10, especially if PCs are back to back. If the environment is bad enough, add audible temperature alarms. Develop a cleaning schedule based on experience. Offices vary a LOT. Floors are cooler but dirtier. Desks are cleaner but often warmer. For the PCs themselves: I usually recommend business mini-towers - Dell OptiPlex & Precision, A & M series Lenovo ThinkCentres, or HP/Compac Pro or Elite. The specs tell the story - much better environmental parameters. Smaller form factors have smaller/fewer fans, worse air flow, more dust, and are harder/more frequent to clean. Also Replace mainstream fans/cooling devices with hi-pros. Dust filters reduce dust, but slow air flow. Replace ATA with SATA. Replace ribbons cables with round or rounded, as short as possible. Find out if your power supplies shut off if their fans die. Remove the covers from accessible bays for more airflow, or drill holes/make slots in them, or try bay fans. (If HDs are up front, this can help a lot.) Where possible put the cooler drive(s) below the hotter ones. Where possible, make some space between stacked HDs and opticals. All this stuff helps, especially when combined. One more... If you do off-hours maintenance, find out if the ACs wil be off.

V.H. Scarpacci
V.H. Scarpacci

One way to maximize a decrease in temperature is to put the 1/0 button to the 0 position when not working. This allows the warm breeze of the summer to waft over ones body in the mountains, at the beach or just out and about. Let there be nature in ones life. Turn on the downtime. Get rid of the gadgets that clutter. Crank up the enjoyment of a simple retreat.

paulsopinion
paulsopinion

I have added a 120mm fan to the cubbyhole the tower rolls into and a direct snorkel from the filtered ac vent. I run the fan off a rear SATA connector that came with the ASUS Board. Seriously folks don't settle for less than 600 Watts when they aren't being taxed the fans don't even run. passive cooling from the AC makes for cleaner quieter computing.

gunsmoke234
gunsmoke234

Does anyone know if all pc power supplies have an extra cord to plug another fan into? Just bought a new pc, but it only has a 250watt supply which may not support an extra fan. Some may can advise me. Thanks. J. Marshall

Kevin Kowalchuk
Kevin Kowalchuk

I remember reading about people using mineral oil for their computers. The entire computer is submerged in the oil...it acts as a coolent and the computer runs quietly. I suppose it would be a mess though...especially if you plugged your thumb drive into it. :)

OffshoreTechie
OffshoreTechie

I have had issues about small offices where the little NAS box (usually from Laice) dies unless properly ventilated. Lacie will not recover data unless you sent it to a specific data recovery service (which comes up on Google earth as Lacie - odd huh?) and pay a load of cash. The other thing is that the drive firmware is actially on a partition ion the hard drives, so cant use the normal recovery methods. The only real option (and I cant believe I am saying this) is for small businesses to go the cloud route unless deep pockets allow for proper cooled products.

colonel.jack.o.neill
colonel.jack.o.neill

I had the idea of this for wrapping the computer and therefore keeping dust etcetera out of the case and therefore keeping the fans and everything clean but cool.Does anyone know either if someone has already done this or where I could get the foam with the necessary micron filtration but high air flow over here in the UK?

etherkeiffer
etherkeiffer

here in the north-east of Scotland we had our longest day yesterday. I saw the forecast for snow on my phone this morning with a predicted high of 13 celsius for today. Fortunately the forecast was wrong... no snow yet ;) Maybe larger corporates should reduce their energy costs and increase system reliability by relocating their data centres to the highlands lol. Seriously though, a good article, although you're hinted in the same direction, I would suggest also running a monitoring app such as CoreTemp which keeps an eye on temperatures and fan speeds, and can alert or even force-hibernate/shutdown in the case of overheat. Wish I had the problem of a risk of overheating!

BigJohnLg
BigJohnLg

For goodness sake, get a power supply. A 5-600 watt PS is cheap. You barely have enough juice to run a very basic system. Your 250 watt unit will run hot just doing nothing. Good luck.

QuiMoi
QuiMoi

There is a company called Hardcore Computer which submerges their entire computer in something they call CoreCoolant. I suspect, though, that any mods you wish to make to your system have to go through them so they can be acclimated to work in a liquid environment.

SKDTech
SKDTech

Old PC, a few large capacity drives and a copy of FreeNAS. I had my box running for several years without issue until the motherboard died. I haven't tested it in an AD environment but if you are using a LaCie NAS device then that shouldn't be much of an issue.

brunobl
brunobl

I once reversed the power supply fan so that the fan blew air IN rather than OUT the power supply. This way, I could filter the air coming in at the single intake location with a thin foam sheet, and the computer case had a positive air pressure environment that kept dust from getting in. The PC was pristine clean month after month. With today's more powerful and hotter machines, special attention would be required with heat issues if doing this. Perhaps more than one fan could be used in the case, all of them with filtered air inputs.

OffshoreTechie
OffshoreTechie

With data centres in France etc using atmsphere cooling to save energy, this idea is pretty sweet. Isnt the Scottish government giving grants out at the moment??? :)

info
info

Some companies, like HP, never rated their Supplies based on total power, so a 350w unit would output comparably to a 600w unit normally rated. With 'only' a 250w supply, is this in a mini case or something?

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Years ago for my amateur radio station, I got a Heathkit "Cantenna". It was a gallon can with a resistor for a transmitter dummy load. The can had to be filled with mineral oil to cool the load. I went to the drugstore and bought 8 pints of mineral oil to fill the can, and I remember the strange looks I got from the drugstore counter clerk. This discussion just made me wonder how much mineral oil it would take to immerse and cool an entire computer, and what the drugstore clerk would think when you went to buy it... ;-)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

You don't need to wrap the entire thing in foam just where the air goes into the case and with Desktops that generally the front where Antec has filters. like the one here http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=MjA= Or go with a open case like the Skeleton here http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=NzA0 Or if you want a smaller open case the Mini Skeleton 90 http://www.antec.com/Believe_it/product.php?id=MjEwMg== Going back earlier In Win had the same setup many years ago. ;) Col

info
info

There was a group years back (486-days, I think) that actually did this. Dunked the motherboard et al into a rather large aquarium, filled it with mineral oil and piped in an Air Conditioning unit. They claimed it ran rather well.

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