I was moving a Zip drive from one desktop computer to another when I discovered a disturbing amount of heat emanating from the back of my new Athlon machine. The box runs 24/7 and I couldn’t afford to have it go down, so I decided to check out my cooling fan options.

My machine already had two case fans. One drew air in the front. The other expelled air out the back.

Too late.

I didn’t know that before I opened the case. The fancy skin camouflaged the inlet and outlet. I’d already placed an order for a Cyclone Blower slot cooler and a flashy Electric Blue Orb Cooler.

It’s electric
If you haven’t seen the orbital coolers before, you might want to check them out. The model I purchased boasts an aluminum 6063 base, 60 radial cooling fans, and a 1 3/4-inch fan that spins at 4800 RPM. Its purpose is to blow cool air onto the CPU at a rate of 20 CFM.

However, if the air in your system is hot, all you’ll do is blow heated air onto an already steamy chip. Not good.

So I decided to test the ambient air temperature inside my system using a metal thermometer. I opened my Athlon machine, placed the thermometer inside, closed the case, and worked normally for an hour.

Then I powered down the machine and opened it back up. Out came the thermometer, reading 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that number.

I uninstalled the OEM chip cooling fan next. Then I installed the Electric Blue Orb Cooler, taking time to carefully add the silicon grease between the AMD chip and the new fan base. I finished its installation by completing its electrical connection.

Empty expansion bays made useful
Next, I removed the metal door to an empty expansion slot and plugged in the Cyclone Blower slot fan. It fits any expansion slot, and its 3.1-inch fan turns at 2,500 RPM to exhaust hot air out of the system at a rate of 42 CFM. Similar fans boast they’ll decrease operating temperatures by 20 degrees. I attached its electrical lead and closed the case back up, with the thermometer inside.

After powering up the system and operating it normally for an hour, I opened the case and removed the thermometer. It read a flat 80 degrees. Remember the old number? It was 88 degrees. Thus, I conclude that my system experienced a 10 percent decrease in ambient heat.

What was my cost? Just a slight, almost imperceptible hum from the two new fans and a charge of $23.96 against my credit card. The orb CPU cooler ran just $9.97, and the slot fan retails for $7.99. Postage and handling charges accounted for the final total.

I’ve seen many similar orb fans and slot coolers priced $15 and higher. Even if you’re not using AMD Athlon chips, which are known in computer circles to generate excessive heat, consider the slot fan. Look for bargains online (I found the vendor I chose via eBay listings) and you can beat those prices easily.

Don’t let heat bake a system
It’s a no brainer, if you ask me. Today’s processors, hard disks, video cards, sound cards, and other components spin faster, work harder, offer more features, and generate more heat than ever. Keep them cool. For just a few bucks, lowering a system’s operating temperature can easily pay for itself in extended component life.