Friday, May 9, 2008

How to keep your PC cool

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When buying a new PC, most people direct all their attention to the processor, motherboard and other components while ignoring an important part of the system, and that is the computer case. During working of the computer heat is generated by the processor, the graphics card, the hard disk and other components, and the temperature inside the case rises. It is necessary to keep this temperature down because excessive heat can decrease the life span of the components inside the PC. To prevent this, processors and graphics card has heat sink and fans to keep them cool. But these alone cannot keep the components cool unless the case is properly ventilated. If the hot air generated inside the case is not removed, it circulates inside the case and thereby increasing the temperature even further. For this reason the case is an important part of the whole computer setup.

Selecting the case

It is extremely important that you buy a case that has slots for chassis fans at the correct location. Merely adding a number of fans to the case won't keep the temperature down. The trick is to place it strategically. An ideal computer case should have two 120 mm fan slots, one for intake and one for exhaust. In addition, there should be one 80 mm fan slot on the side preferably on the middle. Some cases also have another 80 mm blow hole at the top, which is an added bonus. If the case does not have 120 mm slots, then there should be at least two 80 mm slots at the rear. If the cabinet does not have two 80 mm fan slots or one 120 mm fan slot at the rear, don't buy the case.

Some power supply units also come with two fans - one exhaust and one intake which will further help in cooling.

Arranging the fans

So we have got the case and the fans. Now we have to arrange them to get a constant air flow through the system. The fans at the back of the cabinet should be exhaust. Since these fans are located very near to the processor they help to remove the hot air generated by it. The 80 mm fan on the side of the cabinet should be intake blowing air into the cabinet. Since this fan is usually located opposite to the processor, it provides the processor a steady flow of cool air.

 

 cool_case

The case should also have a fan slot at the front. It isn't absolutely necessary to install a fan here, since the large exhaust fan at the rear creates enough negative air pressure inside the case to draw in air through the front holes. A fan at the front does little to keep the cabinet cool, but only add to the noise level. But remember that the exhaust fan should be a 120 mm one or two 80 mm fans.

If the case has top blow hole, then you can add another 80 mm fan as exhaust. Don't add this fan as an intake because hot air always rises and will attempt to escape through the top hole. Installing an intake fan at the top will only push down the hot air, preventing it's escape and create a turbulence inside the case instead of a steady air flow.

Similarly, don't mount an exhaust fan at the front since the air near the bottom is already cool enough and you will be only blocking the air flow into the case.

Installing the hard disk

Keeping the hard disk cool is also very important to elongate it's life span and hence data loss. You can add a hard disk cooler, but this isn't necessary if you follow this trick. Mount the hard disk in front of the fan slot at the front of the case. The air flowing through the front hole will glide over the hard disk thus keeping it cool. This way you kill two birds with one stone.

Managing the cables

The cables inside the case seriously disrupt the air flow inside the cabinet. Bunch all the cables together and tie them out of the way of the air flow. The flat IDE cables occupies too much space. I recommend using rounded IDE cables. Not only they look neat, they also help to keep the cables out of way of the air flow.

rounded_IDE

Clean your PC

Dust is an insulator. A layer of dust over the heat sink and other components reduces the effectiveness of the cooling arrangement. Cleaning the inside of the case periodically is necessary to keep it dust free and hence properly cooled. You can use air filters with the fans to keep the dust out but they have the disadvantage of hampering the air flow and thus reducing cooling. You can try them out and then decide whether you want to keep them.

120mm filter 101.2

Leave room around the cabinet

Keep the cabinet at a place which is airy and there is enough room for air movement around the computer. Don't keep books, clothes or other material on top of the case. Make sure the air holes aren't closed.

Software to monitor temperature

Once you have cleaned the case and setup the fans it makes sense to keep track of the temperature of the processor and cabinet in order to ascertain how effective the setup is. For this purpose you can use SpeedFan.

SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips. It supports and recognizes a wide range of hardware sensors. SpeedFan can even access S.M.A.R.T. info for those hard disks that support this feature and show hard disk temperatures too, if supported. SpeedFan supports SCSI disks too.

1 comment:

  1. Good article.

    It should be added, some people have run their computer with the case partially or fully removed in the belief this will aid cooling. This is not correct. Like other aspects of a computer, the cooling system was designed. Running without the case will seriously disrupt this system and probably increase temperatures, not reduce them.

    Larry Miller
    Microsoft MCSA

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