Why Overheating is Bad for Computer Health?
If your computer becomes too hot, it is possible to destroy and shorten the lifespan of the hardware inside your computer, leading to irreparable damage and potential data loss. Besides losing your data, heat pecks away at your computer's internal organs—the motherboard, CPU, and more—significantly shortening its lifespan.
Besides the most obvious reason to keep your computer cool, a hot computer will also run slower than a cooler computer. So to prevent your computer from slowing down, make sure that it is running at a moderate or low temperature.
What Temperature Should My Computer Be Running At?
Because of the different types of computer makes and models out there, the safe temperature range your computer should run at varies. The safe operating range depends on things like processor type, manufacturer, and other factors that make it impossible to give an answer that applies to all CPUs.
Most monitoring software will try to identify your system type so it can accurately interpret the temperatures a PC generates. But this tends to be a broad-brush, approximate approach.
For greater precision, you can look up the optimal operating temperatures for your system on the maker’s website. For example, if Intel says your laptop’s CPU chip has a maximum safe operating temperature of 100°C, with that information in hand, you can more accurately confirm that the machine is not overheating.
All the major system vendors and component makers publish similar data, often in technical sections of online product spec sheets.
According to the folks at the Overclockers Club (a site dedicated to pushing CPU performance to its limits without overheating your CPU): “AMD and Intel both have maximum temperature ratings for their CPUs listed around 80C. If your CPU gets this hot, you've got some serious problems. Most people try and keep the CPU temperature below 40C at idle and below 55C at load”.
How to Check PC Temperature?
Most motherboards, CPUs, and hard drives have temperature sensors built in. Oddly, most operating systems largely ignore these sensors. But with the right software, you can tap into your PC’s built-in sensors to tell exactly how hot it is inside the case.
Several freeware programs to check temperature on your PC will be reviewed in the freeware section of this blog for your convenience.
The Heat Is On
The truth of the matter is, anything that consumes energy generates heat. The power supply, the processor, the graphics card, the hard drives, and all the other components of the computer that require power for it to function generate heat. The amount of heat depends on the device - for example processors and video cards generate HUGE amounts of heat. You have probably noticed at one time or another, the big finned heat-sinks (cooling devices) on some of the components inside your computer. These are there to help preserve the useful life of these devices.
It is true that all personal computers, whether they are Desktop PCs or Notebook PCs, come with a cooling system. However, the standard cooling system that comes with your PC may not ultimately be adequate for the PC you now have. Plus, to work efficiently in protecting your PC from overheating and possible damage, several things have to be considered. We will provide some practical recommendations below.
PCs are generally air cooled. This means they need lots of air flowing inside them to carry the heat out of their chassis. To keep the internal airflow at maximum there are a few things to watch out for in your desktop computer:
- Keep Cables Neat - the cables inside your computer can become a block to proper airflow, so be sure they are organized so that they do not restrict airflow. Whenever you repair a PC, try to avoid using excessively long cables. Long cables can take up space within the case and inhibit airflow.
- Dust - accumulating dust inside your PC can be deadly. It acts to insulate the devices it covers, keeping heat in, plus dust clogged fans and vents restrict the amount of airflow possible. Keep your PC blown out and dusted regularly.
- Fans - periodically check your PC's fans to make sure they are working effectively. Fans can fail, resulting in significant reductions in airflow - in some systems a single fan failure can be enough to damage your PC.
- Covers On Tight - your PC's chassis was designed for proper internal airflow across the various components. However, if your PC's enclosure is open, this then dramatically changes the cooling dynamic. It can reduce or eliminate cooling of some components altogether, so make sure the case's cover in on tight.
As mentioned before, good airflow inside the PC is very important, but airflow around the outside is important as well. Blocking the exhaust or intakes can reduce the internal airflow substantially.
Set up your personal computer away from other equipment or appliances that generate heat. Keep your personal computer away from direct sunlight, and make sure that your PC is placed in a well-ventilated area. Placing Desktop PCs and their monitors flat against walls or in enclosed areas should be avoided - leave at least 6 inches of space between the back of the PC and the wall.
Desktop PCs have ventilation fans at the rear of the unit, and depending on its design, may even have ventilation fans on its sides, top, or at the front of the unit. Make sure that these ventilation fans are not blocked in anyway as to constrict the airflow that is needed to cool the internal components.
Some people place their Desktop PCs on the floor. While this may save your desk space, having your PC on the floor also makes it more susceptible to dust (and animal hair if you have pets in the house). It is safer to keep your PC off of the floor to minimize foreign matter from entering the computer case. Avoid placing the Desktop PC near drapes as they may end up blocking the ventilation of the computer case as well.
When purchasing a new PC, some advanced planning can save you the trouble of dealing with an overheating PC. Choose a Desktop PC case which is large enough to easily accept all the components you wish to install, and still have strong airflow. A good case with enough breathing room will help deal with cooling issues well into the future. However, if you are building a system, buy a case with extra ventilation to be on the safe side.
If you are installing multiple hard drives, do not stack them one on top of the other (if possible). Skip a drive bay to allow air to flow between the hard drives. Keep your cables tidy. Tucking them to the side opens up the airways and lessens air turbulence inside the Desktop PC case increasing airflow. Likewise, choose a good power supply unit equipped with a large fans to efficiently extract the hot air from the Desktop PC case.
Make sure the CPU cooling system is adequate and be sure that the CPU heat sink is installed per the manufacturer's requirements. The same for your video card - be sure it also has adequate cooling, since the CPU and video card tend to be the devices that produce the most heat.
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.
If you're not sure what overclocking is, you're probably not doing it so you don't have to worry about it. To the rest of you, you're well aware that overclocking pushes your computer's capabilities to its limits. What you may not realize is that these changes have a direct effect on the temperature that your CPU and any other overclocked components operate at. If you're overclocking your PC's hardware but haven't taken other precautions to keep that hardware cool, I definitely recommend reconfiguring your hardware to factory default settings.
If your Computer Overheats Anyway
Here's a word of caution: If your computer is overheating, resist the urge to take the side of the case off the computer. It's a rookie mistake that will often make the problem worse. Because most computers are very carefully designed to ensure that cool air is delivered to critical components, removing the side of the case disrupts the circulation (convection) system.
Instead, shut down the computer and let it cool down. From then on, you can plan a course of action that involves doing some cleaning if necessary, potentially upgrading your BIOS (check your motherboard's manual or web site for details), or planning some system-cooling upgrades if necessary.
If your computer is clean, your BIOS is up to date, and you're still having temperature problems, crack open your computer and check for damaged fans and heat sinks. Check for cracks, missing pieces, and make sure all the push pins are secure and all the appropriate fans are running. Secure and/or replace any loose or damaged cables. If you find you've got broken fans or a damaged heatsink, you can buy and install new cooling hardware for relatively cheap, and finding a highly rated, compatible fan or heatsink can potentially go a long ways toward keeping your computer cooler.
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