Turn down the heat!

Summer is on our doorstep, and temperatures are rising! But make sure things aren’t hotting up inside your computer as well! Some components, such as the CPU and graphics card, generate heat when your computer is on. They can even get hot enough to cook an egg. High temperatures affect the speed and performance of the system significantly, as well as reduce their life span or cause permanent damage. So avoiding overheating should be a top priority especially if you are building your own PC or overclocking it. For non-techies, overclocking is the setting of your CPU and memory to run at speeds higher than their official speed grade. So rather than reducing your tech to a frying pan, Computer Mania tech experts can assist you to keep your cool!

Fan it!

In a well-configured desktop or laptop, multiple fans remove heat. Fans require energy to run and blow hot air away from heat-generating components out of the computer casing.

When building your own PC, you need to think about how the air will travel in order to place the fans to efficiently blow hot air out the air vents.  Fans come in variety of sizes, from 40mm to 250mm for high performance computers.  You can consider upgrading your factory installed CPU fan to a more powerful one for more efficient cooling. If you find that your memory, graphics card, or some other component is also creating a lot of heat, fan manufacturers such as Deepcool, Raidmax, Cougar and Cooler Master, have created specialised fans for nearly everything inside your computer.

Another possibility is to install a double set of fans to your desktop case, one to move cool air into the computer and another to move warm air out. This is not an option for a laptop or tablet, but an external cooling pad can make all the difference for these devices.

Heat Sinks
The CPU and GPU often have a fan on top of a heat sink. A heat sink is a passive cooling system that cools a component by dissipating heat. It is designed with a large surface area, to release heat more efficiently. Heat moves from the heat-generating component to the heat sink pressed against it. Individual components such as your CPU or dedicated graphics card may each have their own heat sink to keep them cool.

CPUs and GPUs generally have thermal paste between them and the heat sink. This material is smeared on top of the component with the heat sink pressed down on top, thereby filling any air gaps for more efficient transfer of heat. You only want to enough to fill in the air gaps to avoid oozing and mess. The thermal paste can deteriorate over time and may need to be reapplied.

Some heat sinks come with thermal pads on their undersides, making them easier to install. But this is less effective at conducting heat than thermal paste especially for overclocking.

Water Cooling
Originally designed for mainframes, enthusiasts who want to push the performance of their hardware as far as possible turn to the quieter, more efficient alternative to air cooling – liquid!

To cool the CPU, a pump pushes cooled distilled water or a pre-mixed coolant from the radiator into the tubes and onto the water block where it will cool the metal plate that attaches to the CPU. From there, heat is pulled from the CPU and transferred to the liquid, which is then pushed out and back into the radiator end so that it can cool. Fresh, cooled liquid is then cycled back and the loop is complete. The real danger is a coolant leak that could irreversibly damage critical parts of the computer. However, if assembled correctly, the liquid cooling advantage outweighs the risk of leaks as it allows for much higher speeds in the processor, and is less noisy than a heat sink and fan combination.

You have the choice of all-in-one (AIO) closed loop kits or custom cooling loops. Computer Mania stocks a tried and tested selection of kits from hardware manufacturers such as Corsair, Cooler Master and Raidmax. They are easy to use straight out of the box with the pump, radiator, tubes, and the heat-transferring block already connected. There is also mounting hardware to attach the system to your CPU.

A kit is usually a one-time cost with little-to-no maintenance involved. However, there are space considerations as the radiator can take up significant space in the top or front panel of your case. It may not fit in the area where you want to install, and you may require a larger desktop system case to fit all of these parts within the case. It is possible to have much of the system outside of the case, but then it would take up space around the desktop. A closed-loop system will also only cool a single component so if you want to liquid cool a CPU and a video card, you will need space for two systems. Therefore, always check both your case and the specifications of the AIO kit before you invest in one.

A custom cooling loop requires the user to pick out the individual tubes, radiators, fans, reservoir, pump, and liquid themselves and assemble it within the case. The end result is much more varied and tailored to the user’s needs, but requires a significant level of technical knowledge to install and more maintenance overall.

Immersion Cooling
Even more extreme and much less common is immersion cooling. The computer’s components are submerged in a thermally conductive, but not electrically conductive, liquid such as an appropriate type of oil – NOT water!! The computer’s components generate heat, which is absorbed by the liquid surrounding them. The surface of the fluid is exposed to the air, and the heat dissipates from the surface.

Breathing space

The easiest thing you can do to help keep your computer cool is to give it a little breathing room by removing any obstacles to air flow. Nothing should be sitting right against any side of the computer, especially the back out of which most of the hot air flows.  If your computer is hidden away inside a desk, make sure the door isn’t closed all the time to allow cool air to enter and to avoid the air inside getting hotter.

Keep it clean

Accumulated dust acting as a thermal insulator and impedes airflow on the heat sink, air vents and fans, reducing their performance considerably. It’s a good idea to regularly dust out your computer case by turning off your computer’s power, opening the case and using canned air to remove the dirt.

Need more advice!

Computer Mania’s technical specialists can answer all your questions and assist you to find and install the best cooling solution for your requirements.  Visit one of our stores in Cape Town and Gauteng or shop online for a wide selection of tried and tested tech.

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www.computermania.co.za.