I have heard that your computer can get too hot and ruin it. It’s summer now so I guess I will have to watch out for that. How do I make sure it stays cool? How can I check to see if it’s too hot?
This question is so important – great question!
First off, you are on the right track – summer can make your computer run hotter. But computers can run hot any time of the year! I can give you some tips that will really help you keep your computer cooler all year around. But first, some basics:
The three parts that tend to overheat the most are the CPU (Central Processing Unit), the Power Supply, and your video card.
#1: The CPU (Central Processing Unit).
For reference, an AMD Athlon CPU looks like this:
The CPU is the “brain” of your computer. It interprets the instructions that the hardware and the software give, and make it so that the hardware and software can talk to each other. Transistors are the main culprit for the power of a CPU; the more transistors, the more current it will draw. (The AMD Athlon has an incredible 222 million transistors!)
A CPU produces an incredible amount of heat, especially if you are into video or sound editing, gaming, and playing movies. Your CPU might be overheating if you experience errors such as “This program has carried out an illegal operation and will be shut down”, or it will freeze (“hang”), or it will give you the infamous “blue screen of death. (Please note that these signs can indicate another type of hardware problem, not just overheating).
#2: The Power Supply.
For reference, a Power Supply looks like this:
The Power Supply takes the power from the outlet and changes the voltage to what your computer needs. Obviously this is a process that produces heat, but a power supply has a built-in fan to keep it cool. The power supply fan is the primary cooling source for the entire computer. If the fan stops working or sticks, then your power supply may be overheating. When you look at the picture, you can see vents to keep the circulation at an optimum.
#3: Your video card.
This is an ATI Radeon video card:
The latest video cards have even more transistors than a CPU, so cooling is especially important. If you are having slowdowns or lockups in 3-D applications, graphics glitches, or your screen is blacking out, then your video card may be overheating. If you are having huge crashes or your monitor is shutting off and then comes back on with a frozen screen, then your fan may be broken – spinning slowly, or not spinning at all.
There are other things that can overheat, too (your motherboard chipset, for instance, but for now we won’t go there), but the ones that overheat most often are these three. Oh and for the record, your computer may have some (hopefully not all) of these symptoms and overheating may not even be the culprit (you could have a virus, for instance), so don’t assume that overheating is the problem when your computer acts up.
Okay, so my computer may be overheating. How can you tell?
Let’s talk temperature. What temperature should your computer run at? Look up the manufacturer and model number of your computer and you can get the ideal temperature for your particular computer. Computers come in so many flavors that it is pretty much impossible to give a general temperature.
Now you have to find out what your computer’s temperature is running at right now.
There are three basic ways to find out the temperature of your computer. The first one is going into BIOS (basic input/output system), the second is through mother board software, and the third is through third party software. So which do you choose?
If you know how to do the first two, then I am fairly certain that you know how to check the temperature of your computer. I am all about the simplicity of things so I’ll take Door #3, Monty. Since it makes it easy, let’s use third party software.
One that I would recommend is SpeedFan. It worked pretty well for me. It not only monitors your CPU’s temp, it monitors your hard drive temperature(s), voltages and also control fan speeds. It is basically a hardware monitor; it can access the temp sensors on your motherboard to see how much heat has built up. On top of that, it’s easy to use. It is also – my other fave besides simplicity – free.
There’s another program that was just released that I am hearing raves about, and I am thinking about trying it myself. It’s called VeeSee Free. It gives detailed information on your computer’s hardware and keeps your computer monitored. There is also a version you can purchase that adds more features, but for your basic monitoring needs, this one should work great.
Except that my computer isn’t overheating – yet. What can I do to make sure it isn’t going to?
CLEAN YOUR COMPUTER: The top reason why computers overheat is – you guessed it – dirt! (Well, maybe you didn’t guess it, but that’s what it is). Dust is the number one enemy of electronic equipment, and computers seem to catch more of their fair share.
PUT YOUR COMPUTER IN RIGHT PLACE: Make sure that your computer vents aren’t up against a wall. Don’t put the computer on the floor; have it located at least several inches above the floor to reduce the amount of dust that gets into it. If you can, get a computer table or desk and get it up (my tower is the same height as my desk) and away from the wall so that the area is ventilated properly.
ARE YOU HOT? Chances are if you are too hot in the room, the computer is going to be, too. If it’s 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the room, it’s probably about 110 degrees Fahrenheit inside the computer case/tower. The general recommendation is to keep the room at 75 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid overheating.
IT’S STICKY IN HERE: It can’t be too humid in the room, either, but there has to be some. In other words, keep the humidity between 35-40 percent; if it gets really low you can start getting static and that’s not good, either. This is where the computer monitoring software comes in, it’ll help.
DO YOU REALLY NEED THREE PRINTERS HOOKED UP TO YOUR COMPUTER: Gosh, I hope you knew that I exaggerated on that one! Limit the amount of peripherals you hook up, like speakers, monitors, etc. Hooking a lot of things up causes more heat. (And if you do have three printers hooked up, please re-read this article and highlight this paragraph.)
Hopefully you’ve got a handle now on this overheating stuff. It really is a serious thing to watch out for. My daughter fried her CPU from not keeping it clean inside the case and we (very obviously) had to get her a new one. Let’s just say that she has her own can of compressed air now.
Enough said. Have a great summer – and stay cool!