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Beware of Heat Damage to Your Computers

Beware of Heat Damage to Your Computers

How to deal with overheating computers to prevent heat damage…

A computer is a machine that like most, needs time to rest and recuperate. It’s not that the internal components aren’t built to last, but because they can’t cope with the intense temperatures they are often subjected too.

The more work you do, the more processing power is required, and the more heat is produced as a result of the hardware working overtime.

You can think of your computer like car, it overheats and needs a break and occasional maintenance. In a similar way, excessive internal heat can make a computer unstable, cause software to crash, cause hardware to fail or melt, and in more severe cases even catch on fire.

Fire aside, we (well just men really) are also at risk from being exposed to overheating laptop’s. A study conducted in 2005 showed that using a hot laptop rested on the legs for over 60 minutes produced temperatures in scrotum high enough to damage and kill sperm.

So ALWAYS remember to power down your machine when it’s been running hot – putting your computer to sleep can give the hardware a break, and some sleep functions are very good at doing so, still it’s always essential to shut down your computer properly after a hard session computing.

overheating computer

How To Cool Your Overheating Notebook

Image Credit: Ed Yourdon, 2011.

Most systems are designed to operate best at room temperatures – with the exception of military grade laptops which are designed to work in extreme conditions. Standard operating temperatures for modern systems is around 71.6F – 95F (22 – 35C).

Some new CPU’s such as the AMD Turion 64 processor can safely run at temperatures up to 203F (95C) but it may take some time before hardware, graphics cards in particular, catch up to this spec.

Other new CPU’s deal with excess heat by reducing the output of the processor, so a 2.2GHz CPU may run at at around 1.8GHz if it gets hot. While this is a logical solution to reduce heat, when it occurs your computer is not running as powerful as it should.

Causes Of Over Heating Computers

One of the main causes of overheating is obstruction of the computer’s heat dissipating components, and this often occurs when dust and dirt accumulate inside the machine.

Another common cause of overheating is due to physical blocking computer’s fan or air intake/outlet. Many computers require air flow from below, so sitting these machines on fabric surfaces, or on the lap, can obscure the channels used to get rid of heat.

How To Cool Your Computer or Laptop

There are few things you do right away to help cool down your computer. Some tips may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many go unpracticed.

keep your laptop cool

How To Keep Your Computer Cool

Image Credit: Yortw, 2011.

Easy ways to cool your computer:

  • Use your computer in an air conditioned area.
  • Keep your computer’s vents unobstructed.
  • Adjust your computers power profile to suit your needs – a high performance setting will generate more heat than a balance or eco profile. Windows 7 even included active cooling settings.
  • Use a regular house fan directed at your machine for extra air flow.
  • Use laptop cooling pads – but remember these also generate heat as well as wind, and they also drain your computer battery. For this reason many cheaper models can be very ineffective.
  • DO NOT leave your laptop in the trunk of car when you’re driving – it can get hot back there when the engines running. Similarly, don’t leave your laptop in the car on a hot day.
  • DO NOT leave your computer in a cupboard or covered by anything, extremely hot computers in small confined spaces is fire hazard.
  • DO NOT operate your computer in direct sunlight – internal fans and cooling systems are not designed to cope with additional heat.

If you’re already doing all of the above, and your system is still overheating, it might be time to clean the internal parts of the machine.

Note: Cleaning the insides of a desktop PC or a laptop should only be done by someone with experience in repairing computers. If the correct procedures are not followed, e.g. grounding yourself before touching the hardware or handling the components with care, it’s easy to cause irreparable damage.

And how do you go about cleaning inside your computer? First off, you’ll need to locate the two important components that likely need attention; the CPU heat sink and the computer’s internal fan.

CPU Heat sink

The heat sink is designed to help spread out the heat given off by the CPU. Placed directly on top of the processor, it features dozens of metal channels that create more surface area from which the heat can dissipate.

dirty cpu heat sink

Dirty CPU Heat Sink

Image Credit: Yortw, 2011.

Computer Fans

In the past the heat sink was capable of such a job, but as CPU power increased, so did the speed, and the heat sink quickly became inadequate to cope with the resulting temperatures.

To solve this problem fans made their appearance; ensuring there was always cool air being pumped inside the machine; and hot air being pushed out.

While the constant intake of cool air, coupled with the heat sink’s ability to dissipate heat was often sufficient enough to keep temperatures at an optimal operating level, the problem of overheating computers was far from solved.

Keeping Your Computer Clean

A byproduct of drawing cool air in and hot air out is dust; and when heat sinks and fans get dusty, their cooling efficiency decreases.

dirty laptop fan

Dirt And Dust Where Around Removed Laptop Fan

Image Credit: Iwan Gabovitch, 2010.

Even with new liquid cooling systems, dust and dirt remain the arch nemesis of computers around world, second to only heat and water , that’s why it’s still necessary to clean the internal components of you machine.

Aside from taking your computer to a professional, cleaning your computer will require some perseverance and some compressed air – cans specially made for the job always works great.

In some cases, you may even replace the fan and/or heat sink.

As mentioned before, if you’re sure what you’re doing, refer to a professional. It’s not a difficult task, but it does require some basic understanding of computer components.

So how do you cool your overheating computer or laptop? Simple answer; by keeping cool air flowing in, and the components of your machine clean.

Related Posts:


  1. Kay Pierre: Computers: Why heat can damage your computer. Bukisa, 04/29/2009.
  2. CPU Cooling. Build Your Own PC, 2011.
  3. Scott Colvey: Computer freezing? It might be too hot. Guardian UK, 07/27/2006.
  4. Avram Piltch: Great Balls of Fire: The Effects and Causes of Laptop Heat. Laptop Mag, 03/08/2010.
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