Here are a few tips for new users who may find their system is experiencing stability issues due to problems keeping the various components cool.
I’ve cobbled these notes together from experience … and frankly there are so many overheating and temperature posts in the forums at the moment it is clear some of the new users need some help.
I’m no expert … so there is plenty of room for other users to add, delete, or improve on my notes.
I suggest we sticky this, and get some of the others to post stuff at the end, then get someone like CompuTronix (Uber High Priest “How To” Editor) to tidy up the lot when it gets to a couple of pages. Hint hint …
Here is a rough start … without prejudice.
I suggest we mention no manufacturers either … that isn’t cricket !!
I also suggest we put links to recent “hsf cooler roundups” and such to help users chose parts for themselves.
1. Case Cooling
There are plenty of good computer cases around … and plenty of bad ones too.
Unfortunately a number of these marketed as “gaming cases” are not great. Often the case cooling is poor, and too much attention is simply given to the “bling” effect with the coloured neon lights and cheap coloured fans.
Make sure your case has good fans and that they are facing in the right direction. The front case fans should draw air in, and over the hard drives. The rear case fan should draw air out of the case.
Side fans are designed to draw air inwards … primarily to provide cooler air for the cpu. Given the air from the front fans has already increased in temperature after moving over the hard drives and graphics card, the side fans can improve cpu cooling quite a bit. If the side fan is too powerful it can also cause interference to the cpu fan and decrease its efficiency … so don’t get carried away.
The metal grilles behind the case fans can be removed to provide more efficient airflow … there is an obvious safety issue … so that call is yours.
Removing filters placed over the inlet fans can improve airflow … and increase dust levels as well … you can’t have everything though..
Some cases have front doors which effectively block the front fans from working properly, and some of the cheaper units have a sealed front which is too close to the fan behind it … essentially blocking the air from being drawn into the case. You can remove the door or leave it open when gaming, or cut the front of the case away on a cheaper unit … some case modding can be fun.
There is nothing worse than the sound of high speed fans so be sensible and look for cases with the newer 120mm fans … they push more air but are usually quiter too.
Putting heaps of fans on the case generates a bit of a diminishing return (due to the heat they generate themselves and the load they place on the power supply) so you don’t usually need to go past 4 or so fans.
2. Maximising the airflow inside the Case
This is important on a PC which has performance gear inside it, and even on cheaper units can ensure your hard drives even last a bit longer.
The first thing to do is tidy up all of those loose power cables and ribbon cable inside. You can buy cheap spiral looming or use a heap of cable ties … try to move all of the cables into a couple of “looms” and make plenty of room for the air to move freely from the front to the rear of the case.
This can take a bit of time getting the “mess” sorted out inside the case, but the end result is pleasing to the eye, and can really help keep the components cool inside.
3. CPU Coolers
Standard coolers or heatsink and fan unit … HSF for short are usually adequate for most general purpose PC’s but often fall far short when it comes to cooling the CPU when gaming, encoding, or other intensive tasks that push the CPU to maximum thermal output.
Before you invest in a bigger and better HSF … just be sure the unit you have is in fact working efficiently in the first place.
The cooler is locked down on top of the CPU using a retention mechanism, which varies depending on the type of socket on the mainboard. Check it is locked down properly, and seated well, and the fan on top is working well, and not full of dust.
Between the CPU and the base of the fan there should be a thin layer of thermal grease which is designed to increase the conduction (and therefore heat transfer) between the top of the CPU and the heatsink. If the grease is not properly spread on the cpu, or there is too little or too much, then it won’t transfer the heat properly, causing the CPU to heat up too much … and cause lockups or stability problems.
Before buying a new “Uber” cooler, try cleaning off the old grease on the cpu and cooler, reapplying some new grease, and reseating the cooler again.
There are plenty of articles here to help you chose a better cooler.
4. Hard Drives
Modern hard drives heat up and need to be mounted correctly, and have airflow over them to last.
The first thing is to make sure that the drive is mounted in the case correctly.
The front case fans should be pushing the air over the drives to help cool them, and if the case has drive bays with screw mounting make sure you use them … put all 4 screws into each drive which then also allows the case to conduct heat away from the drives.
Tidy up SATA or IDE ribbon and power cables so they don’t obstruct air from moving over the drives.
In my experience putting a fan blowing in cold air at the bottom (on the side panel in my case) can drastically effect temperatures, specially on the north and south bridges which generally rely on airflow from other components to be cooled off.
We all know hot air rises, because... well its hot... Give it some assistance in getting out there.