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How to keep your computers cool and working efficiently

If you’re a startup or new business, making the most of what you have is key. You have to make a significant investment in your IT so you need it to go as far as possible and last as long as possible. A big part of that is keeping everything cool. Nothing fatigues hardware like overheating and as it is one of the easiest threats to manage yourself, it makes sense to stay on top of it.

Keeping your systems cool is about preparation and housekeeping. Out of the box, most desktops and servers have everything they need to operate efficiently and remain cool. If you build your own systems or have us at New Jersey Computer Help build them for you then specifying your own fans is very straightforward. I’ll cover that in a bit.

Computers and heat

Heat is the enemy of electronics and is generated when electricity is converted from potential energy into action such as processing a task or drawing graphics using your graphics card. The harder your computer has to work, the more electricity is converted and the more heat is generated. Therefore the more you ask your computer to do, the cooler it needs to be kept.

In a typical computer, the most heat is generated by the processor and graphics card. Secondary heat sources are your RAM and disk drive. They generate heat but at a much lower rate. This is why your CPU and graphics card have their own fans while case fans can help keep everything else cool enough to run efficiently.

Your CPU and graphics card will have a heatsink which sucks heat away from the chip and radiate it into the case. On top of the heatsink will be a fan which will blow cool air over the heatsink to accelerate heat loss. In a desktop or server, you will also have an intake fan at the front and an exhaust fan at the rear to help move air over all components to help keep them cool.

In a laptop, you will usually have a small CPU fan and perhaps a GPU fan if the laptop has a discrete graphics card. Onboard graphics don’t usually have their own fans. Phones and tablets are passively cooled so you don’t need to take any action there.

Computer housekeeping

Regular preventative maintenance is the key to getting the most out of your computers. Spend ten minutes a week or 30 minutes a month keeping your computers clean and free of dust and you could extend their working life by months or even years. You will also learn to spot when things aren’t working properly or look right.

Some basic housekeeping tasks you can perform yourself include:

Removing dust from intake and exhaust fans

Giving the front and rear of a desktop, tower or server a wipe to remove dust is a very basic but valuable maintenance task. If you have a handheld vacuum of the type you use in cars, use that instead. A household or office vacuum can be too powerful and damage the internals so don’t use one of those.

Keep airways clear

Placing your computers so the air intake and exhaust cannot be blocked by bags, books, boxes or whatever will also prolong their life. It’s easy to slide a box under a desk or push the computer against the wall for a little more legroom so positioning them intelligently can help prevent that.

Clean the internals

This is a necessary step but perhaps performed only once every few months. Some businesses prefer to do this themselves or we can do it for you if you prefer. Remove the case from the computer when it is turned off and wipe all dust and debris from the inside. Use that vacuum if you have one or a can of compressed air. Remove all the dust you can, especially from the heatsink and fan blades.

Dust is an insulator so leaving it in place will raise the temperature of your components. This can create heat stress and compromise the cooling effect.

Cooling upgrades

If you find your computers running hotter than they should or they regularly shut down for no reason, they may be overheating. If you perform the housekeeping steps above, you should be able to avoid this in all but the most humid or warm locations. There may be times when a simple fan upgrade may do the trick. Until heat conducting crystals make it to the mainstream anyway.

Computer fans can be changed in minutes and cost less than $20 in most cases. Upgrading fans is a very cheap and effective way of improving the cooling within a desktop computer. You would typically upgrade the case fans first to see if it has an effect. If your system is still running hot, we would look to upgrade CPU cooling next.

CPU cooling is slightly more involved and slightly more expensive, $50-60 for parts depending on the processor you have. It involves removing your current cooler, processor and heatsink and perhaps the motherboard to be able to fit the new cooler. The result can be excellent though. Your computer could run much cooler and much, much quieter depending on what cooling it has now.

Water cooled computers

The ultimate cooling upgrade for a computer is water cooling. This is only really necessary for those systems that have high demands placed on them such as video editing systems, gaming machines, virtual reality computers and suchlike. Only certain kinds of businesses would run these so are rare outside a home setting.

Nevertheless, if you’re a developer or video editor, water cooling could be the way to go. Not only can you drastically lower the temperature of your computer, they can be almost silent as a result. It doesn’t come cheap though! A typical water cooling system can be upwards of $200.

For most businesses in New Jersey, regular housekeeping and case fan upgrades will do the trick. If you need expert help with this, contact New Jersey Computer Help. We would be happy to assist!

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