How To Properly Cool Your Computer System

how to cool down your computer system, computer system tips, cooling down a computer system

We’re talking tech today here at CleverDude! I’m customizing my computer and need some additional cooling in my computer case. In a past post we talked about selecting the right motherboard, but in today’s post I pass along some of what I’ve learned about computer temperature monitoring, computer fans, and computer cooling solutions.

You could spend hundreds ore even thousands of dollars building the perfect computer, but without the proper cooling and airflow you might catch the smell of burning electronics. Your computer could overheat, ruin some of the components, and become a very expensive lesson.

If you buy a ready to use computer off the shelf, the manufacturer has already done the work for you. But if you build your own computer, add more powerful components, or overclock your processor, you’ll have to implement your own cooling solution using fans inside the computer’s chassis.

How Hot Is It?

Most computers have tools in their BIOS that display internal temperature information for the CPU, the ambient temperature inside the case, or others. This is good information to have, but it is simply the idle temperature of your computer. What you really need to know is how hot things get when the computer is under load, or doing lots of activity.

Free tools such as CPUID Hardware Monitor can be downloaded and installed. These tools will tell users very detailed temperature information while the system is running.

What’s Too Hot?

The normal operating temperature varies a little by processor type, but generally speaking you might start to become concerned when your CPU temperatures gets into mid 80’s (Celsius) for long periods of time. This suggests you might want to evaluate your computer’s cooling solution.

My computer currently runs with a CPU temp around 35 degrees Celsius when idle, and 50-55 when under load.  I should note that I have a fancy water cooler for my CPU. With the current configuration my computer is adequately cooled. But, I’m about to toy around with overclocking my graphics card which will put additional strain on the system and generate more heat within the case.  My efforts to improve the airflow in my case is to help keep my graphics card cool.  Warning: Shameless foreshadowing for future post.

It’s About Airflow

Keeping the temperature down inside your computer is not just about having fans blowing, it’s about proper airflow through the machine’s case. You need to have both intake and exhaust fans.

Intake Fans are used to pull cooler air from outside the case into the computer. Typically an intake fan is placed on the front of the computer. Some high end cases also have intake fans on one of the side door panels.

Exhaust fans are used to remove hot air from inside the case. Since hot air rises, exhaust fans should be placed either on the top rear of the case, or on the top of the case itself.

How many fans you can or need to install depends upon the design of your case as well as what temperatures you’re experiencing inside your computer.

Fan Connectors

Fans used for cooling a computer are plugged into the motherboard for power and control. There are two different types of connectors to be aware of.

CPU_FAN: The connector into which the processor cooling fan is plugged into. This fan sits directly on top of the processor, and keeps the processor cool. The motherboard may have more than one CPU_FAN connector and are connectors that support Pulse-width Modulation (PWM) control. This mean that using the system BIOS, you can set a target temperature and the computer will increase or decrease the fan speed automatically to maintain the target temperature.

SYS_FAN: The connector into which you will plug your intake and exhaust chassis fans. These fan connectors typically do not support PWM and instead rotate at a constant speed. You may be able to create a fan profile within the system BIOS to increase or decrease the fan speed based upon the temperature of the CPU or system. For example, if the temperature of the CPU reaches 50 degrees Celsius, you can set the fan profile to spin the fan at 50% it’s maximum, and increase to 80% of it’s maximum if the CPU reaches 70 degrees Celsius. You can purchase chassis fans that have PWM control, but this usually requires the purchase of a special piece of hardware called a fan controller and is used by advanced computer builders.

Building your own computer can be a rewarding experience. You have control over your systems configuration and can build a much better computer for your use case for the same amount or less money than buying one off the shelf. Knowing how to monitor temperatures and properly cool your computer is not only a good skill, but a necessity to protect your creation.

Have you built your own computer? Do you monitor the internal temperatures?

About the author

Brock Kernin

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