computer/cool cpu.jpgThe dog days of summer are upon us. This is a time when keeping cool can easily become the focus of your life.  It's also a good time to think about keeping your computer cool.

Heat, the Enemy

Heat is a vicious enemy of a computer.  The large computers of yesterday were kept in special climate-controlled rooms because computer chips and other mechanical components had to be kept cool. While today's personal computers don't need such extraordinary care, they should be kept at a normal temperature and never be left in a car in the summer heat or in direct sunlight in high temperatures.

Today's computers have built-in cooling fans that keep the computer from overheating during normal use.  If your computer's cooling fan malfunctions, the computer will overheat and cause irreparable damage.  Keeping the computer fan in tiptop shape is fairly easy.  Just follow these simple steps:

Keep Cool Tips

1. Do not block any air vents on your PC's case.  You can also extend the life of your computer monitor by giving it a little breathing room. Don't block the air vents on your monitor by piling papers or books on top of it.

2. Most fans are on the back of the computer, so position the computer a few inches from the wall.

3. Keep draperies and other fabric away from the fan.

4. Keep the fan clean and free of debris.

5. Keep dogs, cats, and other hairy pets away from the computer.

6. Keep your computer in a clean, well-ventilated area.

7. Open your case once or twice a year and use a computer vacuum or can of compressed air to clean out built up dust and debris. Do this more often if you have a cat or dog that sheds a lot.

8. The room where your system is kept should never be too hot.  How hot is too hot? If it's uncomfortable for you, it's probably uncomfortable for your PC as well.

9. Don't put the CPU unit of the computer on the floor.  This is one suggestion that even I don't always follow.  Yet, if this is feasible, your computer will accumulate less dust and dirt if kept off the floor.

Detecting Fan Failure

Most Pentium-class computers have two fans. The one which is generally visible from the back of the computer cools the power supply. The other which is inside the computer cools the processor.

These cooling fans are often some of the first components of a computer to fail. The first indication of a fan failure is a difference in the sound that it makes.  As you use your PC, you become familiar with the way it sounds. When a fan is failing it will usually alert you with some unusual sound.  This noise may be an unusual whirring, clicking, clunking, or groaning.  Any loud or unusually weird sounds should be investigated. In most cases, these unusual sounds are the only indication that you will have of a malfunctioning fan. Some computers, however, will actually alert you with a computer-generated sound if the fan starts to fail. The computers that I have encountered with this feature have each had a musical sound as an indicator rather than a beep.  However, the computer manufacturer may program in any sound that they wish.  I have read reports about a computer that actually played the first few bars of Beethoven's  Fur Elise as its fan failed.

While often a fan gives some audible indication that it is starting to fail, sometimes it does not. If either fan goes out suddenly, in most cases the computer will boot up properly, but shortly after booting, the computer will start to overheat. The most common response to this type of overheating in Windows computers is what is affectionately referred to as the dreaded "blue screen of death".  If your computer gives you constant Windows errors that turn the entire screen blue, you may want to check out the cooling fan.

Not All Fans Work Constantly

Most older computers have fans that work constantly. However, some newer computers have cooling fans that can be set to spin only when the temperature gets too high. So hearing the fan turn off and on is not necessarily an indication of failure.  If you are concerned that the fan never seems to be moving, take the computer in and have it checked out, or call the manufacturer.  If the fan is a newer one that operates intermittently, the manufacturer can help you reset the BIOS to make the fan run constantly. Then you will be able to check it out.

The Death of a Fan

If the fan has failed, the computer components may start to overheat. The components can actually burn from overheating. If you smell something burning inside your computer, turn it off immediately and have it checked.

Overclocking

Overclocking your CPU is speeding it up to push it past its recommended limits. If anyone suggests that you do this, please ignore his or her proposal. While this can speed up a computer, it often causes overheating problems.

Replacing or upgrading cooling components

In most, if not all, cases, replace don't repair. Repairing a defunct fan is seldom economically viable. If you suspect that you have a problem, have a computer technician check it out.  If you find the fan is not functioning properly, replace it immediately. It is generally an inexpensive repair. If you are mechanically handy, replacing the cooling fan is a fairly easy endeavor, but if you have never opened a computer case before you may want to have someone knowledgeable install your new fan.

It pays to keep your computer cool. Following these suggestions and replacing failing fans will definitely extend the life of your computer.