Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tip: 6 Simple and Effective Computer Cooling Methods

This applies to a wide range of electronics, not just computers. Rather than resort to daunting, expensive, or complex (all three tend to go together) cooling methods, there are many ways in which you can utilize natural physics to cool components cheaply and effectively. The picture on the left looks awesome, but is expensive if not complex. Lets face it, it is just as cool - if not more - if you can harness nature through your own cheap resourcefulness to get the same performance.

  1. Airflow: This is the number one rule of cooling. Proper airflow equal optimal cooling. This means that open-air systems hurt components more than cool them. Air blown by fans needs to be forced into a tunnel in order to be concentrated efficiently on the areas needing cooling. Likewise, restriction of airflow yields the same results. Afterwards, I'll show you a couple little tools you can use to test your setup.
  2. Air Temperature: Bound up with airflow is air temperature. The difference between cool, warm, and hot air is astounding. A simple drop in room temperature from 22C to 20C, or even 18C will do wonders for air and liquid cooling systems of all kinds. Do not be fooled, those two degree drops allow much more cooling capacity than you think. In the screen shot below, these are my idle temps when dropping the thermostat to 18C. Those are great, I'd say.
  3. Air Flow per Minute: Often measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute), higher numbers are great. Larger fans tend to turn slowly and are quite, but often produce more total airflow than small fans that produce high rpm's at high noise levels. Investing in larger fans can save temperature as well as your ears.
  4. Dust Those Fans/Filters: Probably one of the most neglected maintenance tasks is dusting. Over time it will horribly clog and restrict airflow, especially if a computer or device is sitting on the floor. Put it on a desk, vacuum it out periodically (watch for static), and add some dust filters. Screening found on screen doors work fine as filters. 
  5. Proper Thermal Paste Application: This is a bit more complex, but thermal paste application can make or break your cooling on any component. Thermal paste fills in the microscopic gaps between the heatsink and component to provide maximum surface area. In this case, surface area is key to heat transfer. Many store-bought products have poorly applied low-quality thermal paste. If cooling is a concern, consider exchanging the factory stuff for your own. If you do not know how, please refer to this Thermal Paste Application Guide.
  6. Shutdown/Sleep your Computer: This is very basic. If you watch a temperature monitor, your components with gradually heat up over time depending on how good your cooling is. For myself, if I do not shut down my desktop for 4 days straight, my videocard idle temperature rises about 5C-10C. Of course, if your ambient air is cool, this may not be as much of an issue. Electrical components and heatsinks are rated for a certain amount of hours of efficient operation. Shutdown or Sleep when not using things and you might save 8 to 16 hours a day. That is about 3000 to 6000 hours a year. Do your electronics a favor.
Okay, so this is more theory than actual method, but every situation is different. Knowing the theory should logically lead to knowing how to cheaply and effectively cool components. Not convinced to cool better? What if I said it can make components faster? I'm sure many have noticed laggy devices when they run hot, which is no coincidence.

There are two great ways to monitor your temperatures, one is with HWMonitor by CPUID. This is a very effective real-time monitoring tool that can display a lot of information about temperatures, power, and fans. Another method is with a temperature probe, but you may have to invest in special equipment for that. My multimeter came with a core temperature probe, which works wonders for getting into hard to read places. A great place to look for one is Extech.


  1. Thank you for sharing these simple and effective computer cooling methods. Since PC liquid cooling is a fairly new technology to PC computers, it’s still requires a significant level of technical knowledge to install.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Since you are advertising with your comment, perhaps EKWB would consider sponsoring my blog or buying ad-space? Just a thought...