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Computer Overheating

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System overheating may become a serious problem if not taken care of at the proper time. I am writing this article because I faced a similar problem.

Intro
All electronic devices produce heat, but computers are a special case - the processors both produce a lot of heat and are also very sensitive to overheating. Heat will affect the lifespan of the computer whether it is a Laptop or Desktop.

All motherboards, CPU, graphic card, hard disk drive come with sensors which can tell its current temperature. Each device has the maximum bearable temperature which is set by the manufacturer. If the device runs at maximum temperature for a particular period of time, it can go bad and you may have to replace it.

The CPU and GPU (Graphic Processor Unit) are common components which are adversely affected by overheating problems. If you try to run the CPU without the processor fan even for few seconds the internal circuits may be damaged or burned. Usually if the processor fan is not connected or not working the system won't start. This feature is to protect the processor. The normal working temperature of CPU should be around 40 Celsius and at heavy load it can go up-to 65 to 70 Celsius. Anything above will affect the CPU in the long run.


Common causes for overheating:
--------------------------------------------------
- Installing processor without thermal casing.
- Accumulation of dust in the processor heat-sink, blocking proper airflow.
- Blocking air intake duct especially Laptops.
- Overclocking
- Fan or cooling system failure.


Symptoms of overheating:
-------------------------------------
- PC is running very smoothly but all of a sudden it restarts.
- Noisy fan.Because of high temperature the processor cooling fan runs at the maximum speed making severe noise.
- Sometime PCs give the infamous blue screen.


Consequences of overheating:
-------------------------------------------
- The lifespan of the device is greatly reduced because of overheating.
- Overheating can have severe affect on system performance.
- Random restart can cause files to become corrupt and also leads to corrupt Operating System(OS).


Ways to check system temperature:
-----------------------------------------------------
- Through the BIOS
   This is OS independent. Access BIOS and look for PC Health Status or System Health or Hardware Monitor. This will give the CPU temperature, fan speed and different volt reading.

- Using monitoring software
   You have to install the monitoring software. The monitoring software can give system temperature and also other important readings. Often motherboard manufacturers will provide monitoring software. Check your motherboard driver CD or check the manufacturer website.

Third party software I am familiar with.
For windows OS
AIDA64 (successor to Everest) - www.aida64.com
Speedfan -www.almico.com or download.cnet.com

For Linux
lm-sensor - www.lm-sensors.org
GKrellM -http://members.dslextreme.com/users/billw/gkrellm/gkrellm.html

Use system monitoring software which can run in the background and notify you immediately if any given threshold is reached. Most of the system monitoring software comes with default threshold value set which works best for any system.


Solutions for system overheating problem:
------------------------------------------------------------
- Clean your computer.
   The main reason for system overheating is usually dust. Over time dust can accumulate in the air vents, fans and in the heat-sink reducing effective cooling.
You may have to open the computer case for cleaning, so if you are not familiar with it get professional help.

- Using a better CPU cooling kit than the stock one.
   The stock CPU cooler which comes with the system is good for basic cooling. But if you are a gamer or use applications which are CPU intensive, a good third party CPU cooler will help you in the long run.

- Using a good thermal compound for the processor.
   Thermal compound is a substance used between the processor and the heat-sink to transfer heat effectively. When assembling you own computer make sure you use quality Thermal compound.

- Computer case with proper internal air flow.
   A good computer case will have air vents for cool air intake and hot air exhaust. Don't keep the computer case in very closed spaces which may block these air vents. When buying computer case check air ventilation provided in the case.

- Quality Switch Mode Power Supply(SMPS)
   SMPS gives power to the motherboard and all other components. It converts Alternate Current(AC) to Direct Current(DC) which is used by the computer. A low grade SMPS will produce a lot of heat and fluctuating voltage (which can damage the computer over time).


All the above solution are suited for desktop. Laptops have fewer options when it comes to overheating. When using Laptop don't block those air vents. Use monitoring software to check the temperature and when the Laptop is reaching the threshold level frequently, call the Laptop manufacturer for further assistance.


Check the following website for good CPU Cooler.
Coolermaster
http://www.coolermaster.com/
Vantec
http://www.vantecusa.com/
Zalman
http://www.zalman.com/eng/main.asp


Heat is one of the major causes which can reduce the lifespan and affect performance of any computer. Overheating are usually ignored because most computers will be usable, but it will have its effect eventually. Some simple solutions can save your hardware or even your valuable data.



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Author:samroy2010
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Author Comment

by:samroy2010
Thank you for the comment.I'll make the necessary changes.
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Expert Comment

by:lherrou
I just finished dealing with exactly this problem. My 4-week old computer suddenly started randomly shutting down. Turns out it was a bad liquid cooling system (stay away from XtremeGear from Cyberpowerpc).

Good article, I voted "Yes" above.
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LVL 49

Expert Comment

by:DanRollins
Even without special monitoring software, it is often possible to detect when your CPU is heating up.   Here are two ways:

1) Open Task Manger, then minimize it.  A small CPU meter will show in the system status area (the "tray").  If the gauge ever gets near the top, you are maxing out your CPU (you can hover the mouse over the icon to see the CPU usage percentage) and your CPU is in danger of eventually overheating or shutting down with undesired consequences.

2) Listen for an increase in fan noise.  Most motherboards already have an internal sensor that increases cooling fan speed when the CPU is heated above normal levels.

And the common-sense advice for what to do in such cases:  Stop any unnecessary processes that are running.  Keep an eye on the CPU meter (and listen to the fan) -- when the system returns to a normal level, you are out of danger of a CPU meltdown.  

Of course, you can't just abort important system processes, but you can kill programs that are elective.  For instance, my QuadCore AMD CPU maxes out when I'm running more than three copies of FFMPEG, so I back off and run just one or two copies.  

Another note from experience:  If you can't figure out which process is maxing your CPU, click "Show processed from all users" in the Task Manager Processes pane.  A program running on a switched-our user session -- even a web browser -- can be the culprit.
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