Over-Heated and Throttled

How-to protect your computer in summer

Steve Smith explains why the hottest period of the year can pose a risk to your computer.

Episode #5-43 released on July 13, 2015

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Heat, it is summer in the northern hemisphere, and the temperature is going up. This will be a particular issue for computers for a variety of reasons which include the possibility of power outages due to storms, thermal throttling due to insufficient cooling, high temperatures in a computer box, higher noise from computer boxes because the fans are spinning faster, etc...

Is there a solution for this all? The answer is not as simple as you'd think, and you really need to analyze each situation independently, and solve each one by themselves, in some cases, to be able to address them all.

First, storms with high winds and lightning strikes may cause black outs, a few facts about storms may help you decide on the correct solution. Brown outs, or dips in power are more likely to happen than power surges, and while a surge protector may protect your computer from a sudden strike of lightning, please keep in mind, that a dip in power significant enough to dim your lights may still keep your pc powered, but compromise your you 3.3, 5, or 12V rail in your power supply, preventing your fans and other hardware from functionality correctly, causing more damage to your system that you'd expect in some cases. I'd seriously suggest using an uninterruptable power supply, instead of a surge protector, especially for computer towers. Laptops have their own source of power, during a storm, you may want to have it run from your battery, and not the AC outlet during the storm.

Heat, is a very special issue for computers and laptops, even without the storms. If various parts of your computer heat up too much, they can trigger a set of security parameters designed to protect your computer that start with thermal throttling, and can lead to a computer powering down in order to prevent damage from heat. Now, the source of the heat may be known, but there are many issues that can compromise the way computers cool themselves. Insufficient airflow due to clogged intakes, and exhausts. Clogged heatsinks, and fans can, also, cause issues with cooling itself. The thermal paste can be a source of issue if it is too dry or old, as well. Ambient temperate can be the issue, too. Using an air conditioner, and keeping all the fans, heat sinks, intakes and exhausts of a computer will keep it as cool as it can get during the summer months. Water cooling may look like a great idea, but it will raise the ambient temperature of the room, if the room is not cooled effectively, the cycle will cause the computer to heat up, anyway.

Now, as for the noise of fans spinning faster. Unless you are willing to invest in quieter fans, the only way to quiet a fan that is connected to a fan controller that is either managed by the mainboard, or a separate temperature controlled device, is to cool the ambient temperature, which will eventually cool the internal components, and have the fans eventually slow down, making less noise. Keep in mind though, the fact that the fans spin faster, means more air flow is occurring, and as long as the internal components are just cool enough, the longer the computer will function anyway.

And, as a last detail, please keep in mind that a hot computer will function just as well as a cooler computer, the most significant difference is the amount of airflow and fan noise as the fans will be committed to higher speeds to keep the computer within a safe threshold. Power spikes and brown outs will ultimately be more dangerous than heat will ever be because of this, especially in the short term. To prevent issues, consider closing your computer when it is not in use, to allow it to cool down during uses, and this allows you to avoid damage from storms while you are not home, too.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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