Computers hate summer. That's because it comes with a computer's worst enemy: heat.
Too much heat can cause hard drives to fail prematurely and entire systems to become slower and less stable. A hot day combined with inadequate or malfunctioning cooling inside a PC can, in fact, spell the end of a computer altogether.
But there are steps you can take to keep your PC cool enough in the summertime. By paying attention to how much heat-stress your PC may be under, you'll not only extend its lifespan but also enjoy trouble-free computing during the time you own it.
How can you tell if your PC is suffering from heat-related stress? The best way is to take its temperature directly. Because overheating is a fairly common concern among system manufacturers today, many PCs provide temperature readings either through the BIOS or through system software.
Your computer's BIOS (basic input-output services) is composed of set up screens that typically can be entered at the time you reboot your computer. A keystroke entered at the bootup screen generally gets you into the BIOS.
There, you will often see a screen devoted to temperature readings from inside your PC. If the BIOS doesn't give you temperature readings, chances are good that your system manufacturer offers a software tool that monitors temperatures inside of your PC and can sound an alarm when the heat reaches a dangerous level. Or you can turn to a free downloadable utility such as Motherboard Monitor.
A temperature reading of higher than 60 degrees Celsius on any internal component is generally a cause for concern, especially if that temperature is reached at bootup, when the PC is not under stress. Occasionally temperatures for a CPU - the main processor in your computer - will rise higher than 60 degrees Celsius, but usually such temperatures should not be the norm. If they are, your computer will likely slow down, as performance-throttling safeguards kick in, or become unstable.
Keeping it cool
There are plenty of steps you can take to keep your PC cool during the summer. First, open up your PC from time to time to make sure all internal fans are operating. The onset of hot weather is a good time to tackle this chore. If you're a bit nervous about having to pop open the hood of your computer, don't worry. Usually removing a few easy-to-find screws or a popping a simple latch is all you need to do to inspect the inside of your computer. Most computer manuals tell you how it's done.
Open the case while your computer is turned off. When the case is open, turn the computer back on and make sure that all internal fans spin up and operate consistently. You should see two or three internal fans in your average computer - usually one fan is over the central processor, while another may be located atop the graphics card, into which your monitor cable usually plugs.
Second, try to locate your PC in a cool room - or a cool place within an otherwise warm room. If your room has air conditioning, place the computer itself as close to an air conditioning vent as possible - or somewhere where outside air circulation is available.
The fact is that any personal computer can and will raise ambient air temperature in a room, so it makes sense to minimise that effect for the benefit of the PC as well as for those who work around it. If you do not have or do not want to use air conditioning, try to get air circulating around the computer, either with an oscillating fan or by placing it near a window with some air circulation.
Third, make a point to remove dust from your PC - especially around air vents, where balls of dust can accumulate and prevent proper airflow. A dusty PC will get hotter internally - and generate more heat externally - than a PC that's relatively dust free. Use common sense when removing dust from the computer. Turn if off and unplug it first, and try not to directly touch any sensitive electrical components within.
Finally, consider turning your PC off when you're not using it during particularly hot spells. If you need to keep the PC itself running, look for other heat-generating electronic components that can be powered down while the computer does its work. Monitors, for instance, can also generate significant heat, as can some printers.
Thanks to beefed-up graphics cards, supercharged CPUs, and maxed-out memory, today's high-performance computers generate more heat than any personal computers before them. But by paying proper attention to cooling, you can help to ensure years of trouble-free service from your PC.