How to cool the computer?
May 20, 2012 7:15 PM   Subscribe

My computer heats up the entire apartment. Is there any way to cool it down?

I don't need to cool the CPU - the computer is running just fine. The problem is that it's contributing a lot of heat into the apartment.

The specs:

Intel i3 processor
Radeon HD 5670 gpu
the case has two fans

Anyone have any advice? Thanks!
posted by rebent to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You want the computer to run cooler?
posted by Dasein at 7:31 PM on May 20, 2012

yes, or rig up some hacks to minimize the heat it's putting out. I don't even know where to begin... Fans I think would just move the heat around, not reduce it.
posted by rebent at 7:35 PM on May 20, 2012

Yeah, I don't think there's any way to make the CPU or cards actually run cooler. They produce heat when they do work. Ask them to do work, they'll produce heat.
posted by Dasein at 7:39 PM on May 20, 2012

Fans are supposed to take the heat from the inside of the computer and place it outside of the case. If you want to minimize its impact on the temperature of your living space, you either want to reduce the heat output or take the hot air and put it somewhere else. Underclocking the computer would reduce your heat output, and ducting the fan exhaust outside would keep it from heating up your apartment.

If you can set up an aggressive standby/hibernate profile for the computer, that would also help keep the heat load down when it's not in use.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:40 PM on May 20, 2012

As a first, easy, thing, download and install Granola. It is free, and manages your PC power - it automatically slows the processor and the fans when possible at times of minimal use, but instantly lets go if something processor intensive starts. This is also excellent for laptops to extend battery life.
posted by caclwmr4 at 7:46 PM on May 20, 2012 [14 favorites]

Well, but even if the heat got moved around, you might be able to move it around such that it's better able to move into the walls and out of the air, or something? Otherwise, err... is it near a window? Can you rig a fan and a shunt of some kind to blow the hot air out the window? I've had this problem before, in a small apartment in Arizona, and it's pretty awful.

Here's some "outside the box" thinking from the overclockers:
Water-cooling radiator outside
Geothermal Cooling

Otherwise, I think you'll just have to use AC. I'd go ahead and use fans in the room anyway, at least, because at least if you're moving the hot air around and over surfaces, *some* of the heat will be drawn out.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 7:46 PM on May 20, 2012

Yeah... if you can find the power management controls in the operating system and set it to behave like it's a laptop in the middle of a power-outlet-desert that needs to conserve every ounce of power, that may reduce the output.

Another idea I've thought up but never tried to implement myself is to have the computer itself in a room that you don't mind heating up, and running extension cables and a USB hub so that just the monitor, keyboard, and mouse are where you want to use it.
posted by XMLicious at 7:49 PM on May 20, 2012

If you haven't opened up the case in awhile to clean out the dust then I would give that a try. It is a cheap way to help airflow into your case and may allow the whole system to run cooler.
posted by mmascolino at 7:53 PM on May 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Question, have you cleaned out your case and power supply lately? Your system may be putting off more heat due to blocked air flow paths.

Another thought, can you rig an exhaust flex tube to a window (being sure to put a filter on it to keep dirt from outside getting in)?
posted by strixus at 7:54 PM on May 20, 2012

Set your screen saver to blank screen only. No fancy graphic stuff. Those can very easily take more CPU (and therefore generate more heat) than any real work the machine does. Make sure your screen powers down when the screen saver is active.

Better of course would be to suspend or shut down the machine when you're not using it.
posted by fritley at 8:02 PM on May 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe you already knew this, but computer power supplies vary in efficiency, with cheap ones wasting more power as heat than high-end ones. The price difference is usually high enough that it's probably not a pratical way to keep your apartment cooler (for the difference in price, you could buy a nice fan). But if you were considering upgrading the PS anyway, check its efficiency rating when shopping around: slightly less heat, slightly lower energy bills.
posted by molybdenum at 10:29 PM on May 20, 2012

I'd get one of those cheap plug power monitors and find out the running wattage of your machine when idle and again when under load (like playing a video game). High wattage will inevitably mean heat. While PCs are always going to be on the high side when stressed it's important that they are not also using a lot of energy when idle because they are going to be idle more of the time. Good components can save a lot of watts compared to similar performance equivalents and an efficient but powerful PC can have an idle wattage of less than 100W (such as the PC I'm using now). For comparison, an xbox 360 idles at ~160W, a wii idles at ~14W

Efficient PCs have the following:

1) A high-efficiency rated power supply that only provides the watts needed. Seasonic, for example, make very excellent 'Gold-rated' power supplies that operate without too much wasted energy. The power supply is an often-overlooked component but ever since buying a good quality one I'm a firm believer in paying more for efficiency and quality. They are quiet, cool and reduce your electricity bills (and the good ones are modular which saves a mass of cables in your PC).

2) A modern efficient CPU that can go into a low power state. Many tech reviews will cover the power consumption of a CPU and some will have a poor heat to performance ratio. The top end of any particular generation of CPUs will generally be bad for heat.

3) An efficient graphics card - the one you have is actually pretty good, tbh, with an idle of 16W and a peak of around 75 according to a tom's hardware review.

4) A low number of lower power hard drives (such as the WD green series that run cool and spin down a lot to save energy)

Monitors also contribute a great deal, I'm sure.

With good components, the only way to reduce heat would be to reduce their energy profile further by underclocking, undervolting and, you know, just turning the damn thing off when you're not using it :P
posted by AbsoluteDestiny at 6:54 AM on May 21, 2012

Make sure that your case and fan(s) are free of dust/hair/fur. My core i7 Sony Vaio F laptop was running very hot (fan was screaming) a few days ago. I took it apart and vacuumed the fan and intake and exhaust ports. The laptop is running 60 degrees cooler on average. Cooler computer=lower room temp.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 8:40 AM on May 21, 2012

chosemerveilleux: "Make sure that your case and fan(s) are free of dust/hair/fur. My core i7 Sony Vaio F laptop was running very hot (fan was screaming) a few days ago. I took it apart and vacuumed the fan and intake and exhaust ports. The laptop is running 60 degrees cooler on average. Cooler computer=lower room temp."

I don't understand this. Aren't you just moving the heat from the computer components to the air that circulates through the computer/room? Does it reduce the over-all heat, or does it just reduce the computer's heat by pushing that heat out more effectively?
posted by rebent at 10:20 AM on May 21, 2012

Higher temperatures increase the electrical resistance in components and has other effects that will produce even more heat, so yes, cooling the computer will reduce the computer's total heat output.
posted by XMLicious at 11:19 AM on May 21, 2012

Set your monitor to turn off after 5 minutes. Set your PC to sleep after 15 minutes. It won't take more than 5-10 seconds to start back up out of sleep mode, and will contribute zero heat to the room when you're not using it.
posted by cnc at 1:27 PM on May 21, 2012

Somewhere around, I saw a crafty project that involved putting a PC in a box, and then running two flexible ducts to a nearby window with some low-speed fans in them, to bring in and exhaust outside air. If you didn't insulate all this correctly you might actually drive your utility bills up (by letting in lots of hot outdoor air, assuming you have AC) but it might be something to consider if you really want to go the DIY route.

Unfortunately, searching for the project now, I can only find a lot of people talking about similar schemes, but no photos from the one where it was actually implemented. My recollection was that it was a frame made from 1x1 stock with some 1/4" ply or Luan forming the sides (not load bearing). The duct entrances and exits were dryer vents installed in a wide board, like a 1x10 or something like that, that went into the window opening. It had a little wireless temperature sensor to tell you what was going on inside. It looked pretty decent when complete.

I would only go down this route once you have gotten all the low-hanging fruit solutions, including software and probably swapping the PSU for something in the highest efficiency range, out of the way first.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:30 PM on May 21, 2012

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