Computer case cooling
February 28, 2006 4:47 AM   Subscribe

What is the easiest way to lower the temp in my computer case?

According to this hard drive monitor thing I have installed the temp is running from 42 C to 48 C, which is fine, I think. Of course it's in the middle of a Chicago winter and I worry about this summer. What would be the best (and easiest and cheapest) way to drop that temp some?
posted by corpse to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Put a fan or two in if there's room. I prefer larger slower fans as they are usually quieter and move more air.

Even cheaper, if you have multiple drives, make sure there's a gap between each. Ideally you'd use slot 1, skip slot 2, use slot 3 and so forth. Anecdotally, keep hard drives cool makes them live much longer.
posted by joegester at 4:59 AM on February 28, 2006

Open it.
posted by trondant at 5:18 AM on February 28, 2006

Easiest way for most people: take a side off the case. Most cases don't have the fans set up properly to cool things properly.

Spacing hard drives is an excellent idea.

You could also spring for a fan that fits in the hard drive slot, as seen here.

The best think you can do is to lower the ambient case temp and have good airflow. This means starting from the basics: consideration to what thermal compound is used for heatsick/fan combos, re-seating the heatsinks, and cleaning out the fans. Finally, a reasonable airflow path should be a goal, so that fans aren't just dumping air all over the place.
posted by herrdoktor at 5:55 AM on February 28, 2006

If you do add fans to your setup, you may also want to look into upgrading your power supply. I hooked up two small internal fans recently and was having all kinds of odd video errors, apparently the power supply was insufficient to power everything plus the fans. You will notice most gaming rigs come with better PSUs, this is why.
posted by sophist at 6:52 AM on February 28, 2006

Taking the side off of the case usually isn't a good idea: Generally disrupts the airflow and isn't safe for your components. If your fans are actually working correctly, removing the case not only allows more dirt and junk into your case (and exposes your internals to possible damage, and you to possible shock) but it makes that tiny little fan much less efficient. Instead of pulling air out of the entire case, it's now moving a tiny bit of air just near the fan. Your "wind tunnel" is now gone, and your case fan is now as efficient as running a window unit air conditioner while leaving the door to your house wide open.

Adding more fans is smarter, making sure the fans actually work well is best. Remember that more fans means more noise from the case. A rear exhaust fan might be good, as it pulls air out of the case instead of forcing air in, making the airflow more directed. This one for example is built into the power supply, and looks to be efficient while also remaining quiet.

You might also reduce any internal obstructions to airflow: replace flat ribbon cables with round cables, for example, and move components that get hot away from each other. For example you could use a set of mounting rails to put your 3.5" HDD into a slot designed for a 5.25" drive, if that's the only way you can allow room for airflow around the drive.

Also make sure your computer doesn't live near a heater or in an enclosed space, where it would either be exposed to external heat or trapped in its own hot exhaust. Mine sits on the floor, with nothing on either side of it, so that any heat it generates will dissipate rather than being trapped near it.

And definitely use a duster on it once in a while. Don't use compressed air, as that can force dust and junk into your fan bearings or even loosen components on the system boards. Might look into one of the small hand-held dust vacuums designed for cleaning out electronics (Your home vacuum will probably generate way too much suction and static to be computer-safe).
posted by caution live frogs at 6:58 AM on February 28, 2006

The other thing to remember is that external (and even internal) temperature probes are often unreliable. If you aren't seeing problems, don't worry too much.

If you are concerned though, one 120mm or 80mm intake fan at the front of the case paired with a similar sized exhaust fan on the back of the case will add a great deal of airflow to the case, and that's what you want.

Check the reviews and forums at [H]ard OCP for good cooling solutons and recommendations.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:59 AM on February 28, 2006

For hard drives, try the Thermaltake iCage. It does a great job of cooling drives if you have a few spare 5.25" bays.
posted by ny_scotsman at 6:59 AM on February 28, 2006

You need fans. Well designed cases cool worse with panels removed, as the flow dynamics in the case are carefully engineered for cooling.

Panasonic makes a series of fans (Panaflo) that are extremely quiet. Other fans have built-in thermostats, so that they change their speed depending upon the case's internal termperature.

Also, make sure cabling (especially floppy and hard drive ribbon cables), don't impede the air flow through the case -- they should be shunted to the side, or replace with round cables.
posted by curtm at 7:10 AM on February 28, 2006

Honestly, you're throwing away money. 42-48 is well within the tolerances of modern HDs. I'd be concerned if you often go over 48 for extended periods of time.

You may be able to shave off 2-3 degrees by increasing airflow inward in the front of your computer, if your case allows.
posted by skallas at 8:02 AM on February 28, 2006

I have a very well designed case (Nemesis Elite by NZXT, site currently down for some odd reason), and to keep everything nice and cool, try and hide all your various cables and wires like so. Just be sure to get a big pack of zip ties. More fans aren't going to do anything if the air can't flow nicely. Check out xoxide or frozencpu for decent prices and fancy solutions.

More sweet pictures of my setup here. I know you're jealous.
posted by Mach5 at 8:08 AM on February 28, 2006

I experienced problems last summer, I had 2 harddrives fail within a couple of months of each other. It was hot!
posted by corpse at 8:23 AM on February 28, 2006

Don't waste your money until you have a reason to do so. Hard drives are totally happy at the temps you mentioned and you didnt mention any other computer problems so all is well.

You'll hear a lot of 'my hard drive was hot, then it failed, therefor the heat killed it' arguments, which you can discard.

Nothing wrong with keeping an eye on the temps though.

Oh, also, all that stuff about 'well designed cases running hotter with the covers off' bollocks, ignore it. I'm sure it works fine in theory but the real world is something else entirely. I run 7 computers in my house currently with many different case designed and every single one of them runs cooler with the covers off, it may mess up the airflow a bit but it also opens up a huge amount of fresh air to the components.
posted by Cosine at 11:07 AM on February 28, 2006

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