All that gear within your computer has one common enemy — heat. The excessive heat from an improperly cooled computer can shorten the life expectancy of components and cause intermittent errors such as lockups. If you plan on upgrading your machine with a new graphics card or a faster processor its pretty likely that the cooling gear you currently have just won’t cut it.
Computer cooling setups, like most things in the PC-building world are incredibly customizable and can range from simple fans and pipes on the low end to elaborate water cooling setups on the high end. Of course its always possible to slow down the fan speed via the BIOS to subdue the whir of your machine, though this will come with big sacrifices in performance. Regardless of your budget and skill level, there are a number of ways to optimize your machine’s cooling system to ensure that your rig remains cool.
New CPU Coolers and Fans (Easy Difficulty)
The principle of any cooling system is quite simple: warm air from inside the case needs to be pushed out and replaced with cooler air. Without good fans, and proper heat tunnels, this warm air cannot be replaced. Most systems come with adequate fans, though replacing them will increase efficiency and decrease system noise. Adding more fans and heat tunnels is an easy task that should take a novice user not more than a few minutes.
Fans come in a variety of different sizes, so be sure to make sure the fan your buying is the right size for your case. Fans that are designed to be mounted on the side of the case have little variety in size, however ones that are designed to be mounted on top of a heatsink come in a variety of different sizes and it is best to do some manual-consulting before buying one.
Once you have bought and mounted your new fan, it plugs into your system via a Molex power adapter. If the innards of your computer are a snake pit, the easiest way to find a spare connector is to locate the adapter powering your hard drive then run your fingers from that to the power supply. The power adapters for fans run off the same adapters for drives so somewhere along that line you will find the right adapter.
HardwareCanucks’ very own AkG has reviewed the hottest selling (or should I say coolest selling… get it?) CPU Coolers currently on the market:
Thermaltake Frio CPU Cooler
ALC Systems (Medium Difficulty)
One step above air cooling is water cooling with Advanced Liquid Cooling (ALC) systems. The way ALC systems work is quite simple: an ethylene-glycol based liquid coolant with anti-corrosion additives is pumped across the heatsink then returned to a heat exchanger, which is mounted on the side of the case.
The tubes which carry this coolant are incredibly tough and have multiple layers so the chance of leakage is quite low. Installing the system is rather is done in three simple steps, as it mounts like a fan on the side of the case and the heatsink clips on top of the CPU.
AkG has a review of the CoolIT Vantage ALC System
Watercooling (High Difficulty)
The most complex and intricate cooling method is watercooling. This differs from ALC systems because watercooling systems are not one piece factory made devices. They are assembled by the user, and can cool all the components of the system not just the CPU.
Unline ALC systems which are a 1 piece factory made system, watercooling systems have multiple components and must be assembled by the user. Any watercooling system will contain a reservoir for the coolant, pumps, piping, and a waterblock to put over the CPU and other components.
While these systems are more expensive than fans or ALC systems they are much more efficient at keeping your PC chilled.
Keeping track of everything
If you want to see how effective your new cooling setup is, there are a number of free tools out there to monitor your PC’s temperature such as SpeedFan, HWMonitor, Open Hardware Monitor, and Burnitin
Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming guide to keeping your notebook cool.