Reducing Heat Inside the PC to Prevent Overheating
Heat buildup can cause problems for any computer. Generally, when temperatures inside the computer case rise above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), the risk of damaging important internal components increases greatly. The most common cause of overheating is the accumulation of dust inside the computer. This document describes how to prevent heat-related issues from occurring.
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Symptoms of heat issues and causes of excessive heat
The following list describes some of the issues caused by too much heat in the computer:
- Games stop responding during play.
- Windows stops responding during use.
- Fans inside the computer become louder because they are spinning faster to remove the heat.
- When starting the computer, it sometimes stops at a black screen and does not open into Windows. Windows usually stops responding when it does open.
- Mouse and keyboard stop responding.
- Windows 7, Vista, XP - Computer unexpectedly restarts or displays a blue fault message.Windows 95, 98, and Me - Frequent Fatal Exception, Illegal Operation, or General Protection Fault error messages occur in several software programs.NOTE:These errors are not predictable. If these errors occur only in one software program, the issue is probably related to that software program and is not heat related.
The following list describes some causes of excessive heat:
- Dust inside the computer. Dust problems are worse if the computer sits on a carpeted floor.
- A new component, such as a hard drive, is added. The extra component causes the power supply to work harder and generate more heat. Extra heat also radiates off the new component and adds to the temperature inside the case.
- Over time, some cooling fans might slow down and wear out, depending on the usage of the computer.
- High ambient room temperature.
Before you begin troubleshooting computer heat issues
WARNING: Keep children and pets away from the area because of the hazard of electrical shock.
WARNING:The edges of metal panels can cut skin. Be careful not to slide skin along any interior metal edge of the computer.
CAUTION:This product contains components that can be damaged by electrostatic discharge (ESD). To reduce the chance of ESD damage, work over a noncarpeted floor, use a static dissipative work surface (such as a conductive foam pad), and wear an ESD wrist strap connected to a grounded surface.
Make sure you have the following items:
- Philips or slotted screwdrivers
- Canned air (available from most computer repair and electronics stores)
- Small flashlight
- Safety goggles
- Dust mask
Step 1: Testing the computer for heat issues with the cover removed
Remove the side panel from the computer to see if the heat related issues go away. Doing so also prepares the computer for other procedures used in this article.
- Turn off the computer and unplug the power cable.
- Remove the side panel screws.
- Remove the case panels or cover to expose the inside of the computer.
- Plug in the power cable and turn on the computer.CAUTION: Keep any items away from the internal area of the computer to avoid damaging the computer.
- With the case cover removed, use a software program that is known to frequently stop responding to see if the issue occurs again.
- If the issues go away, excessive heat is probably building up inside the computer case. Use the steps in the rest of this document to help reduce the temperature inside the case.
- If the issues do not go away, they are probably not caused by heat.
Step 2: Verifying that computer fans are operational when troubleshooting heat issues
With the power on, look inside the computer and find the cooling fans. Look for the fans near vents, around the processor, and around the video card. You can use a flashlight to help find the fans, but do not put anything inside the computer.
If a fan is not moving or is making a loud growling noise, turn off the computer and replace the fan. Do not use the computer when a fan is not working correctly because the high heat can damage other important components.
Go to the next step after all fans are found to be working correctly.
Step 3: Cleaning the computer to resolve heat issues
Dust might have built up around some of the internal components. Dust clogs the small air passages between metal surfaces, acting as a blanket to keep in heat. Use the following steps to remove dust:
WARNING: Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect eyes and nasal passages when using canned air to remove dust.
- Turn off the computer and disconnect the power cord.
- Clean any exterior vents, especially around the power supply.Use canned air to blow the dust off the internal parts of the power supply.If a small vacuum cleaner is available, use the suction end to remove dust from the exterior vent holes.Remove dust from the vent holes on the exteriorRemove dust from the vent holesCAUTION: Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean inside the computer. Doing so might damage the computer.
- Remove dust from inside the computer. Use the canned air to clean off any dusty parts inside the computer.
- After the cleaning is complete, replace the case cover.
- Plug in the power cord and turn on the computer. Use the computer as normal to see if any heat-related issues still exist. If any issues continue, continue to the next step.
Step 4: Ensuring that there is proper space for ventilation to resolve heat issues
Proper ventilation for the system is important for workstation operation. Follow these guidelines to ensure adequate ventilation:
- Keep the computer upright and on a sturdy, level surface.
- Provide at least 15.25 centimeters (6 inches) of clearance in front and back of the computer.
- If the computer is being used at very high altitudes, above 1500 meters (5000 feet), take extra care to keep the computer cool. The maximum limit of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) drops 1 degree Celsius (~34 degrees Fahrenheit) every ~300 meters (1000 feet) of altitude.
Step 5: Place the computer in a cooler room to resolve heat issues
A small difference in temperature might be all that is needed to prevent a component from failing. Move the computer to a cooler room in the house or office. If this is not an option, continue with the next step.
Step 6: Install an extra fan to resolve heat issues
Case fans are available to buy from most local computer supply stores. One type of fan that works well in home computers is a slot fan. These fans can be installed into a slot next to the video card. The hot air that surrounds the video card is drawn out through the slot fan, lowering the air temperature inside the case.
Installation of the fan depends on the type of fan. After installing the fan according to its instructions, replace the case cover, plug in the power cord, and turn on the computer. Use the computer normally to see if the heat related issues go away.
Step 7: Test for hardware failure when troubleshooting heat issues
If issues persist after replacing the side panel, a hardware component might be damaged. Test the computer to see if any hardware, such as memory, the processor, or the graphics hardware, have failed. Most HP desktop computers come with diagnostic software to verify hardware failures. For more information, see one of the following topics:
If hardware has failed, either replace the bad component or Contact HP (in English) for further assistance.
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