My PC is Getting too Hot! What Can I do?

So your PC is getting too hot to handle?

PC Is Too Hot
Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

Your PC gets hot, and that can be bad! Here’s what you can do about it.

Computers use electricity, and that electricity raises the temperature of key components, generating heat, which raises the temperature even more. Pretty soon, your PCs parts get too hot to work correctly and either automatically shut down, depending on the part, or break down altogether, never to work again. This is not good news.

Not having adequate central air or a dedicated wall air conditioner during hot summer months can mean a PC that will swiftly overheat. Also, keeping the vents covered (like having a blanket or pillow over a laptop while it’s running) can swiftly lead to heat damage.

Finally, if your fan stops working, gets too dusty, or gets blocked by something, that will do damage too. Most PCs these days have multiple fans in them. One or more for the entire PC, one on top of the CPU, and even a little one for the video card. Laptops even have small fans in them sometimes to keep the machine cool. If you’ve noticed, laptops can get hot on your lap. They just don’t have as advanced a cooling system as a desktop has.

So what can you do to keep that PC temperature down, especially during this time of year? Clean out the inside of your PC using compressed air to get all the dust out, or just use dry towels. Make sure the fan is completely free of dust and obstruction and doesn’t buzz when it runs. Make sure the air is cool and circulating well in the room your PCs are in. And don’t block any vents with furniture or anything else.

Some people with PCs that run especially hot will install liquid cooling or other methods to keep their desktop PC frosty. Still others will have cooling devices for their laptops that rest on the bottom of the machine. Consider the liquid cooling only if you can handle the time and effort, but the laptop device is a good idea for anyone worried about their laptop running too hot.

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