Byte Me Article 89 – Don’t fry your hard drive

Don’t fry your hard drive

8 September, 2012

Our short lived winter is fast diminishing and we are already starting to feel the heat of another long CQ summer.  It is also time to spare a thought for your PC which is susceptible to temperature changes as well.  There are a few things we can do to look after not only a PC but also a laptop as far as heat is concerned.  Computers have several components which produce heat and as a result they have internal fans which need cool clean air to push heat away from these components.

Firstly the central processing unit (CPU) or brain of the PC can produce anything from 10 Watts (Laptops) to 120 Watts (Desktops) of heat energy.  A dedicated video card (for PC gamers) can also produce around 100 Watts of heat energy and hard drives and ram can add a further 5 to 15 Watts each.  This heat energy needs to be carried away from the PC using air flow and for this reason we need to place the PC in well ventilated spot.

2012-09-08 Byte Me Article 89 - Heat Issues

I have even seen a computer placed in a cupboard before which was fully sealed with only the cables emanating through a small hole.  After operating for only a couple of hours the air temperature in this enclosure was around 60 degrees and the hard drive was already dying which is why I was called out in the first place.  We have also placed PC’s in cupboards for several customers but with an upper and lower vent on the door and even a small fan mounted on the inside of one of these vents to suck cool air in the bottom one (hot air rises and needs to exhaust through the top vent).  If you have a desk designed to mount a computer tower in a ‘pigeon hole’ or side shelf, then always remove any backing on this shelf to allow the hot air exhausted from the back of the PC to escape.

Computers also need clean air and if you have a carpeted floor then sitting the PC on the floor is one of the worst things you can do.  The aluminium heat sinks inside the computer that the internal fans blow across will become laden with dust and fluff and then become inefficient at removing heat.  We have even seen the fans themselves totally clogged with fluff.  In any room the dirtiest air is closest to the floor so consider keeping the PC at desk height at least (we keep our office PC’s on a shelf above the desk which is around shoulder height).

Take notice of any vents on your computer (both sides and top) and never obstruct these by placing them against a wall surface or by placing books against or on this ventilation grates.  Signs of dust/fluff already in these grates normally indicate that the rest of your PC is full of dust too.  If this is the case then a vacuum cleaner trained on the outside of it will do very little.  Although if taken to a professional IT service centre they should remove the side plate and blow it out with an air compressor making it as clean as new again.  While doing this care needs to be taken to prevent any fans from spinning up and acting like a dynamo – sending a power surge through the entire system.

For laptops the most important consideration is to always operate them on a hard surface.  Laptops normally have air intake vents underneath and exhaust vents on the left hand side so if you sit them on a pillow or soft blanket you are effectively blocking their cooling and they will heat up quickly.  The most susceptible component to heat in a computer is the hard drive and accelerated failure is the result of operating at elevated temperatures.  The hard drive is the also the component that stores all of your data so do we need to further emphasise the importance of heat?

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 07 49 222 400.

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