How Your Computer Cools Itself - dummies

By Dan Gookin

The cause of most PC console problems is heat. Electronics love the cold. But all that high-tech madness taking place inside your computer makes for a lot of heat. A major part of the console’s design goes toward removing heat from the computer.

A typical PC has two cooling fans. One fan is atop the processor. A second fan is located inside the power supply.

The processor’s fan is designed to keep the processor cool, but it just pumps air into the console.

The power supply’s fan is designed to draw air out of the console. Air slots on the front of the console draw in (supposedly) cool air from the room. You can easily find the front air slots when you have a dog or cat, because the slots are lined with ample quantities of your pet’s hair.

A third fan might also be found on the display adapter. Just as with the processor on the motherboard, the display adapter’s graphics processor (GPU) needs to be kept cool. A fan on the display adapter expansion card serves this cooling purpose.

High-end computers offer additional console fans. You can also purchase upgraded power supplies with better fans, as well as additional fans for the console. The extra fans, which use the bonus power-supply cables inside the console, help circulate the air.

At the extreme end of the console-cooling fixation are various liquid contraptions. The so-called water-cooled computers use liquid (often, water) to cool a PC in the same way as water cools a car engine. Usually, you have to buy a specific water-cooled case to get this feature.

Another heat-dissipating doodad is the traditional heat sink, a piece of metal designed to draw off heat and use the air to keep components cool. Heat sinks aren’t as efficient as fans or water cooling.