If your computer's hanging, crashing or even switching itself off, it could be because your PC is running to hot.
It's not that difficult to make your computer run cooler. There are several simple fixes you can try straight away and a slew of more invasive measures that pretty much guarantee a cooler PC.
We list the ten best tips we know, from the easiest to the most challenging.
1. Give it some room
Your computer cools itself using air drawn from the surrounding area. Stick it in a corner or even one of those little cubby holes you find in computer desks and you'll end up with insufficient air-flow to keep your PC cool. Make sure there's a good couple of inches clearance around the outer case and check that all vents and fans are free of obstruction.
2. Have a spring clean
Give your machine a regular clean inside and out. Dirt, dust and hair (pet or human) can stop fans working and over-insulate components. Start externally, cleaning out vents and fans with a vacuum cleaner hose. Inside the case, carefully blow away excess detritus with canned air. Don't be tempted to blow on components through pursed lips, you'll just glue the dust in place with spittle.
3. Check air flow
Most PC builders know to fit one or more case fans to their systems, but not everyone knows which way round to put them. It's best to have one positioned at the side, preferably over the CPU, sucking air into the case.
The second can be on the opposite side or the back of the case, venting hot air out. This arrangement should create a constant stream of air flowing over your components to make your PC run cooler.
4. Install SpeedFan
You may know your computer or laptop's running hot. But which components are the culprits? Most often it's the CPU, but what if there's a faulty case fan or hot video card in the mix? Free software SpeedFan will help you identify the hot spots in your machine. As a bonus, it can also control the working speed of your fans, automatically.
5. Add extra fans
Adding extra case fans can improve heat dissipation, but add them sympathetically and don't disrupt the overall airflow. For example a second fan placed next to a inlet fan on the side of your case is ideal, as long as it's pulling air in, too.
6. Cool your cards
Modern video cards can rival your CPU for heat output. Some have built in fans, but some rely on passive methods of cooling - like a simple heatsink. Either way, you can help by installing a cheap and cheerful PCI slot exhaust fan, designed to draw heat from card components. Make sure it doesn't upset the overall air-flow though.
KEEP COOL: StarTech's Case Exhaust Video Cooler fits into a PCI or ISA slot next to your video card, extracting heat from the GPU
7. Use a cooling stand
Laptop computers aren't quite so easy to crack open and customise, but you can help cool a hot notebook with a bit of external help. Belkin's range of USB powered laptop cooling stands are inexpensive and work well.
8. Reseat your CPU
If none of the previous strategies work, more drastic measures may be called for. The following tip is only for those comfortable with advanced computer repair.
If your CPU is running too hot, it could be that the contact between the heatsink and CPU is poor. You can improve that situation by removing the current heatsink and fan, then carefully wiping the existing layer of thermal paste from the CPU with cotton buds and a little surgical spirit. To clean up the last of the residue, use a piece of kitchen towel. Take care not to get the grease on any other components and don't press down too hard at any point.
Apply a new, thin layer of thermal paste to the top of the CPU, making sure it's distributed smoothly and evenly. Finally, refit the heatsink and fan.
9. Upgrade the CPU fan
If your computer's CPU is currently being cooled by a standard issue heatsink and fan, you can upgrade to a more effective and expensive solution. Third party heatsink and fan combos can cost as little as tenner or as much as a hundred quid. Start at the £30 mark for more effective replacements for a generic heatsink.
BARGAIN: The Zalman CNPS9900A with twin heatsink coils and built in LED will cost you about £40 online
10. Install water cooling
A truly industrial solution, water cooling systems are no longer just for DIY hobbyists. You can find a range of ready to fit kits from £55.99 up to £345.99 at www.watercooling.co.uk or search for "water cooling kit" on Amazon [www.amazon.co.uk] for cheap deals.
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