With the current crop of Athlon XP and Pentium 4 chips generating more heat than their predecessors (quite possibly combined), more attention must be paid to keeping your computer cool than ever, or else running the risk of frying your CPU and possibly parts of the motherboard as well.
There are many sites with lengthy technical articles on cooling, so my intention is to start by covering the basics for the members of Tek-Tips, and maybe grow this article over time. Note that the areas in this article have been covered in the forum many times, this is merely an attempt to bring them all into one place to save repeated questions.
The best place to start with your cooling strategy is with your computer's case. If you're thinking of buying a new case, here is a short checklist;
1. An aluminium case lends itself to cooling very well, but will tend to be more expensive. Good offerings come from companies like Lian-Li, SuperMicro and Coolermaster.
2. Check for the existence of fan bays in the case. You may decide later on that you require more, so there can never be too many.
3. Check the locations of the fan bays; There should be at least one in the front, two in the rear (below the PSU bay), and hopefully at least one in the side of the case.
Once you have bought your case, ensure that you have securely mounted fans into the front and rear so that the front fan draws air in, and the rear blows it out. Ideally, the front fan should be at the bottom of the case, and the rear near the top.
Fan bays can quite easily be custom made, if you're handy with a drill and hacksaw, but should be very carefully planned.
Good cooling is all about airflow, so getting an idea of where air is coming in and its path back out again is crucial to understanding where "heat pockets" may be building up inside your PC.
Next, and most importantly, the CPU's heatsink and fan. Many people swear by particular makes and models, but as long as it's AMD approved, you should get results from any setup. One combination worth mentioning is the Coolermaster HHC-L61 Delta Heat Pipe Radiator With Silent Fan.
Most heatsinks have a pad affixed to the underside. This should be removed, and a tiny amount of a good thermal compound applied. Arctic Silver is a popular choice, although most brands are far more effective than the default pad.
This done, you should see CPU temperatures around or below the 50C mark. This is an ideal operating temperature for most processors, but cooler is always better, so here are a few more ways of keeping your computer cool;
More fans; If you decide to put a side intake on the case, ensure that you have also installed a second exhaust at the rear. There should always be a balance between hot air going out and air/dust being forced in. One article I read suggested using pieces of nylon stocking behind the intake fans to collect dust...
Fans come as standard on many graphics cards now, and also on the Northbridge chip on the motherboard. If there are vacant positions for fans, occupy them.
Hard drives generate a lot of heat, especially the newer faster models, and, if you have more than one, can build up significant pockets of hot air. Drive bay coolers can be purchased to solve this. PCI slot coolers can also be used to help alleviate pockets between component cards. Graphics cards particularly can generate a lot of heat. With some, it is possible to re-use an old 486 fan, with a bit of careful drill and tap surgery to the aluminium heatsink.
The final area to consider is cabling. Round IDE cables are becoming very popular to combat the problem where the flat ribbons will simply block the airflow from the front intake. Ensure all power cables are cable-tied to convenient locations inside the case. If you bought one of the brands I mentioned, you will notice slots on the frame rails for this exact purpose.
-----------Final Words on Strategy-------------------------
This is all a question of balance, because if you have too many fans moving air around inside the case, all they will end up doing is moving hot air around, if your overall strategy is not up to it.
Many current debates are over positive and negative case pressure. Negative pressure is caused by having more exhaust fans than intakes, while positive is the opposite. The debate hinges around which provides better cooling, and there are strong arguments both ways. The third, minority voice advocates an equilibrium.
If there's anything you think I missed in this article, or any further detail you think I should cover, please e-mail me at CitrixEngineer@yahoo.co.uk - don't post it to the forum! Also, if you decide that this article is not worth 10 out of 10, I'd be glad of any constructive advice you can give for me to improve it. This article is for the benefit of members of Tek-Tips, not the benefit of myself.
Updated (already!) 23-07-2002 Added more links 24-07-2002