The importance of being cool

When I got my new motherboard and CPU a while back, I also had to get a new “cooling unit”. Back in the old days (you know… a couple years ago) I don’t recall there being such a thing as a “cooling unit”. You had a heat sink, and you had a CPU fan. They were separate, and you had to put them together. Things don’t work like that anymore. So I did some looking around, and found some incredibly fancy cooling units for some fairly fancy prices. I finally settled on one that was relatively cheap, yet still looked formidable. The picture online doesn’t do it justice. This thing is monstrously large.
So I’ve gone from a single-core Athlon 64 to a faster (read: hotter) Athlon 64 with 2 cores (read: twice as hot as that). On the old single-core, with a heat sink and a fan, I was running a temperature that varied wildly between 38 and 54 degrees celsius. 60 degrees, I learned the hard way, is the temperature at which the computer (supposedly) shuts down automatically to protect components from damage. Except, when my old heat sink got clogged with dust and overheated, my comupter didn’t shut down, it just let out a piercing whine to warn me of the danger. A piercing whine which I couldn’t hear at the time it went off, which may have been as much as 2 hours before I did hear it and manually shut my computer down. After that, I opened the case up and removed a lot of lint from the heat sink, and blew compressed air into everything to get the dust out, but it was too late. The damage was done.
Surprisingly, on the new CPU with the cooling unit, my temperature is 22 degrees celsius. That’s it. No range of temperatures. I turn the computer on, it’s 22. I check my e-mail: 22. I view all my webcomics: 22. I play Guild Wars: the fan kicks on (did I mention the fan on this cooling unit is normally off?) and I stay at 22. This is a seriously fantastic cooling unit, that I recommend to everybody (except, when I went to link it, I discovered it’s no longer available). So many people put a lot of thought into the “bigger” components, like CPU and graphics card, but (like me, previously) ignore the “smaller” things like keeping those components at a happy temperature. Do yourself a favor. Check your CPU temp. If it’s running high, get a better fan. It might cost $40, but it’ll save you hundreds.

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  • Jay  On May 21, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Unfortunately, it is far more likely that your temperature sensor is faulty (or reading from somewhere not in the CPU vicinity) than working that well (i.e. 0 C/W).

    I never bought anything from them but this place has some pretty cool fans. (pun intended and apologized for)

  • wolfger  On May 21, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    I hadn’t considered that, but I suppose the sensor would be on the motherboard, which is a new part, so it could be faulty. Any ideas on how to test that theory without causing damage to my nice new electronics?

  • Jay  On May 21, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Easy test would be the feel test. It should feel just as cool (the heatsink) after running a while as it does when it’s off. If you have an indoor thermometer, pop it into the case for a while. There’s no way the CPU can be colder that the air temp inside the case.

  • Jay  On May 21, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Let me clarify: _if_ the temp. reading is accurate, then the heatsink will feel as cool with the system off (for a while) as with it on (for a while).

    The fact that the fan is off during low usage and on during high usage means that _some_ temp sensor is working, so that’s good.

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