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PC Cooling

PC Cooling buying guide

PC cooling is an often neglected and overlooked area when ...
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PC Cooling buying guide

PC cooling is an often neglected and overlooked area when building a new computer. When you're handpicking all the components for that new dream system how often do you take time to research what fans you'll want? Typically, a buyer will just grab whatever cheap fans the retailer has when buying the rest of their new hardware. Little do most people know, but putting a little thought into cooling can not only give you longer lasting fans but also much quieter fans which adds to a more comfortable work environment.

System Cooling:

Air Cooling
The majority of computer users are going to use air cooling. Not only is it by far cheaper than other methods but it's also very easy to monitor and very low maintenance. Air cooling comes in one basic form: fans. The layout of the fans used will vary from case to case and component to component, but the most standard sizes will be 80mm, 92mm and 120mm. A larger fan usually results in a lower RPM required to move the same amount of air as a faster spinning smaller fan. Therefore, using a large fan will not only help to greatly reduce the noise but will also increase efficiency. Not only will you find fans mounted in your computer case but you will always find a fan on the CPU heatsink, and often times on the graphics card and sometimes even on various other motherboard chips or components. Try to not over-do things or you'll be left with a much noisier system than you actually need to have. If you're unsure what "sufficient cooling" for your planned system is then ask someone in an online forum or check with the salesman at your local computer hardware store.
If looks and/or noise are of the utmost importance to you then you can get more advanced fans with built in LED illumination and/or built-in fan speed controllers.

Water Cooling
If you have an overclocked computer or are constantly pushing your system to the very limits then you will be left with a lot more heat to deal with. You could use fans to rid the case of all this heat but more fans = more noise, which is something people often don't want to listen to. If that's the case, many people consider water cooling their system. This is accomplished much like your car; there's a pump, a reservoir, a fan-cooled radiator (available in all kinds of sizes), water blocks on any components that need to be cooled and lots of tubing between them all. Since water is very efficient at removing heat, this means you won't have much more than a Power Supply fan and radiator fan(s) in your computer - making things a lot quieter than many individual fans required for equivalent air cooling.

Extreme Cooling
Hardcore computer enthusiasts may wish to push the boundaries of cooling by exploring many non-traditional computer cooling systems that are available. These can include methods such as peltiers (Thermal-Electric Cooling) or liquid nitrogen. Of course these are only methods used for extreme overclocking situations because the budget required to setup a system like this would be far beyond most people.

Component Cooling:

Allow me to briefly touch on some methods used to cool individual components within your computer.

CPU - CPU cooling will fall into the overall cooling methods discussed above. You'll either use a heatsink and fan combo or one of the other methods listed above such as a water cooling.

Hard Drives - Hard drives can be cooled with either a screw-on fan assembly or by using a heatsink cooling box that the hard drive is enclosed within. Hard drive cooling is not always necessary unless it gets poor airflow in your case or runs at a higher RPM (ie. 10,000 RPM drives).

VGA - VGA cooling will likely be done using a heatsink/fan combo that comes pre-installed when you buy the video card. If it is not removed for more extreme cooling methods such as water cooling then you may choose to upgrade this to a large heatsink/fan assembly which will allow for better cooling and quieter performance.

Although the cooling setup will be different from system to system and case to case, it's generally something anybody is capable of designing to fit their needs. Basic common sense of airflow and which components will generate heat will allow you to choose and incorporate the best cooling for your situation.

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