An overheated PC is an unhappy PC. Overheating can cause software malfunctions, freezes, shutdowns, even permanent damage to valuable and expensive computer components. So how can you cool down your PC and keep it cool? Here are a few easy tips.

Close the Case
Contrary to urban legend, opening up your computer case will not keep it cooler than keeping it closed. The reason? Dirt and debris. Dust is an efficient insulator, and an open case means more opportunity for dust to get in the components and start building up. Keep your case closed, keep the dust out, and keep your PC cool.

Let the Air Flow
At the same time, you have to make sure that your computer gets proper airflow. A broken or failing CPU fan is a short road to your computer overheating and shutting down. Make sure your computer is in a cool area with nothing placed directly against it, either on top or on the sides. Keep the vents clear of any obstructions.

Location, Location, Location
Air flow isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when you’re placing your PC. Sun, direct heat, and other environmental factors can all play a part on how hot your PC gets. Make sure it’s someplace out of the sun, away from any sources of dust or dirt, and keep it away from any other appliances that might generate heat of their own. Just be careful when moving your PC around, and always make sure to unplug it before you do any major relocation.

Keep it Clean
It’s worth saying a second time – dirt remains the number one problem when it comes to your PC overheating. Even with a closed case, dust and grit will naturally accumulate over time, and if you have pets, you can add pet dander to the list of dirty threats to your computer’s well-being.

Schedule some time at least once a month to unplug your PC, open up the case, and spray out the inside with some compressed air. Pay special attentions to the fans. Make sure the area is well-ventilated when you do this, not only to avoid inhaling the bitterants that now come standard with compressed air, but to make sure all that dust doesn’t go right back into your machine.

Watch the Heat
One of the best ways to avoid overheating is to know how hot your PC is to begin with. Install an app or utility to monitor your CPU heat and find out when it gets hottest – during certain times of day, during gaming, whatever.

Upgrade Your Components
If you’re noticing your PC getting hotter than it used to – or, worse, if you notice malfunctions, freezes, lockups, or unexpected shutdowns – it may be time to replace or upgrade some components. PC fans are cheap, easy to install, and can bring new life to an old computer. For the truly hardcore, there are water-cooling systems that will bring down the temperature of even the most high-octane gaming rig. Just make sure the time and expense are justified before you go crazy with the next-level cooling.

You can also install fans specific to certain components, like video cards (which tend to generate a lot of heat, particularly while gaming). For the most part, keeping your PC cool is just a matter of vigilance and maintenance.

Be mindful of your computer’s location and position, and take some time once a month to do a basic PC checkup – you might be surprised at how much longer your machine will last!

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