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By Michael Quarles

With today’s hot running PC’s, you may find yourself fighting to get the temperature in your case down to an acceptable level. Before you spend big bucks on a water cooling system, or start cutting extra fan ports, there are some steps you can take that will shave away degrees. Taken individually, each may only make a small difference, but as a group they might save your system from overheating, and do so for relatively low cost.

First, and particularly if it’s your CPU running hot, check the thermal gel that goes on top of the chip. This stuff enhances heat transfer from your chip to the heatsink. I’ve opened up computers less than a year old, and found the gel had already dried to a thin white crust, utterly worthless for transferring heat.

Remove the chip and clean the old gel off with ArtiClear, or a similar cleaning solution. Reinstall the processor. Then, if it’s the kind that has a contact surface in the center of the chip, put one drop of gel on that surface. It should be no larger than a big grain of rice.

If your chip is the kind that uses its entire top as a contact surface, you can make an X pattern from five dots of gel. Just make sure the dots are tiny! A little gel goes a long way.

Next, while you’ve got the case open, blow out all the dust. You may have seen a white rim growing along the edge of your CPU’s fan blades. When the dust is that bad, it’s obvious something needs to be done. Even if it looks clean, blow it out. Tiny particles cling to your components, particularly the chipset, sealing in heat.

Use canned air, or one of those super sized bulb blowers. Don’t use the little compressors some hobbyists own. In humid climates these may spray tiny water droplets due to condensation. (That’s one kind of water cooling you really don’t want!)

Finally, where is your computer located? Does it sit in direct sunlight, absorbing heat? Is it in a cubbyhole, where vents may be blocked?

Keep your computer out of the sun, in a place where airflow is unobstructed. This is the simplest step to take, and possibly for that reason it is the most often overlooked.

Michael Quarles is the author of "Speed Up Your Computer" and "Building a PC for Beginners". His website is http://www.monkeyseemonkeydobooks.com

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