Does your PC shut down for no apparent reason, then shut down again when you reboot? Is your machine becoming increasingly sluggish or are you experiencing unresponsive programs? There could be a number of causes but there’s one pretty simple procedure you can try and eliminate as the cause before you have to resort to a PC repair tech. Your machine may be overheating. This can be fatal for your CPU and your hard drive and can lead to an expensive repair and possible data loss so it needs to be tackled as soon as possible, or better still prevented. Simply open the PC case and see if there’s a thick layer of dust over all the components. This could be the cause of overheating and subsequent shutdowns as dust acts like a kind of blanket insulating all the electrics and preventing heat from escaping. If you have pets or a smoker in the house, or you live in a dusty environment, the likelihood of dust accumulation in your PC increases.
Okay, so you haven’t opened your PC case before… don’t panic it’s not too difficult. In fact, there’s literally thousands of guides online so I’ll just point out a couple of tips to guide you on your way. Google opening a PC case for lots more help in getting inside your machine.
First check your manual to ensure you’re not voiding your warranty by opening the case. Then it’s up to you whether you proceed.
Next if you haven’t done this before, doubtless there’s a horrendous clutter of cables going into the back of your PC. Switch off and unplug the PC. Take a photo of all the cabling with your digital camera to help you reconnect everything afterwards. You could also stick coloured labels on the cables and corresponding coloured dots on where they go on the back of the PC. Disconnect all the cables.
Put your PC box up on a table with the back facing you. To open and check for dust, you only really need remove one side of the case. Generally it’s the right side panel you have to remove to see everything inside. Check your manual to see how the panel comes off. Either there’s a couple of screws at the back holding it in place or it may be a screwless case with a lever possibly at the top middle of the side and which unclips to open the side panel.
Once you’ve opened it and if you’ve found a thick layer of dust over everything, you can remove the left side panel. Now you’ll need to get a can of compressed air from a local supplier and a face filter if you wish. To avoid getting dust everywhere, take the PC out to your back yard (obviously if it’s not raining) and carefully blow the air over the components. Don’t do this in the house! Don’t hold the compressed can too close to the components and be careful you don’t get showered in dust. Get upwind if it’s breezy outside.
Once you’ve blown the dust off all the components, you can brush any remaining lodged dust out with a soft clean artists brush. Then replace the side panels again on the table and finally plug all the cables back in again and reconnect to the power.
Reboot and see if the shutdown problem is resolved. If not then at least you’ve eliminated dust as the shutdown problem and you won’t have to pay a repair tech for that when he goes on to diagnose the problem.
If dust build-up was the problem, then obviously you’re going to have to repeat this procedure on a regular basis. Have a check again after say 3 months and see how things are.
Monitoring the temperature inside your PC
If you’ve opened up your PC and established that dust build-up is a real problem where you live, it would be well worth installing a temperature monitoring program to keep a constant check on the conditions inside your machine. One free program worth considering is SpeedFan. Among other things, this monitors the temperature of the CPU, the hard drive and the ambient temperature inside the computer.
It can be set to run on computer startup and can sound an alarm when preset temperatures are exceeded. SpeedFan also monitors the speed of your fans. Fans are obviously important in dissipating heat build-up in you PC. A build-up of dust can clog the fans so it’s worth monitoring they’re not slowing down. And obviously if some fans aren’t working at all and there’s no dust, you’ve probably found your overheating problem.
I’m very lucky that dust build-up in PCs isn’t a serious problem where I live in Scotland but listening to the Podnutz Daily computer repair podcast, it’s clearly a problem in many parts of the US and doubtless other parts of the world as well.
Have you experienced PC overheating? Any tips for us or stories? Drop a comment below.
Image credit: eurleif