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System cooling 101: Ten easy ways to keep your system cool

Whether you're a gamer or mainstream computer user, your system's components are at risk of overheating if temperatures aren't kept in check. Here are ten cost-effective ways to keep your system cool.

  1. Keep your system away from vents and windows.

    Consider where your computer is situated — is it in a particularly warm place? Make sure your system isn't near a heat vent or in a temperature-sensitive area (i.e. near a window). Often simply changing the location of your system can help keep it cool.

  2. Give your system some breathing room.

    Take a look at where your computer is positioned and remove any obstacles that restrict airflow. For best performance, you'll want to leave two to three inches of space on all sides of your computer. Also, take a look at your computer desk – does it relegate your system to an enclosed cabinet or drawer? If your system is in an enclosed space, it faces an increased risk of overheating.

  3. Close your system's case.

    While it may seem counterintuitive, an open case doesn't help regulate internal temperatures – it actually does the opposite and restricts them. A closed case helps your system remain cool because it reduces the impact of dust and debris on the cooling fans. Too much dirt can make your fans slow down or quit working altogether. Cases are designed for effective air handling, and with fans and proper intake, you can maintain the reliability of your system's components.

  4. Clean your fans.

    Dust and dirt can wreak havoc on your first line of temperature defense: your fans. When you open your case, you should be able to find several fans: one on top of the CPU, one inside the power supply, and perhaps one or more on the front or back of the case. Simply power down your computer and use a canned air duster to remove the dirt from each fan. You'll want to avoid using vacuums when cleaning because the static they produce often does more damage than heat.

  5. Upgrade your CPU fan.

    Your CPU is arguably one of the most sensitive (and expensive) components inside your computer, and it has the highest potential to overheat. Most CPUs come preinstalled with lower-end fans that are engineered to cool your processor just enough to keep it running—and nothing more. For this reason, you'll want to consider upgrading to a better CPU fan, which can help keep CPU temperatures down. Keep in mind, however, that your CPU fan can only cool to the lowest temperature in your case, regardless of how well-designed your CPU fan is.

  6. Add a case fan.

    Upgrading your CPU fan is a start, but adding case fans can also be a big help.  Since performance-enhancing memory and graphic cards generate a lot of heat, case fans can help increase airflow to your components by attaching to the front and back of your system. Many of our Ballistix customers opt to install two case fans:  one to move cool air into the PC and another to move warm air out of the PC. If you decide to add case fans, make sure that the intake and exhaust levels match. Why? If you install an 80mm fan in the front of your case and a 120mm fan in the back, the differential will create dead air and negative pressure, leading to an increased potential to overheat.

  7. Add a memory cooling fan.

    Memory is one of the components in your system that's most likely to overheat. To help keep temperatures down (especially when overclocking), we recommend the Ballistix Active Cooling Fan, which helps eliminate dead spots of airflow within your system's memory area.

  8. Check your system's power supply fan.

    A PC's power supply has an integrated fan, and if you don't have a case fan, the power supply fan is the only thing pushing hot air out of your system. If it's not working properly, your system will heat up quickly. If your power supply fan isn't working, replace it as soon as possible.

  9. Get a water cooling kit.

    For gaming systems with high-end CPUs and overclocked components, often the fastest fans can't keep up with the increased temperatures. To solve this problem, many gamers opt for water cooling kits as a way to cool the CPU. In a water cooling kit, a pump cycles cold water down to the CPU in self-contained tubes, then pumps the water out of the system where it can be cooled before returning to the CPU for additional cooling. If you're comfortable performing a technical installation, water cooling kits are safe and relatively affordable.

  10. Take extra precautions when overclocking.

    While overclocking can maximize the performance of your components, it also pushes your system's capabilities to the limit, which almost always results in higher temperatures. If you're overclocking with Ballistix Tactical Tracer or Ballistix Elite modules, you can use our custom Ballistix M.O.D. utility to monitor temperatures in real-time. Regardless of how you're overclocking, make sure you take additional precautions to improve your system's cooling ability.

    It's not hard to keep your system cool, and with a few simple steps you can quickly have your system running at a more sustainable level than it was before. By taking action now to cool your system, you'll save money and increase the longevity of your system.