Why your PC overheats in summer

Last summer your PC was fine, and winter passed without issue, so why is your PC overheating? Well it’s dusty, and that’s pretty bad.

Airflow is important concept to take into account when dealing with your PC. Normally a manufacturer will ship a case with pre installed fans in a configuration for best airflow, similar to the image below.

Fans that pull in cool air (and also pull dust into the system) are known as intake fans, and those that blow out hot air are known as exhaust fans.

Dust interferes with both, and can be bad for the following reasons.

Dust build up on intake fans: If you have filters on your intake fans (common in most higher end cases) to prevent dust getting into your system, over time this dust will build up and block airflow.

If the system can’t get enough cool air into the case, internal case fans (those found on your graphics card, CPU cooler and RAM) will simply circulate the warm air in the system, raising the ambient temperature and heating up components until they reach their thermal limit, which usually results in thermal shutdown. No more HoN for you.

Dust build up on PC components: If there are no filters in on your intake fans, or dust manages to get in despite the filters, it can settle on your components as seen in the image below.

While the dust won’t usually settle directly on major heat sources such as the area just above the CPU or GPU core, it will settle on areas not directly under internal case fans.

These are often passively cooled heat sources such as the motherboard chipset heatsink, the graphics card RAM heatsinks, and various parts of the motherboard PCB that are normally cooled by internal case airflow.

The result is less dramatic than an overheating CPU or GPU, but it is harder to monitor since the main heat sources should report normal or slightly higher than normal temperatures.

Dust build up on exhaust fans: A similar concept to dust build up on intake fans; the only difference is cool air can get in, but it can’t get out of the case effectively. The hot air swirls inside the case trying to escape, and as the ambient temperature rises, so does the temperature of the components until they hit thermal shutdown.

So how do you fix this? Easy enough, clean the dust off of the filters or components.

Holding the dust filters or radiators under running water usually clears most of the dust away, though be sure to dry the filters properly before reinstalling them. As for components, a wipe down with some anti-static cloth or ear-buds will do wonders.

Dust is one of the main contributors of overheating PCs, and clearing it away will do wonders for your system stability in summer. If you’ve cleaned all the dust out of your system and are still experiencing issues, stay tuned for part two where we investigate how to optimise airflow in simple terms.

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Why your PC overheats in summer