When I came through the door, I heard piercing beeps coming from somewhere in my home. I wondered if the sound was coming from a faulty smoke detector or an answering machine gone mad! I entered my office and noticed that the sound was coming from my computer case. A touch of the mouse produced a message on my monitor about a temperature threshold being approached. I discovered that one of the fans inside my computer's case had failed and the temperature inside the case was rising to an "uncomfortable" level.
I was fortunate to get the warning, because if the temperature threshold had been reached, my computer would have abruptly shut down-which, ironically, may have caused file damage unrelated to the heat.
With high temperature records being shattered in California this summer, it's a good time to review the importance of maintaining your computer's ideal temperature.
In general, computers work best in environments with temperatures that are the same as or slightly cooler than temperatures that are comfortable for humans. If the room is too hot for you, then the temperature isn't ideal for your computer either.
Many business computers remain on in offices over the weekend while the air conditioning is turned off. In this case, the high room temperature of a non-air-conditioned office can combine with the higher temperature inside the computer's case to cause overheating. An overheated hard drive can cause file damage and even fail completely. If you must leave your computer running at work after hours or over the weekend be sure that room temperature is maintained accordingly.
Your computer should also have plenty of space for proper ventilation. If you have the back of your desktop computer pressed up against a wall, separate it from the wall by a few inches so the warm air inside can vent properly. I sometimes see desktop computer cases stuck inside an enclosed cabinet (for aesthetic purposes) with a rear grommet hole large enough for only the computer's cords. In this case, keeping the cabinet door at least partially open while the computer is on or finding a new location for the computer is the best solution.
Occasionally clean out the dust in your computer's case. Common household dust does not harm the components of your computer except that it can act as a blanket. This blanket insulates components, preventing them from releasing heat as they should. If you notice "dust bunnies" clinging to the computer's vent then it's a good time to invest in a can of compressed air. Take your computer out to the driveway or parking lot, open the case and blow it out.
With some forethought and preparation, we and our computers will be better equipped to take the heat!