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It’s common knowledge that laptops and PCs can overheat when improperly treated, but servers are possibly even more vulnerable. Servers are typically left continuously running in a confined space and overheating can seriously threaten your data and business continuity. But overheating is a multi-faceted issue, and numerous reasons can be the cause; everything from the temperature of the room, what programs are running, to CPU overclocking.

How Computers Handle Heat

As electricity is carried throughout your device, it inevitably generates heat that can potentially damage your device if not cooled properly. This is typically done with heat sinks and cooling fans inside your device. The cooling fan you’re probably familiar with; it creates the “whirring” sound associated with booting up a computer. The fan has variable speed settings, and will speed up or slow down depending on how much heat needs dissipating; you may notice when you boot up larger programs you can hear the fan speed up in response to this. Heat sinks you may not recognize if you weren’t looking for them; they are small metal fins standing perpendicular to their mount. Heat sinks work by simply providing a conductive surface for heat to transfer to; bigger surface area, means less heat. There are a few other less common cooling systems, even liquid cooled devices exist, though you won’t typically encounter these in an office or home setting.

What Exactly Does Overheating Do?

Overheating can be more of a problem than most people suspect, as it’s typically associated with simple crashing and rebooting. Computers are designed to avoid internal fires and melting points for obvious reasons. Because of this, most modern devices are built with fail-safes that will begin to shut down certain portions of the device if overheating begins-likely culminating in a crash. Best case scenario, you reboot your device and everything is fine, provided you’ve removed your device from the heat source if possible. But overheating can wreak havoc if the conditions are right. Simple physics tells us that when things heat up, they expand. This is very bad for computers; if the computer overheats to this point, it can physically warp your hard-drive making it inoperable.

Not only this, but small amounts of overheating can slow your device, and even shorten its’ lifespan by up to two years. Most computers are designed to have a maximum internal temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, if you are consistently running that or above, you may be killing your device without even knowing it. All of this sounds bad, sure, but what does it mean to your business? An overheat of say, your host server, can mean a crash that will keep the system down until the server can be properly cooled and re-booted. This may take ten minutes, or it may take three hours-and time is money.

How Can I Prevent My Device from Overheating?

There’s a few different common causes from overheating that most people (especially those handling important data) should know about. For personal computer or laptops, always make sure the heating vents are unobstructed. If you have vents on the bottom of a laptop, for instance, be sure to rest the device on a hard surface while operating, soft surfaces like your carpet and cotton will insulate the vents and can cause an overheat. Another way to prevent heating issues is to simply clean your device every now and again. Dust built up on the inside of a device acts as an insulator and will lead to higher running temperatures, as well as being able to clog and stop the cooling fan. Another common one is that if you’re using a PC-do not operate the device with an open case! There’s a rumor or two floating about that cracking open the side of your PC casing can give it a better airflow and help it cool-what this actually does is it serves to disrupt the airflow of the device’s cooling fan and it presents your computer internals to external debris and dust which can eventually cause an overheat, or even damage from outside debris getting into the box. Another important aspect to look at it your devices’ location, try to stay away from tight isolated spaces like desk drawers; compact and seemingly convenient as it might sound, the ultimate result is that tight spaces means poor air circulation, and higher running temperatures. A popular trend amongst gamers and people wanting more out of their PC is overclocking. Overclocking is at its base form, forcing the CPU to run faster than recommended. This won’t cause instant death; however, should you choose to overlock your CPU be aware of your operating temperature-it will increase. PCs and laptops aren’t the only devices susceptible to overheating, though. Your servers are just as, if not, more vulnerable to heating issues. Location is one of the largest issues to look out for when it comes to server heating; when placing your server, you want to make sure the location is well-ventilated, large enough to allow cool air to circulate, and you want it to be void of open windows. When placing your servers in racks, you also want to make sure they are arranged the same direction, so one server is not blowing hot air into the intake vent of another. Also, one last note for proper server care, make sure your server room’s A/C is set for optimum device cooling and not people cooling-remember computers shouldn’t run above 80 degrees so they have to stay much cooler than we do.