A processor can get very busy as a result, especially when it is running multiple programs simultaneously. A processor heats up when it becomes busy, and if there is nothing to cool it down, it can malfunction and break down, costing a computer owner hundreds or even thousands of dollars. This is why a good fan and heatsink are necessary. The more demand that is placed on the processor by programs and other hardware, the more effective the fan and heatsink must be. This guide will identify five issues that can cause or indicate improper or insufficient functioning of the fan and heatsink, helping users to better understand why and when they should replace their fans and heatsinks.
How a Fan and Heatsink Work
Explaining how a fan and heatsink work will help readers to understand why they may run into problems with their own fan and heatsink devices. Cooling a computer is a process and understanding how that process works will give better insight as to what kind of problems may occur during it that are indicative of the need for a new fan and heatsink.
The heatsink portion of the unit acts as a thermal conductor. This means that it draws in the heat that the processor gives off. The principle behind this thermal conduction is that the slower molecules of the heatsink’s metal draw in the energy that is given off by the fast moving molecules of the warm processor. This creates an equilibrium, heating the heatsink and cooling the processor.
Heatsinks employ either aluminum or copper. Aluminum, though capable of conducting a good amount of heat, has a lower thermal conduction rating than copper. However, copper is heavier than aluminum, which puts a strain on the motherboard since it holds the heatsink. If a user has a big, sturdy motherboard that can hold a copper heatsink, then copper is preferable for its stronger thermal conduction properties.
The heatsink’s job is to absorb warmth from the processor, but that warmth still needs a place to go. That is where the fan comes into play. The fan moves air across the heatsink and out of the computer, cooling both the heatsink and the computer. Many heatsinks have an additional fan that sits above the heatsink and blows air onto the processor to cool that down as well. Heatsinks without an extra fan are called passive heatsinks and those with an extra fan are called active heatsinks.
Five Issues Warranting Replacement of a Fan and Heatsink
A few common instances might lead a user to need to replace the fan and heatsink on their computer. Some of these issues might have to do directly with the fan and heatsink, while others are indirect issues that affect the processor that the fan and heatsink are responsible for cooling. Below are five common issues that warrant the replacement of a fan and heatsink.
1. Damaged or Broken Fan
Just like any other moving part, a fan can break down over time. After enough use, even the best fans are bound to stop working. If a fan becomes damaged or broken, it must be replaced. Fortunately, fans can be purchased as separate pieces, allowing for continued use of the heatsink. It is advisable to check for compatibility before purchasing a new fan, though. Many systems have their Basic Input Output System (BIOS) set to recognize certain fan speeds and therefore may not recognize a fan that does not blow at the same speed as the original fan. This can cause the computer to not power up. As a result, it is best to check with the manufacturer as to which fans are compatible with the system in question.
2. Excessive Noise
Excessive noise is actually not a problem in and of itself. Rather, it is a symptom of a failing fan. If a user is hearing excessive noise coming from their machine, it is possible that the fan has come loose, which is a problem that can be rectified. However, it may also mean that the fan is not rotating properly. If this is the case, it probably is not doing a sufficient job of cooling the system and may therefore be in need of replacement before the entire system overheats and fails. Replacing an entire system would be a great deal more expensive than just replacing its fan.
3. Melting Due to Overuse
Just as a fan can break down from overuse, so can a heatsink. Because a heatsink absorbs the heat from a processor, it can become hot as well, especially if there is no fan to cool it and if the processor gives off a great deal of heat. A heatsink can actually melt if it becomes too hot, and if this happens, the heatsink will not work properly. When a heatsink begins to melt, it is time to get a new heatsink. Running a system with a faulty heatsink can quickly destroy the processor and melt the motherboard, rendering the system useless. As with the fan, replacing the heatsink is a much less expensive fix than replacing an entire system.
4. Upgrades in the System
Direct problems with the fan or heatsink are not the only cases that require a new fan and heatsink. Upgrades to the system, such as adding a new graphics card or replacing the processing unit, RAM, and motherboard could all necessitate a new fan and heatsink. Not all fans and heatsinks are able to cool the heat that more powerful versions of these pieces of hardware produce. Each device generally indicates how much heat it creates, allowing users to determine whether their fans and heatsinks are capable of cooling them.
5. Running Powerful Software
Running powerful software is another indirect issue that may necessitate a new fan and heatsink. The processor may begin to run hot if the software puts a strain on it. Ideally, a user will install a new processor if the current one struggles to run the software, but a new fan and heatsink can provide a temporary fix. It will keep the processor cool, which will prevent the motherboard from being irreparably damaged. Replacing the motherboard would be a much more expensive fix and it is best to avoid this if at all possible.
Where to Buy a Fan and Heatsink
There are a number of different places to buy a fan and heatsink. One good place to look is at a shop that sells computer goods. These shops generally have knowledgeable employees who can provide helpful advice to customers. This advice is especially beneficial for those who are unsure about what kind of specifications they require in a fan and heatsink. Some of these shops carry relatively large stocks of fans and heatsinks, but these stocks are usually not as extensive as those found in online stores are.
Online stores that specialize in computer goods are thus another good source for fans and heatsinks. Stocks can be vast, offering consumers the largest selection of fans and heatsinks that they will find anywhere. Online shopping is also convenient, allowing consumers to make purchases around the clock and from anywhere that they can connect to the Internet. The only drawback is that buyers need to know what they are looking for because online shopping does not feature the same kind of personalized service that can be found in brick and mortar stores.
Those looking for used fans and heatsinks have a couple of options. Computer repair shops often salvage parts from machines that no longer work. If the problem is not related to the fan or heatsink, the shop will generally resell these parts after they have been removed from the computer. It is also possible to find fans and heatsinks on online classifieds. Some of these classifieds are used to facilitate in-person transactions, while others might be a section on a computer-related forum and intended for long-distance transactions. In both cases, it is generally another computer user selling the parts, rather than a professional with a registered business. Therefore, there is little recourse for an unsatisfactory buying experience.
A computer’s fan and heatsink are necessary components to keep a computer’s processor cool. This is important because the processor is perhaps the most important piece of hardware on a computer. Once it stops working, the whole system stops working. Even worse, a computer that runs hot risks melting the motherboard, which can cause even more extensive damage and necessitate the replacement of the entire system. Although the fan and heatsink may not be the most technologically advanced components in a computer, they are some of the most important due to their preventive role in a consequential chain that could lead to the breakdown of an entire system.
This guide has identified five reasons to replace a computer’s fan and heatsink. Some of these reasons are directly related to how the fan and heatsink are performing, while others affect the fan and heatsink indirectly. Either way, it is important that users learn the cooling capacities of their fans and heatsinks and how to detect direct problems with these devices. Doing so can help to prevent worse, and more expensive, damage being done to the system.