Computers are electronic devices and just like other gadgets, they are bound to generate heat. A computer has some mechanical components as well which in turn dissipate considerable amount of heat. Mechanical devices like the hard drive, optical drive, and floppy drive get heated up in just a few minutes of their operation. All the other components like processor, mother board, input-output devices, memory cards, graphic cards, BIOS and all the other components consist of millions of transistors and flip flops which either manipulate the electronic signals or store them for some time. Heat is also generated by the oscillating circuitry of the motherboard. The digital pulses control the overall cycle of processing. Theoretically the semiconductors which are used in making these chips and other components change their behavior with change in temperature. If the temperature increases beyond the operational limits then you can face problems like slow performance, frequent lockups, blue screen errors, or complete device failure if not taken care. In this post I will discuss effects of heat on various components of a computer system.
A processor generates heat and that is the reason why we install heat sinks and a fan on it to maintain its temperature within the operational limits. Processor consists of millions of micro sized transistors made up of semi-conductors. These semi-conductors dissipate heat when current passes from within them. If you have ever opened a computer tower, you must know how hot the processor becomes after just a few minutes of working. It becomes so hot that without proper cooling it can literally burn itself and melt. Over-heated processor causes system lockups, and shutdowns. This is the reason why it is advised to run keep computer systems in a cool work place.
Memory and Graphics Card
Memory is another component which is in use almost all the times but not in an idle situation as during this time memory just holds the current and this does not cause the heat to dissipate. So not much care is required for cooling the memory modules because memory modules never generate too much heat, but a device which gets enough to destroy it without proper cooling is the graphics card. The operating system and applications available these days are very graphical and require lots of graphical processing and thus it makes the card very hot while operation. Graphics cards available these days have processors of their own and it tends to get hot while processing the graphic signals. Some of the graphic cards have their own cooling systems.
Most of the modern motherboards have heat sensors which communicate with the software installed in the operating system and takes necessary measures in keeping system cool. This could be done by either increasing the speed of the fan, or by intimating the user and shutting down the system. These sensors keep the user updated about the mechanical status of the CPU fan so that if it is faulty then it can be replaced before any further damage occurs.