A few days ago, I mentioned how my processor cooling fan lost a blade which put the desktop out of action.
Well, yesterday, I replaced the fan.
If you'll allow me a tangent for a moment...what the hell happened to computer and electronics stores? Not too long ago, if you needed pretty much any computer component, you could walk into a big retailer and they'd have exactly what you needed and you'd be helped by people who at least had a vague idea of what you needed.
I went to Staples, Best Buy, and Radio Shack...none of which had what I needed, and only the guy at radio shack actually knew what I was talking about. The guy at Best Buy actually walked off for a minute, conferred with another employee... and came back with one of those big fans you clip to the back of your X-Box!
Well, I guess the answer to why they don't sell this stuff any more is pretty simple. No one bothers building or repairing computers any more. I pointed out to Sunny in the car: In the mid 90's I built computers because I could build a computer for $600 than would cost $1300 at retail. I'd repair and upgrade computers because they were big investments. Today, you can buy a brand new computer for less than $300 at walmart, and who's going to spend the money and effort to upgrade an existing computer when you can just buy a whole new one for almost the same price?
I think the to average person today, their computer suddenly making a loud grinding noise and vibrating like hell is the signal to throw it away and get a new one, not just replace a cooling fan.
Anyway, back to my point:
I usually give the inside of my computer a cleaning at least once every two or three months. Nothing major, just a few blasts of canned air, followed by a trip around the case with a dust-buster.
This year, thanks to one thing or another, I completely forgot, and left the inside gathering dust for about six months.
When I pulled the fan off the heat-sink, here's what I discovered:
I probably could have just cleaned out the heat-sink, left the fan off all together and still had more efficient cooling than I had with the fan running. The heat-sink was so clogged with dust that, rather than helping the processor disperse heat, it was acting more like a blanket. I have a soft brush I usually use to clean the nooks and crannies of my PC case, but in this case it did no good because the dust was so tightly packed it just wasn't going anywhere. In the end I had to clean out between the vanes with a toothpick before the canned air or vacuum cleaner would even make a dent.
After putting on the new fan, the results were dramatic. The fan is slightly quieter than the old on anyway, but because the Heat-sink can actually do its job, it doesn't have to run as fast. Also, over the past month or so I'd had real stability problems with this machine that I'd put down to malware (I've ran more virus and spyware checks on this machine in the past two weeks than I have in the past six months)...but I guess that was just instability caused by the processor overheating, because it's running a lot better now.
Moral of the story...pop the side of your PC case once in a while and have a dust around in there.