Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Quagmire that is Modern Computer Cooling: Low Performance, High Heat, No Way Out

Heat is a computer’s worst enemy. In every component, buildup of heat causes the kind of excess noise, unreliability, and performance bottlenecks that have plagued the personal and enterprise computing industries for years. The devastating effect of heat on computer components can be most easily felt when a part fails from overheating. According to researchers at Intel, “increasing HDD [hard disk drive] temperature by 5°C has the same effect on reliability as switching from 10 percent to 100 percent HDD workload” (drdobbs.com/go-parallel/article /215800830?pgno=3). Overheating of the processor, memory, or graphics card is also notorious for causing seemingly random shutdowns and freezes. In particularly severe cases such as the infamous Xbox 360 “Red Ring of Death” problem, overheating can cause permanent damage costing hundreds of dollars.

A slightly less obvious effect of inadequate cooling in computer components comes in the form of performance slowdowns. Since heat increases more or less linearly with processor clock speed, modern processors scale down to lower speeds when temperatures get too high. Also, the only reason that no consumer processor has shipped with a clock speed above 3.6GHz is that neither Intel’s nor AMD’s air coolers can dissipate the heat produced by faster-clocked processors. When NVidia’s GTX 480 graphics card came out in March of 2010, it had to ship with more than 6% of its processing units disabled because even top of the line air coolers couldn’t handle the full heat of the card. It’s worth noting that for the most part, these problems only affect users of high-performance equipment, such as gamers, scientific and mathematical modelers, and engineers. While this fact might limit the potential market share of a high-performance cooling product, manufacturers such as Corsair and Asetek have partnered with companies like Acer, Alienware, and HP to provide cooling directly to the makers of powerful gaming computers and workstations.

With new components that produce more heat than ever and cooling technology at the same level of sophistication as it was 20 years ago, traditional air cooling has also become louder and more expensive. Massive copper heat pipes increase the prices of high-end coolers, and increasingly more numerous and powerful fans have become loud annoyances to consumers trying to get some work –or play– done at a quiet computer.





The Result: Heat distortion on a poorly-cooled Mac

10 comments:

Sam H said...

It is obvious to me from your summary of the issue of overheating computers that you have researched this topic extensively. Although I myself am not familiar with this problem, I am sure that software companies and high-level computer programmers run into this all the time. With our increasing dependence on computers, a solution to this problem would most definitely be of help to a large portion of people.

emma rocco said...

This topic is really interesting. If you could solve this problem it would be useful on both personal and industrial levels as the usual industrial cooling is just antifreeze running through a system of pipes and fans to blow hot air to the front of computer rows. It seems like a great challenge, but definitely do able.

Howe_john said...

This is a problem effects everyone. My old macbook had this problem. would burn up in my lap and the fans were really loud. If this problem could be solved it would be a huge advancement for the computer industry. I think this just the thing we could work on when the class starts up.

@jhreb said...

I feel this problem would be good to work on due to the annoyance of computer overheating. My old Toshiba laptop would oftentimes overheat and shut off, not saving what I'd been working on. Due to the amount of people affected by this problem, it'd be worth the time to fix.

Allie Lehane said...

This really is a huge problem. I know my computer over heats often and I've had to go out and buy different stands and such to try and stop the problem, but nothing seems to really work. While for me it isn't that big a deal, more of an annoyance, big corporations that use many computers with a large amount of important data on them probably can't afford to have theirs over heat. I'm sure that others would find great use for this and it seems as though you've already got a great handle on the topic that hopefully we could add to in some way and make this really great.

Celia D'Agostino said...

I do not have any experience with overheating problems but I definitely think it is an interesting and important topic that needs to be addressed. You can tell from the summary that a lot of research was done on overheating issues just by reading it. This would be a great problem to solve.

kelley said...

It shows that you've done a lot of research on this topic. It also seems like this is really in need. Everyone is always looking to cut prices so if cooling systems could be improved to be more effecient and less expensive it will be a very succesful product.

Paige Waechter said...

I think that this is a great idea! The extensive research you have done shows that you are invested in this project. Although I have never had my laptop screen effected, it burns up quit quickly and its speed significantly slows down. I think that this is a great problem to fix with the reliance of computers from the average person all the way to government corporations, military ops,and NASA.

Casey Kerr said...

I feel like this issue is a very relevant and interesting topic. Even with the newest and most up to date technology, we all still deal with over heating in our technology.

Casey Kerr said...

I feel like this issue is a very relevant and interesting topic. Even with the newest and most up to date technology, we all still deal with over heating in our technology.