Opinion » Cybernaut

Your littlest fan



My laptop is great, whatever people might say about HP. It boots fast, the keyboard is great, the screen is awesome, it's got ports-aplenty for every conceivable use, the speakers and subwoofer sound great, and all the bells and whistles from the touch volume slider to the WiFi buttons are ringing and whistling.

But it can get loud. Play a game, watch videos on the Internet or do anything that taxes the processor or graphics card a little bit and my laptops three on-board fans go into overdrive.

The reason is heat. Computers come with on-board thermometers that control the fans, and when the heat of various components reaches various thresholds the fan speed increases. More air is drawn through the narrow vents (located on the bottom to amplify the sound) to cool the internals down.

Excessive heat can fry circuits, kill batteries and even corrupt data. A laptop can even roast the skin on your legs if you actually putting it on your lap, so please get yourself a laptop pad to prevent this!

And while new, thinner circuitry produces less heat — and can handle the heat better — the temperatures are still on the high side for electronic components.

There are a few ways to beat the heat, so speak. One is to use your laptop on a hard surface to ensure that enough air is getting into the vents. Another is to periodically clean those vents, sucking out any dust or fluff that could be impacting the flow of air through your computer. If you have a desktop, vacuum the area around it often.

With a little digging, most computers have an application buried somewhere that will tell you the temperature, but there are a few programs you can download to make it easier. I have Speccy by Piriform (www.piriform.com), which provides the raw data, and Speed Fan by www.almico.com/speedfan.php, which goes the extra step by letting you manually control fan speed and temperature limits. Both are Windows programs.

There are a few reasons why you might want Speed Fan: one is that you suspect your internal thermometer/thermometers are off and you want to quiet the noise; another is that you want to turn up your fan speed slightly at lower temperatures to cool your computer preventatively.

For myself, I'm inclined to believe the internal heat readings of my laptop. If you're ever not sure, use Speccy to find out exactly what processor, graphics card and motherboard you use, and then do a search on Google to find out the precise technical specs for those devices and how hot they're supposed to run. All of that information is available somewhere.

It could be that you're well within tolerances for your hardware, and that your fan noise is a software thing rather than a hardware issue — which is another reason to download Speed Fan.

But because I suspect my laptop actually is running hot, there are other steps I can take. One is to take the laptop apart and install better, quieter fans. Websites like www.tigerdirect.ca and www.newegg.ca sell a variety of fans at all price points. Another step is to purchase a laptop cooling pad/laptop cooler with at least one built-in fan on the base. Basically it's a hard surface with a lot of room for air circulation with additional fans to blow more cool air into your vents. Most will work off your USB port.

I've done some research and even the cheapest cooling pads (around $21 before shipping) can cut internal laptop temperatures in half. They add the noise of another fan, but overall it can be quieter if your laptop's fans are labouring to keep your system cool.

Similarly, if you have a desktop you can do the same thing with an ordinary fan pointed at the back where your air intake is located. If you do this, please make sure you vacuum and dust regularly, otherwise you could contaminate your system.

You should never put a desktop computer on a carpet. Buy a plank of wood or plastic to put under your desktop or put your computer somewhere with wood, stone or linoleum floors. Stuffing a laptop into a corner with poor air circulation is not ideal, either. Just give it some space

A gadget for Whistler?

Having beautiful mountains to look at generally means having bigger windows. Driving through Whistler it's amazing how much glass there is compared to living in the city.

Enter the Windoro — I have no real need for this particular gadget, but if you own a home with huge glass windows then maybe $540 is a bargain.

Basically, the PIRO Windoro is like a Roomba vacuum for your windows. The device comes in two pieces, inside and outside, connected through the glass via some powerful magnets. I'm not sure if it will work on triple-paned glass, but it does work on double panes. The device crawls up and down your windows while four rotating pads spin your windows clean and get into those hard-to-reach corners.

I can't find a place to buy these in Canada yet, but they're available in the U.S. at www.robotshop.com.

Add a comment