Overheating is a major factor in computer crashes. Many individuals assume that when their computer crashes, that it is due to a virus, a part failing, or simply due to the Operating System itself. While some of these may be true, it is more often than not a symptom of overheating.
A crash due to overheating can be characterized by the entire computer system being unresponsive or, "locked up." This generally results in the user having to manually restart the computer, and in some cases, having to unplug the computer from its power source. After restarting, the computer may seem to operate normally for a time, but eventually it suffers the same crash symptom, regardless of which program the user is working in.
There are a few reasons as to why a computer will overheat. First, one or more cooling fans may have stopped running, or the internal bearings are going bad. There are generally up to three cooling fans in any given computer system, and these include, the power supply, the central processing unit, or CPU, and the video card. To check and see if your power supply fan is working you only need to place your hand on the back of the computer tower and feel that air is being sucked in. If you look at the fan, you can verify visually that it is working as well. The other two are located inside of the computer tower. To verify these you will have to open the case and visually inspect them to ensure that they are operational. If any of these have failed, or have a high-pitched whine, or are vibrating, you may need to replace the fan, or the component itself.
Other factors in overheating are dust, and smoking. While your computer is powered up the fans are constantly sucking in fine dust and smoke particulates which then coats the internal components and the air intakes of the computer. Once the air intakes are clogged, the fans can no longer move enough air through the computer to keep it cool. Smoking takes a large toll on your computer, because smoke has in it a tar like substance, which coats the computer components. Once this happens, the components are insulated from the cooling effect of the air passing over them.
In order to prolong the life of your computer, it is necessary to perform regular cleaning. I would suggest going to a computer store, such as Best Buy, or CompUSA and purchase a can of computer cleaner. It is a compressed air, which has no water vapor in it. Open your computer case and spray out all of the dust, including inside the fans and vents. One important note is making sure that you hold the fans so that they do not spin while you are spraying them clean. Even if the unit is unplugged, if the fans spin they act as generators and create an electrical voltage which can damage them, or other components inside your computer.
There is no real set time on how often you should clean out your computer. It depends on where you live and how much dust is in the air. Here is a tip, whenever you change your air conditioning filters, you should consider cleaning of your computer. I hope this article on computer overheating was helpful to you. Remember, your computer represents a big investment on your part and it is important to keep it clean and well maintained.