A+ Certification / Beginners

Keeping a Processor Cool

Processors are made up of thousands, even millions, of transistors. A transistor acts as a switch, either permitting or prohibiting the flow of electrical current. If current is allowed to flow through the transistor, some result is generated. If the current is not allowed to flow through the transistor, a different result is generated.

A processor contains millions of transistors that each hold an electrical charge, causing the processor to run at very high temperatures. Therefore, it is important that you keep the processor cool. The most common cooling mechanisms today are heat sinks and CPU fans, which are sometimes used in tandem.

A number of other cooling devices are on the market today, and they are a little more expensive than your typical heat sink or CPU fan. The following are other cooling techniques you may find in systems today:

  • Liquid cooling: A liquid cooling system pumps a cooling liquid throughout the PC by using small hoses. The benefit of a liquid cooling system is the reduced noise, but its big drawback is the amount of space needed in the PC for the components of the cooling system and, of course, the threat of a leak if the cooling system is not installed properly.
  • Temperature sensors: A number of processors today come with a builtin thermal sensor (a high-tech thermometer). Temperature sensors allow the processor to identify that it is overheating and shut itself down until the temperature drops to normal.
  • Thermal compound: This is a liquid paste that is placed between the processor and the heat sink to help draw the heat away from the processor and pass it through the heat sink.

Heat sinks and CPU fans

Due to the size of the Pentium processor and the number of transistors passing current, the chip can get so hot that it becomes unstable. Thus, many Pentium processors come with either a cooling fan or heat sinks. A number of processors today have a heat sink with a fan on top of the heat sink. Heat sinks are a group of metal pins that are placed on the chip to draw heat away from it. A cooling fan is a small fan placed on top of the processor to pull the hot air away, helping to keep the processor cool.

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