The Explorer: None Like It Hot - InformationWeek

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Hardware & Infrastructure
11:18 AM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa

The Explorer: None Like It Hot

Excessive heat is a CPU's worst enemy. Here are software utilities that can help.

If It's Not OK: Cooling Options
My system was OK. But what if you should find that your system isn't OK?

First, open the case and look for dead fans or airflow blockages (dust, poorly-routed cables, etc.). If those aren't the problem, then your fan/heatsink combination may not be OK. A source like Tom's Hardware Guide can lead you to a world of custom hardware-oriented cooling solutions.

But there also are 100 percent software solutions for CPU cooling. Some operating systems (including Windows 2000) have this software solution built in, but Win9x does not. The cooling trick is the use of an HLT (or "halt") instruction during idle times. Stopping the CPU instead of letting it idle at full speed helps keep temperatures down.

And by "idle times" I don't mean when the PC goes to sleep. Consider that, when you're typing, a quarter second might pass between consecutive keystrokes. If you have a 500 MHz processor, that means that from one keystroke to the next, your CPU twiddles its thumbs for 125 million cycles (even more for faster processors). If many or most of those cycles can be shut off, your CPU will stay cooler.

Of course, there's more going on inside any PC than just waiting for keystrokes, and the more multitasking that's going on, the fewer idle cycles there are for a CPU-cooler app to work on. Results vary widely, depending on how you use your PC, but the theory is sound: The more idle cycles there are, the more an HLT command can help.

(Interesting side note: A CPU that's HLT-ed also saves power, so this approach has energy saving benefits that can be useful on a desktop, and very significant on a battery-powered laptop.)

You can find many free and low-cost CPU cooler software utilities via any search engine, such as this Google search.

But here are some of the more well-known ones:

And there are more reviewed and rated at Benchtest.Com

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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