How to Cool Down Your Computer
|Published:||Aug 14, 2005|
My Biggest Fan
My desk has a compartment in it for the computer. I keep my computer tower in it to reduce noise. The cabinet has a four inch by six inch hole in the bottom for air circulation, plus another hole on top for cables to get in. The problem is that it gets too hot in there, so it needs a fan to blow the hot air out of the 4 x 6 inch hole. My sister had given me a small variable speed fan. By adjusting the speed I could cool the compartment sufficiently while keeping the noise level way down, but not being meant for 24/7 operation, it died.
So I went to Radio Shack. The guy was very nice but had no idea about fans, so he sent me to the local super-geek electronics store. The guy there was much nicer than usual (sometimes they are scornful that you don't know an ohm from a megahertz), but all he had was computer fans, so he suggested Home Depot or Lowe's. So I went to Lowe's. The guy there was very nice -- he even plugged in the small reciprocating "two speed, whisper quiet" fan for me and in that big cavernous store it did sound "whisper quiet," but when I got it into my desk it sounded like the wind in the movie Twister.
So I went on the Web and performed a Google search on "quiet fan." I got 197,000 hits on computer fans, plus one hit on a message board post by a woman who had found a quiet fan at Target for her aquarium. So I thought, "Aha! Aquarium Fans!!!" At the pet store the guy thought I was crazy, and, indeed, all his fans were meant to work under water. So I went to Target. They were out of the ones the woman had recommended.
So I went to Walmart. Walmart is the size of Rhode Island! After getting more exercise in one morning than I had gotten between 2003 and 2005, I finally found a shelf of fans at the far end of the store. As I turned the corner to the next aisle, they had even more fans, including the one recommended on the Web, so I bought it. However, it was pretty noisy even when I sat it on a sheet of foam rubber, plus it didn't cool the cabinet enough. The secondary fan in the computer (a REALLY LOUD one) kept kicking in. Terrific! (not)
My friend Mike and I occasionally go on "Boy's Night Outs" (BNOs) where we go for dinner and then walk around the mall or Barnes and Noble or someplace so our wives won't tease us too mercilessly for coming home from our wild night out before 8 pm. Mike is a ham radio enthusiast, so he knows a lot about electronics. We were in Radio Shack and I told Mike about my fan problem and he recommended a simple household dimmer. They didn't have anything that could handle the wattage in Radio Shack, but we were in the mall, so I told him "We're going to Target!"
To make a long story obnoxious, the next day I took my Lowe's fan and carefully slit between the double lamp wire, then clipped one of the single wires. I stripped the ends, soldered a dimmer wire to each one, and used heat shrink insulation to cover up the bare wire (yeah, I could have used tape, but it dries out over time). Then I turned on the fan motor, plugged it in and turned the dimmer. Presto! I have a quiet variable speed fan!
I put it in the cabinet, adjusted the dimmer and it worked perfectly. I get pretty excited over geeky gadgets, but nothing has produced this level of euphoria in a long time! With all the computer desks that have compartments for the computer, surely I am not the only one with this problem. It's a niche market that is completely unmined.
See how great it can be when you take the time to go out for dimmer and a trip to the mall?
Dan Veaner has been a developer and online publisher since 1989. He wrote award winning consumer and developer software, has developed several Web sites including humor sites http://mysockdrawer.com and http://Vvids.com, and worked for America Online. Currently he is working on online publishing projects and is on the board of directors of the Shareware Industry Awards Foundation.