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HP Desktop PCs - Reducing Heat Inside the Computer to Prevent Overheating

This document is for HP Desktop PCs.
When temperatures inside the computer rise above 35º C (95º F), the risk of damage to important internal components increases.
You can help prevent overheating by making sure there is adequate ventilation around the computer, the fan vents are cleaned regularly, and the BIOS is up-to-date
You might experience the following issues when the computer overheats:
  • After pressing the power button, the computer freezes on a black screen and Windows does not start, or Windows starts but does not respond.
  • Basic tasks or applications take more time to complete than usual.
  • Windows does not respond, suddenly restarts, or displays an error message while in use.
  • Games stop responding during play.
  • Fans inside the computer become louder as they start spinning faster to remove excess heat.
  • The mouse and keyboard stop responding.
There are many reasons your computer might overheat, but the most common reason is dust buildup on the fans which can trap heat. Reduce the heat inside the computer to prevent any damage to its internal components.

Step 1: Increase the efficiency to reduce heat

The computer works harder and generates more heat when multiple applications are open at the same time or while playing graphically intense video games.
Use the following tips to improve computer efficiency.
  • Change which applications run when Windows starts by using the Startup tab in Task Manager.
  • Close applications when you are done using them.
  • Close the Internet browser when you are not using it.
  • Lower the game resolution and decrease the graphics settings if the computer becomes warmer than usual while playing.
If the issue persists, continue to the next step.

Step 2: Let the computer cool down

Remove the side panel from the computer to determine if the heat-related issue goes away.
  warning:
The edges of metal panels can cut skin. Be careful not to slide skin along any interior metal edge of the computer.
  1. Turn off the computer, and then unplug the power cable.
  2. Move any objects near the computer.
  3. Loosen or remove the side panel screws, if necessary.
    note:
    Your computer side panel might be secured differently, but the location of the screws should be similar.
    Example location of a screw on the desktop side panel
  4. Slide the side panel back and away from the computer, and then set the panel aside.
      warning:
    To avoid shocking yourself or damaging the computer, do not touch any of the components inside the computer, even when the computer is off.
  5. Reconnect the power cable, turn on the computer, and then wait five to ten minutes.
  6. With the side panel removed, open the application that caused the issue.
    • If the fan issue stops, excessive heat is probably building up inside the computer case. Continue to the next step.
    • If the fan issue does not stop, the software application might be causing the fan issue instead of heat buildup inside the computer. Uninstall and reinstall the application, and then make sure it is up-to-date. If the issue persists, contact the software developer for more information.

Step 3: Verify that computer fans are operational

The issue might be a fan that is not working as expected and needs to be replaced. Depending on your computer model, the type and quantity of fans might vary.
With the computer on, locate the fans inside the case, and then inspect each one for any issues, such as not working or unusual noises.
  caution:
You can use a flashlight to help you locate each fan, but do not put the flashlight inside the computer to avoid damaging internal components.
Example of an HP desktop computer (left) and an HP slimline computer (right)
     Example of fan locations on a standard desktop case and a slimeline case
  1. Power supply fan
  2. Graphics card fan
  3. Processor fan
  4. Power supply fan vent
  5. Case fan vent
  6. Case fan
  • If all fans seem to be working correctly, continue to the next step.
  • If a fan is making a loud growling noise or not moving, there is an issue with a fan. Go to Fan is Noisy and Spins Constantly (Windows) for more information.
      caution:
    Do not continue to use the computer when a fan is not working correctly. Over time, exposure to consistently high temperatures can damage other important internal components.

Step 4: Clean inside the computer

Dust might have built up around some of the internal components and fans. Dust clogs the small air passages between metal surfaces, acting as a blanket to keep in heat.
  warning:
Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect eyes and nasal passages when using canned air to remove dust.
  1. Turn off the computer, and then unplug the power cable.
  2. Use a vacuum to clean all exterior vents, especially around the power supply vent.
      caution:
    To avoid damaging internal components, do not use the vacuum inside the computer.
    Examples of vent locations
  3. Use canned air to clean the fans and components inside the computer.
    For liquid cooling systems, clean thoroughly around the radiator.
  4. Secure the side panel back onto the computer.
  5. Reconnect the power cord, and then turn on the computer.
If the issue persists, continue to the next step.

Step 5: Make sure there is adequate ventilation

Proper ventilation for the computer is important to maintain an optimal internal temperature below 30° C (86° F).
Follow these guidelines to allow for adequate ventilation:
  • Keep the computer upright and on a sturdy, level surface.
  • Provide at least 15.25 cm (6 in) of clearance in front and back of the computer.
  • If the computer is being used at high altitudes, above 1500 m (5000 ft), take extra care to keep the computer cool. When moving the computer to a higher altitude, the temperature inside the computer decreases by approximately 1º C ( 34º F) every 300 m (1000 ft) of altitude.
If the issue persists, continue to the next step.

Step 6: Place the computer in a cooler room

Move the computer to a cooler room in the house or office. A small difference in temperature might be all that is needed to prevent a component from failing.
If this is not an option or the issue persists, continue to the next step.

Step 7: Update the BIOS

The computer BIOS might be out-of-date. Check for a BIOS update from HP.
  caution:
Make sure you install the BIOS update for your specific computer model. Installing the wrong update can result in losing all computer functionality.
  1. Go to Software and Drivers Downloads, and then navigate to the product page for your computer.
  2. Locate BIOS in the list.
    • If the option is not available, the BIOS is up-to-date.
    • If the option is available, click BIOS, and then click Download next to the update. Follow the on-screen prompts, and then restart the computer. For more information, go to Updating the BIOS (Basic Input Output System).
If the BIOS is up-to-date or the issue persists, continue to the next step.

Step 8: Replace the thermal paste on the processor

Replacing the thermal paste between the heat sink and processor can greatly help the fans maintain an optimal internal temperature. Thermal paste can dry out and crack over time, making the fans work harder and putting extra strain on the processor.
note:
Do not replace the thermal paste if your computer is still under warranty.
  1. Gather the following materials:
    • Thermal paste
    • A flathead or TR15 screwdriver
    • Cotton swabs or microfiber cloth
    • An electrostatic discharge (ESD) wrist strap or conductive foam pad for proper grounding
    • Cleaning solution, such as Isopropyl alcohol or thermal compound cleaner
        caution:
      Do not use standard 70% rubbing alcohol, as it can cause corrosion and damage internal parts.
  2. Turn off the computer, and then unplug the power cable.
  3. Loosen or remove the side panel screws, if necessary.
  4. Slide the side panel back and away from the computer, and then set the panel aside.
      warning:
    The edges of metal panels can cut skin. Be careful not to slide skin along any interior metal edge of the computer.
    For liquid cooling systems, refer to your computer service maintenance guide for instructions on how to access the processor.
  5. Carefully place the desktop on its side so the motherboard is parallel with the work surface.
  6. Ground yourself to remove any built-up electrostatic discharge (ESD) before reaching inside the computer.
      caution:
    ESD can easily damage internal computer components. HP recommends using an ESD wrist strap to properly ground yourself before performing these steps.
    You can also work on non-carpeted floor or a dissipative work surface, such as conductive foam pad, to reduce the chance of ESD.
  7. Disconnect the processor fan power cable from the motherboard.
    Disconnecting the processor fan power cable
  8. Remove the four screws around the processor fan in a star pattern, instead of clockwise, to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on the motherboard.
    Example of removing the screws in a star pattern
    Example of removing the screws in a star pattern
  9. Pull the fan up and away from the motherboard, and then set it with the fan facing down on a level surface.
  10. Lightly dampen a cotton swab or microfiber cloth with cleaning solution, such as isopropyl alcohol.
    A lint free cloth damped with alcohol
  11. Locate the thermal paste on the processor.
      Locations of the thermal paste on the heat sink and processor
    1. Heat sink
    2. Processor
  12. Gently clean the surface of the processor until all thermal paste is removed.
      caution:
    Do not remove the processor chip from its socket. There are delicate pins that can be damaged easily.
    Cleaning the processor
  13. Clean the surface of the heat sink until all of the thermal paste is removed.
    Cleaning the heat sink
  14. Check the heat sink and processor edges for thermal paste, and then clean off any paste found.
  15. Apply a pea-sized amount of thermal paste in the center of the processor.
    Applying thermal paste
  16. Center the heat sink on top of the processor, and then align the screws with the matching holes on the motherboard.
    Centering and aligning the processor fan on the motherboard
  17. Secure the screws in a star pattern until there is resistance.
      caution:
    Do not over-tighten the screws. The excess pressure can damage the processor socket and cause the motherboard to crack.
    Securing the pocessor fan onto the motherboard
  18. Reconnect the fan power cable into its slot on the motherboard.
  19. Secure the side panel back onto the computer.
  20. Reconnect the power cord, and then turn on the computer.
If the issue persists, continue to the next step.

Step 9: Test for hardware failures

Test the computer for any hardware failures, such as the memory, processor, or graphics hardware. Most HP desktop computers come with diagnostic software to verify hardware failures. For more information, go to Testing for Hardware Failures.
If hardware has failed, either replace the bad component or continue to the next step.

Step 10: Contact HP Customer Support

If the previous steps did not resolve the issue, contact HP Customer Support for warranty and service options.

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