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Operating temperature is the temperature range in which a computer or other electronic device can function properly. If this range is exceeded while a computer is on, for example, there can be temporary or permanent effects to its performance. Most kinds of electronic devices are not designed to function in temperatures above a certain point, though that point can vary from around 122°F to 176°F (about 50°C to 80°C). The optimal temperature range for a computer is from around 60°F to 75°F (about 15°C to 24°C), similar to what is most comfortable for people. Computers rely on various thermal management methods, such as fans and heatsinks, to control internal heating and maintain a safe operating temperature.
An equation known as the Arrhenius equation states that each 18°F (about 10°C) rise in temperature will decrease the lifetime of computer components by 50 percent, and an 18°F (about 10°C) reduction will increase component life by 100 percent. For a computer to operate reliably and last as long as possible, it should be kept in a cool place. Complex silicone-based processors generate a lot of heat that can damage a computer or any electronic device. When turned off, computers can tolerate much lower temperatures, but can be damaged if they are cold when they are turned on. Acclimate a computer before turning it on by plugging it into an electrical socket; it will warm up quickly.
System reliability is improved by various technological innovations in thermal management. The operating temperature of a central processing unit (CPU) can be regulated by a properly mounted heatsink. A fan heatsink is attached to the processor with thermally conductive material, so heat can be transferred from the processor to the heatsink, while a cable attached to the motherboard allows central monitoring and control of fan speed. To regulate the temperature, sensors and other monitoring circuitry take temperature measurements and trigger signals to make the fan speed faster or slower.
Advanced heatsinks have been designed to meet size requirements of modern cell phone technology, because mobile devices can’t practically incorporate fans. Fans are an integral component of just about all computers, from desktops to laptops and, just like when used in a room, serve to regulate the internal environment. This controls the operating temperature so system reliability is kept at a maximum. It is not just the CPU but the hard drive, video card, motherboard, and memory components that generate heat in a computer or other electronic device, so operating temperature must constantly be regulated.
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