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Why do PCs produce waste heat?

 
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Kerr Avon
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Joined: 26 Oct 2006
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 PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 4:27 am    Post subject: Why do PCs produce waste heat? Reply with quote Back to top

Considering how we're all supposed to be so aware of global warming, it's always surprised me how no one ever seems to question the fact that PCs kick out so much excess heat, especially since at the moment (when the weather is *very* warm around here) the PCs are making things almost unbearable in the office...

I mean, the excess heat from a PC (be it desktop or laptop) is waste heat. And waste heat is a sign of bad design (so I've heard), as either the components are drawing too much power, that they then don't need and so is left to radiate outwards, or the PC is producing waste heat as part of it's normal functioning, which is an inefficient side effect. So why aren't PCs produced that counter this, either by drawing only the power they need, or by avoiding the inefficient output of waste heat from their components?

I've heard that it's down to the inefficient design of the original chips, and that every revision/upgrade of the chips are not only carrying all of the inefficiencies of the older chips, but also adding their own new inefficiencies, as a total redesign of the chips, along with as close to 100% efficiency as possible, would be a prohibitively large expense for the chip manufacturers, when instead they can just build on the old chips which costs much less in research and design. I've no idea if that's true or not (I know nothing of CPU design or building, it might as well be magic to me) but I'd be interested to know why such (seemingly) inefficient components are the norm nowadays.
 
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MRKane
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 PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

The explanation here is actually really simple (voltage with resistance = heat), but really complicated at the same time and requires a bit of history.

Back in 98 it was thought that computers had hit their end, they'd reached what was called the "700mHz barrier" where chips just couldn't go above that due to mains electricity carrying too much whack.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/13476/article.html

It actually took quite a while for someone to strike upon the idea of converting the electricity to a higher voltage and lower amperage inorder to reduce the heat generated on the chip (but don't touch the power converter on the back of the machine), meaning circuits could be bundled closer together and they could even achieve up to 2.5gHz on a single chip. Then another limit was hit (in much the same way).

Obviously this time the solution was just more cores! And that's rather the way that computing has gone since then. To work the processor you still need the current running through and it'll still create heat - even the "super efficient" Macs can really heat up under duress. Basically the industry has said: you want it? well here it is regardless of it's imperfections.

Due to the machines the air in our office is so dry that we dehydrate fruit if it's left out for more than a few days!
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Kerr Avon
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Joined: 26 Oct 2006
Posts: 750

 PostPosted: Sat Jul 27, 2013 4:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Back to top

OK mate, thanks.
 
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