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 Post subject: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:56 am 
8086
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Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 6:52 am
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Hey, I live up in northern Ontario, and it gets quite cold. -40C at night.

I was wondering, is there any threat of damaging a computer being left out in this kind of weather (not exposed to the elements, just the cold).

I have an old P4 that I've been using as a youtube b***h, and it's been humming along all day, every day, even in -40. I'm actually afraid to turn it off.

Is it safe to have a computer out in the cold, and does anyone know if a computer will even boot in hat kind of weather?


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:09 pm 
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Hold on a minute, Mr Snowman. Is this an outdoor computer? Is the room where you use your computer -40C? Your claim seems dubious or just poorly worded. -40C is like a lab freezer. Your outdoor temperature has no bearing on your room temperature, which is probably anywhere from 15C and above.

HDD temps -- 5C to 50C

Rugged Motherboard's allow temperatures from -40C to +70C, but these would probably be in outdoor or high temperature environments.

I'm guessing consumer mobos will run 10C and above, up to a max temp.

Unless you are in a rugged, extreme situation, you're overthinking this.



References:
http://knowledge.seagate.com/articles/e ... Q/193771en
http://www.logicsupply.com/blog/2012/10 ... -computer/


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 1:20 pm 
Smithfield
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Considering that people who break overclocking records use things like liquid nitrogen (which is below -196C) and liquid helium (below -269C) to cool their processors... I think it's safe to say you're fine.

The only danger coldness presents is the risk of condensation, but this only matters if the computer is cooler than the ambient air. Although another problem is thermal stress, but only if you power cycle it a lot.


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 4:41 pm 
Coppermine
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Quote:
Is it safe to have a computer out in the cold, and does anyone know if a computer will even boot in hat kind of weather?
I think you're the one that's going to have to tell us.

Quote:
Hold on a minute, Mr Snowman. Is this an outdoor computer?

Though I'm not sure, I think the computer could be out in a garage or shed - something that provides protection from the elements but isn't necessarily heated like a house. There's a tech guy in Canada (Linus, I think) that performs a lot of his testing in a garage setting. And while it may not get quite as cold as outside, it will be relatively close.

Latios does bring up a good point - you don't want to store the computer in the garage and then bring it in the house and fire it up. The computer would need time to adjust to the house temperature and allow any condensation which may accumulate to evaporate. But if you leave it in the garage and use it in the garage, this isn't an issue.

I have to say, at -40 C, it must be hard typing on a keyboard with mittens! :)


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:22 am 
8086
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Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 6:52 am
Posts: 32
For clarification, the computer is outside in a shed. The shed does have a woodstove, but when we aren't heating it, it DOES GET COLD. For example, this is the longest cold spell we've had all year, 6 days of ~-45C at night.

While it does power on at that temp, the harddrive spindle freezes. This was tested at -41C (thermometer in the shed)

Today, it is a mild -21C in the shed, typing on the very computer i mentioned in the above post. Boots no problem.

This is an older computer (P4 HT @ 3.4Ghz, 1GB DDR RAM, nVidia 8600GT 256MB DDR3) Not sure how newer computers would fare in these temps.


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:40 pm 
Smithfield
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Joined: Sun Jun 18, 2006 7:37 pm
Posts: 5466
The only issue I see here is that the computer may get warm enough to make thermal stress a real threat. The higher the temperature difference between operating temperatures and the ambient air, the worse the stress may be. But I'm no materials science engineer so who knows?

Another issue may be with electrolytic caps. The electrolyte is technically a liquid so it may freeze if it gets too cold and may either not work or not work as intended. But I don't know what this temperature is and there probably isn't some magical number.

I guess the only thing I can say is... just try it out and see! The thing is, for lack of nicer words, a pile of junk that a couple hundred dollars of modern parts can replace.


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 7:14 pm 
8086
8086

Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 6:52 am
Posts: 32
LatiosXT wrote:
I guess the only thing I can say is... just try it out and see! The thing is, for lack of nicer words, a pile of junk that a couple hundred dollars of modern parts can replace.


And that I did.

So far, no random fits of malfunction from turning on the computer when it is cold (-20), any colder though, and it refuses to boot. It will turn on, but will not show the bootup screen (no dell icon, no memory check, just a blank screen) So there does seem to be a temp when things refuse to operate normally.

As for replacing that ancient gaming rig, done and done :D


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 8:20 am 
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What do you use this computer for? You mentioned something about youtube in the first post but I don't understand what that means.


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 6:45 pm 
8086
8086

Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2012 6:52 am
Posts: 32
I use it a media center. The 8600GT is more than enough muscle to steam 1080p content.

Whether or not it will turn on in the cold is another thing :D


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 Post subject: Re: How cold is "too cold" for a computer?
PostPosted: Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:27 pm 
8086
8086

Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:05 pm
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LatiosXT wrote:
The only issue I see here is that the computer may get warm enough to make thermal stress a real threat. The higher the temperature difference between operating temperatures and the ambient air, the worse the stress may be. But I'm no materials science engineer so who knows?

Another issue may be with electrolytic caps. The electrolyte is technically a liquid so it may freeze if it gets too cold and may either not work or not work as intended. But I don't know what this temperature is and there probably isn't some magical number. .


So here goes my first post!
I'm a noob in building computers...did build one in 6th grade for school with a bad ass teacher but that was 13yrs ago.

I am familiar with materials/ceramic engineering from studying metallurgical engineering...though never finish metallurgy due to a change of interest.
The worst thing i would try to prevent at cold temps is a SUDDEN/QUICK change in temp. That will cause stress fractures or microfractures in most solid mateials with quick temp changes(mainly either extreme heat to extreme cold or the other way)
I wouldn't worry as long as the lower and upper temp ranges dont very quickly once achieved.
Try to prewarm the computer before booting up.
I'm not as familiar with fluid engineereing but i would treat the caps like batteries, though i don't know their lower temp function either. My iPod wouldn't turn on at -20F but that may be irrelevant.

Look out for my noob questions soon on a new computer build haha


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