When it comes to computers, keeping your components cool is important. There are 2 main categories of computer cooling systems. We have the active and passive cooling systems. It’s really easy to determine the difference. First of all, a passive cooling system does not require power and for computers, it usually involves the use/installation of a heat sink. Active cooling systems, on the other hand, have parts that require electricity to dissipate heat. It usually involves the use of a fan or another device like those used for deep freeze and water cooling.
Keeping your computer components cool usually results in reduced wear and tear. The most common computer components that require cooling systems are the processor, video card and motherboard chipset. These components generate quite a lot of heat especially the processor and video card.
When you need extra power from these parts, especially when playing graphically-intense state-of-the-art video games and software that are heavily dependent on the processor’s computing power, it requires more electricity resulting in more heat. If it reaches a certain temperature, the component may get busted. That’s the reason why heat needs to be dissipated. Without it, we’ll most likely be replacing computer components from time to time.
Active cooling systems can dissipate more heat compared to passive cooling systems but in a lot of cases, a passive cooling system would suffice. Take a look at the picture I provided. The motherboard chipset usually do not heat up that much that’s why most of the manufacturers install only heatsinks.
Passive cooling systems have a lot of advantages which makes it the cooling system of choice for some computer parts manufacturers. The materials used are cheap, lightweight and can be easily produced, designed and installed. And of course, since the manufacturing cost is low, the retail price is also at a minimum.
As for the consumers, it doesn’t require power and can save electricity. It’s easy to install and doesn’t take too much space inside your PC tower case since it doesn’t have fans, extra wires or cables, cooling tubes, etc. This also means that your tower case isn’t too cramped up and air can circulate easier which adds a cooling effect. You also do not have to worry about the fans getting busted, inefficient water tubes, etc. since they are not utilized.
You can see passive cooling systems in some video cards especially those that are in the low-end market. Most mid-range and all high-end video cards require active cooling systems since they are meant to be used for high performance gaming and generate very high temperatures. CPUs or processors will always require active cooling as it generates constant heat because it is always involved in almost all of your interactions with the computer.
There are some passive cooling systems out there that are quite extreme (really elaborate design/architecture) and can dissipate heat comparable to some active cooling systems. I’ve seen quite a lot of them on mid-range video cards and high-end heavy duty motherboards. Most of the time, passive cooling systems do their job well.
Wikipedia – Passive cooling