Why Does My Computer Ramdomly Turn Off | What You Can Do

Do you have a computer that randomly shuts off? Well, don’t fret because the problem is common can be corrected. You are not alone. Computers are prone to get hot and shut down. It’s a built-in self-protecting mechanism designed to protect your computer from damage. Let’s closer look at why this is happening and what you can do to either prevent it or fix it.

A computer will automatically turn off by itself when components get too hot. Did you know computer motherboards are installed with microcode to monitor CPU temperature. If the CPU temperature exceeds 70 to 100 degrees Celsius the computer will shut down. The exact temperature will vary slightly based on the manufacture and BIOS setting.  

Why does my computer ramdomly turn off

Keep your CPU cool and prevent shut down due to excessive heat
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When a computer is in use the heat is generated by the CPU. If the CPU gets hot enough, it will cause the computer to unexpectedly crash or shut down. As a safety mechanism, a basic operating system called BIOS is loaded onto the computer motherboard. The BIOS is equipped with a microcode that monitors CPU temperature and shuts down the computer if the temperature exceeds 70 to 100 degrees Celsius to prevent computer damage. Most likely, the number one reason your computer turns off on its own is that it does not get enough ventilation. And there could be multiple reasons why your computer doesn't get the air it needs.

Cleaning computer vents prevent a shutdown

There are a lot of components in computers stacked in a very small space. And most of these elements produce heat. Heat is a great enemy of the components of a computer. Heat tends to shorten computing lifespan. So the lower temperature you can keep inside your computer the better. And chances are that the longer it will last. By nature, computers do not have good ventilation. In between components, it is hard for air to circulate. As a result, things inside a computer quickly get hot. Combine this with heavy computing, such as playing a game, and things quickly heat up. The computer produces heat faster than can be dissipated. The heat's got nowhere to go.

Computers have heat removal vents and fans but can easily get overwhelmed. In particular, when operating at higher capacities, they are not robust enough to remove heat faster than the CPU and motherboard can produce. Combine that with a dirty fan and you will have a build-up of heat. Dust may build up on the fan which causes the fan to lose efficiency. Dust can build up on the computer case vents blocking airflow. These two problems can cause a heated build-up inside the computer’s case. The heat can be hot enough that the computer shuts itself off automatically.

Cleaning the vents and the fan with compressed air is the best way to prevent this from happening. Or use a power vac. I use the MetroVac's DataVac ESD Safe Electric Duster. This is a computer duster. The reason I'm using this one is that it generates a high-power air stream that easily blasts dust off computer vents and fans. It also comes with an electrostatic wristband that is essential for dusting off a fan if you need to open the computer case. There are other very good vacs out there, but this is the one I have been using for the last 7 years. On a desktop computer, all the vents are readily accessible. However, on a computer vents are not as accessible therefore you need a powerful stream of air to knock off the dust. It’s easy to remove a desktops case panel and clean the fans but a computer is next to impossible. All you can do is blow out as much dust as you can regularly.

Blocked computer air vents cause shutdowns

As well as vents on the sides, some computer brands have vents on the bottom. The heat builds up quickly inside the case when vents get blocked. I remember laying down my computer on the bed one time. I noticed it was really hot to the touch after about an hour when I returned to pick it up. The bedspread blocked the side vents, so there was no air circulating and the computer got very hot. This just goes to show you that you have to pay attention to where you put your computer as not to block the vents. If your computer is dirty and you are not able to give it a proper cleaning I suggest you take it to a local computer repair shop and ask them to clean it for you. In my opinion, it is well worth it.

How to monitor the temperature of your computer

The temperature of your computer’s CPU can be monitored. Some applications will allow you to monitor the CPU’s temperature so you can see the temperature. Other temperatures can also be monitored such as your hard drive temperature. I recommend a program called Core Temp. It’s a small lightweight but yet powerful program you can use to monitor your computer’s temperature and other vital information. If your computer has multiple CPU cores, which it most likely does, Core Temp will display the temperature of each core. A link to download Core Temp is in the reference section at the bottom of this article.

How is your computer's temperature measured

Most computer manufacturers implement what’s called DTS or Digital Thermal Sensor. DTS is positioned in the CPU next to the hottest part of the CPU. The temperatures collected are very accurate. And the reason for its accuracy is because it does not rely on an external circuit located on the motherboard to report the temperature. The actual temperature value is stored in a special register in the processor so it can be accessed by software. The big advantage of using this design is it eliminates inaccuracies introduced by external components on the motherboard.

Early motherboard and CPU cooling configurations

In early configurations, a single fan mounted on the power supply was sufficient to cool most computers. But as technology doubled, every 2 years (Moore’s Law), a single fan was no longer sufficient. Rising motherboard clock speeds and increased power consumption in recent years has called for more robust cooling. Fans mounted on CPU heat sinks and even additional computer fans with integrated temperature sensors are now required. Integrated temperature sensors detect motherboard and CPU temperatures and use controllable fans which are connected to the BIOS (Basic Input and Output System) to regulate the fan speed.

In addition to using fans and internal sensors, many high-performance computers use water or liquid cooling systems to regulate operating temperatures. The use of fan mounted on heat sinks offers less complexity as opposed to liquid cooling systems. Liquid cooling designs require a pump, tubing, and or pipeline for liquid transport and often a radiator with fans to dissipate heat. Liquid cooling is not new and has been around for quite some time. For example, the Cray-2 computer in 1982 was liquid-cooled using a fluid called Fluorient. Flourient is sold by 3M and is a fluorocarbon-based fluid used to cool many electronic applications. It’s primarily used in situations where air alone is not sufficient to carry away enough heat.

Advanced motherboard and CPU cooling

Back to water cooling. Water or liquid cooling in addition to adding complexity and costs also adds an element of risk if there is leakage from the water or liquid coolant. The leakage would then cause a short-circuit in electronic components. So, it goes to say using water cooling there is an inherent risk but the reward is having the ability to cool higher power CPUs effectively. Many dedicated CPU overclockers use advanced cooling systems in which allows them to chill circulating coolant below ambient air temperature and thus providing superior cooling. Nowadays there are dozens of manufactures of liquid cooling systems, components, and kits with preinstalled solutions for high-performance computer systems. The computer I am writing this article on is using a CoolerMaster Master Liquid Pro 280. It’s a massive dual chamber pump design that specializes in separating incoming and outgoing liquid. This is key because the liquid is separated, warm from cold. This design improves heat dissipation. Also, the CoolerMaster 280 uses materials such as polyphenylene sulfide and glass fiber for durability to help prevent oxidation and corrosion. The pump itself uses a high-performance jet engine inspired impeller designs to generate a very powerful liquid current to minimize hot spots. And so far, I can say, first hand, it works. I have been using this set up for more than 2 years now with great success. The current version comes with RGB lighting, like all computer components nowadays, right? Unfortunately, mine does not have this feature. I see an upgrade in my future.

Premature shut down could be a clue Windows is the cause

By now, you have determined your computer is getting power and attempts to start up or prematurely shut down for apparently no reason. The next thing to check is the Windows Power Options. Of course, this when your computer boots but then shuts down later for seemingly no reason at all. Open the Windows Control Panel lower Left press the Windows icon, then press the Gear Wheel or Settings icon and then click the “System, Display, sound, notifications, power” and scroll down to “Power & Sleep.” Double-check the settings for what happens to the “Screen” and “Sleep” settings. Also, double-check the “Performance and Energy” settings. A simple Windows setting may be the cause for your computer to shut down prematurely. It happened to me once. I thought the computer was shutting down prematurely. All that was happening was the screen was shut off. A simple setting change cured my problem. Only if everything was so easy, right?

The randomly computer turn off final words

Final words just for this article. Now you have a good idea of the most common reasons why your computer will randomly turn itself off. And you also know you should clean the vents on your computer regularly. Dust can clog and block airflow and cause ventilation problems trapping heat inside your computer. This of course prevents your computer from cooling itself properly. A computer placement is also important. It should be placed on a clean hard surface where it can properly ventilate itself. Vents should not be blocked or it should not be set near a heater vent. Do not put a computer down on a mattress allowing it to sit while the vent is blocked. It’s also a good idea to check to make sure your computer's fans are in working order. If in doubt or you are not able to clean all the dust and you can see the dust but just can't get to it, it's a good idea to take your computer in for a cleaning. There are many other reasons why your computer could be overheating that were not mentioned in the article. For example, if you overclocked your CPU and now your computer is overheating, well you know if you overclocked your CPU, so you know the cause of the shutdown. Also if you have a bad device driver you most likely will get a BSOD, Blue Screen of Death, and not a shutdown. Also, I’ll mention computer viruses. I have never experienced or heard of a virus turning off a computer. But it might be possible however I am guessing that is not common. And lastly, I mention Windows Power Options. Sounds simple but as you know it got me once. So I hope I have spared you all the unlikely reasons on my computer turned itself off and provided you with the correct answer. I would love to hear your experiences and how you solved your problem. Please comment below.

Core Temp
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