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What sort of wear and tear might have I incurred from having my always-on desktop PC run without its two case fans for the last 2-3 months? Is there anything I should do to diagnose if there's a problem?

Today I noticed that the top of the case was rather hot. Apparently, when I last opened the case a few months ago, I didn't properly hook up the two case fans back to the appropriate power line. CPU and GPU coolers have been spinning fine.

Shutdown and opened up the case. The Corsair 550W power supply was very hot. Not hot enough to cause a 2nd degree burn, but I couldn't hold my hand on it for more than a few seconds. As a result of limited ventilation, everything else inside was hot including the hard drive. Perhaps around 110 - 140° F (43 -60° C). Motherboard cmos config screen indicates that the overheat protection settings are for 194° F (90° C). I suppose it never got that hot if it never shutdown on its own.

I let it cool down, sprayed the dust out of it, fixed the power to the fans, and started it back up. Everything back to normal. There are no perceived problems now, nor were there any issues during the months without the fans running. No more hot spots on the case. But it's a bit disconcerting to know that I was running hot for so long.

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possible earlier death, this could be like computer not starting up due to motherboard malfunction, or even your power supply dying earlier and computer not starting up. or perhaps power supply acting up and then that's bad for the whole system. Or other less necessary or easily changeable components dying earlier. Hard drive causing corrupt data earlier. Or no problem at all it may have survived it fine. – barlop Aug 27 '11 at 14:12
up vote 4 down vote accepted

If it didn't fail due to the lack of ventilation most of your components were probably throttling themselves to prevent damage. You should be OK, most modern components particularly processors and graphics cards will shut themselves down to prevent damage although potentially you might have shortened their lifetime you'll probably never notice any difference.

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There was a sound case where someone had turned of the fan for a week or so. It had a computer and external hdd inside that got quite hot. Soon after, bad blocks appeared on the hdd. Also, expected life time on chips and capacitors are normally specified for a certain temperature interval.

I would say, expect shorter remaining life time on components, mechanical and electronics.

As for what to test. I don't know. The usual. RAM-test, HDD S.M.A.R.T self-test.

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