Author Topic: Thermal expansion: how much does it actually affect hardware?  (Read 691 times)

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Offline Technogeek

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Thermal expansion: how much does it actually affect hardware?
« on: January 27, 2015, 11:55:15 AM »
I had to reseat my network card this morning.

That may seem like odd way to start the thread, but it's actually the very reason why I'm starting it. I brought my computer out of sleep mode to discover that my network card (a discrete one I picked up due to the motherboard not having integrated 802.11n, or any form of wireless networking for that matter) was no longer showing up in Windows. After spending several minutes digging through Device Manager and rebooting twice, I eventually opened up the case and reseated the network card. Problem solved.

The thing is, before I actually removed it, I checked to see how tight the connection was, and I was able to wiggle it up and down a bit more than it seemed I should be able to. This led to me wondering how exactly that happened, since I certainly hadn't moved the computer around overnight. My first thought was thermal expansion, since I'd seen that attributed to those very symptoms in the past.

Which brings me to the point of the thread: I had no idea if that was actually a causal factor. All I had were a bunch of anecdotes from a population of individuals that are not always among the finest arbiters of whether or not something actually has an effect. And while some time searching Google did lead me to encounter references to myths about thermal expansion and PC hardware (as well as far too many shitty 9/11 truther and global warming denialist websites), it was always in the context of "can this actually damage the hardware" and not "can it cause PCI cards to wiggle loose".

Has anyone actually attempted to go Adam Savage on this claim?

Offline fonebone

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Re: Thermal expansion: how much does it actually affect hardware?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2015, 02:21:21 PM »
I am personally doubtful this would be what caused your card to come loose or even sit in the slot more loosely.  There is just not that much heat where a NIC and a PCI slot connect.  Those slots can get more losoe over time in the same way a spring can lose tension.  I would guess that the card was loosely installed to begin with and slowly worked itself out over time.  The hot spots on a MB are going to be your video card, the CPU, the power supply, and maybe the HD but I dont see them putting out enough heat to create enough thermal expansion to push out a properly seated PCI card.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2015, 03:16:32 PM by fonebone »