Can computers work under very cold temperatures?

Oct 19, 2016

If your system runs outdoors, even in the UK, then sometimes it will be subject to temperatures of below freezing. These are the key factors to consider in specifying a computer for this kind of application.

1-The Display

Liquid crystals can freeze at sub-zero temperatures. Laptop displays are especially vulnerable to cold weather and we don’t recommend them to work in very cold environment.

2-The Circuits themselves

Whilst electronic circuits generate heat when powered up, they get cold if left powered off too long. This can lead to threshold voltage shifts and hot carriers which will cause greater levels of damage, as electricity travels through a circuit for example.

3-The Drives

The hard disk drive (HDD) is also vulnerable to cold as it will not be able to spin up and function at all under 0C. SDD and mSATA – which have no moving parts – are always safer for low temperature applications. We offer extended temperatures only on PC’s with these options.

4-Are PCs especially developed for cold temperatures safe?

Computers claiming to work under -20C or -40C are available, but it is worth checking that, like our fanless industrial computers, they have been fully tested to ensure both PC and components will truly withstand the cold. For example, our PC with Industrial Temperature grades (TI) is tested as follows:

  1. Power up at -40C in temperature chamber
  2. Stress test at room temperature
  3. Stress test at +70C in temperature chamber

fanless airtop PC in chamber temperature

Fanless Workstation Airtop in chamber temperature.

5-Is cold the only factor to consider?

Our PC is specified for “Industrial temperatures” which means that it can be relied on to run your applications and software indoors or outdoors at temperatures between -40C and +70C. Our PC’s are fanless and closed, and can tolerate humidity between 10 and 90% as well as dusty environments.

Our team is always happy to discuss your application and to advice if your installation is optimal for your requirement. For example, you may benefit from protecting your hardware from direct drops of water or you may need a security enclosure if your PC is left unattended in a critical area. Contact our engineers to discuss your project!

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