Keeping a computer from freezing in an unheated space

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Forum topic by Ken Fitzpatrick posted 09-28-2010 07:17 PM 4588 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4221 days

09-28-2010 07:17 PM

Not sure what forum this should be under but I will try it here. Hope that is ok

I have a workshop in my barn that I don’t heat 24 hours a day during the winter. When I want to work I go in and start up a propane heater which brings it up to work temperature in about 30 mins. The shop is well insulated but it does get cold when the heat isn’t on. Not sure how cold but have seen the thermometer at about 15 degrees at about 7:00 a.m. when I go to turn the heat on. It gets well below zero here in Massachusetts. I have an older computer I want to move to the shop for convenience sake.

Has anyone else tried to leave a computer in this setting without damaging it or the flat screen monitor. I guess I am more worried about the hard drive then anything else. Any advice. Thanks in advance


-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

11 replies so far

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2995 days

#1 posted 09-28-2010 07:58 PM

Not a good idea, the hot / cold will cause condensation. Unless you leave the computer on 24/7. Consider a laptop that you can bring in and out of the shop.

My Credentials are MCSE, MCSA, CNE, (all computer stuff)
My passion is woodworking.

View interpim's profile


1170 posts in 3656 days

#2 posted 09-28-2010 08:11 PM

Computers like cool temperatures… In the spaces at work we keep our computer equipment spaces flowing with constant AC to around 50 degrees. As far as condensation goes, it all depends on how dry your barn workshop is… If it is fairly dry, I wouldn’t worry about it… The only time you will have condensation on the computer is when the computer is colder than the surrounding air. With the heat that is built up by the cards/processor inside you will almost never have that situation unless you are water cooling it.

-- San Diego, CA

View 8iowa's profile


1587 posts in 3959 days

#3 posted 09-28-2010 08:17 PM

A laptop – great idea. Last year we finally got DSL “in da U.P. eh”. With this I found that my old desktops (one was a Windows 2000) just couldn’t cut the mustard anymore.

I now have a SONY Vaio laptop that can even get on line in my workshop 100 yards from the wireless router. This is the answer, at least for me.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3064 days

#4 posted 09-28-2010 08:31 PM

I leave my computer running in the house 24/7. Half the computer people have told me that it’s better to just leave computers running all the time and half have said not to do it. Anyways, if you leave it on it will stay warm enough not to make a difference. However, what your other worry would be is saw dust build up on the inside because then that would cause it to overheat if you didn’t have it cleaned often. A laptop sounds like a good solution if you have one.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2995 days

#5 posted 09-28-2010 08:32 PM

I have seen condensation inside of the case at a Manufacuuring plant here on the coast South GA. It happens when they are turned off. They condensate on the inside top of the case. I can’t tell you why, Im not a weather engineer, only a Certified Netware / Microsoft engineer that has seen it happen. Insulating the case the best we could did not stop it, it just moved it to the base of the power supply. The humidity of the plant rarely gets below 70%, today its 97%. Cant tell you about a dryer climate.

Interpim, thank you for your service to our country!

View K5YAC's profile


22 posts in 3076 days

#6 posted 09-28-2010 08:36 PM

I’ve had an HP desktop running continuously in my airplane hangar for almost two years. Pretty cold winters and very hot summers. I have filter material on the case vents, but I’ll bet that it still looks nasty in there. Not ideal, and I’m not recommending it, but I would worry about heat and debris waaay before the cold. Electronics typically like cold.

-- Mark - Working on a 1930s wood and fabric airplane.

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2995 days

#7 posted 09-28-2010 08:40 PM

If it were only saw dust, there are cases that you put the whole comptuer in that has filters to filter out the dust. I have them in welding plants and body shops were it will filter out all the grinding and welding dust. Then you just change out the filters. I even have it where the comptuer will email me when the filters need changed. Without the case with, the comptuers only last about 3 months in a welding shop.

View helluvawreck's profile


32087 posts in 3064 days

#8 posted 09-28-2010 09:03 PM

My computers at work are in my office that is inside my machine shop. The machine shop and my office are not heated or cooled. When I am in the office there is a small space heater to keep my legs and feet warm. I do cut these computers off every evening because I kill the power to the shop anyways. I really haven’t had any undue problems with the computers in my office. The dust in a wood shop might be the worst thing. However, we have a moulding plant and we have computers inside some of the control boxes and it’s impossible to eliminate all of the dust and those machines run for years. Maybe the right answer is just don’t worry about it. Of course it’s rare that we have below zero weather in north GA. Who knows?

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View swirt's profile


3414 posts in 3169 days

#9 posted 09-28-2010 09:27 PM

If you have a network. A thin client wyse terminal can be great to use in the shop.

It simply logs in and remote controls your “main computer” using Microsoft Remote Desktop. That way you have access to everything. It has no hard drive and no fan / vents to choke with sawdust. And nothign to get damaged by any condensation or humidity.

My brother was showing me this the other day. You turn it on and in less than 30 seconds the terminal has connected to the host computer and is ready to use. My laptop took longer to startup and become useable.

I was pretty impressed and may look into putting one in my shop. Seemed like no risk. I think the hardest part is getting microsoft remote desktop configured on the main computer.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 3078 days

#10 posted 09-28-2010 09:31 PM

I brought my old laptop out to my garage shop thinking it would be great to have out there to reference plans and other wood working documents that I have on my computer and as it turns out I never use it. It got covered in dust real fast and soon stuff was starting to get piled up around it. I used a couple times to follow plans and it just was not as helpful as I thought. I find nothing can beat just printing the papers I need, putting them in plastic protectors and keeping them right on my work bench for reference.

If I had a computer that was a tower I would build some kind of enclosure or cabinet that you can put it in. As long as you leave some room for air to get in and out that should solve the problem of a lot of dust getting into the tower. I would not be too worried about the monitor getting damaged, you can pick up old computer monitors for next to nothing if not free.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Ken Fitzpatrick's profile

Ken Fitzpatrick

376 posts in 4221 days

#11 posted 09-28-2010 11:16 PM

You guys are fantastic. I went out for an appointment for a couple of hours and come back to all this great info. I guess all of it makes sense in some way. I had been thinking about this for some time not just for plans but some instructional videos that would be nice to have near my work. It’s our old desk top so I guess it would really not be too much of a loss.

I do have a wireless network that works well even though my shop is in a barn behind the house. I checked that out with a laptop (one I don’t want to take a chance using out there. Based upon all of your suggestions I will keep my files in the house accessing them through the network and construct a case for the unit in the shop to minimize saw dust impact.

Thanks once again for all the great info. I’ll keep track this winter of how it works and let you know. We do get very cold but it is also fairly dry most of the time.

-- • "I have noticed that nothing I have never said ever did me any harm."....... Calvin Coolidge

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