Computers generate a lot of heat. Desktops and laptops have similar cooling systems, but laptop cooling systems are designed to fit into a much smaller space.
When you look inside of a desktop, you’ll see a heatsink and a fan on top of the processor. Between the heatsink and the processor, there is a layer of thermal paste, which aids in transferring heat from the processor to the heatsink. The fan is, of course, used to suck all of that heat off of the heatsink to cool it down. This fan doesn’t blow it directly out of the computer case, but into the open air inside of the computer case.
Heatsinks have “fins” which help disperse heat
Video cards have a similar set-up with heatsinks and fans. Usually, the better the video card, the bulkier it is. High-end video cards can have 2 or 3 fans and its own heatsink. These fans also just blow the hot air into the open air inside of the computer case.
This video card has two fans and its own heatsink. The processor has one heatsink and one fan.
RAM (memory) can also generate heat. Some types of RAM have a little heatsink built onto it.
The power supply contains its own fan inside of the unit. Some cases are built with grating on the bottom so the power supply can be installed with the fan pointing outward. This allows the power supply to move it’s own hot air outside of the computer case.
The inside of your computer is swirling with hot air that is generated from multiple pieces of hardware. The computer case contains at least one case fan, which is responsible for circulating out the hot air.
Laptops are smaller, and have smaller cooling systems. All of the same things apply with laptops, except all fans generally point to some sort of vent on the laptop. Most of the air is blown directly out of the laptop instead of sitting inside of it waiting for the case fan to suck it out.
Instead of typical air cooling systems, desktops have the option of a liquid cooling system. Standard liquid cooling systems involve water blocks, tubes, a pump, and a radiator. The water blocks take the place of heatsinks. The pump circulates coolant through the radiator and tubes. A fan may be used to cool off the radiator. Liquid cooling systems are quieter than air cooling because it contains less fans. Liquid is able to carry more heat than the air, so it makes it a more efficient way to cool down your system. It is possible for a laptop to have a liquid cooling system, but this is uncommon.
Whether it is a desktop or laptop, you will want to make sure it has proper ventilation around it. Try not to stuff your desktop into a small cubby hole that sometimes comes built into desks, especially if you plan to use it for resource-intensive programs; it will get very hot in there quickly. When using a laptop, putting it on a blanket or couch may cause the laptop to retain more heat than normal. Make sure to shut down laptops fully before placing into a bag. If your computer overheats, it can cause the computer to run slower than normal and may cause damage to internal components.