Should I take an actively cooled or passively cooled Mini-PC?

It’s underestimated quite often how important it is to make the right choice regarding the cooling architecture of your Mini-PC. Especially location and operation purpose play an important role here. What you definitely should know in any case about the two different types of cooling and which advantages and disadvantages they bring along, you will learn here.

Active Cooling

This option is the most common type of cooling. One speaks of an active cooling of your PC if the hardware is cooled down by a stream of air from one or more ventilators. The faster the rotational speed the cooler the hardware. The air ventilation automatically adapts, thanks to “SmartFan”, to the capacity utilization of the PC and rotates, as necessary, sometimes faster and sometimes slower.

Advantages of active cooling:

  • Even if the air needs to have some room inside of the computer, in order to circulate properly, actively cooled systems are generally slimmer than fanless systems.
  • You can achieve good cooling results, even with high-performance hardware.
  • It is a cheap solution compared to passively cooled PCs.

Disadvantages of active cooling:

  • Since the fans are most likely affected by wearing, they have, depending on use, a relatively shorter life.
  • The noise level: Even at low utilization the fan will always be audible.

How do I know if active cooling is the right choice for my purpose?

Mostly active cooling for a PC is useful if the environment of the site allows the warm air to go out in order to prevent heat accumulation. For instance this can happen if an Embedded-PC is mounted in steles, tables or walls.
Also active cooling is useful when processors and graphic cards experience a temperature rise above-average, due to applications which need a lot of hardware resources.

Passive Cooling

First of all the most striking contrast to the active cooling here is that there is no fan used for a passive solution.
Due to heat sinks which are integrated in the systems, like thermally conductive metal, the produced heat is transported to the outside, via lamellar cooling fins on the housing of the computer.

Advantages of passive cooling:

  • Silent working with simultaneous use of an SSD (See: “Shall I go for an HDD or SSD?”).
  • Robustness by massive PC cases and compact constructions.
  • High durability of the systems.
  • Systems are often completely closed and not prone to dust, sawdust and the like.
  • Extended range of temperature.
  • Above mentioned advantages both count for outdoor and vehicle installations.

Disadvantages of passive cooling:

  • Performance of the systems is limited (compared with actively cooled PCs of the same size), since high performance requires a bigger heat sink.
  • The environment has, to a certain degree, to provide thermal discharge in order to prevent heat accumulation.
  • More expensive compared to actively cooled systems.

How do I know if passive cooling is the right choice for my purpose?

There are so many opportunities that we actually don’t really know where to start. Wide application areas are rough environments like factory work rooms, workshops or production facilities since the fanless computers are less prone to dust or similar. Even installations in, for instance, steles, walls or in the open air where it sometimes can be a bit colder than usual, but you nevertheless have to rely on the computer. Not to mention in open-plan offices where every little noise reduction is a boon for the staff, passively cooled systems are always welcome.


If you attach importance to an increased durability and robustness of your product, we recommend to invest some extra cash and to opt for a passively cooled solution. Those who don’t want to lower their sights regarding performance and size of the Mini-PC are well served with the classical actively cooled alternative.

##spo-comm PCs with active cooling


##spo-comm PCs with passive cooling

More on this topic

2 May 2016 know-how
What is BIOS?
In the first part of our BIOS-series we explain the terms BIOS and UEFI. We also talk about the tasks of the BIOS and we answer the important question of how to actually get into the BIOS.
17 May 2016 know-how
What is the difference between HDD and SSD?
All spo-books can be configured as desired and can be ordered with an HDD or SSD. This brings many customers to the scratch which choice is the best for them: The standard 500 gigabyte sized HDD or the more expensive SSD? We want to bring a little light into the darkness.
21 Jul 2016 know-how
What is RAM?
When configuring a spo-comm Mini-PC, among other things, the amount of memory respectively RAM can be selected. But what is RAM actually and what is its function in the PC?