Operating Temperature vs System Reliability
At elevated temperatures a silicon device can fail catastrophically, but even if it doesn't, its electrical characteristics frequently undergo intermittent or permanent changes.
Manufacturers of processors and other computer components specify a maximum operating temperature for their products. Most devices are not certified to function properly beyond 50°C-80°C (122°F-176°F). However, in a loaded PC with standard cooling, operating temperatures can easily exceed the limits. The result can be memory errors, hard disk read-write errors, faulty video, and other problems not commonly recognized as heat related.
The life of an electronic device is directly related to its operating temperature. Each 10°C (18°F) temperature rise reduces component life by 50%*. Conversely, each 10°C (18°F) temperature reduction increases component life by 100%. Therefore, it is recommended that computer components be kept as cool as possible (within an acceptable noise level) for maximum reliability, longevity, and return on investment.
* Based on the Arrhenius equation, which says that time to failure is a function of e-Ea/kT where Ea = activation energy of the failure mechanism being accelerated, k = Boltzmann's constant, and T = absolute temperature.