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I have bought the Raspberry Pi official starter kit, with it comes the official Raspberry Pi case.

I noticed that the case can be opened or closed, but when reading the instructions that come with I am not entirely sure of wether or not I should keep it opened when the Raspberry Pi is turned on ? Is there any risk of overheating if I close the case ?

Thank you !

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In general it is better to keep the case closed to not accidentally cause a short circuit. The (cpu) temperature depends on the workload. Surrounding temperature has an impact too. To check ad hoc the cpu temperature just run from command line

cat /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp

Divide the result by 1000 to get the value in Celsius.

I recommend to measure with case open and (some time later) with case closed to get a better "feeling" for the difference under real conditions. For constantly monitoring you could use Munin.

Whilst hitting the temperature limit is not harmful to the SoC, it will cause CPU throttling. A heatsink can help to control the core temperature and therefore performance. This is especially useful if the Pi is running inside a case. Airflow over the heatsink will make cooling more efficient. A suitable heatsink is the self-adhesive BGA (ball-grid-array) 14x14x10 mm heatsink available from RS Components.

With firmware from 12th September 2016 or later, when the core temperature is between 80'C and 85'C, a warning icon showing a red half-filled thermometer will be displayed, and the ARM cores will be throttled back. If the temperature exceeds 85'C, an icon showing a fully-filled thermometer will be displayed, and both the ARM cores and the GPU will be throttled back.

source: Raspberry Pi Documentation, Overclocking options in config.txt

Afaik heatsink and cooling fan are not part of the official starter kit, because they are not needed in most (educational) scenarios. If you simply want to prolong the lifetime of your RPi or the temperature is most of the time > 70C, I recommend a cooling fan. If this is still not sufficient, then additional heatsinks (they have relatively small impact). Both are inexpensive and easy to install.

  • Thank you for this complete answer ! Are heatsinks usually easy to remove if I wanted to later ? I am surprised by the /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp : while it seems to be detected as a regular file by the system it isn't and therefore some frameworks seem to have issues reading from it (but cat works fine). I checked the temperature and even under max load and even when closed i'd say it always stayed between 80 and 83°C. – Trevör Jan 18 '18 at 11:59
  • You're welcome! Many heatsinks for RPi are bundled with double faced adhesive tape (should be thermoconductive one of course). You can remove these later, but you should be careful. For stationary RPi thermal gel is an alternative to tape. I recommend "Thermally Conductive Adhesive Transfer Tape" from 3M. – Fabian Jan 18 '18 at 21:29
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This depends on how you're planning to use your PI's. I have approx 50 PI (all PI 3) on my site. Only 8 of them are used without case (they are somehow built in box) and 2 of them are used in combination with a fan (used for capturing and editing videos in real-time) . All others are used in closed case (primarily use to display webpages and/or videos in kiosk mode, or as server).

Your Pi won't overheat (normal conditions), though if temperature gets too high the performance goes down.

I suggest you monitor temperature notifications if they are connected to a screen, or, you write a sript to log the temperature. Based on that, you could then decide to run with open case, without case, of with a fan. I do recommend to use a case (can be open) since this offers good protection to your PI (e.g. in case something drops on your PI).

Do note that external conditions play a role as well (so temperature might be OK in winter using closed case, but might no longer be OK during summer).

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Heatsink within a closed case does not do much. With my old B+, the temperature is lowered by maybe 4 degrees - from 53 to 49 degrees. For the Pi 3, with it's 70-80 °C idle temperature, I would use reasonable big heatsinks and a case, that allows airflow over the heatsinks (maybe a hole over it with some wiregrid), and if used 24/7, for example as mail- or fileserver, I would actively cool it with a tiny fan, just enough to move the air away from the heatsink.

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You can do whatever you want, for example, you can close the cover on top, or maybe you have to keep it open to connect other things like serial or video/ camera and so on.

I still use raspberrypi with closed case without any issue.

If you are concerned about overheating, it depends how you want to use it, if you plan to stress resources, maybe is better consider acquire some heatskin.

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