A laptop that’s too hot is unlikely to burst into flames, but high running temperatures can severely decrease its general performance as well as shorten its battery life. Here are some tips to prevent this situation.
How Hot is Too Hot?
Before we get into the tips, it’s important to establish the normal operating temperature for your laptop. To do this, you can consult your owner’s manual or check the manufacturer’s website to find the normal temperature range and then install a small piece of software called SpeedFan, which you can use to monitor the temperature of your laptop’s processor*.
Another really easy way to tell if your laptop is too hot is simply by your sense of touch. If you place your hand on the bottom of your laptop and have to remove it shortly afterwards, then it’s probably too hot. Similarly, if the heat makes it too uncomfortable for you to use the laptop directly on your lap for any length of time, then it’s too hot.
A second indicator of overheating is the fan. If, for extended periods of time while performing very basic tasks, the fan sounds like a jet plane taking off, then this indicates that the fan is working too hard to keep the system cool.
OK, now onto the tips.
*The processor is the part that does all the “heavy-lifting” inside your laptop from the moment you switch it on. The harder it works, the hotter it gets, and the harder the fan has to work to cool it down.
1) Keep Your Laptop Clean
If your laptop is overheating it may be due to a build-up of dust inside the casing, particularly in or around the fan. A dust build-up will decrease the efficiency of the laptop’s cooling system causing it to overheat.
To resolve this issue, you can blow out the excess dust using a can of compressed air or physically open the laptop and remove the dust manually. A word of caution though, only open your laptop if you know exactly what you’re doing. Also, check that opening it won’t void your warranty.
2) Limit The Number Of Running Processes
The more processes (or programs) that are running at an given time, the harder your laptop’s processor has to work and the hotter it gets. So try to keep the number of running processes to a minimum.
When you first switch on your laptop, the system launches certain tasks that run in the background and perform various (boring) tasks. Some of these tasks are very important and others are nice to have but completely unnecessary. The unnecessary ones can be switched off without a significant impact on your laptop’s performance or user experience.
These are the programs (or apps) that you open and use yourself, like Outlook, Excel, Windows Media Player, etc. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to close any apps that you’re not using so that you don’t stress your laptop’s processor with too much work, causing it to overheat.
3) Change The Thermal Paste
Inside your laptop is a part called the “heat sync”. It’s essentially a metal plate (usually copper) that sits on top of the processor and conducts heat away from it, which gets blown out of the vent by the fan as warm air. But between the heat sync and the processor is a layer of paste that absorbs the processors heats. Over time, this paste wears down, degrading the efficiency of the cooling process. When this happens, you need to change the paste. How often you need to do this depends on the make/model of your laptop and who you ask, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it more than once a year.
I recently resolved an overheating issue on a laptop by changing the thermal paste. Before I began, the warm air coming out of the vent was hot enough to melt a crayon! Seriously, it melted my daughters crayon. And the fan sounded like the engine of a 747. But now, I’m pleased to say that the laptop is really cool, I can put my hand on the vent without toasting my fingers, and the sound of the fan has gone from Boeing 747 to Toyota Prius!
So, to keep your laptop cool and working well, do the following:
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