Overheating will slowly kill your laptop. Here’s how to fix an overheating laptop and prevent it from getting too hot.
Your laptop packs impressive processing power and storage in vanishingly little space. This progress in efficiency comes at a cost: excess heat. The greatest threat to your laptop, except for your coffee, is overheating. It can cause hardware failure and permanent damage.
Let’s look at how to fix an overheating laptop to improve its performance and extend its lifespan. Just because your laptop seems hot doesn’t mean it’s overheating.
How do you know your laptop is overheating?
A sure sign that your computer is overheating is when you can hear your fan running at maximum speed. You may also experience reduced performance because modern CPUs can cut back on clock speed to reduce heat stress. Moreover, the fail-safe software may trigger a sudden shut down to prevent hardware damage.
If you want to measure the actual heat values inside your laptop, you can use a tool like HWMonitor.
This might also reveal which part of your laptop is getting too hot. Typically, you’ll find that the central processing unit (CPU) or the graphics processing unit (GPU) are most overheating. Laptops with onboard graphics may not display different GPU temperatures.
Why is your laptop overheating? Your laptop is overheating because of insufficient cooling. Potential reasons include dust blocking intake grills or exhaust ports, clogged fan, or degenerating thermal paste.
Thermal paste (sometimes a pad) is a heat conductive material that connects the CPU or GPU with the metal heat sink; the latter directs heat away from the processing units, usually to a cooling fan.
You can fix all these things yourself, though some jobs will be tougher than others. Read on if you need a quick fix and don’t have the skills to de-lid your CPU or GPU and apply fresh thermal compound.
Can a fanless laptop with passive cooling overheat?
Fanless laptops use passive cooling techniques like spreading the heat across the entire metal body or throttling CPU clock speeds to regulate heat.
If you can’t hear a fan nor find intake grills or exhaust ports, your laptop probably runs on passive cooling. This means your laptop won’t overheat, but you might notice decreasing performance in response to increasing heat stress.
Since laptops with passive cooling don’t have fans, there’s little you can fix. You can, however, recover processing power lost to CPU throttling by addressing the excess heat with external cooling. Skip ahead to the section on cooling pads below.
Here is how to fix an overheating laptop
Fix Internal Cooling
The first and most important thing you need to do when your laptop is overheating is to clean the fan(s) that provide(s) cooling to the CPU and graphics card. Over time, they build up layers of dust and dirt that slow them down and block airflow. Consult your laptop’s manual or the manufacturer to find out how you can open the laptop to access and clean these parts. Cooling grills on the underside of a laptop.
Before you attempt to do any cleaning, however, follow these steps:
Shut down the computer
Unplug all cables
Remove the battery (if possible)
When you’re ready, have a close look at your laptop, outside and inside, and clean the following parts:
If you can open your laptop, carefully clean the fan(s) with a cotton swab dipped in a drop of isopropyl alcohol. Ensure the alcohol has completely evaporated before reconnecting the laptop to the power. You can also use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt that clocks up the fan(s). To prevent damage to a fan, do not let it revolve in the wrong direction. If you want canned air to clean a fan, stop it from spinning by holding it down.
Next, you can clean the exhaust port with a vacuum cleaner. It usually sits on the side of the laptop, but you can also find it on the back. Unlike intake grills, exhaust ports release warm or hot air, making them easy to find.
External intake grills cover fans that suck cooler air into the laptop. They can sit on the sides or at the bottom of your notebook. To clear the intake grills, spray them with canned air.
Finally, you can apply fresh thermal grease to the interface between the CPU, GPU, and its heat sink. Again, please consult the laptop’s manual or manufacturer for instructions on disassembling these components—laptop motherboard with cooling fan and heat sink.
Keep the laptop on a hard and flat surface.
If your laptop’s intake grills are at the bottom, then uneven surfaces, like a blanket, pillow, or your lap, will obstruct its airflow. Subsequently, cooling is impaired, heat builds up, your laptop surfaces get hot, the internal temperature increases, and eventually, the laptop will overheat.
You can easily avoid this scenario by keeping the laptop on a hard, flat surface. You can use something as simple as a tray or get a special laptop holder or lap stand.
Invest in a laptop cooler or cooling pad
Laptop coolers are meant to provide additional cooling. However, getting the wrong cooler can make the problem worse. Before you purchase a cooler, you need to understand the airflow into and out of your laptop.
As mentioned above, most laptops suck in cooling air from the bottom. This makes sense because warm air rises upwards. However, a cooler that sits underneath the laptop and sucks air away from it doesn’t contribute to laptop cooling and rather accelerates overheating.
If your laptop has intake grills at its bottom, purchase a cooler that blows cool air upwards, i.e., into the laptop. You can also get a passive cooler that does not consume power and merely absorbs heat.
You can build your own laptop cooler or cooling pad if you’re handy. We even found a solution that will cost you under five bucks!
What Are Potential Software Fixes?
If none of the hardware fixes results in lasting improvements, you can revert to software fixes that address your laptop’s performance and power usage. However, addressing excessive heat with a software fix means you give up performance in favor of preserving the hardware.
You can either reduce your screen’s brightness or the CPU clock speed. In Windows, underclocking or undervolting is done in the BIOS but can also be controlled through software tools.
Protect your laptop from overheating
Even if you have a device that doesn’t exhibit any clear evidence of overheating, cleaning its vents and fans is a good idea to prevent dust buildup regularly. And if you want to be extra careful, always place your laptop on a firm and even surface.
If you use a laptop pillow while surfing on the sofa, you’ll ensure good airflow and reduce the dust that enters and blocks vents and fans.