You are browsing through your Facebook profile when all of a sudden, without warning your laptop completely powers down. You haven’t restarted your laptop in days (possibly weeks, and may God help you if it is in months) and there is no visible sign which may have caused your laptop to shut down. That is, until you hover your hand over your laptop and realize that your laptop is scorching hot. Laptop overheating is a problem that many people face and one can have dire consequences on your beloved laptop.
Why do laptops get hot?
The simple answer is that laptops are computers, and computers generate heat. The main difference between a laptop and computer is that laptops are a portable version of a computer and luckily for us, laptops generate less heat than computers due to their relative small size. Computers get hot as they generate heat by using electricity. To prevent this heat from damaging the mainframe, nearly all computers and laptops come with a built in fan. However sometimes, a simple fan is not enough to cool the system down.
Clogged laptop vents: If your laptop hasn’t been cleaned recently, chances are there is an excess of accumulated dust that is clogging up your laptop’s air vents. This drastically reduces the amount of heat that can exit from the laptop itself and thus, leads to the eventual overheating which can severely damage your laptop.
Improper laptop placement: It is crucial that you realize the importance of proper laptop placement. A general guideline is to place a laptop in an empty, cool space (around room temperature, anything hotter may cause build-up of heat), on a flat surface. Placing anything to obstruct the air vents on a laptop will cause the laptop to heat up, therefore it is advised to locate the air vents on your laptop and remove all obstacles.
Malfunction of fans: As stated earlier, most laptops come with an inbuilt fan. However, as with all mechanical products, a fan is prone to malfunction for whatever the cause, and a malfunctioning fan will cause your laptop to overheat. It is similar to a car’s engine, if the cooling fans were to stop working, the engine will heat up. The same holds true towards laptops.
Over performing laptops: A computer is powered by the Central Processing Unit (CPU) and the more processing power the CPU needs, the more heat it will generate
Problems of overheating
Overheating in a laptop can cause serious damage other than the initial discomfort which the user may experience. It can also cause damages to your internal hardware, leading to shortened lifespan, irreparable damage and potential data loss of data. Overall performance is also decreased. Common phenomenons experienced on an overheating laptop are unplanned shutdowns of the computer speed of browsing and lag.
On Windows laptops, it may even cause the dreaded ‘blue screen of death’. Although uncommon nowadays, overheat can cause some components of your laptop to melt due to exposure of extreme heat.
The toasting skin syndrome is a brownish discoloration of the skin caused by prolonged exposure to laptop heat. The syndrome was named after a 12 year old boy was found with brownish skin near his left thigh. A running laptop can approach temperature upwards of 40 degrees Celsius, more than enough to burn human skin if exposed for extended periods of time. To avoid burns, never place a laptop directly on your skin (i.e. your lap).
A simple solution?
There really is no ‘definite solution’ to keep your laptop cool. Best case scenario, simply relocating your laptop may be sufficient to maintain a clear air vent. In other cases you may need to visit your local hardware store and renew your ragged fans. The most important aspect of maintaining a healthy temperature in laptops is simply to preserve a healthy airflow in and out of the air vent. An efficient way to cool your laptop is by buying a portable laptop fan. By putting your laptop on top of these, the portable fans are able to cool your laptop much more effectively than the internal fan in your laptop.
To prevent your CPU from heating up, first open your task manager by Ctrl + Alt + Delete. From there, you can look at the bottom right screen to see your CPU Usage. 0 – 10% is the safe zone, and any number higher than 50 is usually when your computer heats up. To prevent your CPU Usage from going up, you can close programs that you are not using. To see what programs are specifically making your CPU Usage high, go to the Processes tab. Under this tab, there will be a header named CPU. Double click the header CPU and the programs that use your CPU will show up.
As the majority of overheating in laptops is caused by dust and other unwanted particles clogging the fan and the air vent, one easy-to-do solution at home would be to simply clean these vents. Most Windows laptops allow for their users to dislocate the bottom protection plate (unscrew them with a screwdriver) which reveals the powerhouse of your laptop. How do the insides look? If there is an abundance of gray matter, it may be wise to purchase a can of compressed air. For its price the can does wonders, cleaning vents by ‘shooting’ the insides with compressed air, removing the dust from the vents in a relatively short time. Just remember to not spray too close to your motherboard, and instead just focus mostly on removing the dust from the clogged fans. Once complete, reassemble your laptop and voila! Enjoy your laptop in pristine condition once again.