General Question

ariwriter's avatar

How do you cool a hot laptop?

Asked by ariwriter (63points) July 9th, 2008

The bottom of my laptop gets hot. I usually place it on a lap cushion or a glass-covered table. Thoughts on how to cool it?

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19 Answers

XCNuse's avatar

Give it air flow.

They have for 15” and lower laptop cooling plates, which usually just have dual fans, I have a 17” so that isn’t an option, but they’re typically 20$ and seem to do a fair job.

I just put Arctic Silver 5 on my CPU the other morning, and my core runs about 5 degrees cooler, which is awesome.

In the end, a cushion isn’t helping it. The rear should always be lifted as to minimize dust, minimize surface to surface temperatures, and maximize airflow. Also, depending on how long you’ve had it, check for dust between the fan and the CPU heatsink. Unfortunately for the world, you can’t simple just shine a light into it, it doesn’t work; dust doesn’t reflect well so it’ll seem as if nothing is there, you have to take apart your laptop and clean it out yourself, unless you’re lucky like my friend and have a little door you have to open, and unscrew the heatsink with 4 screws and it just pops out and is simple to clean out.

If you have a mac, I can’t help you, they’re well known for burning people (literally; especially macbook pros)

mcbealer's avatar

@ ariwriter ~ Do you have a Dell? Mine a fan on the bottom of the laptop, so it gets really hot. I bought a lapinator which has been worth every penny. They have several models, I got the plus model because it is just wide enough to accomodate my laptop and my small laser mouse.

ariwriter's avatar

I have a 15” Toshiba Satellite.

sndfreQ's avatar

As XCNuse mentions, MacBooks (esp. the pros) carry a high heat load to the body of the laptop; in the case of the MacBook Pros, the aluminum body is in-part a heat-sink, designed to disperse the heat throughout the bottom of the body of the laptop.

IAC, the airflow beneath the laptop must not be restricted, as it has the effect of not allowing proper dissipation of the heat; it’s like taking a heater and wrapping it in a sleeping bag (not a good idea either).

As for the glass-covered table, same principle with the air circulation; the glass is a poor conductor and will basically insulate the bottom of the laptop; this will only exacerbate the heat load issue. Glass is a really good insulator-it’s used to insulate cables on power lines at the pole.

sferik's avatar

When my laptop gets hot, I stick it in the fridge for about an hour.

sndfreQ's avatar


arnbev959's avatar

My laptop (Dell) turns off all the time because it gets too hot. I usually just try to move it every now and then so the heat doesn’t build up under it.

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Stocky's avatar

Just run it under the faucet for awhile with cold water.

Joking of course DO NOT do that

Lightlyseared's avatar

You could dip it in liquid nitrogen.

Jax's avatar

Most laptops get really hot after a few months of usage. But at normal use a laptop shouldn’t feel like it’s melting. The computer needs an airflow to cool the processor and some other bits. New laptops are tested in a lab, and well get great results. But being stored in a bag, used in a dusty office or even worse on the couch. It sucks in a ton of dust that gets stuck in all the tiny vents.

My old computer eventually felt like a BBQ on my lap, but survived. Here’s how:
– Vacuum the vents once a month. (be gentle)
– Keep the charger far away from the laptop. (these built up quite some heat too)
– When setting it to do some hefty work, place it on a table.

If you feel confident enough you could take the cover off to do some dust cleaning. Or leave it to a pro. This extends the life of any computer.

jlm11f's avatar

I have been having problems with overheating laptop in the last few months. I bought a laptop cooling pad from eBay for about 16$ and I love it! It’s USB powered, and it basically has 2 external fans. My laptop just sits on it and when I feel the laptop is getting too hot, I turn on the external fans. I remember when I hadn’t bought the cooling pad, some flutherers gave me good suggestions that really helped. I think it was uberbatman who said that he uses an oven grill tray (since it has tons of open space) as the base for the laptop so there isn’t any venting problems. This is a great, and cheap idea. Placing the laptop on your lap, bed, pillow etc will only block ventilation and cause the fans to overheat. Even keeping it on a wooden desk will not help. So you need to keep it on any base that has tons of holes or something similar that will allow a good air flow. Until my cooling pad arrived, I used a book to prop the laptop. I made sure the book did not block the vents/fan parts. Propping the laptop in anyway that prevents the fans from being blocked should help cool it. Good Luck.

8lightminutesaway's avatar

To add to what XCNuse said, if your going to remove your CPU heatsink., you must take off the old thermal paste (with a paper towel and, if needed, rubbing alcohol ) and reapply new thermal paste (Arctic Silver 5 is what most people will recommend, it does a great job) before you put the heatsink back in.
Make sure whatever room your in has at least decent ventilation. My old laptop used to heat my room.
I do recommend cleaning the dust off of inner parts too. If there are fans you can’t get to without major deconstruction, use those dust remover spray cans to try and get some of it out. It does a pretty good job. My friend used to use an actual air compressor to do this…

XCNuse's avatar

I’ve yet to see someone effectively remove dust using a can of air or anything, it just doesn’t work, especially if it’s across more than one grid. Yes i’ve blown through mine before and seen dust come out, but trust me.. that really isn’t doing anything, and once you get a patch, it’s like a seed, and more dust keeps attaching and more and more, and soon you have no airflow.

It isn’t that hard, just get to the fans, unscrew the fan (you can leave it attached), move it back a touch, and just grab the dust and pull it out and you’re done, then patch it all back up and it should be running just as cool as it did the day you bought it.

If you’re afraid to do this, honestly… the only way you can mess up your laptop when it’s open is if you cut a wire, do some pro wrestling move and drop on it and shatter the motherboard, or spill a liquid on it, and… “don’t care”, then you shouldn’t have a problem.
Especially if you’re warranty is out, hell I had my laptop apart the week I got it last year, but then again my laptop (e1705) was made to be taken apart and self fixed really…

8lightminutesaway's avatar

The air spray cans aren’t perfect, but its better than nothing at all. Also, in some laptops the fans are quite difficult to get to, and people don’t usually want to have to buy/reapply thermal paste. Like the fan on the gpu of my old laptop could not be taken apart easily at all… I could get it out, but I could not clean it effectively with anything because you couldn’t get to the blades without taking fan apart. Paper towels moved the chunks further in, and the air can pushed them the rest of the way out.

but yeah, most fans are pretty easy to get to and clean. and the air compressor worked wonders for sure, but actually the uber high pressure and subsequent high rpms broke one of the fans.

From my experience, laptops are far more delicate than your making them sound. I’ve watched 3 friends take apart several laptops for various reasons, and took apart my own a bunch of times (none of which were macs, I have little experience with them). most of my friends, who were definitely technically inclined and computer knowledgeable, incurred more problems after taking apart theirs. On my laptop, when I was trying to replace the keyboard, the bracket that secured the keyboard connection just broke off through no fault of mine. poof, no more keyboard. laptop parts are delicate, ive seen a lot of them break. theres always a chance you could drop a screw in between something and not get it back out, or other things. Anyway, my point is laptops are expensive, and while I encourage fixing it yourself instead of taking it somewhere, I’m saying be very careful with your investment.

And make sure you take out your battery before opening your laptop.

ariwriter's avatar

I stopped by Microcenter tonight (great computer superwarehouse, throughout the U.S. if nobody’s heard of it) and looked at their selections.

I didn’t see anything called the Lapinator but wound up purchasing this laptop cooling stand with a USB-powered fan made by Belkin.

The case of this cooling stand stated it received a Cnet award in May 2007. Looking it up, here’s the Cnet review

XCNuse's avatar

microcenter is the greatest, got one near my house. Problem is, that stand isn’t made for the larger laptops of today, and honestly single fanned stands won’t put a dent in laptops with an actual GPU. Yes CPUs get hot, but only when you don’t let the fan run, I keep an eye on my fans with I8kGUI which was made for dell latitudes, but works on my e1705.

On my battery though the fans almost never run until they get to a piping 160 degrees F, but my CPU rapidly cools down to ~100 or below, my GPU idles around 150 F, but even on battery it doesn’t use it as much, thus it even cools down and idles around 120 or lower.
plugged into the wall, the fans almost always run on slow.. (lol as they go off while i’m typing this), most likely because they use up a fair amount of power that when in use would easily batter your battery after a few minutes of full RPM use.

8lightminutesaway's avatar

@XCNuse… 160F (71C) on your CPU? thats pretty darn hot for a cpu in my book, I would expect the fans to be on long before that… is that because its set to least power consumption on battery mode?

XCNuse's avatar

yea, it doesn’t stay there long, once it hits 160 (might be 150), somewhere in that 10 range, it kicks on low for a while and it quickly drops.

I mean this is a performance laptop for the most part, so it remains fairly warm.

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