Is Your Laptop Overheating?
Laptop computers get hot. All those electronic components crammed solidly into a small space generate lots of excess heat. The heat can shorten the life of the electronics, and it can be uncomfortable for the user balancing a laptop on his or her lap. So what can you do to cool your laptop? Read on...
Laptop Cooling Fans
Aside from the fact that heat can damage electronics, there are apocryphal tales of people suffering burns from overheated laptops, and also credible reports of laptops exploding into flames. So consider each of these tips to keep the temperature of your laptop to a practical minimum.
Keeping the laptop's built-in cooling fan running longer is one option. Laptop fans are controlled by software which switches a fan on when temperatures measured at critical points on the motherboard get too high, and switches the fan off when temperatures fall into an "acceptable" range. The problem is, what's acceptable for a CPU chip may be too hot for your lap.
Check your laptop's documentation and the maker's website. Your laptop may come with software that lets you set the fan to "always on", or you may be able to find a third-party program to control your laptop model's fan. SpeedFan and Notebook Hardware Control are two free programs that work with hundreds of computer models. Both of them will monitor your internal temps and display the info on the taskbar.
So how hot is too hot? Documentation on the acceptable temperature range is sometimes hard to come by, but if it's burning your legs, or the bottom of the unit is too hot to touch, that's too hot. If your laptop continues to runs hot after adjusting the fans, you may have a defect that should be addressed by the vendor or a repair shop. If you have any doubts, do some Googling and see if others with the same model are having the same problem.
An external fan can supplement the built-in cooling fan of your laptop, and keep cooling when the laptop's fan shuts off. These fans are about two inches square and latch onto the air vent from which hot air blows from your laptop. They're powered by USB ports or, in some cases, batteries. The downside of external fans is that a laptop often won't fit into its bag with an external fan attached; the fan must be attached and detached often.
Laptop Cooling Pads
Laptop cooling pads are basically slabs of metal or plastic that sit between your lap and your laptop, protecting you from heat. Well-designed laptop cooling pads absorb and dissipate heat from the laptop's case. There are several factors to consider when purchasing a laptop cooling pad.
First, metal beats plastic when it comes to sucking heat out of a laptop. Aluminum cooling pads can be as effective as the aluminum heat sink that sits atop the CPU chip inside your computer. Plastic is generally an insulator and does not do a good job of draining heat away from the laptop. Metal is generally more durable than plastic, too.
A passive cooling pad has no fans built into it. It depends on external air flow to move hot air away from the pad and the laptop. A passive cooling pad that leaves a gap between laptop and itself is virtually useless. The gap isn't wide enough to let air move freely in large volumes, and even a metal pad won't absorb heat from a laptop it isn't in contact with.
Active cooling pads have fans built into their surfaces to draw cool air across the hottest parts of a laptop's bottom. A gap between pad and laptop case is essential with an active cooling pad. Make sure the cooling pad has a fan directly under the hot spot(s) on your laptop's bottom. Feel the bottom of your laptop after it's been running about half an hour to find the spot(s) where fans will do the most good.
Bear in mind that active cooling with fans, internal or external, consumes electricity and shortens battery life. But if you have to make the tradeoff between battery life and the lifespan of your laptop, the choice is pretty clear.
Do you have something to say about laptop cooling? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Feb 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Your Laptop Overheating? (Posted: 23 Feb 2010)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved