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How to keep your laptop from overheating

Pretty much every laptop owner has been through a too-toasty experience with a machine at some point. You’re sitting there, working away, when you notice your computer is getting uncomfortably warm.

When laptops are working hard and using a lot of processing power, they naturally heat up. This issue can be exacerbated if you’re using the computer in a hot environment, like outside on a summer day. Getting warm can be a normal part of a laptop’s operation, but there are ways to help your machine chill out, even when you’re giving its components a workout.

Try a cooling pad

Some laptops, especially those used for heavy-duty gaming, can run hot and still be within normal operating parameters. But that can make the machine too warm to comfortably hold on your lap.

There are quite a few laptop cooling pads on the market, many of which are styled to appeal to gamers. These devices lift the laptop up and use fans to help dissipate the heat from the bottom of the computer.

There are also some non-powered pads on the market that use mesh or little feet to raise up the laptop and allow for more airflow. As an alternative, you can try setting your laptop on a flat surface and raising the back up at an angle using something you find around the house or office, like the edge of a book. The idea is to leave some airspace beneath the laptop and let it vent out the extra heat.

In the same vein, be careful about the type of surfaces on which you have your laptop. A cushy pillow on your lap could cover the vents and cause problems.

Clean the vents

If your laptop is abnormally hot, then the first thing to check is your laptop’s vents. One of the most common reasons for overheating is an accumulation of dust inside the laptop, clogging up the openings.

The recommended cleaning method for this issue involves turning off and unplugging your laptop and then blowing out the vents with a can of compressed air to dislodge any dust or pet fur.

Check your laptop carefully for all of its vent locations. They can usually be found along the sides and/or on the bottom.

Ease up on the software

Running a demanding application can put a lot of stress on your system and cause a laptop to heat up, especially if it’s an older machine. Apple warns, “Runaway applications can cause the processor to work overtime and affect the heat level of your computer.” 

First, make sure your software is up to date, including your operating system. If a program is consistently causing problems, then look for an update or an alternate application.

You can also try having fewer programs open at one time and close extraneous tabs in your web browser to see if it helps your laptop run cooler.

Take it to a tech

A laptop that gets too hot can run slowly or even crash completely. If you’re experiencing system problems along with a very hot laptop, then you may have a more serious hardware problem, such as a fan that’s not working.

If your laptop is out of warranty and you’re familiar with working on your own machines, then you may be able to find step-by-step instructions for DIY fan replacement through the repair website iFixit.

Otherwise, take your machine to a repair technician. Apple laptop owners can head to the Genius Bar at a local Apple Store for advice.

If your laptop is getting long in the tooth, then a new machine may ultimately be more economical than a repair. Check out our Komando guide on how to know when it’s time to get a new computer.

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