How to fix laptop overheating

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Is your laptop overheating? Does it shut down or restart without warning? Feel hot when you hold your hand against the underside after you’ve been running it a while, or burn your legs if you have it on your lap? Does the internal fan sound a lot more active than it used to be?

This article hopes to help you identify why the problem is occurring and then, if possible, how to fix laptop overheating. The good news is that in most cases, the likeliest problem is just fluff and dust effecting the smooth running of the fan and/or blocking the air vent and that means that fixing an overheating laptop is often just a ten minute job.

I will show you how I repaired my Acer Aspire 5735, although the procedure is essentially very similar for any brand or model of laptop.

Summary of the symptoms of an overheating laptop

  • Computer feels hot when you put your hand against the underside, or burns your legs when you have it on your lap.
  • The computer shuts down or restarts.
  • The laptop’s internal fan comes on more than it used to.
  • The computer shuts down more quickly if you turn it on again after it has already switched itself off once.

Are you sure that overheating is the problem?

First of all, we need to be sure that overheating really is the root cause of the problem that you are having.

Aside from the three symptoms that I mentioned at the start (laptop shutting down, feels hot when you hold your hand against the underside, fan more active than it used to be) if your laptop has become hot and switched off, when you turn it on again, it should last a shorter time before it shuts itself off again.

If it does this, you can be fairly sure that the likely cause of the laptop overheating is that the internal fan and/or the air vents are blocked up with fluff and dust. Typically these problems can occur after you’ve had the laptop for one or two years and it builds up gradually.

Now is maybe a good time to also point out that laptops usually have air vents on the underside too, so you should try to put them on a hard flat surface when working.

Overheating laptops are not helped by being placed on a pillow or carpet, which can block the underside air vents.

Most laptops are designed to close themselves down if they overheat.  This is to protect the chip, which can be permanently damaged by overheating.
Most laptops are designed to close themselves down if they overheat. This is to protect the chip, which can be permanently damaged by overheating. | Source

Why does the laptop turn itself off?

The laptop shutting down when it is overheating is actually a good thing. The laptop is doing this to protect the CPU (central processing unit), which could be damaged otherwise by the excessive heat.

As the CPU is a key part of the laptop and an expensive component, you actually should be glad that you are not having to replace key components, or the entire laptop. Don’t waste any time before you fix laptop, however.

What tools do I need?

  • A jeweler screwdriver set is always useful when working with laptops and netbooks.
  • A compressed gas duster aerosol is useful for cleaning out the vents. Make sure that it is one designed for use with electronics though, as these ones don’t leave any moisture around.
  • Cotton buds can sometimes come in handy for cleaning the fan, other than that, general cleaning products suitable for electronics are useful.

Opening up the overheating laptop

You can of course, just try blowing a compressed gas duster through the main air vent and not opening up the laptop at all. This can quite often work.

I wouldn’t generally advise that you try to fix laptop this way, however, certainly not if the laptop is overheating on a frequent basis. As well as you not really knowing where you will be blowing the dust inside the overheating laptop, you really want to open the casing so that you can take a good look at the fan itself.

Two things to warn you about before you go ahead and unscrew the back of your laptop.

Firstly, if your laptop is under warranty then you will probably be voiding it by opening it up.

Secondly, having had some bad experiences years ago when I first started opening up computers, I would always recommend following general common sense advice for avoiding problems with static electricity by earthing yourself first. You can achieve this by grabbing something metal which is earthed (or grounded) such as a radiator to discharge any static electricity which you may be carrying. You should also seriously consider investing in some anti-static PC tools.

I would recommend that you work with the laptop on a non-static surface such as a wooden table, rather than a nylon carpet! I know that computers are less sensitive to static than they used to be and we are not messing with the electronics in this case, but it’s better to be over-cautious than live to regret it!

Okay, so now you need to make sure that your overheating laptop is switched off and you’ve given it chance to cool down. Now turn it on its back and open up the underside. The pictures that I am going to show is of one of my own machines, an old Acer laptop. The model is actually an Acer Aspire 5735, but that doesn’t matter, as the principles are actually almost exactly the same for any brand or model of laptop – the only thing that will vary is the layout of the laptop.

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You can see that the fan is in the bottom left with associated air vents below it. I should have shown you a photo of my laptop before I cleaned it, rather than after, but never mind! Cleaning the fluff and dust from the fan should be straightforward and is common sense really.

If the fan is broken, however, you have a more serious problem and the fan will probably need replacing – that is not the commonest problem with an overheating laptop, so I am not going to go into that here.

To clean the air vents you will need to blast some compressed gas through with your aerosol duster for electronics. You should see the fluff being blown out, if it’s had any blockages. The fan will probably spin around while you’re doing this, but don’t worry about that.

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Once your laptop repair is done, you can screw your casing back on and try out your newly cleaned laptop! If everything has gone well with my overheating laptop fix, then you should no longer have any of the symptoms described at the start!

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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Comments 3 comments

Alladream74 profile image

Alladream74 5 years ago from Oakland, California

Another good one.Wonder if you know anything about a Macbook fan running at high speed all the time?


PaulGoodman67 profile image

PaulGoodman67 5 years ago from Florida USA Author

My experience of macs is limited, compared to PCs, although I do like macs. What do you mean by running at high speed? Surely that's a good thing! ;-)


LadyFae profile image

LadyFae 5 years ago from Under the Stars

What a very useful hub. Thank you so much!!!

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