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How to Clean Laptop Cooling Fan and Heat Sink Fins
If you still remember your first computer lessons regarding safety and maintenance precautions, then the matter of pet hair, smoke and all kinds of dust bunnies come to mind. The buildup of these and other pollutants inside the laptop cooling fan or heat sink fins will cause it to generate heat and progressively lead to one or other component failure.
If your laptop turns off suddenly when you are using it, chances are the processor has triggered a shut-down alert most likely due to excessive heat. Over the years, gradual accumulation of dust bunnies inside the laptop can lead to clogging of the cooling fan or components on the board surface. This will interfere with cooling and excessive heat will be generated as a result.
In order to prevent heat buildup, start administering regular maintenance routines. In particular, check and clean your laptop because of these reasons:
Your laptop needs cleaning if;
- It has not been cleaned for more than a year
- It has build-up of heat at the base
- Heat from the processor is not flowing out through the heat sink fins
- It is acting up by turning itself off
- Its fan is making noise
- Monitoring utilities warn of high temperature
Some users argue that pollutants inside the laptop may not matter a lot as long as the cooling is maintained at a minimum. If a monitoring utility registers 40 degrees and low even after years of use, you could be safe, but again you just want to be sure. Maybe the day of reckoning is just around the corner.
Usually, we blow/suck dirt through the heat sink fins of the laptop and hope to get all the dust from the cooling fan and elsewhere. This approach will work depending on the amount of bunnies inside.
If, however, there is clogged dirt mixed with humidity, blowing with canned air would only push them around and sometimes make the cooling even worse. Sucking may fail to capture clogged dirt.
In order to exercise exhaustive assessment, you are better off opening up the laptop in order to have unobstructed view of its internals.
Unscrew the access panel to the laptop fan slot at the bottom of the computer. Depending on the laptop model however, access to the fan will be anywhere even beneath the keyboard. Other laptops require that you unscrew the whole bottom cover.
I have used a Sony laptop for this example and the bottom cover had to be unscrewed in its totality.
As seen in the image above, the laptop board seems clean, save for dust particles and clog in the processor fan. Sucking/blowing the dust will do for this case.
In order to be sure though, you need to open up the fan in order to assess the copper and aluminum heat sink fins. This hidden part of the cooling system is where the trouble lies most of the time.
The aluminum fins which passes out hot air from the heat sink hides lots of pollutants.
Aside from blowing/sucking dust in and around the fan, you will also have to brush out the clog on the aluminum fins. Where necessary the heat sink fins may need cleaning using aerosol spray like Toon-brite and isopropyl alcohol solution.
Caution While Cleaning the Laptop
Popular devices for cleaning the laptop include:
- Compressed air can
- Air blower
- Airbrush compressor
- Vacuum cleaner
- While the vacuum cleaner is designed to suck stuff out, the other gadgets blow tough air into the laptop.
- Make sure to remove battery and disconnect adaptor cable when performing maintenance on your laptop, but leave power cable plugged in when using a vacuum cleaner.
- Vacuum cleaners create static electricity while sucking out stuff. Despite this, many computer technicians have used them for years without problems. Beware though of sucking out components on the motherboard while using a vacuum cleaner!
- You should unplug the fan power connector to the motherboard when using a compressor to dust out your laptop. The generated speeds can turn the little fans into small power generators.
- When using compressed air cans ensure the laptop is placed in an elevated angle while the can is upright. Air cans release jets of freezing liquid which can short components soon after the computer is switched on. It is the reason you should avoid elongated spraying in preference to quick bursts. Better still don’t rush to turn the laptop on immediately.
- When shopping for air compressors, opt for air brush models. They are suitable for computers since they are oil free. Other kinds of air compressors spray jets of oil which can coat board components.
- Do not place the cleaner nozzles of the aforementioned gadgets so close to the board components for fear of static discharge.
An important note is that damage to the laptop resulting from static discharge may not seem apparent immediately. Continued misuse and exposure to static discharge could result to component failure in the long run.
In order to cut down on its effects, ground everything while toying around with computer electronics.
What device do you use to clean electronics at home?
Which one of the devices above do you recommend?
Software to Monitor Laptop Temperature
SpeedFan is a miniature temperature monitoring utility, which just as well measures laptop fan speed.
Besides reading the temperature for all cores, it allows you to calibrate sensors for individual processors.
Just like Real Temp, Core Temp adds the temp of all cores in its database.
- Electrostatic discharge - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact, an electrical short, or dielectric breakdown. A buildup of static electricity can be caused by tribocharging or by electrosta