Heat is a laptop’s worst enemy. It can shorten the lifespan of your expensive friend or even fry critical components turning your laptop into an irreparable loss. Over the last four weeks I’ve done a ton of research on what causes heat buildup. I’ve got a few tips to share — and one crazy solution that’s working for me.
I started researching when I noticed my laptop getting really hot. Admittedly, I’ve been working it pretty hard. On days that I take online classes, I might stream live video for several consecutive hours while running three or four other programs on dual displays. My goal was to discover whether I could reduce the temperature by changing some settings or perhaps by altering my behaviours.
Geek alert. If you don’t enjoy technical talk, skip this part and scroll down to the “practical tips” section.
First, I downloaded a program called Core Temp 1.0 to measure processor loads and internal temperatures. By watching the numbers as I worked, I discovered that some of my programs are processor hogs; notably Gmail. I could reduce the temperature simply by closing a high-use program. I also noted that the fan would not engage on it’s highest speed if the processors were under a heavy load, even when the temperature was climbing to a dangerous 80 degrees C. As soon as I closed a high-drag program, the fan would speed up and the temperature would reduce quickly.
That was great to know, but what a pain. Even though I said I wanted to know if I could improve things by changing my behaviours, I really didn’t want to change how I work. I wanted to keep running lots of programs at the same time and have my laptop be highly responsive.
So I kept watching, I limited the number of programs open at the same time, and I researched a little more each day. That brings me to my crazy solution.
My Crazy Story About Temperature Reduction
I read a string of technical forum comments on the effects a battery can have on laptop temperatures. Some found that by removing the battery while running on AC, the temperature would be lower. (I probably don’t need to say this as only geeks would bother to read this part, but by AC, I mean alternating current. Plugged into the wall socket.) I tried it — and here’s what I found.
The running temperature of my laptop originally was in the low 50′s at idle, mid to high 60′s while running, and would get up into the 70′s and go as high as 82 if I was streaming video while working. With the battery removed, the laptop idles in the high 40′s, stays in the 50′s while working, and only went as high as 65 when I streamed two videos at the same time and worked in my heaviest CPU usage programs.
I’ve since read many people suggesting this as a potential solution — some believe that the operating system may be doing fancy jigs with the battery (discharging and charging) while others feel the battery simply adds heat. I don’t know why it works, I can just tell you it works on my Acer.
Practical Tips For Non-Geeks
- Identify the locations of air vents and be sure they’re never blocked. A running laptop with blocked vents will get so hot, it could cause a fire. Of course your laptop will also be fried in the process but that will be the least of your worries.
- Don’t use your laptop on your lap. Even though it has the word ‘lap’ in its name, that’s a big no-no. You will block the air supply on the bottom of the unit.
- Don’t use your laptop on a bed or sofa (see don’t block the air vents, above).
- Don’t use your laptop on carpet (again, air vent blocking).
- Clean your laptop at least once per year with a can of compressed air. Remember to focus on the air vents – especially if you have a dog or cat. Some recommend using a vacuum cleaner, however, there’s evidence that vacuums create static, which is also really bad for your machine.
- Consider downloading a temperature monitor. I use Core Temp 1.0 and I’ve heard good things about Speccy. Both are free. I’m not affiliated with either, in case you’re wondering.
- Games are notorious for working the processors extra hard, which causes heat. If you love running games for long periods of time, consider buying a laptop cooler. Google it and you’ll see there are many on the market. If you have no money to purchase one, you might consider making a hillbilly cooler as demonstrated in this video:
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