How to Diagnose and Fix an Laptop Overheating Problem

One of the most common issues with aging laptops is overheating, something many people aren’t sure how to fix. We’ll help you figure out what’s causing the heat and how to keep your notebook functioning at a lower temperature. Overheating computers can cause a lot of problems, from seemingly random blue screen crashes to data loss. You might not even realize that overheating is the root of your issues, and before you know it you have a burnt-out motherboard on your hands. Let’s go step by step and see how you can deal with an overheating computer. We’ll be talking primarily about laptops, but many of the same principles apply to desktop computers, as well. And as always, before you start messing around with hardware—especially anything involving disassembly—take the time to back up your PC first.

Fix Internal Cooling:

The first and most important thing you need to do when your laptop is overheating is to clean the fan(s) that provide(s) cooling to the CPU and graphics card. Over time, they build up layers of dust and dirt that slow them down and block airflow. Consult your laptop’s manual or manufacturer to find out how you can open the laptop to access and clean these parts.

Before you attempt to do any cleaning, however, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down the computer
  2. Remove the battery
  3. Unplug the power strip
  4. Ground yourself

Carefully clean the fan(s) with a cotton swab dipped in a drop of alcohol. Make sure the alcohol has completely evaporated before you reconnect the laptop to the power. You can also use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust and dirt that clocks up the fan(s). To prevent damage to the fan, do not let it revolve in the wrong direction. If you want to use canned air to clean the fan, arrest the fan by holding it down.

How to Fix an Overheating Laptop Laptop Cooling 670x420

Next, you can clean the exhaust port by sucking out air with a vacuum cleaner. The exhaust port usually sits on the side of the laptop. It’s the opening that blows out hot air.

The intake grills are small openings that allow air to be sucked into the laptop by the revolving fans. They can sit on the sides or at the bottom of your notebook. To clear the intake grills, spray them with canned air.

Finally, you can apply fresh thermal grease to the interface between the CPU and its heat sink. Again, please consult the laptop’s manual or manufacturer to obtain instructions on how to disassemble these components.

Remove the Old Thermal Grease:

Apply New Thermal Grease:

Place a very small blob of thermal grease (mine might be a little too much) on the CPU and GPU only. Do not place any on the heat exchanger as well. You only need to place thermal grease on one or the other. Use the wooden depressor, plastic knife or old credit card to spread it evenly and very thinly over the surface of the area of the CPU / GPU or heat exchanger that will come in contact with each other. More is not better in this case. Too much thermal grease will not cause better heat conduction but might even cause some heat build up.

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