Fix it yourselfHardware TuesdayLaptops

5 Ways to Cool Down Your Laptop

1st September 2015 — by That IT Guy0


It’s no secret that a lot of people prefer a Laptop over a Desktop if they have to choose (many have both). In my experience with clients, 95% of the time, the answer to why is mobility or space (or both). As for the specifics, well it could be as simple as “I need my laptop for work due to the fact that I move around constantly” or “I don’t really have room for a desktop PC, not even one of those all-in-one solutions” which is specially the case for university students living in stupidly small apartments. The fact is that a Laptop is simply more comfortable.

Personally I don’t have one but I have had several over the years. All types as well, going from the traditional laptop to ultrabooks to netbooks (those 7-10″ underpowered laptops that abused the “it’s just for internet” excuse) but most importantly, I sure do fix a lot of them and the two main reasons for that are hard drive failure (due to knocking the laptop with something) and overheating.

You see, if Laptops where people, they’d have a serious inferiority complex and a constant need to “try to be better” or in this specific case, try to be more like Desktops and the main problem with that is power. You may not know this but an i7-xxxx is not the same as that very i7 model cpu on a Desktop computer. Why? Because a Laptop has power limitations (and I mean power in the electricity way, not performance) due to the fact that their battery has to last, at the absolute least, an hour and a half (when new) which means components are only allowed to use so much power and in the hardware world, more power tends to me more performance.

Today, however, as components get better, they require less power to put out all they can, specially with many power saving features such as cpu power management or having an integrated graphics card for doing menial tasks and using the discrete graphics card for stuff like gaming. Unfortunately, because these components are more powerful (performance), they put out more heat, specially under stress. A perfect example is, an average Desktop will measure a max temperature of 50-75c (depending on location and components of course) under heavy use while a Laptop can easily reach 90c. As time goes by, components get older and hotter so while a Desktop has plenty of room to get hotter and not have any symptoms other than heat, a Laptop does not and will soon start to fail.

So, here’s 9 ways to cool down your Laptop.

1: Find a hard, flat surface.

One of the most common mistake people do when using a laptop is thinking it’s ok to use it in bed to, for example, watch a movie or the latest episode from your favourite tv show. If the laptop is on a soft surface like your bed or nested in between you and a pillow you’re doing it wrong. Have in mind that laptops breathe in through either underneath or the sides depending on models and thickness. Finding and using a hard surface will allow your laptop to maintain good air flow. The floor isn’t ideal either for the same reason it’s not ideal to have your Desktop’s tower on the floor, it tends to be covered in a thin layer of dust which while you may not see, both types of computers pick it up through their air intake which in turn ends up blocking it causing less fresh air to go in and therefore rising the temperature.

9 Ways to Cool Down Your Laptop

Ironically and contrary to what its name implies, your lap isn’t the best place either. Furthermore while it may be obvious it needs to be said, do not cover the air intakes with decorative stickers or other paraphernalia and most importantly, whatever you do, do not place your laptop in direct sunlight. That said, this is not a “NEVER DO THIS” list of places for your laptop to be on, it is simply a list of places that not only do not help your laptop’s cooling but rather, make it considerably worse.

2: Clean out the fluff.

One of the main causes of an excessively hot laptop is dust. There’s several ways to solve this but the simplest is to purchase a can of compressed air and spray it into the vents in quick and short bursts, be sure, however, that your laptop is off, unplugged from the mains and with the battery removed before you do this. Also, don’t just blow in to the vents, that’s being cheap and it may actually cause damage as by blowing you can blow spit and/or humidity in to the sensitive electronics that are within the laptop and as we all know, being cheap rarely pays off, specially on electronics.

9 Ways to Cool Down Your Laptop

You can also use a cotton swab to clean out any visible dust within the vents but do not use a vacuum cleaner unless it’s a specific one for computers due to the fact that these generate electrostatic current which is incredibly bad for exposed electronics. The ultimate procedure is to open up the laptop and clean it through out, but this is nowhere near as easy or quick as doing it on a Desktop so do not attempt this unless you know exactly what you’re doing as you may find yourself with broken clips or not knowing how it all goes together again so if you want to do this, be sure to take it to your local specialist as 50 dollars/pounds/euros spent today may considerably increase the life of your laptop due to it not being exposed to overheating.

3: Buy a cooling stand.

In the last few years there’s been an increase in the need for this devices (and for good reason). They are essentially bases for your laptop (which, again the recommendations on step 1, will allow you to use it pretty much anywhere as it does provide a hard surface for your laptop that also cools it) with an integrated fan that is usually connected via USB to your laptop for power (obviously have in mind this will draw power from your laptop and therefore drain your battery slightly faster). One that I quite like and have gotten better results than other (which turn to be plastic or have poor fans) is the “Cooler Master Notepal U2 Plus” on which you can adjust the fans to cool the hottest areas on your laptop. You can get one in the following links if you decide to go for this model.

Cooler Master U2 Plus
Amazon US
Amazon UK

4: Update your drivers.

Most people will never touch the drivers because it comes ready from the factory with everything installed. Even when new however, that very laptop could have been sitting in a warehouse for months so new drivers could easily have come out since then. Drivers (specially chipset and graphics drivers) don’t just fix issues, they also optimize the performance and cooling so while it may not be a drastic change in temperatures, in most cases it will help a bit (and you may even notice a performance increase!).

Update your Drivers!

Unfortunately, most (if not all) Laptop manufacturer websites do not upload new drivers to their website from the manufacturer unless it fixes a very common and complained about issue so you may have to do some hunting. Fortunately for you, your main concern will chipset and graphics drivers which, incidentally, are also the easiest to find. The first thing you’ll need to know is what Chipset and Graphics card you have, you can find out what you have using a little program called HWiNFO which you can find in the downloads section. Once you install and open it, you’ll see your chipset and graphics card information.

What Chipset and GPU do I have?

Now that we have the information we need, we just need to go to their websites. So, if you have an Intel Chipset, you can install an auto-updater from Intel here. If you have an AMD Chipset you can do the very same here which, incidentally will also update your Graphics card if you have an AMD or ATI graphics card as it’s part of the same company. If you have an NVIDIA Graphics card you can do the same here. See, that wasn’t so scary was it?

5: If none of these helps enough.

The sad fact is that your laptop may be beyond the previous tips being enough. At this point what it needs is to be opened up, cleaned properly and for its thermal paste to be changed. Thermal paste (or grease) is the substance used in between your CPU and GPU and their respective heat sinks which in turn are connected to your fan.

Disgracefully (in my opinion anyway), laptop manufacturers use a really low quality thermal paste on their laptops which completely dries up over time and eventually leads to serious overheating issues, specially with laptops that higher end specs. On a normal Desktop PC it would take us no more than 10 minutes to change the paste, on a laptop however, it’s a time consuming procedure to laptops not having a universal chassis mounting design and therefore every laptop being different when it comes to opening it up.

For this you’ll really need to take it to your local specialist but, for all we know they may use cheap thermal paste too so a good thumb of rule is asking them to call you when the laptop is ready to have its thermal paste replaced and watching them do it on the spot by providing your own. I will always recommend Arctic’s MX4 Thermal Compound, it’s absolutely amazing how this stuff will cool down your laptop (we’re talking 25c less for an overheating laptop). Below you’ll find links to it.

Artic Cooling MX-4
Amazon US
Amazon UK

That’s it! Let me know in the comments how these tips worked for you and of course I’ll be happy to reply to any questions.