Heat and Dust

The most important part of your laptop that needs to be clean is… the heatsink. Yes, heat is the “cause of death” for most laptops. The heat not only causes all components to expand and contract a little (as you turn it on and off), but will also reach dangerously high levels and make your laptop crash or shut down if the fan(s) and the heatsink(s) are clogged with dust.

Completely blocked…

All computers work a little bit like vacuum cleaners – sucking air form one side and blowing it out from the other. Unfortunately they don’t come with filter bags to catch all the dust and debris. After just a few months the fans and heatsinks are well coated with dust. If not cleaned, their effectiveness quickly drops and eventually goes down to zero when the heatsinks get fully clogged.

For desktop PCs this process is somehow slower and less noticeable as there is a lot of air circulating inside the case, hopefully with both intake and exhaust fans pushing it through. Also the CPU heatsink and fan are quite bigger and more powerful. There are also fans on the power supply, on the video card and probably on the chipset, for a total count of up to six fans making sure your PC stays cool. However laptops usually have just one or two smaller fans that have to do it all.

I would suggest a little experiment. Look around you for a lamp with an ordinary 100W light bulb. Now turn it on for five minutes and hold your hand about an inch away from it (be careful not to touch the bulb, it will scorch you!). Do you feel it? Yes, that is the heat generated inside that shiny new powerful laptop you just bought.

The cure? It’s easy: get yourself a can of compressed air and blow away the dust off the fan and heatsink. This has to be done every couple of months or after about 50 – 60 days of using your laptop. The compressed air is quite handy for the keyboard too, blowing away all the debris from between the keys. This is not a very well known fact, but it is the most important part of maintaining your laptop.

Yes, it can get that hot. The laptop case is melted!

However if the heatsink has already been clogged, this won’t help. The compressed air will not be enough to unclog it. If you have never cleaned the heatsink and you had used your laptop for over a year, chances are that both the fan and the heatsink are clogged with dust and debris. The solution in this case is to remove the heatsink, clean it and install it back. This is best done in a laptop repair shop, as it takes quite a lot of experience and dexterity. One slip of the screwdriver may kill the laptop!

Some newer laptops have a special removable cover on the back for easy access to the heatsink. But most laptops have to be disassembled to reach it. Another problem is that the thermal paste between the heatsink and the CPU hardens with higher temperature, so if the laptop has been overheating, chances are that the heatsink is stuck solid to the CPU, making it very hard to remove. The process also includes removal of the old thermal paste from both the CPU and the heatsink and applying a small dab of fresh thermal paste, preferably silver filled for better heat transfer.

Another good overheating prevention is to ensure that the rubber feet on the bottom of the laptop are intact. Unfortunately they are usually just glued to the plastic and tend to fall off quite easy. They are very easy to replace and are available as spare parts for most laptops.

And lastly – don’t use your laptop while it’s on a soft surface, like bed cover or sofa. That will block the fan and the laptop will overheat. Try using something with a hard surface under the laptop, like a large hardcover book or a tray.

Simply put, heat is the biggest enemy of all laptops. By maintaining the cooling of your laptop at peak efficiency, you are doubling its lifespan.

75 thoughts on “Heat and Dust”

  1. Thanks for sharing this information. After reading your blog and some of the comments, I decided to buy an external fan for my laptop just to keep it cool on those days that I use it for an extended amount of time. I always knew that laptops could overheat, but never knew how often this could happen.

  2. Yes, you should really clean those parts of your laptop. But if you really want an effective and cool one , laptop cooler is the best way to cool laptops.

  3. I have a Sony Vaio. Which I have had for three years. About six months ago, I started playing games on facebook. I noticed my fan started running, so I would stop playing, to let it cool down. Today, Dec 12th, I just sent it off to Best Buy Geek Squad. Apparently, bad video card. From what I understand, going to be pretty costly. Not the best time for this to happen, with the holidays. As I was reading above posts, could me playing the games cause this to happen??? My fan vents are located on the bottom of my laptop. I am not exactly sure where the heatsink is either. I did attempt to take the back off, spray with the compared air. I didn’t see a lot of dust come out at all. My question is, once I get it back, is there something I should invest in, to keep my laptop cool? Should I cease the game playing?? I start online schooling in Jan. so needless to say, I am extremely nervous, as I can’t afford for this to happen again, and I in desperate need of my laptop for school.
    Thanks so much~ sorry to ramble

  4. Unfortunately, this has happened to a few friends of mine in the past where their laptops overheated during gaming play. I will be sure to let them know to check out this blog periodically for tips on how to prevent this from happening again. I just wish we would have found it sooner. Gaming laptops are expensive and it would have saved them a few thousand bucks.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog and wondered if there was a particular laptop you’d recommend? I currently have an Acer and it tends to overheat, but I use an external fan to cool it off. I only use my laptop for regular everyday tasks, so no heavy game play or editing.

  6. Personally, I have two laptops ,a Sony VAIO and a Samsung Netboook. Both are on 24/7 on my desk. The Netook is often used for hours with the ventilation parts blocked (in bed).
    By the way I have used both machines for over three years now under heavy processing loads running trading applications.
    My guess is that you go for a quality brand and make sure the air vents are left free you should not run into problems.

  7. Thanks for the great information. I definitely use my laptop for extended periods of time and I found that the best thing to do was to ensure that my model had on of the best fans available.

  8. Overheating is a big problem these days, especially as more people tend to use their laptops for extended periods of time. I guess if you intend to use your laptop for long hours, the best thing to do is to make sure you have one of the best fans on the market. If not, maybe find it and install it to prevent your laptop from frying.

  9. Thanks for the advice. Thankfully, I have a laptop stand with a built in fan to help keep it cool. I make sure that I turn it on if I think that I will be using my laptop for an extended period of time.

  10. Thank you, this is extremely fatal, Overheat! But what if I have used the auxiliary fan on the bottom of the laptop, which is now widely available on the market. Is that enough help to get rid of dust?

  11. I have HCL leaptop z35 c2d it clogged with dust so i cleaned the dust on heatsink and the fan now the problem that i have is: whenever i switch it on the fan is not spining and it cuts off power on its on so what should i do please help

  12. Amazing to see there is so much dust in a laptop, after a while. We recently checked our laptops, and they were not as bad as in the pictures, but they needed some help.

  13. Thanks for the explanation. Thanks for the information. You give very useful information here. Now I understand why after I vacuumed the laptop it started to work much better. Now I’ll do it regularly but will not wait until it gets warm fast.

  14. I’ve been using a passive laptop cooling stand called KoolSink for the past 6 years and have had great results. Keeps the fan from turning on most times. Also makes for a terrific ergonomic stand.

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