What Happens When a Laptop Overheats?

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A Computer Processor Produces Heat

  • Modern computers make use of tiny silicon circuitry in order to perform billions of processes per second. When a computer performs complex calculations or data-intensive tasks, it passes electricity through this circuitry in order to produce the needed logical operations. This flow of electricity produces an enormous amount of heat that is generally filtered away from the vital components of the computer by the system's fan(s).

Internal Fans Cool the Laptop

  • A fan (or a series of fans in high-powered computers) directs the heat produced by the processor circuitry away from sensitive internal components and out of the laptop's case. Because laptop circuit boards, processors, RAM and other components are very sensitive, an unobstructed flow of air is required in order to provide an optimum operating environment. These components are so sensitive that abnormally high temperatures may damage the internal circuitry and cause the computer to behave erratically or, in some cases, not function at all. For this reason, many computers include internal temperature sensors and force the system to shut down when the temperature inside the computer's case increases to an abnormal level.

Obstructions or Problems With the Fan Causes Temperatures to Rise

  • Under normal conditions, the computer's fan directs the hot air produced by the processor out of vents in the computer casing. If these vents become obstructed by dust or debris, or if the fan fails to function for some reason, the hot air remains inside the computer's case and begins to affect the machine's circuitry. As the temperature rises, the machine may detect the increase and force a system shut down in order to prevent damage; this process is generally known as an overheat. In systems with faulty temperature sensors or which fail to perform preventative tasks such as forced shutdowns, temperatures may become high enough to permanently damage the computer.

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