What Do I Do When My Laptop Overheats?

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The hundreds of metal parts that would usually fit inside a large computer tower must exist within a comparatively narrow casing within your laptop computer, and this generates heat, which is sometimes so great that you can feel it through the bottom of the computer. If your laptop becomes too hot, take action to cool it down or risk damaging your computer.

Indications

  • The surest way to know if your laptop is overheating is if you place your hand underneath it and it feels uncomfortable to leave it there for more than a few seconds. Other indications that a problem exists with your laptop's temperature are more indirect. For example, your laptop is equipped with a fan to combat high temperatures, and if the noise of your fan is extremely loud, chances are your laptop is generating more heat than normal.

Initial Steps

  • If you feel excessive heat emanating from your laptop, the first thing you should do is exit out of any program or programs that use large amounts of computer memory. For example, if you have multiple Internet tabs or windows open, close all but those you're using actively. Other applications that use a lot of memory include Skype, Windows Live Messenger and iTunes. If your computer is still hot after closing programs, shut it down for 10 to 15 minutes, then restart it.

External Fan

  • If your laptop regularly overheats, its internal fan might not be enough to counteract the excess heat. External laptop fans are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and with many cooling capabilities -- and most are inexpensive. These fans are powered by plugging them into any of your laptop's USB serial ports, which means you won't need to carry a separate AC adapter or have to charge the accessory.

Habit Changes

  • Bad usage habits have as much to do with laptop overheating as faulty hardware or computer age. For example, if you make a habit of "hibernating" your laptop when you're not using it, try to shut it down completely more often, which gives its CPU a break from processing tasks. Additionally, close any programs you're not using and avoid running several programs at the same time if you can, which can overwork your processor.

Long-Term Effects

  • If your laptop overheats only occasionally, the worst fate you'll suffer is being unable to work with it on your lap. If overheating becomes a more chronic problem, however, it can interfere with the operation of your computer -- namely, the internal fan will become inadequate at cooling down your CPU. Your computer then shuts itself down to prevent permanent damage, often at bizarre, unpredictable times.

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