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Running Hot: 7 Common Reasons Your Laptop May Be Overheating

published 1/30/2020

You're working hard on a big project for work when suddenly your laptop goes full blue screen of death.

It's everyone's nightmare. We rely heavily on laptops to get things done thanks to how easy it is to move them around. Unfortunately, all that moving around can expose your laptop to various things that may cause it to overheat. 

Laptop overheating isn't just annoying because it slows down your computer's performance. It can also cause serious damage that could result in lost data or even injury to yourself. 

Just to be on the safe side, here are seven reasons why your laptop may be overheating and how you can prevent them.

Room Temperature

The best rule of thumb is if you're hot enough to sweat, your laptop is also hot.

All the individual components inside a laptop generate heat. Adding ambient heat from sitting in a hot room or out in the sun boosts the temperature inside your laptop's case.

There's a reason why server rooms and computer labs are well ventilated. Without the addition of an HVAC unit to keep them cool, these systems would overheat in no time at all. 

To be safe, always operate your laptop in a cool place away from the sun.

Setting The Laptop On Fabric Surfaces

In order to keep a laptop cool, the fans need to be able to push out the hot air and bring fresh air in through the vents. Without proper circulation, the heat builds up in the case.

Try to avoid putting your laptop on blankets and carpets for prolonged periods of time. Most importantly, using a laptop on your lap will cause the same problem. In some cases, the laptop can get so hot it burns your legs. The fabric on your pants absorbs the heat and traps warm air inside your laptop.

The only way to avoid overheating your laptop while still using it on your lap is to invest in a laptop tray, or use it while sitting at a table. 

Dust

Dust bunnies are no one's friend, but it's especially true for laptops. The number one way older laptops overheat is due to dust, animal hair, and other small particles collecting in the case. The easiest way to avoid dust buildup is to use your laptop on a clean surface.

Without regular cleaning, the dust eventually becomes a sticky goo that adheres to the laptop's fan and surrounding areas.

Keeping your newer model laptop dust free isn't as easy as it used to be. Using canned air to blow out the loose dust in the vents is okay, but doesn't get everything out. At some point in your laptop's lifetime, you may need to have a professional open it up to give it a good cleaning.

Older laptops have panels you can remove to access the fans in order to clean them, but it's still a tricky business to make sure you don't damage anything. Asking a professional to clean it is still the best option if you're not good with technology.

Bad Laptop Fan

Without a functional fan, there is no way to keep your laptop from overheating.

There are a few important signs you can look out for to let you know when the fan in your laptop is about to die.

  1. The fan makes loud rattling, humming noises
  2. The area where the fan is gets incredibly hot
  3. Lines appear on your screen, signaling that the video card is too hot
  4. Programs glitch or freeze frequently
  5. The laptop shuts itself down without warning

Not all of these mean the fan is totally gone. Sometimes it means there is something in the case blocking the fan like dust build up, or that the fan somehow got knocked out of place.

Dying Laptop Battery

When a laptop battery works, it naturally creates heat. But when the battery starts to lose its effectiveness, it will create even more heat as it struggles to get the job done.

Pushing a laptop to keep working with a failing battery means the fan has to work harder. Sometimes the fan can't keep up.

How dangerous can a dying battery be? When lithium-ion battery cells reach 302°F, they become incredibly unstable and release flaming gases.

If you suspect your battery is dying, or your operating system tells you it's dying, don't push your luck. Get your laptop to a professional for a replacement battery.

Overworked System

Sometimes we overestimate how much our laptops can handle.

In an effort to keep up with technological advances, people often update their operating systems blindly, without considering the effects it will have on the hardware in their laptop. For example, back when Windows 10 was released, one of the most common problems was that it caused laptops to overheat because the fans couldn't keep up with how much heat the hardware generated while running such a large system.

Some laptops have heating problems right from startup. It is probably a case of too many processes running at once. Staggering what processes open with the system can fix this problem, but you need to know what you're doing so you don't stop a process that is vital to your operating system.

Failing Hardware

Because there is limited space in a laptop case, when one piece of hardware fails, the others suffer the consequences. Motherboards, memory modules, video cards, and hard drives all put off heat. When they're struggling to work properly, they create more heat.

How much heat does an overheating laptop make? In a five-year span, there were 730 fires caused in the United States by laptop batteries, dust-ridden PCs, and faulty appliance wires.

Laptop Overheating? We've Got You Covered!

Pushing your laptop to keep working while it is hot can not only cost you all your data, but it could cause serious damage to yourself and your home. Laptop overheating is not something you should ignore.

Data Doctors wants to make sure you and your data stay safe. Swing by today for a free computer checkup. If we find something wrong, we offer component replacement services to keep your laptop running in tip-top shape.

Can't make it to one of our offices in the Phoenix area? We also make house calls.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.