Can I keep my Laptop from heating me up?

Question

My new laptop gets too hot for my wife to use on her lap. Is there anything that I can do to keep it cooler or should I get another brand?

- Frank

Answer

This question was answered on March 27, 2003. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Anyone that uses one of today’s moderate to high priced portable computers has likely experienced the same warm feeling that your wife has

The heat generated by the processor in portable computers is becoming more of a problem for several reasons.

One is that the speed of the processors (measured in MHz or GHz) continues to increase and the faster a processor runs, the more heat it generates Combine that with the push to make laptops smaller, lighter and thinner and you have the perfect recipe for heat that has no where to go.

On most desktop computers, there are a number of fans, heatsinks and enough airspace to easily remove the heat generated by the processor, but in a notebook or laptop computer, there is very little room for large fans or open airspace, so the heat usually dissipates into the case of the computer.

This usually means that the bottom of the unit will be warm or even hot to the touch when it has been running for a period of time, depending upon the exact design and speed of the computer.

Large fans and extra airspace would result in much larger units that had shorter battery life, so the heat is a byproduct of what most people want; a small, fast computer with reasonable battery life.

There are a number of options available if you already have a computer that runs hot, most of which deal with how you use the computer Instead of placing it directly on your lap, consider purchasing one of the accessories designed to help with this problem from companies like LapGenie (www.lapgenie.com) and Coolpad (www.roadtools.com).

Both create airspace underneath the computer during use, which allows it to run cooler and keeps the heat out of your seat!

If you are in the market for a new portable computer, one of the things that you will want to do when you go to the store is feel the bottom of the display units to get an idea of how much heat they produce Be sure to visit at the end of the day, so you get a good idea of how hot they can get.

No particular brand is necessarily going to run cooler than others because the speed of the processor is the biggest factor, but IBM’s Thinkpad line incorporates what they call a ‘thermal hinge’ to actually draw the heat away from the processor and spread it over a metal plate in the display panel This heat problem is just going to get worse as processor speeds get faster,

so the industry is racing to find better ways to deal with the heat including liquid cooled systems.

So, anyone that is in the market for a new portable computer should learn from Frank’s wife’s pain and be careful how much processing power you buy if you don’t want to get ‘burned’!

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on March 27, 2003