When you feel the bottom of your laptop getting quite warm for long periods of time, it might be a sign that your laptop is overheating. Laptops do warm up from the heat generated by the processors, but that heat is usually dispersed quickly by its internal cooling system. This system is made up of the heat sink and fans.

When the cooling system starts to get overwhelmed and can’t work properly, it could create a range of problems for your laptop’s hardware. In this guide, we’ll show you how to keep your laptop from overheating and cause damage to its hardware.

Why should I prevent my laptop from overheating?

Laptop overheating is definitely something to avoid, as it can leave you with a lot of troubles. Your laptop is made up of many delicate parts that are designed to work smoothly under normal circumstances. These normal circumstances usually mean a cool and controlled environment where everything can work together properly and efficiently. That way you can get the best out of your laptop.

So when your laptop does overheat, you’ll feel that it’s running a little too warm at first, and notice that the fan is running more frequently and louder than usual. The heat produced by the processors puts more stress on the fans when it can’t be dispersed quickly. It will have to “work overtime” just to keep the temperature cool.

This can happen to anyone, but there are still a few things you can try to . The main thing is not to let your laptop overheat continuously, to the point where it may affect performance or even damage your hardware.

How overheating happens

Like we’ve mentioned, laptop overheating can happen to many computer users, especially those with older laptops. After using your laptop for maybe a few years, it can start acting up and cause a range of problems. Overheating is a very common one. A combination of three things can lead to this. They include poor ventilation, dust accumulation, and processor overexertion.

Poor ventilation

laptop computer vent and ports

To let the heat out efficiently, there has to be some place to disperse that out of the device. The vents of your laptop is where that happens. Heat produced by the processors is passed through the heat sink, and then is driven out by the fans through the vents. These vents are usually found on the sides of your laptop, or on the bottom, or where the screen hinges are. It is very important to keep these vents clear of any obstructions, so you can get rid of excess heat easily.

When these vents are blocked, this traps the heat. No matter how hard the fans work, the heat remains in the device. Most of the time this comes from using the laptop on fabric surfaces like blankets, sofas, or beds. Fabric surfaces are definitely not the right place to use your laptop on.

Dusty laptop

Along with fabrics, dust is also a huge heat trapper. Dust can certainly get inside laptops and shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve only got a little bit of it. Your laptop’s fan won’t fall that easily to just a small amount of dust.

But when it accumulates into clumps of dust that are big enough to trap internal heat and block vents, then you’ve got a problem. A large amount of dust can lead to more poor ventilation issues and potentially block your fan from running smoothly.

Overexertion

Like most things, you should know your limits. That goes for laptop processing power as well. Modern laptops can handle a lot these days, but over time, performance could slow down. This can cause the processor chips like the CPU and GPU to generate a lot of heat that the fans need to get rid of.

Other than the processors, fans can also lose performance over time. This makes it harder for the laptop to maintain an optimal internal temperature. Fans are moving parts, and having to overwork them can shorten their lifespans.

What could go wrong when your laptop overheats

So we know overheating is bad for your laptop, but what exactly could happen to the laptop? When your laptop overheats for a prolonged period of time, it could seriously damage its hardware. There are three parts that commonly fall due to overheating. They include: the fan, motherboard, and the processors (CPU and GPU).

As a moving part, an overworked fan can break down from the stress. When the internal temperature can’t be controlled, the fan will have to work harder and faster. This puts a lot of stress on the machinery and can kill it slowly. If you notice an abnormal rattling or clunking noise from the fan, it might be time to replace it.

Another thing that could go wrong when your laptop overheats is motherboard burn damage. The motherboard is a circuit board that acts as the main communication channel between all parts of the laptop. It is made up of delicate and complicated circuitry and connecting points that are prone to heat damage. It can undoubtedly take damage from high temperatures. Sometimes with motherboard failures, we can see small burn marks on the board. This comes from the abnormally high temperatures inside the laptop. On laptops, the CPU and GPU are usually embedded on the motherboard, so these chips can also create and take damage from the heat.

How to protect your laptop from overheating

When trying to maintain the right temperature for your laptop, the main thing to pay attention to  is how efficiently the cooling system is working. To do so, you can try doing some things that can help it work easier. This includes cleaning any accumulated dust, applying thermal paste, providing proper ventilation and breathing space for the processors.

1. Do some dustbusting

Cleaning your laptop isn’t a complicated job to do, and you only need to do it once or twice a year. Dust doesn’t accumulate that quickly, so you don’t need to clean the laptop that often. We also don’t recommend opening up the laptop too many times over the year. This sometimes can create other problems just from some tiny mistake.

To clean your laptop, you’ll need a soft brush, compressed air, some kind of alcohol-based cleaning solution, and a lint-free cloth. Using a lint-free cloth over a regular cloth can help you avoid the fabric from building up an electrical charge. Because of this, you should also always turn off your laptop and disconnect it from its power cable.

Compressed air usually comes in canisters with a small nozzle that can reach the tiny gaps that you can’t reach with a cloth. Bust the dust with the bursts of air, and then wipe that all down with the cleaning solution, you’re all done!

2. Reapply thermal paste

Now that you’ve got your laptop opened up anyway, this could be a great opportunity to reapply the thermal paste on the gaps between the processors and the heat sink. Anytime you open up your laptop for repair or cleaning purposes is a good time to reapply thermal paste.

You can get thermal paste from most hardware stores, and is a pretty straightforward DIY project. Simply partially disassemble the heat sink from its contact points, and wipe off the old thermal paste with some rubbing alcohol. Then apply new thermal paste in five small points on the processor chips: the four corners, and in the middle. This is so the paste will cover the whole chip and efficiently pass the heat to the heat sink.

3. Use on clear surfaces

laptop stand and mouse

Providing proper ventilation is also a key step in preventing laptop overheating. It helps your laptop “breathe in and out” without ease. Blocking the vents by using the laptop on fabric surfaces is a big “no-no”.

Use the laptop on clean and solid surfaces like desks and stands. Cooling stands with fans on them can be an excellent investment as well. If you do a lot of graphic-heavy work or play video games, you could also say cooling stands are a must-have.

The final word

Laptop overheating is a very common issue for a lot of computer users, on both Windows or Apple Macbook laptops. With a little care and time put into protecting your laptop from burning up, you can avoid a lot of even more complicated computer issues that can leave you with a huge repair bill.