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The Problem with Overheating Laptops

Dangers and reasons why laptops overheat


Man using laptop computer at home
Robert Warren/Stone/Getty Images

Laptops are unfortunately prone to overheating. Unlike desktop PCs, a laptop's hardware components are all in close proximity to each other with little room for air movement. The current trend towards miniaturization -- stuffing faster processors into ever smaller cases -- is also increasing the potential for laptops to overheat. In fact, researchers who are trying to solve the problem with nanoelectronics are predicting that if this continues, laptops will be as hot as the sun in a decade or two. In other words, hot laptops are a real problem!

Dangers of Laptop Overheating

Even if it isn't running at 6,000 degrees Celsius, if your laptop overheats it can do some serious damage to both your body and the internal hardware. A laptop that's too hot, for example, can actually scald you (Sony recalled thousands of VAIO laptops due to possible burn hazards). There's also some indication that working with a hot laptop in your lap, where they were designed to be, can potentially cause male infertility.

Regarding the device itself, operating a laptop at very high temperatures leads to failed hardware components (video cards, motherboards, memory modules, hard drives and more are susceptible to damage) and decreases the lifespan of your computer. It can also be a fire hazard: faulty laptops have actually burned down houses.

Signs of Laptop Overheating

But what's the difference between an overheating laptop and one that's just a little hot? If your laptop feels hot and shows any of the problems below, chances are it's overheating or getting there:

  • Fan constantly running and making loud whirring noises
  • Computer struggling to perform basic tasks like opening a new browser window
  • Mysterious error messages popping up in random programs
  • Lines on your laptop screen (a sign your video card is overheating)
  • System freezing or the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death)
  • The laptop abruptly shuts down on its own

If your laptop is overheating, take steps immediately to cool down your laptop and prevent further overheating damage.

Testing Internal Laptop Temperature

If your laptop is just plain hot, find out if it's running too hot by using a free program to check the internal laptop temperature and find its optimal temperature.

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