Laptops

How do you stop a laptop overheating during a heatwave?

laptop overheating
Keep it cool: don't let your laptop burn out

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The UK and most of Europe is currently swaddled in a heatwave – and that’s bad news for your laptop. Today’s laptops often run without fans or with minimal cooling to keep chassis sizes and noise down. But that does make them susceptible to overheating when temperatures soar. Here, then, is how to prevent your laptop overheating during a warm spell.

Don’t place the laptop in direct sunlight

Laptops and sun really don’t mix. It’s hard to see even the brightest laptop screen in sunlight, but even if the display is nicely shaded, avoid direct sunlight falling on any part of the machine. Not only does this apply to using the laptop outdoors, but inside too: sunlight streaming in through an office or train window can be equally damaging.

Don’t place the laptop directly on your lap

Your thighs are (just about) warmer than the ambient temperature during the midday sun and (without wishing to be unkind) will act as two massive insulating pads for your laptop. Don’t place the laptop directly on your lap – not only to spare the laptop from overheating, but to save your legs from potential burns too. If you have to get down to some work in the airport lounge or other place without a table, put something between your laptop and legs – a magazine, a newspaper, even a dinner tray!

Make sure you don’t block vents

Laptops rarely have dedicated vents these days, but they might still draw air through ports or even the keyboard to help keep the core components cool. Make sure nothing is blocking the ports on your laptop and don’t place your newspaper on the keyboard while you’re watching a film on the train. Using your laptop on top of a duvet is a big no-no. If your laptop does have vents, make sure they’re not clogged with dust.

Put the laptop in battery saving mode

Windows laptops have different power modes. By default, your laptop will normally optimise for best performance when plugged in and dial back the back the power when you’re running on batteries. If you’re in a warm environment, it’s a good idea to pull back into the battery-saving mode, even if you’re plugged in, to avoid placing too much stress on the processor and other core components.

To engage battery-saving mode, click on the little battery icon near the clock and you should see a sliding scale ranging from Best Battery Life to Best Performance. Drag the slider to the far left. Your laptop will take longer to crunch through intensive tasks, but you’ll likely not notice much difference in day-to-day use.

Power off when not in use

If you’re going out to lunch or in a meeting without your laptop for a couple of hours, power the device down completely – don’t leave it running on standby. This will allow the core components to cool completely.

Monitor CPU temperature

Speccy

There are loads of little utilities that allow you to monitor the temperature of your processor. My favourite all-rounder is Speccy, a free download that monitors all manner of things inside your laptop, including the core CPU temperatures.

The average temperature indicators will go red when you’re in the danger of the laptop overheating. Don’t be too alarmed if it strays into the red occasionally or when you’re doing something intensive, such as video editing. But if the average temperature is regularly above 90C, it’s time to switch off and prevent damage.

Don’t thrash your laptop

If it’s hot and Speccy shows your CPU temperatures are peaking into the danger zone, don’t put it under too much stress. CPU-intensive tasks such as video editing or gaming will increase the core temperature. Best-case scenario is the computer will shut itself down if it overheats. Worst case is a core component burns out and you’re looking at an expensive repair or, more likely, a new laptop.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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