How to Reduce the CPU Temperature of a Laptop

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How to Reduce CPU Temperature Laptop

Managing the heat your laptop produces goes a long way to extend its longevity. Not only that, but keeping your laptop cool also improves performance of components like the CPU. Due to the limited space of these machines, many heat-generating hardware sit close together in a relatively small space. And without adequate ventilation its super easy for the system to become overwhelmed with heat resulting in the diminished performance of the CPU, and even catastrophic damage of the entire laptop. Not only that, but when external temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the palm rest can feel more like a space heater than a portable computer. Try these tips to get your laptop back to manageable temperatures.

1.   Make Sure Your Laptop’s Fans Are Properly Working

You can easily check to see if your laptop’s fan is working by the sound it makes during operation. Or by putting your hands near the fan grille to feel for gently blowing warm air.

But if you don’t feel anything or hear a sound, your laptop’s fans are most likely not spinning. And you’ll need to get a professional to look at it.

In the other extreme, if you can hear clattering sounds, then your fans are working. They are, however, damaged and need immediate replacement.

2.   Keep Your Laptop’s Ventilation Pathways Clean

It’s common for dust to accumulate in the cooling vents and cause your laptop to overheat and cause damage to the CPU.

When cleaning the fans, make sure the laptop is switched off and the battery is removed. Use compressed air to dust off the fans, which you can easily find in local stores where laptops are sold, like Best Buy and Walmart or online.

There are different types of air dusters available. Compressed air dusters offer a limited time use in that once the can is empty, it’ll need to be replaced. And there are cordless, rechargeable air dusters that can be recharged and refilled to be used multiple times.

If you’re comfortable doing so, you can remove your laptop’s bottom deck with a few twists of a screwdriver to gain better access to the internals. Then use the air duster to gently shake off loose dust from the internals. Otherwise, use the air duster to blow gentle puffs of air into the internals from the outside, aiming for the fans.

The first method is more effective because it ensures the total removal of dust. The second method will effectively unclog dust accumulation but will not entirely remove it from inside of your laptop.

An alternative to compressed air is using a soft, lint-free cloth. But this method also requires you open up the laptop and manually remove the dust from the fans.

3.   Use a Laptop Cooler

They’re low-cost yet effective cooling plates that’ll help lower the temperature of your laptop via a built-in cooling fan. Laptop coolers are lightweight, portable, and available in many sizes and shapes.

Also, they don’t require any additional components as they connect to your laptop directly through a USB cable.

The built-in fans allow air to flow to and from the laptop, meaning they exchange the laptop’s hot air for the environments cooler air, thus keeping the laptop cool at all times. 

Cooling pads are not only great for protecting your laptop from overheating, but they’re also great for keeping you from heat related injuries resulting from a hot laptop.

4.   Optimize the Power Settings

In the case of Windows computers, you can alter the power settings and optimize the system cooling policy to prevent your laptop from overheating.

For example, changing the power plan to ‘Balanced,’ will allow your laptop to reduce its speed when high speed is not needed, thus, reducing heat generated by the laptop.

Another power setting that can be optimized to manage your laptop’s temperature is the ‘System Cooling Policy.’

Changing it to ‘Active’ cooling mode turns up the speed of the cooling fan with no changes to the performance of the system. The downside is that power consumption is increased. But the laptop’s temperature is decreased.

NOTE: Using ‘Active system’ is only recommended when the laptop is plugged into a power outlet, and not when it’s running on battery power.

5.   Enable Active Cooling in Power Settings

In a few simple steps, you can enable the higher performance of your Windows laptop’s fans to reduce overheating.

This is achieved by keeping the fans running for a longer period of time and at higher speeds. And it doesn’t cost you money. 

First, access ‘Advanced Power Settings’:

  • You can go to the Power Options either through the control panel > then hardware and sound > then power options. Or simply by right-clicking the battery icon in your taskbar and choosing ‘Power option.’
  • Next, select ‘Change plan settings,’ which you’ll find to the right of the power plan already in use.
  • Then select ‘Change advanced power settings.’

Now that you’ve accessed the advanced settings, enable active cooling.

Under ‘Processor power management,’ make sure that the ‘System cooling policy’ is set to ‘Active.’

Doing this will ensure your fans run stronger to keep your machine cool. Try this first before alternatives that’ll cost you money.

6.   Keep Your Laptop on a Flat Surface

Laptops vents are located below the keyboard deck either at the bottom or at the back, sometimes both. For that reason, placing your laptop on a solid, flat surface rather than on a bed where sheets and blankets can obstruct the vents will enhance airflow and keep the CPU cool.

Furthermore, fabrics like pillows, clothes, blankets, generally absorb heat. And when they’re next to a laptop, these items contribute to the devices own heat generation, causing temperatures to sore significantly.

Keeping your laptop on a flat surface, like a lap-desk or a regular table, will enhance airflow and reduce operating temperatures. 

7.   Keep Your Laptop Out of Direct Heat Exposure

Environmental temperatures also have an impact on how hot a laptop gets.

Too much heat can cause disfigurement to some of the plastic elements in the laptop, decrease the lifespan of your machine, not to mention elevate the internal temperature of the laptop. Therefore, it’s wise to keep your laptop in shaded, cool areas and avoid direct sunlight exposure. 

8.   Reduce the Load of Running Programs

Overloading your laptop with too many running programs will eventually cause it to overheat due to the excessive utilization of the laptop’s internal components like the CPU.

It’s recommended that you close any unnecessary program or browser that you’re not using immediately rather than just minimizing the screen.

Not only will this reduce the amount of generated heat because your laptop doesn’t have to work harder. But it also increases performance.

Additionally, reducing the brightness of the screen and disconnecting any USB devices that aren’t being used will greatly aid in reducing the temperature of your laptop.

9.   Use Thermal Paste

If you’re not that familiar with your laptop’s internal components and the thought of opening it up to work inside makes you nervous, it’s best to defer this method to a computer service shop.

Thermal paste works by filling in microscopic holes between the CPU and the heatsink, which increases the conductivity between the two components.

It’s quite common for the thermal paste that came with the laptop to degrade over time and not seal things properly, hence the need for reapplication.

This procedure generally comprises of a few steps:

  • Dismantle the laptop’s lower deck, then remove the heatsink and CPU fan.
  • With the fan removed dust it off and clean it by going over the surface with a cotton swab dipped Isopropyl Alcohol.
  • Areas with old thermal paste may need a quick brush with the cotton swab before reapplication.
  • After ensuring that everything has been cleaned, apply a very small amount of thermal paste to the CPU.
  • Spread using a plastic card making sure every nook and cranny is filled.
  • Finally, reconnect everything and test your laptop.

10.  Undervolt Your CPU

As you can probably guess, this method is about reducing the amount of voltage going to the CPU. But be careful. Too much undervolting can cause your system to become unstable resulting in other issues.

The CPU receives high voltage and utilizes it to run programs faster and enhance your processing power and speed. This is all great, except that it also generates huge amounts of heat which is damaging to your laptop.

A lower voltage means less heat. When the CPU runs cooler, fans can run slower and quieter. Meaning the chassis won’t get as hot.

Undervolting serves to reduce the heat produced without greatly affecting the performance of the CPU.  With less power sent to the CPU, internals stay cool and even the battery life of your laptop is prolonged.

This is often achieved with the help of programs and software such as, ‘Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU),’ or ‘ThrottleStop’.

Intel Extreme Tuning Utility is a Windows-based program, while ThrottleStop is a third-party utility tool. You’ll be required to do some reading on how to maneuver through either program to make sure things run smoothly.

Many guides offer detailed explanations on how to activate the undervolting feature using XTU.

ThrottleStop requires the extra step of downloading the program and installing it first before proceeding. Again, many guides and videos are available to simplify the procedure making the process less daunting.

Both help with the same goal: undervolting the CPU. The mechanism used to make each tool work is the differentiating factor.

This is especially useful for sustaining CPU loads; like exporting videos, rendering, and even playing games.  

11.  Check The Capability of Your Hardware

Sometimes overheating problems are the result of incompatibility issues with hardware you’ve installed and the OS (operating system).

For instance, old hardware will generate lots of heat as it works feverishly to keep up with a more advanced OS.

In such cases, where you’ve confirmed that indeed there is a great mismatch between the hardware and the operating system, it then becomes necessary to get a whole new laptop.

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest threats to your CPU is heat. Constant, excessive heat will eventually kill your laptop. Inside is extraordinary processing power packed in a small space. The cost? Heat. We can’t overemphasize this point because of the damage heat can do to your system. Even if you don’t see any immediate signs of your laptop overheating, keeping the vents and fan free of dust buildup will go a long way in preserving the longevity and usefulness of your device. And to ward off performance issues, it’s always a good idea to keep your laptop on a nice flat surface while working.