Introduction: DIY Laptop Cooler

Picture of DIY Laptop Cooler

A plexiglass constructed notebook cooler equiped with spiffy lighted fans for some trippy late night surfing/gaming safari's..

Step 1: Getting Some Stuff Together...

Picture of Getting Some Stuff Together...

You will need some stuff, so dig around in your parts drawer for the following items:
-a switch (toggle, SPST type)
-some wire (about 22g, roughly a foot or two, coated!)
-sheet of plexiglass or acrylic (a like the 1/4" stuff)
-2 comp. fans (standard 80mm or 120mm)
-some nuts and bolts (#8-32 x 1 1/4")
-old power supply (for this project I used an 24VDC from an old epson receipt printer)
-some tools (Dremel (of course!), hobby knife, Drill, solder gun, solder (the good electronic component stuff) heat shrink tubing, heat gun or blow torch)

Step 2: Layout: Customizing Your Cooler

Picture of Layout: Customizing Your Cooler

The measurements in the picture are the dimensions for my notebook so be sure to measure yours and adjust accordingly.
First off we start by measuring our laptop to get the dimentions, mine is about 12"x14" so that is what I went with, obviously yours will differ. The initial design calls for a 12"x14" base with 1" piece folded under, a 3" riser section, and another 1" folded under section for the back. This is constructed out of a single piece of Plexiglass that is melted into shape with either a Heat Gun or Blow Torch. I cut the Plexiglass down to 12x18 as per the measurement we just took, 12" for the base + 3" riser + 1" for the front underfold + 1" for the back underfold = 18"?? Well, close enough, it saves me from making 2 cuts and that means one less opportunity to break the plexiglass. (I've cracked a lot in the past.) (Note: leave the protecting sheets on the plexi until the heating gun part to keep from scratching it up).
Score your plexi with a utility knife and straight edge, line up the scored edge face up with the edge of a counter or such and press down to snap the edge clean.
Next lay the plexi over the back of the notebook for fan placement. My Alienware has two intake areas on the bottom and the exhaust ports on the sides. Mark the corners of the fans so we can scribe the circles and cut them out.

Step 3: Fabrication: Making Stuff, Breaking Stuff

Picture of Fabrication: Making Stuff, Breaking Stuff

Next using a straightedge, draw a line from the opposite corners of each corner of the marks you made from the fan placement. You should make an X, the center of this X is the center of your circle. Using a compass or Scribe set to 1.5" (or 40mm for those metricly inclined) draw a circle using the center of the X as the center point, giving you a 3" or 80mm circle. Repeat for the other fan.
Using a dremel with a circle cutter set for 1.5" radius, cut out the cirlcle. It might help to use a automatic center punch to mark the pivot point to have a deeper hole to move around on.
Once this is complete you can use some 400 grit sand paper or a fine toothed file to clean up and square the edges if need.
The Switch hole is cut with a cut-off wheel and the power cord hole is drilled. Test fit the switch and the cord keeper, since it is much more difficult to make any modifications after we make the bends.

Step 4: Fire Baby, Fire!

Picture of Fire Baby, Fire!

Here is the fun part, shaping the unit. I suppose a heat gun would have been more practical, not to mention safer, but I used what I had available and an acetelene torch is all I had. The first fold we will make will be the base of the riser section (1" mark), so lay the line we marked on an edge of something straight ,(better if its fire proof and not an old dry 2x4 like I used). I'll pretend you are using a heat gun since that would give you more control over the process without cooking the plexi like i did. Moving the Heat gun back and forth along the line, slowly heat the area until the overhanging plexi starts to sag. After another couple of passes, press the edge down using the fire proof edge you are heating on as a crease. This will be the 90 degree bend as shown in the illustration.
Next will be the 60 degree bend, it isn't approximate so just start heating and bending until you get the angle you want. I used another piece of wood flatten the crease by applying a bit of pressure until the plexi cooled enough to retain the shape I created.
For the final fold, I heated up the plexi, folded it under and left it to cool in the desired angle that allowed the unit to sit square on the table. If it wobbles while sitting flat you can use the heat gun to adjust the fold angles until it is right or just works for you. Also make sure you are folding the correct side, you want your fans to be exactly where you want them, not on the opposite side!

Step 5: Let There Be Light: Powerslave

Picture of Let There Be Light: Powerslave

The fans get installed with the nuts and bolts, make sure you have the fans facing in the correct direction according to the design of your laptop. If your laptop has fans blowing out the exhaust from the bottom then you want your fans to face down to futher aid in the expelling of hot air away from the unit, increasing circulation. Mine has intake fans on the bottom and exhaust ports on the side so I chose to face them up to send more air volume into the laptop. Next add the switch to it proper place and we'll start preping the powersupply.
Using an old wall wort power supply is an easy way to get this thing running but first you have to make sure that you either have enough power to run the fans or if there is too much that it will cook them and perhaps start a fire and burn up your laptop. In order to avoid both these situations we need the help of our friend Mr. Georg Ohms. He came up with neato Law that defines the relationships between (P) power, (E) voltage, (I) current, and (R) resistance. . There are many Ohms Law calculators on the Web that will do the math for you, all you need is two of the four values and it will compute the rest. Now, I am not a electrician, nor do I have any certificates or training, so alway talk with someone who is qualified when attempting such electrical tom-foolery. Strip the output connector plug of the powersupply carefully with a ulitity knife so you can see which is the + and - . Printed on the transformer it should tell you which led is + and - , so once you strip back the plug housing you can see which led is what. Once you have determined which is pos. & neg. , mark them with tape or something so you don't get them mixed up.
I found a 24 Volt 2 amp power supply from an Epson reciept printer that was just about brand new! Now the problem gets interesting, how do we get 24 volts down to a usable 12 Volts so our little fans don't try to take off when we flip the switch. Lets see, how about we wire them in Series? You know, wiring the positive of the first fan to the positive of the powersupply, the negitive of the first fan to the positive of the second fan and then the negitive of the second fan to the powersupply ground led (see the diagram). This will double the Ohms (60 X 2) to make 120 Ohms since adding them in Series creates more resistance (add the value of the Ohms per fan to get the total). So in your Ohms calculator add the 120 Ohms on to the 24 Volt power supply, hit calculate and it gives us .2 Amps at 4.8 Watts. The .2 Amps is what our fans desire and the fact that we wired them in Series will make each take 12 Volts away from the 24V power supply, so 24 Volts divided by 2 (2 fans) = 12 Volts. So each fan get its required 12 Volts and the proper .2 amps, and all is well. If the power supply was only 12V and we wired the fans in series then each fan would only be running on 6 Volts each or 1/2 the speed they can run. So less voltage and the fans would spin slower which would be OK as long as the Amps were within the fans range and you didn't mind less cooling potential. More voltage will make them spin faster and either burn out or burn up.
The diagram below has the simplified wiring, nothing really complicated once you get the current worked out. You can see that the DC Voltage running through the open circut is 11.87 Volts (we'll call it 12V). I thought about putting a rheostat (speed control) in line to adjust the fan speed in case I wanted quiter operation, but the fans are super quiet so I didn't see any point. After everything is tested and working correctly, break out the soldering iron and the shrink tubing.
The Yellow led coming out of the fans is for monitoring the fan speed when attached to the motherboard. It is not used in this project. I just twisted it around either the positive (red) or negitive (black) leds and stuffed it into the shrink tubing to keep it out of the way. The power cord is feed into the hole we drilled and is held in by the Strain Relief Bushing.Slide the shrink tube on to one end of the wire, twist the two leds together, solder, slide the shrink tubing over the soldered joint and heat with a lighter or heat gun. For the switch connectors I used I used female crimp-on quck connect type lugs that just slide onto the male lugs on the switch. Small cable ties can be used to clean up all the loose wires and secure them from getting caught in the fans.
This project can be found in more detail and a ton of pics on my website.
Thanks and good luck!


ForeprimeSeo (author)2016-04-04

Now I will overclock my old CPU

hamza_shahid (author)2013-08-18


nmaddux1 (author)2011-07-11

i want to create something close to this but it is going to be built right into the side of the desk. sort of creating a laptop station with where i can hook up my two 23 inch monitor up to and keyboard and mouse....

anyways, i have three fans i just dug out of old computers and what not
two of them are identical and are: DC12v and 0.20A.

the third can is a little smaller (going to use it on the side as to suck the hot air out completing the airflow) but that fan is: DC12V and 0.12A.

I work at a hardware store so i have easy access to a SPST toggle switch, all the wiring, and power supplies.

But what power supply should i buy? The only power supplies i could find at home was an ACDC adapter which has:
Input: AC120V 60Hz 2W
Output: DC9V 100mA

would i be able to get away with this power supply?

any feedback would be great!

silverHalo (author)nmaddux12011-07-12

If you plan on running all three fans off one power supply, you will need it to be 12v 500mA or bigger. Add up the amperes of each fan to find the minimum current draw.. 200mA + 200mA + 120mA= 520mA or a bit over 1/2 Amps. A 9v 100mA PS would burn out trying to provide enough power to turn the fans, just too weak to work. 12v PS's are pretty common at flea markets, thrift stores and garage sales for a dollar or two, or free from a friend with a broken printer, scanner, etc.... Just find one with 500 mA's or higher.

newbiest (author)2011-02-13

If one is building a base from scratch, why not use a single big fan with a similar diameter to the laptop's length? :) Wouldn't it cool better while being quieter?

ZeroXL91 (author)newbiest2011-03-17

You could, if you're going to do that use two Megaflow 200mm case fans from Cooler Master.

newbiest (author)ZeroXL912011-03-17

yeah, 200 mm or even 250 mm would do the job perfectly :)

silverHalo (author)newbiest2011-02-24

That would be a big fan!

newbiest (author)silverHalo2011-03-17

Hello! I'm sorry for not answering earlier but when I got this email I didn't remember having signed up for this forum so I mistook it for spam. Now that I got a second email I finally realized it wasn't :P. Yes this would definitely be a big fan but size matters right? heheh ;) I just don't understand why don't manufacturers do that because it would probably be more efficient and quieter. But it's probably more expensive also... Far from sure but I feel that way

ryanboosh (author)2010-10-29

im building one right now, and i just picked up 4 fans with these specs...
Rated Voltage: 12 volts
Operation Voltage: 10.2-13.8 Volts
Input Current: 0.15 Amps
Input Power: 1.8 Watts Max

but im not to sure what the Ohms ratings are on the fans. now ive found a few different power supplies lying around my house to choose from. here are thier specs.

Output: 12V- 1.66A
Output: 18V- 600mA
Output: 12V-1000mA

if anyone could help me out, that would be great :)

silverHalo (author)ryanboosh2010-11-07

If you wired all 4 fans in Parallel they would all pull 12V @ 150mA each. So all 4 fans together are drawing a total of 600mA's. (150 +150 +150 +150=600). So either of the 12V power supply you have would suffice. Just remember to wire the fans in Parallel and not in Series.

ZeroXL91 (author)silverHalo2011-03-17

It would be easier to just buy a 12v power supply from eBay with 2000MA, they're 5 bucks, just chop off the barrel plug, strip the heatshrink and wire, and viola!

dylanw (author)2011-01-30

how do you wire the fans in parallel and series

silverHalo (author)dylanw2011-02-24

Series is one after another in a row. For example, the red wire of fan #1 is connected to the black wire of fan #2. That leaves the black wire of fan #1 to connect to the negative side of the power source and the red wire of fan #2 to the positive side of the power source. (See my illustration in the instructable above).
When you wire in Series, the voltage of the fans gets added together.. (so 12v fan + 12v fan = 24v's of power it needs to run them, so you need a 24v powersupply.).

Parallel is when the black (negative) wire of fan #1 and the black wire of fan #2 both go to the Negative of the power supply and the red wires of both fans go to the power supply's Positive side. Then both fans are only using 12 volts of power but the amperage is doubled. So if both fans were 12V @ 500mA then you would need a 12V 1A power supply. (500mA + 500mA =1A)

There are a lot of better explanations on the web, just Google wiring in series & parallel.

farfrmsane1211 (author)2010-09-25

Ahahah non-skid action during quake tournaments, thats awome.

Great instructable BTW =D

bgerlt (author)2010-08-08

I have a question, still learning so be patient please.

Couldn't you power the fans through a USB port on the laptop?

Or would they draw to much power through the laptop power supply or battery?

silverHalo (author)bgerlt2010-08-08

Standard computer case fans (like the ones I used) are powered by 12 volts. USB ports only supply 5 Volts of power @ 500 milliamps, so they wouldn't even turn the fan blades, not enough juice. There are 5 Volt fans available that you can buy that will work, but usually they are smaller in size.

cylove (author)2010-07-28

is there any codes, schematic diagram, circuit diagram for this? thank you in advance!

silverHalo (author)cylove2010-07-29

I have a pictorial diagram and long explanation of how to wire it up in step 5. There really isn't much to it to necessitate a schematic, just a power supply, a fan or two, and a switch. If you use 12v fans and a 12v powersupply then you can just wire them up in series.... If you can find some 5v fans then you can actually use the USB port as your powersupply instead since they supply 5v @ 1/2 amps....

cnorwood (author)2010-03-12

nice i may have to try this at home or hack my 9 dollar cooler pad i hate i ever bought.

zack247 (author)cnorwood2010-06-07

yes. those cooler pads stores sell surely arent very effective. the fans are in the same place on all of them

shooby (author)2010-05-26

I do a lot of work with plexi when making models.  Generally it's considered a good idea to heat it in a well ventilated area, because when heated plexiglass/acrylic gives off toxic fumes.  Don't fry your brain to cool your laptop.

kevin07 (author)2010-01-15

I made this cooler and it is great. It looks great but i think i am going to refine the electronics a little bit. Now my sister wants one :>)

SmAsH! (author)2009-11-09

have you thought about putting the fans in parallel?
then both could have 12v from a 12v supply...

silverHalo (author)SmAsH!2009-11-09

Yep, that would be ideal, but all I had at the time was a free 24V power supply. So that what I used.

SmAsH! (author)silverHalo2009-11-09

Ahh, i see. Then its all good.

Yerboogieman (author)2008-04-07


plexiglass (or acrylic) is a form of plastic.

NRoberts (author)2006-03-17

Nice project, cool idea. One addition since your dealing w/ a laptop, you should make it more portable. What about making the fans USB powered. I forget what it puts out, something like 9v or so. Should still give you enough not to roast the boys if ya know what I mean!

Yerboogieman (author)NRoberts2008-04-07

5v 500mA

slater101 (author)NRoberts2007-07-07

I made a portable one out of lightweight masonite and is powered by USB also... look for it HERE

colin (author)NRoberts2006-03-17

USB can deliver 500mA at 5V, so in order to run the fans at 12V you're going to need to use a switching regulator to upconvert the voltage. This can be done with a few chips and an inductor (I'll probably post an Instructable soon with the Eagle files) but your max current will drop correspondingly which means that you'll have a hard time driving your fans. Switching to lower voltage fans would obviously make it simpler.

silverHalo (author)colin2006-03-17

Sweet! Can't wait for the specs on the current reg., I'll be more than happy to make a fly portable version with some tiny low volt fans!

FoiL (author)2007-04-14

you could try putting rubber on the feet, or you can put tyhe fans at a lower voltage, lets say 7volts is enough

kccupp_2000 (author)2006-11-29

if you have a usb cord from a broken ipod you can strip it and use this to hook your fans up to it. that taakes carer of your power issues.

Identity (author)2006-09-06

I too have an Alienware with a storied history of overheating. When I get the time, hopefully I can implement this. Thanks for the ideas.

ceebee (author)2006-04-01

i actualy built a very basic one in my metalshop class. Basicly I just screwed a fan to the stand and took an old 12v adapter, striped it, wired it to the fan w/ a switch i bought at the hardware store. Its been working perfectly for over 2 years now and i run it almost constantly. I've got a powerbook (get very hot) and because its metal, just cooling the bottom surface actualy keeps the temp down at around 52ºC from 60º I didnt want to use a usb power supply mainly because of complexity and also usb uses energy wich = heat.

pescabicicleta (author)2006-03-17

For a lower-rent (and lower performance) but more portable solution, I took two of those rubber plugs that are used to protect sheetrock walls from door knobs, and attached them with a length snipped from a zip tie. Two of these work as a base for my laptop, lifting it off the table surface, allowing air to circulate, and thus keeping it cooler.

I'm working on a portable verison sans the fans, that folds up to a small footprint. Having a laptop that weights 10 pounds one doesn't want to carry around much else :)

silverHalo (author)2006-03-16

I'll try to simplify the wiring part, but I know there are those who want to know "How" and "Why" so they don't kill their project or themselves. It's better to understand what's going on then to just throw some stuff together and have it blow up in your face. I see lots of projects that frighten me do to lack of education, I always hope that they and their house are still standing! As far as overclocking goes... it's an Alienware! If I overclock it, it will explode!! Seriously though, with the cooler I can play 6 hours straight of HalfLife 2 at 1680x1050 res. without it shutting down, crashing, or overheating!! This thing gets smokin' hot without it!!

colin (author)2006-03-16

Nice project. I love the aesthetic. Blue edge lit plexiglass is oh-so-nice. It would be cool if you could simplify the powersupply discussion though, (it took a while to make it through all that text.) Were you able to overlock the laptop after doing this?

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