Introduction: Extend Your Laptop's Life! Clean the Dust Out of Its Heat Sink.

Picture of Extend Your Laptop's Life! Clean the Dust Out of Its Heat Sink.

A very basic overview of how I cleaned the dust out of my Toshiba laptop's heat sink. There was so much in there! I can't believe this practice isn't recommended and encouraged by the manufacturers.

If dust is blocking the air inlet and outlet and/or the heat sink, your computer may overheat. Symptoms of overheating include very hot air coming out of the outlets, an unusually hot base, or the computer suddenly shutting off for no apparent reason. If your computer doesn't have a low enough setting for automatic shutoff due to overheating, the components inside may be damaged.

I broke no stickers or seals while doing this, but there is a possibility of leaving some marks on screws or covers. This almost certainly voids your warranty, so keep that in mind before you start!

This was a very easy process but can present many opportunities for dropping tiny screws. If you have a tendency to drop things or aren't good with screwdrivers, please hire a professional to do this for you.

Step 1: Remove Fan Cover

Picture of Remove Fan Cover

The first picture is obviously the computer base. The fan cover should be easy to identify. I recommend placing a cloth or something down before overturning your computer. I didn't ... oh well.

The three screws circled in red are hex screws. I didn't have a hex driver so I used a small flathead that fit well. Not a great idea, but it worked well enough.

Step 2: Remove Inner Cover

Picture of Remove Inner Cover

When the first cover comes off, here's what you see. Up top is the copper heat sink that sends off heat through many vanes as air passes through it.

I don't know why these two fans are different. Maybe someone can leave a note and educate us?

The five circled screws are small phillips head. I made extra sure not to drop these while removing them.

Step 3: Vacuum!

Picture of Vacuum!

Here's what the inside looks like after I vacuumed it. I wish I had taken a before and after shot! The area on the copper sink where the arrow is pointing was covered in about 1 mm of dust in the middle, up to 3 mm toward the sides. The exit area off to the right was covered in about 1 mm of dust the whole way across. In other words, they were both completely blanketed. There was also a lot around the fan blades.

I used a small attachment on my regular vacuum cleaner to get most of it, and then a brush attachment to get some of the stickier pieces off. I didn't try to completely clean the fan blades or the bases under the fans.

This amount of dust collected after about 2.5 years of everyday use. Based on what I saw, I'd recommend doing this cleaning at least once a year to enhance cooling of your laptop.  Keep it clean!


zack247 (author)2010-04-25

"there is a possibility of leaving some marks on screws or covers"

this is exactly why they dont tell you to do this. and on top of that, people who dont clean their heatsinks will kill their laptop faster, meaning they will either take it in or replace it. more money for the producers, so they dont advise cleaning their product, as it will prolong its life and bring in less profit from dead laptops

pterra (author)zack2472016-03-17

Use a rubber band, a medium sized thin one for manually unscrewing the tiny computer screw. It's a hack I picked up for stripped screws, being I can't see very well, using that, and plenty of light, coupled w/patience works for me w/o leaving marks, or scratches. I pack rubberbands in any tool kit where I have drills or screwdrivers. XP

bluescrubby (author)pterra2016-03-17

Cool, thanks :D

IgnatyS (author)2016-02-06

its not that simple it takes me about 1-3 hours getting to the fans i need to unscrew every little bolt on the back of my laptop and even take off the motherboard

i have a toshiba Quosimo 7xx and it takes ages to clean it i would like someone to suggest a faster and easier way?

ReubenK1 (author)2015-08-07

lmb (author)2007-03-11

Want a bad consequence? All that excess heat is doing more than draining your battery, its damaging the mobo. If your laptop doesn't start up on the first solid push of the button, this could be why. I'm sure the DIY community is tired of hearing me say this, but check out if you need to clean out your Dell. If you have pets, grab a set of tweezers first and reach into the blades. I've yanked hair-balls out of fan intakes that probably would have choked the cat who generated them.

ItsJustJ (author)lmb2014-08-31

I tried to access this and I got a page with a message denying access.

rfexciter (author)lmb2007-04-12

Great Idea !! -- I would like to Thank all for their respective input, that is some good reading there, and some good advice as well. I wish I knew of a way to obtain a service manual, or perhaps someone in here knows how I could get into a "Toshiba Satellite 2715XDVD", that belongs to a friend of mine. It will come on and boot up for maybe a minute or so after "POST", then konk out. It gets real hot after awhile on the bottom of the unit near where the A/C adapter plugs in, and at the plug itself. I'm certain that it's overheating, and I need a way into the unit to clean it out. -- Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. -- Thanks in advance.

pjotahh (author)2013-01-19

One is an air inlet and the other an air outlet. Both are optimized to perform their specific task, giving a slight difference in design

katerbater19 (author)2011-02-19

I don't think that they are different I believe one blows air in and the other blows air out so one is upside down and the other isn't. Thanks for making this btw!!!

muddog15 (author)katerbater192012-11-17

that is exactly correct

darthbindy (author)2011-12-11

i have a toshiba portege netbook, it doesnt turn off when it gets hot but i burnt my hand on it once any suggestions? (its realy hard to open, only a ram cover, everything else hidden.

imohammed (author)2011-06-10

i have toshiba satellite pro U200.... any solution for fan noise and overheat of laptop? please...

TOCO (author)2010-10-31

good instructable. I always heard that vacuming electronics could give them electrostatic shock.

twocvbloke (author)2010-08-06

I used to have a Toshiba Satellite A30 with a heatsink like that, it loved to collect dust and dirt, clog up and overheat, though to clean it out I used to take the whole lot out (heatsink, fans, grilles, everything) and give it all a good vacuuming and brushing (with a small paintbrush), removing the lot reduces the static issues, and allows you to replace the ageing thermal paste on the CPU... :)

My current laptop though has a heatsink that is pretty much well-built into the base, you have to strip the whole thing down to access the heatsink and clean it, thank goodness it's not a performance laptop otherwise it'd be a real pain!!! :S

trf (author)2010-01-11

Ok you definitly dont wanna use a vaccum for that. The vaccum has an ability to make static (not enouygh for u to feel) that may damage and fry components. They make special pc vacs for it but they are costly..the best bet is to used compres air meant for cleanin pcs and then vaccum up the mess around the computer instead of inside it.

ejsilver26 (author)trf2010-07-23

I use compressed air to clean out our laptops, but I do it outside, thus no mess. I recommend doing this once and a while. Our laptops were getting quite warm at times, so I cleaned them out and they were a lot cooler. Great Instructable for opening the case, BTW...

Bari0 (author)2010-05-16

My laptop wont even open because of some stupid hinge --' And I can't get to the heat sink and clean it

albylovesscience (author)2009-09-28

it is good to see all these ibles on proper PC cleaning and fixing because every computer-disabled (people who dont know sqat when it comes to pc's) people think a geeksquad person can fix it nooo thats what an IT thats been to college can do. nuff said, gooday sir and ,good ible

memyselfand1 (author)2009-06-14

Right... Now try this with my Toshiba Portege M300. The Terror of Notebook Repairers across the whole of Ballarat, Victoria.

macwhiz (author)2008-06-24

the fan with more blades sucks air in and cools the boards and the one with less blades cools off components with the smaller heat sink

dreamerny (author)2007-06-01

Can anybody help me with instructions to clean my Sony Viao laptop. Due to overheating it dies or doesnt start at times. I have had this laotop for about 3 years and never cleaned the dusts in the fan. But opening it looks much more complicated than the Toshiba!! Any help would be appriciated.

bluescrubby (author)dreamerny2007-06-01

Please let us know the model number and post some pics of the back and sides of your laptop!

dreamerny (author)bluescrubby2007-06-02

Thanks for asking :) The model is SONY VAIO PCG-GRZ660 (PCG-8L1L). I'm posting some pics. Thanks again.

dreamerny (author)bluescrubby2007-06-02

Thanks a lot for the help. Actually my laptop looks much different than what the instructions recommend. But I found some directions to clean a different sony viao model. I'll try out and see if I can use those directions and some of my own gut instinct to clean mine. If I get it done then I'll be posting the instructions here.

sali (author)dreamerny2007-11-03

I have a sony vaio pcg-9J5L also known as model PCG-FRV26. I also was looking for instructions on how to clean the fan and the heatsink. Could you share the directions you found that helped you? maybe it's similar to mine. thanks.

MumblingTuna (author)2007-10-21

I just blew compressed air up my computer heat sink from behind, and watched clouds of dust rise from the fans.

hellojenniferkitty (author)2007-02-21

It's a great idea - unfortunately neither my fans nor my heatsink are so accessible - I have a Sony S260 - the only openable panel on the back reveals boards, not fans or sink (T_T) I think I'd have to take the back completely off to thoroughly clean it. Perhaps when I upgrade I'll feel brave enough to take it apart!

Hello Jennifer, Have you looked for panels along the sides of your machine, either where air is taken in or blown out?

pellepeloton (author)2007-02-14

Looks like other fan blows and other sucks if the rotation is to the same direction. I have found that some people use their laptops in a couch and when going away for some time leave the laptop in the couch blocking the airvents. This would cause overheating and shorten the life of the laptop.

Punkguyta (author)2007-02-14

You have a decent looking toshiba. I made a video on youtube for taking apart a old 2520cds to clean/upgrade it but "Apple"s "imovie" shit software did no justice and actually mixed up all the seperate steps, oh well, not using that again. I think I'm going to borrow a digital camera from someone so I can show people how to properly take apart a ibook g4, I've seen the results of people trying to pull them apart, they get scratched up, dented, and are overall they are pretty fragile on the inside. Anyone that wants me to make a instructable for it, post here, that should give me motivation to get a digital camera so I can do it.

Professor Hognutz (author)2007-02-14

I've often theorized that as laptops age the fan has to run a greater and greater percentage of the time as the heat sinks get dustier. It certainly has to reduce the cooling efficiency. I have a cheap-o Acer. I think I might try pipe cleaners as I'm not sure I can expose the sink.

trebuchet03 (author)2007-02-13

Very nice :D Here's my instruction on an HP pavilion (exact same thing for equivalent Compaq). I clean mine every 6 months or so -- I've never had overheating problems, just preventative maintenance.

Looks like Toshiba got wise with their chassis design. Although, when a long fin tube is clogged, the effect is more traumatic :/ My sister's satellite (is that the right spelling?) is one PITA to disassemble...

dataphool (author)2007-02-13

Good Instructible! I don't have a laptop, although my grandson does. My computer is only about 14 months old, and I'm sure it needs to be cleaned. Obviously, about 4 days ago I had to power-off-reset and it was so dusty it wouldn't come back on in a minute; I assume that is dust. I even gave up smoking 3 years ago for my health and I assumed the health of my computers. huh!

hack124x768 (author)dataphool2007-02-13

Dust can make a computer unstable due to excess heat, which makes the fans run faster, which drains your battery faster. Boot up time has nothing to do with duct if you have a desktop. It might with a laptop, as another method of controlling heat is to slow down the chip to use less power and make less heat. Reload your box. Its been more than 6 months, so it needs it. Dig up your CDs and start from scratch. That's the only way to fix windows for sure.

evy-wevy (author)2007-02-13

cleaning my heatsink isn't thois easy -_-

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