Instructables
Introduction: Computer (Laptop) Cooling Basics
The cooling of the CPU (Central Processing Unit), otherwise referred to as "The Chip" or to laymen "The Brain" of the laptop is a dilemma that most manufacturers have to face when designing a laptop enclosure (casing) and choosing the correct CPU for it. The cooling is normally performed by a fan and some kind of metal conductor like copper or aluminum called a heat sink. The CPU, and lately the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), are "connected" to the metal heat sink via a thermal grease or compound. This grease conducts heat but not electricity. The "trick" for manufacturers is to get rid of as much heat as possible using as small a fan and heat sink as the CPU will allow. Vents are also cut into the casing allowing the fan to suck cool air from the bottom, force it over the heat sink and blow it out the side or rear thus cooling the CPU and GPU. In more modern times copper is being used as the conducting metal, liquid is "pumped" through the system and radiators and exhaust ports are used just like in motor vehicles. All this to get rid of the heat and make the system run faster. 

The Problem
The problem is that over time dust and other particles clog the vents, fan and exhaust port or radiator of the system thus restricting air flow and cooling. This is fixed relatively easily by blowing out the vents and fan with air or using a brush or earbud (Q-tip) to clean away the dust. Remember: In the computer world - DUST DESTROYS! There is however another hidden problem that occurs when computers (laptops) heat up or overheat. They tend to dry out the thermal compound that conducts the heat thus causing the system to overheat more quickly. Luckily most CPUs, GPUs and chip manufacturers have built in protection for this. They step down the operating speed bit by bit until they eventually switch off the CPU and thus the system shuts down. So if you have a computer system that starts working slower and slower and then switches off for no apparent reason, overheating could be your problem.

The Solution
To solve the overheating problem, especially in laptops, I am going to show you how to get to the cooling unit, dust it out, replace the thermal grease and put everything together again. In order to demonstrate this I will be using a friend's LG F1 Pro Express Dual laptop that started exhibiting just such symptoms. It would become sluggish and then suddenly switch off for no reason. This caused him a lot of lost work and a corrupted Outlook PST email file. Here I will show you step by step the solution to this nasty problem.

Interesting Tech Fact: I captured all the pictures with my Samsung Galaxy S cellphone.  

 
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
1-40 of 76Next »
BryanL26 days ago

The fact that its not overheating doesn't mean you didn't use too much paste though, all it means is you got lucky this time and seem unwilling to take advice from someone who has been doing this stuff for 20+ years. Even if the effects of too much thermal paste can be minimal, its costing you money, since GOOD paste is expensive.

Andre Coetzee (author)  BryanL223 hours ago
Dear BryanL2
It seems then that I have been very lucky for over 30 years applying the paste like I do. (I built my 1st 4.77 Mhz PC from scratch in the early 80's and continue fixing and building PCs today.) Although the cap of my thermal paste is broken and it is nearly empty, I still have the same tube of thermal paste I bought 10 years ago. People do not have to follow my advice. None of the more than half a million people who have read my instructable have to. They can decide for themselves, supported by the extensive descriptions, comments like yours and external website links, if they want to follow my method or not. It is not that I am unwilling to accept your advice, however you comment is contradicted by Intel and lab tests. Have you looked at the photographic procedure supplied by the CPU manufacturer that I included? I have attached photographs from Intel and supplied the link to the information on the Intel website at the end of the instructable. Select "How to Apply TIM" from the top of the Intel page to see their procedure. Here you will see the amount of paste Intel recommends. They empty the complete tube, that was supplied, on to the middle of the chip and do not even spread it thinly. According to you, Intel then also use too much paste. So how can I accept your statement as fact when they contradict the manufacturer's recommendations. Take a look at Tom's Hardware where they explain in detail everything that you need to know about cooling. Then check out the tests they did on the type and brand of thermal paste used and see how much that contributes to an increase in temperature. Even if you applied the right amount of paste the type and brand also matters. It matters much more than if you applied the paste thickly or thinly. Remember the thickness is a perception because some people believe there should barely be paste and it should be spread, others want a bit more paste but not spread, etc. Tom's really does an excellent job of explaining everything about cooling. Even the fact of blobbing the paste in the middle and let the heat sink spread it for you, the way Intel recommend. I supplied the links to this at the end of the Instructable. I am sure you probably knew this already. I am also sure that people that revive their overheating laptops will be so grateful that the few $ that was wasted on thermal paste will not matter to them. A few people have told me I use too much thermal paste but nobody has read the Intel description or the Tom's Hardware information. The manufacturer's information and lab test contradict the statements that I use too much paste. However, you can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you cannot please all the people all of the time. Thank you for your positive and constructive comments. I am sure your contribution will help others make informed and correct choices.
BryanL215 days ago

Waaaaaay to much thermal paste on that small area, you need like 1/4 that amount.

Andre Coetzee (author)  BryanL27 days ago
Hi BryanL2,
Thanks for your comment. This topic is covered extensively in the description and the comments. The myth buster that the laptop has been operating for more than two years without an overheating problem should be proof enough that there was not too much past on.
lalitk121 days ago

Hi, Great post and Thanks for sharing this nice post...

see : http://www.geeksonsite.co.nz/

taz99taz1 month ago

hello, i cleaned the heat sink, no more dust there, i applyed a new layer of thermal compound (arctic sylver) and my laptop pc is same as before .. slugish and shuts off wih no warning .. what should i do?

HartyJ taz99taz24 days ago

right bottom hand corner right click on your battery icon choose change setting then go into advanced settings turn your cpu max power to 60% this should stop your computer from over heating

Andre Coetzee (author)  taz99taz1 month ago
Hi taz99taz,

Cleaning the dust and re-applying thermal grease is only part of the solution. What you also need to do is make sure your laptop has good airflow going through it. Some have badly designed ventilation and a cooling pad (little tray/stand with fans on) might help solve your problem. Do you know if it is temperature? Have you run any utility to monitor if the CPU temperature is rising or not? You BIOS settings might also be set quite low and then the laptop will shut down even if it is not really overheating because you "told" it to in the BIOS. Check your airflow and monitor the temperature and get back to me with your findings.

Hello mr. Andre, thank you for the reply. I used Everest Ultimate to check the CPU temperature. It goes up to 92-93*C then it just shuts off.. the only way i can use it now is flipped over with the covers removed and connected to a tv. But if i try to play a game or watch a movie or video it shuts off. It was working fine until suddenly it started to do this (about 2 and a half weeks ago it started).. Should i start looking for a new one? (I have an Acer Ferrari One 200)

Thank you.

3of5 taz99taz28 days ago
hello taz99taz,
sometime oil from fingers and even dust can cause issues, even a very little amount. This may be a very stupid question, is the fan even running? When a CPU gets that hot, it should sound like the CPU fan is ready for take-off. I would be willing to take a look at it if you are willing to pay for shipping. Or if you don't want it, I would be happy to take it. I could even trade you for a netbook I have if the laptop has the right specs. (if you are willing to) if you are interested, my email is zappybear@gmail.com.
Andre Coetzee (author)  taz99taz1 month ago

Hi taz99taz, it seems as if your laptop is overheating if it reaches the high 90s in °C. It also seems to be the graphics card that is causing the overheating because it happens when you do graphic intensive operations. The graphics processor (GPU) might also have a heat sink that needs to be cleaned and re-greased. So lets put down the steps you should have done so far for your Acer Ferrari One 200:

1. Removed / Uninstalled all unused / not needed programs that run resident in the background. These programs cause higher CPU usage and thus contribute to heat build up.

2. Defrag your hard drive. When the heads jump around a lot looking for data it generates more heat.

3. Make sure the air vents under and on the sides of the laptop are clean, clear and open. Even when you use the laptop, make sure something is not blocking the air vents. Feel around the laptop to make sure the air flows out easily. Some people even take a Dremel tool and make the vents slightly bigger to promote better air flow by cutting away every alternate vent "bar". Remember that this will void any warranty, should be done with the laptop off and at your own risk. Does your laptop still have little rubber feet that raise it slightly off the surface it's on? If not, get some!

4. Get yourself a cooling pad. This is a small cheap stand with a fan or two on to help pull air through the laptop. There are easy and cheap ones you can make yourself here on instructables.

5. Clean out all the dust in the laptop and all its fans. You can use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the dust on a weekly basis so you do not have to open the case every time. Blow the dust out if you opened the case. The Acer is very touchy about dust and even a little bit prevents air flow and slows the fan down. [Turn your laptop upside down. Unscrew the 4 small screws and remove the large panel. Disassemble the fan / ventilator by unscrewing the 3 screws ( do not bother to remove the fan plug) Remove the accumulation of dust between the fan and the cooler. Blow out the dust through the gate of the cooler.]

6. Re-apply the thermal grease on the CPU and GPU.

7. Operate the laptop in a cooler/colder environment like closer to a room fan or air conditioner. The ambient room temperature can also contribute to overheating as the air drawn in to cool down the CPU is already warm.

8. Have the fan run all the time on the laptop and not just when it overheats. This is normally controller in the BIOS or operating system.

NOTE: Remember: You use the laptop to run games and movies and this will cause the laptop to run hotter because the hard drive is working harder and the graphics card is constantly on at a higher resolution. Some of the above suggestions might void your warranty and should be done with the laptop turned off, unplugged and the battery removed at your own risk.

Let me know if this helped you.

dopedndead1 month ago

Has anyone heard, that if your laptop overheats too much, it's probably bugged?

Andre Coetzee (author)  dopedndead1 month ago
Hi dopendead,
Although anything is possible and should a laptop be bugged the device might contribute to a small increase in power consumption and heat, but not enough to cause overheating. If somebody got hold of your laptop and was able to take it apart, it would be very easy to install a little FM transmitter that runs off the laptop battery. Many years ago, when Apple was still a seed in Steve Jobs's pocket, I used to build small FM bugs from transistors. They could fit into half a match box and have a signal range of about 100 to 150 m. You would use a normal FM radio to tune in to the frequency to hear whats going on. Now days it would be a very small IC that would be installed. What you must ask yourself is why would somebody do it?
busywith243 months ago

What`s about If I don`t use any thermal compound?

Andre Coetzee (author)  busywith242 months ago

If you do not use any thermal compound your CPU could over heat. This will affect performance and your computer will start working slower and slower. Earlier CPUs would burn out. Newer CPUs step their speed down when they over heat. They eventually shut down when they get too hot to prevent damage. However over heating is not a good thing and could permanently damage and even destroy your computer.

wliu310 months ago
You seem to apply too much thermal paste. You will only need the size of a pea or less if you are doing on a laptop.
Andre Coetzee (author)  wliu310 months ago
Actually that is not totally accurate. In my 30 years of replacing thermal grease on chips I have tested thin layers and thick layers with very little difference (+/- 5%) in the temperature of the unit. The reason for this is that the pressure applied between the heat sink and the CPU by the retaining springs will spread the grease around and force excess paste out. See Step 11 Afterword of the instructable for more on the grease thickness as well as an 2013 update with info from Intel.

There are 2 problems with using too much grease/paste.

  1. If you are using a conductive paste, (silver based) too much can short out the tiny resistors/caps on the top of the CPU/GPU when it gets squeezed out.
  2. Grease is not nearly as conductive as copper. The purpose of thermal grease is to fill in any voids between the heatsink and the die. The thermal transfer of metal to silicon is better than metal to grease to silicon.(But metal>grease>silicon is better than metal>air>silicon.)

The worst thing you can do with any grease is to pre-spread it. This just creates air pockets in the grease that get trapped under the heatsink.

Andre Coetzee (author)  freezier8 months ago

Hi Freezier,

Here is Intel's guide to applying thermal grease: http://www.intel.com/support/processors/sb/CS-0303...

Yes, I know what intel says. If you notice, the chip they were using in that demo is a desktop chip with an integrated heat spreader. You, however, were greasing a laptop chip without a heat spreader, and were using plain silicone grease. (Which is probably the best grease to use if you are going to overdo it, as it wont short out the caps like the silver stuff will.) If you are using a heat spreader the amount of thermal grease can be higher, due to the larger surface area of the heat spreader. When using bare chips its best to use proportionally less grease for the fact that you have less surface area. (Basically use a grain of rice worth of grease for bare chips and a pea worth of grease for a heat spreader chip.)

Andre Coetzee (author)  freezier8 months ago

Yes, you are right in that I am using plain, non conductive, silicone grease. This kind of grease does not short out components like other conductive grease does. So even if I did overdo do it, which everyone seems to suggest I did, it had very little impact on the temperature as I explained in one of my other comments after tests I did. The temperature difference was actually less than the tests done here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cooling-air-pr... by Tom's Hardware showing that even correctly applied thermal grease can have a difference of 10 °C from one brand to another. There is also quite a good tutorial here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/thermal-paste-... also from Tom's Hardware showing how to apply thermal grease.

wliu3 wliu310 months ago
By the way, you don't need to spread the paste manually. As the heatsink goes back into its place, the paste will flow into a suitable position that works well. Also, if you spread the parse manually, you may eventually end up with gaps between the heatsink and the paste, which you won't want to have.
Andre Coetzee (author)  wliu310 months ago
Yes, this seems to be the advice from Intel as well. Again, 30 years of spreading paste on scores of chips has taught me to make sure you get the maximum contact between the heated and cooling units. Again, if you create a small area with no paste on, the pressure applied by the retaining spring on the heat sink should cause the paste to spread and cover it as you have also suggested in your comment.
This is a great instructible with very clear step by step instructions. Although i didnt do this, at least i know how :) A logitech cooling pad solved my Acer Aspire from overheating. Good job!
Andre Coetzee (author)  NVDevastator10 months ago
Great! I am glad you liked the instructable and you could solve your overheating problem by a simple cooling pad. Overheating has mostly to do with air flow. If you increase the air flow by not blocking the vents (or enlarging them with a tool), adding a fan (like a cooling pad), then the last step would be replacing the thermal grease or other extreme measures.
hgharibyan1 year ago
I found the best way to avoid overheating, my laptop had the same issue, after following instruction in the video, worked great ! check the video

http://www.allht.com/top-3-most-common-computer-problems/
Andre Coetzee (author)  hgharibyan10 months ago
Yep, there are setting in Windows and other operating systems that allow the laptop to run "cooler" BUT they come at the cost of performance. So, if you make your laptop run "slower", it will run cooler.
kinggo6811 months ago
Refer to the article "Make a removable laptop water cooler! And other cool devices", I think that is a high efficiency way.
Andre Coetzee (author)  kinggo6810 months ago
The instructable "Make a removable laptop water cooler! And other cool devices" seems a little extreme for the average Joe. It could be a last resort if blowing out the dust, replacing the thermal grease or getting a cooling pad does not work. It involves manufacturing an external cooler and cutting parts of your laptop which I doubt everyone will feel comfortable with. The instructable is otherwise very cool, excuse the pun.
wliu3 kinggo6810 months ago
+1
b14610 months ago
The greatest problem for your laptop, except for your coffee mug, is overheating. One of the most common problems with computers is laptop overheating.

It can cause hardware failure and permanent damage. This article will introduce ways in which you can prevent or fix an overheating laptop and thus improve the performance and extend the lifespan of your laptop. I hope this shows how to stop your laptop from overheating.

http://053479df.theseforums.com

http://46f77d3f.theseblogs.com
Andre Coetzee (author)  b14610 months ago
Thanks for adding more advice to help people cool their laptops and save them from destruction.
wliu310 months ago
You should have use isophyll alcohol as it is a typical way to remove thermal grease and the tongue depressor could have damaged the surface of your CPU if it is kind of weak.
Andre Coetzee (author)  wliu310 months ago
If you read the instructable through end to end, you will see that I do use "isophyll" alcohol. However on many chips you will find that the paste has solidified and hardened. You will have to use the tongue depressor. If you use a wooden one, you will not damage the surface of the chip or heat sink. Do not push down but at an angle. I have not damaged any chips or heat sinks in the 30 years of doing this.
http://laptopsmumbai.blogspot.in/2013/07/solution-to-dell-laptop-overheating_26.html hi there ,i got a fab info abt del laptop.. btw ur blog is simply awesome. do visit my page that is http://laptopsmumbai.com/

MRedu2 years ago
Very technical and detailed instructable, i think you take your cooling very seriously.

+1
Andre Coetzee (author)  MRedu1 year ago
Hi MRedu,

Thanks, just trying to help.
starter282 years ago
Thanks
++++
Andre Coetzee (author)  starter281 year ago
Hi starter28,

My pleasure!
zenpill1 year ago
Very clear step by step instructions. I followed them with no problem for my Lenovo SL400.

Many thanks,

T
1-40 of 76Next »