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.  

 
 
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taz99taz15 days 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?

Andre Coetzee (author)  taz99taz12 days 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.

dopedndead14 days ago

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

Andre Coetzee (author)  dopedndead12 days 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?
busywith242 months ago

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

Andre Coetzee (author)  busywith241 month 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.

wliu39 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)  wliu38 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)  freezier7 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)  freezier6 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 wliu39 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)  wliu38 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)  NVDevastator8 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)  hgharibyan8 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.
kinggo689 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)  kinggo688 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 kinggo688 months ago
+1
b1469 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)  b1468 months ago
Thanks for adding more advice to help people cool their laptops and save them from destruction.
wliu39 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)  wliu38 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.
laptopsmumbai11 months ago
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
Andre Coetzee (author)  zenpill1 year ago
Hi zenpill,

I am so glad it worked for you. My wife's current laptop is a HP G60-220US. I can feel it is starting to heat up but the HP laptops have millions of screws to take out before you get to the cpu! I will wait until I have more patience for that one. I hope your Lenovo (IBM) Thinkpad SL400 gives you many hours of hassle free operation.
wyip11 year ago
Hi, Andre

I just rescued my brother's overheating LG F1 Pro by following this tutorial. The instruction is very detail and complete. The 5 year old computer is back to work and current running ubuntu 12.10 I'm very happy with the result. thanks

WingPui
Andre Coetzee (author)  wyip11 year ago
Hi WingPui,

Great! I also have an old LG F1 and have also re-applied thermal compound (grease) to the CPU. Now it runs like a dream. I have XP on mine but Ubuntu should work great on yours. I am glad I could help you save your laptop.
Homletmoo2 years ago
Don't forget to press the power button once once the battery is out to discharge the capacitors.
shahzade3 years ago
Hi,
I like your instructable very much. Nice work.
I hate it to void warranties but I also hate it to send away my laptop (which is a most crucial tool to most of us nowadays) for something that you can do so easily yourself.
To bad that every laptop has to be opened differently, so that part might not be helpfull for many people, still, showing that you don't destroy an electronic device automatically by just opening it, will hopefully take the fear from a few people.
One last thing, in my opinion that is way to much thermal grease on that small surface.

Greetings from Germany,
Shah
Andre Coetzee (author)  shahzade3 years ago
According to the CPU chip specifications for a LF80537 T5500, which is a Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile, the Minimum/Maximum operating temperature (°C) is 0 - 100°C.

Currently the maximum operating temperature of the CPU is 65°C.

What I will do now is remove all the thermal grease, only apply a very thin layer and measure again. I will take photos of everything and post them as well.
Andre Coetzee (author)  Andre Coetzee2 years ago
Hi shahzade, I have added the temperature test outcomes to the Instructable. Enjoy!
hey takoeza,
I read your temperature test. Thank you for trying this out and sharing your results with us. I wouldn't have thought that the difference would be so significant!

I checked on this instructable regularly to see if you had updated it, it has been a while so I thought you had forgotten this. Glad to see you didn't!

Well keep your work up, would like to see more like this.

Greetings
Shah
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