El-cheapo (very) Basic Active Laptop Cooler Pad





Introduction: El-cheapo (very) Basic Active Laptop Cooler Pad

I recently received a used dell inspiron 5100 laptop. now for those of you who dont know - this is the laptop that heats up like there's no tomorrow due to some design flaw (i think i read somewhere there's a class action against dell). anyway free is free so i wouldnt go out an buy a $50 cooler for that!

instead i decided to spend some time and build one preferably as easily and cheap as possible!

note that you will need some minor electrical experience (if you ever added a light switch or outlet you should be OK)

EDIT(dec07): the laptop finally died this week. the hdd is dead by overheating. i may replace it but it's probably a question of time until it dies completely.

EDIT(xmas07): i replaced the dead hdd with one i had around and now i'm running the internal fan at high speed all the time to keep it cool. i also got a clearance fanless logitech laptop pad for less than $10 and dremel'd a hole into it to allow air intake for cooling. hopefully it will last longer this time :)

Step 1: What You Need

  • some acrylic (11"x14"x0.093" ) or other type of material that you can use as a base. i got mine from the door & windows section of home depot
  • a USB cable from your dollar store (i used male to female cable)
  • electrical tape to insulate the cables
  • a fan - bigger is better but you need to test it first and make sure it works at 5 Volt. i got mine from a PC power source.
  • fan screws or glue
  • felt (the ones you put on the feet of chairs & tables to protect against floor scratches)
  • dremel tool or some other tool that you can use to cut holes
  • SAFETY gear (glasses)

note that i only need 1 fan for my laptop. you can add multiple fans however that will complicate the wiring of the project.

Step 2: Mark & Cut the Acrylic

you need to mark and cut the base (acrylic) depending where your bottom fan(s) is located on your laptop. make sure your hole is big enough to fit your fan.

if your laptop has multiple fans on the bottom you need to have a hole in the acrylic for each of them! if you dont you risk overheating it. you can however just add a single fan (preferably under the bigger laptop fan)

Step 3: Cut the Cable & Add the Fan

cut the USB cable making sure you have enough length from the "normal" USB connector (which will power the fan). the USB cable will have 4 wires inside. you need to use the RED (+5 volt) and black (ground) to connect to same color cables of your fan. ignore the green and white wires. test before you make the final setup to confirm the fan is spinning. add the electrical tape over the connections.

make a note of the direction of the airflow! then check your laptop's fan. the cooler needs to drive air in the same direction as the laptop's fan. this is very important!

mount the fan in the appropriate direction (inlet or outlet).

Important note about the fan: USB ports can support up to 500mA (0.5A). your fan needs to be below this limit or it could damage your computer. most fans are rated 100-150mA (0.1-0.15A) which should be fine. fans that include LEDs may have higher power requirements however.

Step 4: Verify Your Work

do a visual check and be proud of the result! unless you really messed up your measurements you should be all set on this step :)

Step 5: Final Touches

now remove the protective plastic foil off the acrylic. you can add some felt to assure some spacing between the hot laptop and the plastic. this will allow some of the air blown by the fan to cool the rest of the laptop's bottom.

the book you see in the picture is the final touch. it's giving you the inclined surface you need to type comfortably and allows the fan to pull/blow air. i know you can add another piece of acrylic instead of the book but this is really meant to be cheap and fast :)

Step 6: Start Using Your Laptop!

you're pretty much done. plug in the USB cable into the USB port of your laptop, power up and enjoy! assuming you tested your electric connections before you should be all set.



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what´s the point of this, if your fan is blocked on the bottom... there is no sufficient air flow. :D

4 replies

well since Dell decided to put the air intake fan at the bottom of the laptop, i've put my stronger fan just below it to blow air into that intake and help out the internal fan. i don't quite understand what your point is...

I think he means, you have blocked the flow-in side of the fan, so the air flow won't efficient

The fan you added is providing little to no airflow since the intake is blocked. If you did see significant temp changes it was because you gave more space for the stock fan to intake air.

Your right DIYSlacker that the fan would help cool it but Alternator is right about the fact that the additional fan is not going to work well (at least if it's set up like you have it in the picture) because there is hardly any space under the "new" fan for it to draw air in... There needs to be more space for proper air flow between the fan and the table/lap/floor/whatever...

where is get this only fan

Did you now that this 'ible has been linked to from here?

I built two ( one for wife ) out of scrap 1/4" plywood, copying the computer bottom air vents, and drilling out that pattern with a 1/2" drill. Different patterns for different models. Now we can both hold our laptops without overheating the machine or our legs. Mine also holds a pad and pen. Blowing out the computer with compressed CO2 is a good idea. One other trouble spot is the cooling fan itself. With a light , toothpick and CO2, you can check your fan for dust and lent build up. Stick the toothpick in to brace the fan and then use the CO2 to blow away the build up. Take care not to spin the fan with compressed air, you could damage the fan or the drive motor by over reving them. Thanks to all you guy's, every answer is part of the puzzle.

1 reply

Brushless motors are awesomeley better

I just did this using only a box of pringles (cut up and used for elevation), a piece of cardboard, a nice and powerful fan that I found in the dumpster, an old telephone adapter (I don't want to use up usb ports, so I attached it to a wall plug.), and some string. It works great. Thanks for the inspiration.

1 reply

Using the telephone adapter is pretty brilliant...never seen or heard of a peripheral powered by it, good job.

 how do u make the fan cable to usb input?

I made this out of an old laptop that I had been given.  I still need to find a protector for my fan, and I need something to give it some angle, but it's kinda cool. I like being a nerd, and most of my friends are nerds, so all of my friends liked it. Thanks for the idea!

i have a fan with rating 12 v Dc and 0.5A. but the USB port gives only 5 v. wont the fan damage the laptop

2 replies

fan wont run at its full capacity

it should be OK. the fan can't draw more power than is available.

Nice ible my friend. Maybe a suggestion would be a a back rest for it as in for the placement of the laptop to insure the fan lines up correctly and that it wont slide off.

You might also want to look into making some feet for you cooler. I don't quite think a book will cut it. It shouldn't be that hard to do.

ugh! I wish i found this sooner! I just bought a laptop stand/cooler. Although i doubt mine would have turned out. My luck, I would severly hurt myself making it lol _

1 reply

safety always comes first ;)