Laptop Cooling Tray




Introduction: Laptop Cooling Tray

With the help from other instructables I wanted to create one describing what I did to stop the ever frequent blue screens and retail techies trying to sell me a solution for $100+...Anyways here is my cooling solution.

Sorry about the pictures half way through the project. The camera was in storage and couldn't get to it until half way through :S

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Step 1: Brain Storming

I think this is one of the hardest steps in this project. Trying to figure out the design and hold to build it and hunting down the materials. I found online that there were many shapes, sizes and prices of cooling trays. Nothing really jumped out at me and the comments from users were 50% yah!~ and 50% nah.

So I ended up walking around the house checking out this and that. When I came across the fireplace grate I thought that would work the best and it had a simple design. :) Grate it is.

I scrounged round the house and gathered some old copper tubing from an old plumbing project. Found all kinds of shelving, scrap wood and other planks from various home improvement projects that my roommates had done.

I didn't technically measure how high I wanted the grate to sit from the base board so I did it the good old fashion way...Eye balled it and figured I was going to put som fans in there (80mm computer case fans).

Step 2: The Layout

Here I wanted to figure out what was causing the most heat and the whereabouts of the hot spots. Well It has an AMD 3700+ in it so its gonna give off a good amount heat, not hard to find with the little baby air vents and stuff.

Okay so yah I made the layout in MS paint :)

That's the bottom with the CPU in the back left...
So these are the hotspots and the placement of the vertical rods were dependent on the whereabouts of the hotspots. I tried to get 2 copper pipes on the CPU&RAM while having a sing pipe directly down the middle with one slightly to the right and then one directly on PSU.

Step 3: Cooling Process Layout

So now that I have the layout of the hotspots I need to figure out how the cool those spots. My original plan was to put a big giant fan in the middle to blow the all underneath. Hence the reason for a random hole in the middle of the base board. I hole had 1 size hole cutter too but I got to use a wood router :D
Anyways back to the topic. I decided to go with 2 80 mm fans 1 directly under the CPU, RAM and graphics card area. Then the other fan to over lap the mid section and hit the Power supply area.

I never used a router before but it was really easy and a lot of fun. I'm sure google or a wiki will provide what it is and the use of it. Basically it lets you cut away wood from the inside out and whatever depth you want. Provides the nice little indent for the fans.

Step 4: Soldering 101 - Putting Together Metals

Back to the copper piping. Making the grate.

*** Important: use a wire brush to clean the areas that will be soldered together. FLUX, must have flux! Well I heard you can sneak by without it but its so much easier with it. Flux helps the solder stick to the copper and fuse the 2 copper pipes together. Propane Torch to heat the solder and the copper piping for the whole process to work.***

Again safety first.
Make sure you are working in an area that doesn't have any flammable items. Heat resistant glows, eye protection, knowledge or a helping hand that has don it before. :) It was my first time with this process so I had a help. Still a fun process.

I ended up drilling some holes in the copper tubing (copper is a soft metal allowing the drilling.) so that I could screw the piping together and to make sure the grate wasn't going to leave the base board. :)

I would recommend taking the copper tubing off the base board if you want to avoid the black scorched marks and the possibility of well messing up the base board. :)

Step 5: Cutting and Forming

Short little step but important non the less.

I traced the laptop onto the base board (high tech huh?) then I gave a half inch of room around that traced area. With the laptop on the grate I measured how high should the front board be. Again I eye balled it until I actually found my tape measure.

I was looking to have a round edge that would compliment the rounded edge of the front part of the laptop.

To make the front board rounded I cut it on several angles using the table saw. Once at 30 degrees front and back then 10 degrees front back.

*** If you don't feel comfortable using a power tool such as a table saw track someone down that does. Better safe than sorry. ***

After making the cuts and a goof pile of saw dust :) I busted out the power sander.

I didn't have a metal file available so I used the sander. Probably not the best choice (need a rough grade sand paper to do it effectively) but it worked. I had to grind down the screws from the grate being screwed to the base board.

Step 6: Continue Crafting

In this step I manage to put the pieces together with happy results.

In the last step I did a bunch of cutting and forming of the wood portions. When I put everything together I wanted to allow a slightly raised platform for the base. This would provide airflow into the fans on the bottom and help give some comfort to the user, even if he/she decided to put it on their lap. Its kinda heavy but it still worked out pretty well. So I took a piece of old shelving wood that has a plastic coating on it and cut a 10 degree angle on the front to be screwed to the grate base board. I also wanted to provide support to that grate base board and the actual base so I cut a small block with the same angle the be placed in the middle of the fans in the back.

I screwed the block in from the bottom (1 screw) and from the top (2 screws). I had to go in and sand down the screw head on the bottom cause it wasn't sitting level, no worries.

I used screws throughout the whole construction because they hold better than nails. Drill holes before trying to put the screw in, 1 to avoid cracking and 2 it helps set the screw better.

The only things I actually had to spend money on were the brackets that add support the the front board and offer guide braces the the sides and back when the laptop sits on the copper tubes. I used gaffer's tape because it don't get gooey like electrical tape and it's fabic feel is more appealing Its kinda an eye sore so I may change it later.

I used horseshoe shaped staples to tack the electrical wiring to the base so that its not flying around. I'm thinking of using velco to hold the fan wiring down too.

Step 7: Wiring and the Soldering Iron :)

This is where I wasn't too sure what was going to work or the best way to provide power.

There is an instructable on "wall warts" Reuse "wallwart"


Benchtop PSU
This one helped with the soldering too. a twofer :)

*other resources stated at end of this instructable*

In a nutshell and without the math.
Plug in the soldering iron before starting steps. This will give it time to heat up.
Please make sure the soldering iron is the only thing plugged in while working with the wiring.
This example I have 2 fans.
Give yourself a bunch of room on the wires just in case you goof.
1. Strip the negative and positive wires to just the exposed copper wiring. Keep track of the + and -
2. Twist the 2 + positive wires together (red wires).
3. Repeat step 2 for the - negative wires (black wires).
4. Take your wallwart / power adapter and cut off the round tube-like end. Please make sure it isn't plugged in. Strip those wires down keeping track of the positive (red / +) wire and the negative (black / -) wire. *In my case it was a black cable with a white line down the positive wire (ground which is the positive).
5. twist the wallwart positive cable to the other twisted positive wires.
6. repeat step 5 but with the negative wires.
*Wire Check: you should have all positive wires twisted together and all the negative wires twisted together. Before using the solder plug the wallwart in keeping hand and other objects away from the exposed wiring to test the fans. Most computer case fans won't spin in the opposite direction if hooked up wrong. They won't spin at all. If it doesn't spin then double check the wiring or double check the fan itself. Once all fans are spinning then proceed*
7. Bust out the solder and the soldering iron. Take the twisted wiring of positive (should be 3 wires total), hold the iron against the wires and bring the solder to the iron so it will melt onto the wire fusing them together.
8. Repeat step 7 with the negative wires.
9. Once the wires and encased in solder and cooled, you can use electrical tape the wrap up the solder casing OR use the black tubing shown in the picture. Its the same thing basically. Use the soldering iron to melt the ends of the installation.
10. Final fan test. If they don't spin then there is a goof and you'll most likely have to start over. :( If they spin then you are golden.

I was going to put in a math versoin but I really didn't do much math other than rereading the above instructable links, double checking the voltage on the fans and what the power adapter said.

1x 80mm = 12V
1x 80mm = 12V
+ --->)---- - Is the direction of polarity. read instructables or wiki it for further assistance.
Input: 100-120V ~.5A
Output: 12V -------- 1.0A

I figured that the amperage was 500mA and would do the trick for two fans.

The reason why I didn't do it with the USB connection I have was because it wasn't enough power, even for a small fan. I used several sizes and I wasn't getting the airflow I wanted.

If you are doing the USB hook up then its just like using the wallwart but instead you cut the end off a USB cable.

Step 8: Test and Credits / Resources

The test "run that thing till it bluescreens" I left the laptop powered on all night running random programs, backing data being a good one, scheduled a defrag afterwards. That kind of stuff. After roughly 8 hours I check it before leaving for work it was nice and cool. Like I just turned it on :D It stay nice a cool while I play Half-life 2: Deathmatches for a handful of hours so that's good.

The noise level is ehh tolerable. Its like sitting next to my desktop so its not a big deal for me.
The front board covers the speakers but one doesn't work and I have to wait for a year to past so I can get into it. Still under warranty :( Oh well, I use headphones anyways.

Credits / Resources

Brainstorming and finding info:

First Instrutable I came across.
The DIY Laptop Cooler
by slater101on Jul 9, 2007in tech & craft

DIY Laptop Cooler
by silverHaloon Mar 16, 2006in tech

Wiring and Power
How to Build a Bench-Top Power Supply
by greyhathacker45on Jul 8, 2007in tech

Reuse "Wallwart" transformers
by pir8p3t3on Jan 21, 2007in tech

Thank you to those that posted their instructables.
Be careful while work on any project. Its best to be safe than sorry. Please be careful with any tool you handle. Take your time, haste makes waste and can cause accidents. Be very mindful of electricity. I had a helping hand with my project and if I felt uneasy then I asked for help. This is meant to be a helping guide, if it doesn't work the first time give it a try again. :) Just be safe, I can't stress that enough. Happy crafting.

Let me know what you think :)

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    11 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice design!

    Just one question... do the fans blow upwards, into the bottom of the laptop, or downwards, towards the desk?


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Hmm I guess it is a bit ghetto / poorly thrown together looking at if from someone elses eyes. But its my baby and it does its job really well. I plan on decorating it. Perhaps crayons and paint. Make it look professional ;) Bamboo and rope aye? It would be like the Swiss Family Robinson's made it. lol. That actually would be fun to make. I have another tray in progress. Its a passive cooling system. Just as ghetto but without the soldering. Took the heat sinks from 2 pentium 2 CPU. Oh yah! Still have more copper tubing. Fun stuff.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    have you looked at the laptop trays on
    or the ones on they are fantastic i play online games and had two blown laptops now i have a lap-surfer i game in comfort and am protected from over heating and skin cancer


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    its like a big heatsink screwed onto a board with fans on it... lol but it works anyway


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    It might not be pretty, but if it gets the job done, that's what counts. I'm working on a similar project (design-check, materials-check, build time-not so fast there pal!) and hope to get it done before the next semester starts. And a bamboo/rope/coconuts laptop stand would be awesome in a "Professor from Gilligan's Island" kind of way. -S3K


    12 years ago on Introduction

    LOL!! good design, poor construction, nice instructable. at first it looked like you made it from bamboo and hemp rope (if I make it, I'll use those materials).


    12 years ago on Introduction

    If it's still under warrenty why not have them fix the speaker? I used to have real problems with my IBM T41 overheating. IBM has a grid computing program they want us to run (I'm an employee) that takes up the unused cycles of the CPU. Think SETI@Home, only to find the cure for cancer and other stuff. I had that running on my T41, and didn't think about it at all. I had to get a cooling tray for $30 because the laptop was over heating. It didn't work. I had IBM replace the laptop. The new one over heated too. I was getting close to burning my legs if I used it on my lap. I turned off the grid computing thing, and I stopped having the over heating problem. Just like that.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    @mrmath was the thing you were running by any chance called "Folding@Home" ?


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Well The ultimate reason why I don't get the speakers fixed is because I have a hard time waiting 4 weeks to have gateway handle it. I'm not at all impressed with the service gateway provides. Perhaps its because I got the laptop through a retailer. The laptop will be in use in a couple weeks and I can't afford to not have it for the start of the school year. Besides after doing this project I'm sure I can fix the speakers myself. The grid computing is an interesting ability. It sounds similar to Sun Unix machines. If one sun machine is crunching away at a process it will call up other idling machines to help out. I'm not sure if my laptop has something like that running. I should look into that. Thanks for the comment. :)