Keeping laptops from overheating helps guard them against premature failures. Although all electronic components generate heat, the high-speed processors we use in modern computers generate the most. Computer manufacturers must pack electronic components much more tightly into each laptop than into each desktop. Therefore, components in laptop computers require constant cooling through internal and external air flow.
As shown below, each laptop has vents (sets of cooling slots) in its bottom cover. The laptop cooling fan pulls cool air into an entrance vent, pushes it across the processor and one or more circuit boards (modules) containing other electronic components, and then toward an exit vent.
Adequate internal air flow helps keep your laptop computer from overheating. Although, internal airflow is primarily a design function, you can help maintain it. To ensure that your laptop has proper internal air flow, you should:
- Frequently inspect the vents to make sure they remain clean and unblocked.
- Each time you turn on your laptop, either listen for the fan or feel for airflow at its vents.
External airflow helps internal airflow keep your laptop from overheating. Your laptop cannot cool itself through its internal airflow unless you provide adequate external airflow under its vents. For example, if you place a pillow (or any soft or fluffy item) between your lap and your laptop computer, it blocks the vents, and undoubtedly overheats your laptop. If you have been doing this to your laptop without seeing any ill effects, you have probably been lucky. Heat damage need not exhibit itself as a sudden and catastrophic failure; it can be gradual and cumulative. In other words, if you are overheating your laptop, you are at minimum reducing its lifespan.
To ensure proper external air flow under your laptop, you can place it on any of the following:
- A flat surface
- A passive cooling pad
- An active cooling pad
Flat Surface – Placing your laptop on a flat surface allows proper airflow under it. For example if you place a flat briefcase between your lap and your laptop computer, there is a thin, but adequate, airspace between them. Unlike a soft item, a flat surface does not block your laptop’s vents or.
If you do not usually carry a briefcase with your laptop, you can instead use a clipboard or something similar. Simply add it to whatever other accessories you already carry in your laptop case. Of course, alternatively, you can purchase a special flat surface to place under your laptop, such as the Brada Laptop Support shown below.
Passive Cooling Pad – If a flat surface alone does not seem to provide enough cooling for your laptop (or lap), you can try a passive cooling pad. To guard against overheating your laptop, a passive cooling pad, provides additional cooling air, primarily through additional airspace under your laptop. Here are two example passive desktop cooling pads:
Active Cooling Pad – If a passive cooling pad also does not seem to provide enough cooling for your laptop, you can try an active cooling pad. To guard against overheating your laptop, an active cooling pad provides additional cooling air through one or two cooling fans. However, fan power (through a USB port) drains energy from your laptop. Here are two examples of active desktop cooling pads:
- Belkin Laptop Cooling Lounge
- Vantec LapCool Lite