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Monitoring Your Laptop’s Internal Temperature

written by: John Garger•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/15/2010

Laptop computers are susceptible to high internal temperatures much more so than desktops. Monitoring your laptop’s temperature can extend the life of your computer. Learn how to check and monitor your laptop's internal temperature.

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    As an electrical appliance made up of many different parts, a computer is capable of producing an appreciable amount of heat. Temperatures can often reach as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) inside of a computer under certain conditions. Heat is the enemy of electronics; it has the capability of destroying and wearing out components far before their time.

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    What Makes a Laptop Susceptible to High Internal Temperatures?

    Laptop computers are particularly susceptible to internal heat temperatures because of two main reasons. First, laptop computer components are packed into tiny areas with far less space than a desktop computer between these computers. Less space means less ambient air available to carry away much of the heat regardless of the number of fans inside. In addition, it is impossible for laptop manufacturers to test every combination of components that may end up as a laptop package. The result of this can be overheating laptops after the computers are in the hands of the consumer.

    Second, laptops find themselves in many more environments than do desktop computers. Laptops can travel from home to the office to a meeting to the beach all in one day. These environmental changes have two effects. One, the laptop’s ambient external and internal temperatures are constantly changing. The result is spikes and lulls in internal temperatures. Second, constant movement from place to place can add to a buildup of dust and other contaminants inside the computer that block airflow and increase the internal temperature.

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    How to Monitor Laptop Temperatures

    There are two main methods of measuring your laptop’s internal temperature. The first may already be available on your laptop. The Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) of any computer is nothing more than a set of instructions hard coded onto the motherboard and used to start other operations of the computer. Using the BIOS, you can make changes to your laptop’s configuration, turn sound on and off, manually tell the computer how to interface with certain components, and many other operations.

    Among these basic operations, the modern BIOS typically includes a temperature monitor that measures both the temperature of the CPU and the temperature of the motherboard. The four components responsible for most of the heat generated in a laptop include the CPU, hard drive, memory, and graphics array (video card). The CPU, however, is the biggest culprit reaching temperatures in excess of 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degree Celsius) in some circumstances. By monitoring the CPU’s temperature, you can get a good idea of whether your laptop is operating at a healthy temperature or if some action on your part is necessary.

    The motherboard temperature can give you a much more general sense of your laptop’s internal temperature. Remember that besides the CPU, the hard drive, memory, and graphics array are responsible for much of a laptop’s internal temperature. By monitoring both, you can get a sense (although not entirely accurate) of how healthy the inside of your computer is.

    One of the problems in using the BIOS for internal temperature measures is the need to restart your laptop to gain access to those temperatures. Much more convenient would be a program that runs on your operating system’s desktop and reports, in real time, the internal temperatures.

    Such programs exist. One of the more popular is ASUS’ Probe application that can tell you more than just the temperature of your computer for laptops equipped with Hardware Monitoring. If your laptop’s BIOS is capable of displaying the temperature of your CPU and motherboard, more than likely your laptop shipped with Hardware Monitoring. Included with ASUS Probe are several monitors to keep tabs on your laptop’s health including voltage readings on your CPU, memory, and 12 volt main (power supply). There are other applications that can measure the internal health of your laptop like ASUS Probe. Check with your laptop manufacturer’s documentation and website to see if a Hardware Monitor program is available for free.

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    Monitoring your laptop’s internal temperatures can clue you in to problems with your computer as well as help you create a benchmark with which to compare future temperature readings. High temperatures in laptops can prematurely age the computer’s components, especially those susceptible to prolonged exposure to high temperatures such as CPUs, hard drives, memory modules, and graphics arrays. Your BIOS and other external programs that run within your operating system can help you monitor these temperatures and alert you to mounting problems.