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Laptop Operating Temperatures: What's Safe, What's Not, and What to Do

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 5/20/2011

Laptops take a bunch of high-performance computer hardware and cram it into a tiny space. This, of course, can cause some heat problems if a laptop's cooling is not running at 100%. In this article we'll take a look a close look at laptop operating temperatures.

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    Introduction

    Laptops cram the power of a desktop computer into a chassis that is roughly a quarter of the size of your typical desktop computer. This, of course, is what makes a laptop portable. But cramming so much hardware into a small space has some disadvantages, and laptop operating temperatures is one of them.

    Generally speaking, a laptop has a much harder time shedding excessive heat than a desktop, and is much more sensitive to environmental factors. For example, it isn’t very likely that you’ll end up roasting your desktop computer because it was sitting on a blanket, but you just might do that if you try to use your laptop in your lap on a cold winter’s day.

    Many users wonder just how hot their laptop can get before it becomes dangerous and also how they can monitor the temperature of their computer. This guide will provide easy-to-understand advice about laptop operating temperatures.

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    How High Can Laptop Operating Temperatures Go?

    Laptop Operating Temperature Laptops consist of numerous components that are sensitive to heat. The most sensitive components are the processor, the GPU and the motherboard (particularly the northbridge and/or southbridge).

    The maximum operating temperature of these components can vary significantly, but those maximums are not something that we want to have to deal with anyway, as exceeding them will almost certainly result in component failure. Long-term reliability issues and data corruption can take place at far lower temperatures.

    For processors, a temperature of higher than 70 degrees Celsius (158 F) is worrisome. A temperature of over 80 degrees Celsius (176 F) is a sign that you should immediately stop using the laptop. These rules can be extend to motherboard components (however, many laptops don’t have sensors that track motherboard temperature).

    GPUs can often tolerate higher temperatures, sometimes near 100 degrees Celsius (212 F). It would be preferable for the temperature to never reach much beyond the mid-80s, but high-end gaming laptops are almost guaranteed to report very high GPU temperatures during normal operation.

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    What Causes High Laptop Temperatures?

    Improper usage is probably the most common cause of high laptop operating temperatures. Because laptops are small there is less space inside them and on their exteriors for fans and vents. Many laptops have only one major fan vent, often located on the left or right side. Accidently blocking this vent can cause problems. High laptop operating temperatures can also be caused by using a laptop on a surface that is an insulator. The “lap" in laptop implies that it should have no problem sitting on your laptop, but that isn’t always the case. A blanket-covered lap is terrible for a laptop’s health.

    Design flaws can also cause laptop operating temperatures to rise. If you’re using a laptop on a simple wood, metal or plastic desk with the vent free of obstruction and you still see high temperatures it may be because something is wrong inside the laptop. Try searching support forums for your laptop to see if other users have the same problem. Also call customer service to see if they’ll fix the problem under warranty (they should).

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    How to Find Laptop Temperature

    If you’d like to track the temperature of your computer you’ll need to download and install a third party program that is capable of doing so. There are a couple programs that can do so.

    The most popular program for monitoring operating temperatures is SpeedFan, a program that provides information about both temperature and fan speed. SpeedFan typically reports information from all of the heat sensors in a laptop including those that watch the processor, the GPU and other components. This makes it a solid all-in-one solution.

    Another commonly used program is PC Wizard. This program is a utility that provides in-depth information about all of your computers components. The included temperature section can provide readings from all available sensors. PC Wizard is not a dedicated temperature monitoring program – it also performs many other functions – but it is accurate none the less.

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    Resolving High Laptop Temperature

    Laptop Cooler If you seem to be encountering a problem with laptop temperature you need to take steps to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Modern computer components are astoundingly capable of dealing with high heat, but excessive heat can gradually reduce the lifespan of components and can lead to errors or unexpected reboots.

    The first step was suggested earlier in this article – make sure you’re using the laptop in a cool environment. The laptop should not have any vents blocked or be on a blanket. Room temperature can also play a role. If you’re using your laptop in the middle of 100-degree F heat with no air conditioning you may run into problems.

    If changing the environment doesn’t solve the problem you can try calling in the help of a laptop cooler. These devices sit under a laptop and keep air circulating to prevent the laptop from overheating. These devices also make it possible to use a laptop on a blanket (if you absolutely must).

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    Conclusion

    Learning how to find a laptop’ temperature, and resolve any over-heating issues, is very important for your laptop’s well-being. You should make sure to occasionally check your laptop’s temperature every now and then to make sure all is well.






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