The Heat Problem with Notebooks

If you’ve owned a notebook or laptop, whatever you want to call it, you’ve probably had one of these problems and didn’t know what to do. The easiest solution is not always taking it in for a checkup at your repair shop, sometimes the easiest solutions is only a step away, or a step up.

The biggest and most prevalent problem with almost any notebook is heat, or getting rid of it. It is also the most frustrating thing to troubleshoot and determine the exact cause. Unless you’ve worked with notebooks before, you may not know about this little problem. First off, you’ll have to understand a little about the difference between a notebook PC and a desktop, or tower type of PC. In a computer there are a couple of things that generate heat for a computer, one of them that all PC’s have is the processor. The newer and better ones give off a lot of heat, and this heat has to go somewhere. In a desktop there is a heat sink, or a piece of metal stuck onto the top or side of it. There is usually a fan on it or very close to it, this also helps keep the processor cool.

If this processor that is the brains of your computer overheats, programs can start to fail, you’ll get errors that just don’t make sense. Things like error messages and failures that are not repeating the same as when a program has a problem and always fails at the same point or for the same thing. Overheating in the processor or even other components will not always have the same or even close to the same errors or problems. Errors and problems will be intermittent or different when you try to get them to repeat and the computer will not fail or get the errors at the same place or while running the same program.

There are some other things in your PC that generates heat, two of the biggest ones are video cards and power supplies. In a laptop there is no power supply, that is what the adapter or battery is for. When you have the power cord plugged in, there is a small box that is part of the power cord that acts as the power supply, it is a transformer and some other components that change the voltage. It changes the 120 volts coming out of the wall outlet into 5 and 12 volts that the computer uses. Your desktop has one of these in it but because of the ability to add a bunch of different things onto your desktop, it is much bigger so you can add those things with enough power to run everything.

The video card is much like a processor but for the video of your computer, it also has a high heat generating capability and can cause problems with your PC but in a laptop it is not very good or a big one like in a desktop. usually it is part of the motherboard of a notebook, but that is changing as technology catches up with peoples wishes for a portable PC with good gaming graphics. Right now the video of a note book is integrated as part of the motherboard on most laptops and notebooks.

All the things inside a notebook that generate heat are grouped near each other so that a small fan or even two of them can help to keep them cool. They may also have a large copper heat sink that helps to draw heat off these things and cool them down. This heat sink is small and can often be inadequate to keep the heat away from the processor.

When you sit your laptop on your desk or a tabletop, look between the top of the surface and the bottom of your computer, there’s not much room. Now look where the holes that have the fan behind it are. On many laptops they are on the bottom, and need to have some space between those holes and the surface you are setting your laptop on. This allows air to circulate through your laptop, unless you set it on your lap or a pillow, then it will smoother it. So, setting your laptop on your lap is not a good idea, or any other surface like a bed or some such. It will not allow much air into and out of the fan to cool your computer. You need to keep this in mind when you are using your notebook or laptop, don’t set it on surfaces like a bed, couch, pillow or your lap. It won’t get the air to keep it cool and will start to have problems.

You can also buy a commercial device to set your laptop on if you want to spend the money, but these are not really necessary unless you have a recurring problem with heat and find no other solution. One thing I have found that is an easy fix for my laptop is sticking some rubber feet on the bottom, the kind you can buy at a hardware store for a couple of dollars. They have some that are about a quarter to a half inch tall and have adhesive on one side. I bought four and stuck them on my laptop and now have very little problems with the computer shutting off from overheating. I was noticing errors and such and the table or coffee table I was setting my laptop on had one spot that was getting really hot. I did a bunch of research and found out that this is a very large problem with laptops and the industry knows it.

I stuck them in four spot on the bottom that is part of the main body of the laptop, not on any access doors or the battery. If you choose to do this, make sure you do not put them anywhere that you may need to get into later, like the small door for the memory card, or the battery. And do not put them across any of the cracks for these doors. You may have to remove the feet later on if you do.

If you go to a computer store or a web site for them you can see the fancy chill pads, and mats that I am talking about. You can purchase one of these but if you try a couple of my solutions you may not need one. But if you are going to be setting your laptop on your lap and don’t have much choice about it such as when you commute on a train, you may want to get a lap pad or mat. CNET recommends some pretty affordable ones around $30, try looking here for more on them: .

Another thing you can purchase is a dock for your notebook but this is more for your convenience of not using your notebook like a notebook and more like a desktop, it hooks up all your cords and such into your notebook in one shot so you don’t have all the cords and such all over, it allows you to have an extra keyboard other than the original and use it pretty much like a desktop. It will prop the notebook up so the bottom is off the surface of your desk to allow air to circulate behind it.

I have another laptop that my family went out and purchased for their 4-H Tech Team and we have the fun of taking care of it for now. I built a quite handy little stand for it out of two pieces of plexi-glass and two threaded rods and some nuts and washers. It sets the laptop about an inch off the surface and allows access to the side connections and the couple on the front. I bought two pieces of plexi-glass �¼ inch thick and one inch by twelve inches. They already had two �¼ inch holes in it at about the right place to put the threaded rods through. I then put nuts on each side of the plexi-glass with rubber covered washers to hold the plexi-glass steady and cut a small notch out of the front side so the earphone cords could be plugged in. It works great to keep space between the laptop and the table or desk.

The thing you have to remember if you are getting problems and errors with your laptop and you cannot find a simple solution. You may be having heat problems. Try letting your laptop sit with power off for a half hour and see if the problem goes away for awhile, till it gets heat built up again. If the problem comes and goes with how long you use your laptop, it could very well be heat build up that is causing you problems.

Try buying some little rubber feet, or something else to get the bottom of your notebook off the table and some space between the bottom and the table. Something like a rack or something with holes near the vent holes of the computer. Many times this will be the cause of a laptop just shutting down for no reason that you can figure out, and it will be very hard to get an actual error on your event logs or anything that you can really point to as one specific cause. Heat buildup is one of the hardest problems to get a real cause of other than knowing what is happening and the solution is often just as simple as getting your laptop or notebook one small step above the surface you are setting it on.

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