Causes of Laptop Overheating

Physical Causes of Laptop Overheating
For a properly designed laptop, the most common cause of overheating is blocked air vents. When dust blocks the fans and air vents designed to cool your laptop, overheating results. (In some cases, blocked vents and poor design are related, as some designs are excessively prone to becoming clogged with dust).

Software Causes of Laptop Overheating
In other cases, laptops overheat because the software designed to protect the laptop – specifically by controlling the operation of cooling fans – does not work properly. In some cases, this is due to problems in the computer’s BIOS, and can be cured by upgrading to the most recent BIOS. In other cases, upgrading or changing the computer’s operating system can cause this software to not function.

If, for example, you have upgraded from Windows ME to Windows XP, the system software designed to operate the fans may no longer work properly. (What’s worse, the laptop manufacturer may refuse to provide support in this instance, on the grounds that you changed the operating system and so are no longer operating the system as it was designed to operate.) In other cases, replacing Windows with Linux has led to this problem if the proper Linux utilities to control laptop cooling were not installed.

Design Causes of Laptop Overheating
In a distressing number of cases, laptop overheating results from poor design by the notebook manufacturers. Some manufacturers cram desktop CPUs into laptop configurations, and do not adequately provide for releasing the heat that these desktop CPUs create. Others simply have failed to provide ventilation and cooling systems appropriate for today’s CPU and video chips, which hold many more transistors than in the past and so generate more heat.

Several class actions have been filed against laptop manufacturers due to overheating laptops, including Toshiba and Dell. Previous class actions have led to settlements under which compensation was awarded to owners of overheating laptops who ran up repair bills trying to get the problem fixed. More class actions related to overheating laptop and notebook computers are reportedly under consideration.