How to cool down your PC or laptop

Whether you're a gamer or a mainstream computer user, your system's components are at risk of overheating if temperatures aren't kept in check. Here are some effective ways to cool down your computer. 

Why do PCs and laptops overheat

If your computer is hot to touch, you may notice laggy graphics or slower than usual load times. You might also hear the fan working overtime. These are classic signs of overheating.
You might experience overheating for multiple reasons, but understanding why your PC or laptop is getting hot is the first step to fixing the problem.
Overheating occurs whenever the internal cooling system can't effectively ventilate the hot air caused by the hardware components processing your requests.
Vents, fans, and heatsinks are designed to help computers regulate this heat so that it doesn't damage your system's delicate internal mechanisms.
Here are some of the common causes of PC or laptop overheating:

  • A hot environment – direct sunlight and hot environments can add additional heat stress that may overwhelm an internal cooling system
  • Blocked air vents – obstructed air vents prevent hot air dissipation, causing heat buildup and increased internal temperatures
  • Fan failure – fan failure can result in inadequate heat regulation, leading to dangerous levels of overheating
  • Demanding applications – demanding applications, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, an overload to the CPU or GPU, can cause these components to heat up
  • Outdated software – outdated, inefficient software can have a significant energy impact, especially for high-intensity tasks like gaming
  • Unresponsive programs – unresponsive programs consume excessive energy and memory as the PC tries to resolve errors
  • Multiple open browser tabs – having multiple browser tabs open consumes CPU and memory resources, which heat up as they are forced to work harder

Now that we know some of the common causes of overheating, here are some ways to keep your PC or laptop cool.

1. Position your computer in the correct place

Simply changing the location where you use your computer most can help keep it cool. 
Make sure that your desktop or laptop doesn't live near a heat vent or by a window that exposes it to direct sunlight. 
You should also remove any obstacles that restrict airflow, leaving two to three inches of space on all sides of your computer's vents. 
Laptops performs best on a flat, hard surface, as this allows air to flow underneath and around it, naturally dissipating heat.

2. Close your system's case

While it may seem counterintuitive, an open case doesn't help regulate internal temperatures – it actually restricts them.
Much like closing your car windows when you turn on the A/C, closing your case allows your system to remain cool and maintain the reliability of your components.
A closed case also reduces the amount of dust and debris on the cooling fans, which over time can make your fans slow down or quit working altogether.

3. Maintain your fans

 a. Cleaning computer fans

Dust and dirt can wreak havoc on the first line of temperature defense: your fans. 
You'll want to keep these free of debris using canned air to remove any build-up of dust and dirt.
Power down your computer and open your case, clean both the fans and their vents. There's usually one on top of the CPU, one inside the power supply, and sometimes one or more on the front or back of the case. 
And avoid using vacuums to clean – the static they produce often does more damage than the heat!

b. Upgrading your CPU fan

Your CPU is one of the most sensitive (and expensive) components inside your computer, so this is the first fan you'll want to look at. 
Most CPUs come preinstalled with basic fans that are engineered to cool your processor just enough to keep it running – but nothing more. 
Upgrading to a better fan will help keep CPU temperatures down. Keep in mind, however, that your CPU fan can only cool to the lowest temperature in your case, regardless of how well designed it is.

c. Adding a case fan

Case fans increase airflow to your components. For high-performance computers, you should install two: one to move cool air into the PC and another to carry the warm air back out. 
When adding case fans, make sure that the intake and exhaust levels match. If you install an 80mm fan in the front of your case and a 120mm fan in the back, the differential will create negative air pressure, and actually increase the potential for overheating. 
External cooling fans are also available for laptops, or simply resting your laptop on a cool pad can help keep temperatures in check.

d. Checking your power supply fan

If you don't have a case fan, your power supply's integrated fan is the only thing pushing hot air out of your system. 
If it's not working correctly, your system will heat up quickly, so be sure to check this regularly and replace immediately if it isn't working.

4. Upgrade to a water-cooling kit

Sometimes even the fastest fans can't keep up with top-end CPUs, gaming rigs and other high-demand systems.
Water cooling kits use a pump to cycle cold water around to the CPU in self-contained tubes, including laptop options for portable gamers.
They're safe and relatively affordable if you're comfortable performing a technical installation.

5. Optimize your PC or laptop settings

If overheating is an issue when completing everyday tasks, try changing your computer's performance settings – for example lowering your brightness and screen resolution.
This will cost you in performance, so you’ll need to play around with it to find the right balance that works for you.

6. Keep your software updated

Another cost-effective way to manage overheating issues is to make sure that your software and operating system are updated to the latest versions. 
Updates will fix bugs and resolve inefficiencies which will reduce the workload being placed on your hardware and help speed up your computer.

7. Shut down your computer

From time to time, your computer will need a break. The easiest and most reliable way to cool down your computer is to turn it off until it's completely cool. 
When you boot up again it'll be from a cold start, and everything should run smoothly.
If, however, the overheating issue comes back, then it's time to apply some of the steps above or look at upgrading to a computer that can match your demands!

FAQs on PC and laptop overheating

  • What temperature should my CPU be?

    A CPU's usual temperature is between 104–149°F (40–65°C) when performing at a normal workload. While running intensive apps or gaming, your CPU may increase to 158–176°F (70–80°C).

  • How hot can a CPU get?

    While your CPU can heat up to temps above 176°F (80°C), this should be considered the limit. If your CPU stays above this temperature for several hours, it will likely be damaged, resulting in a reduced lifespan.

  • Why is my PC or laptop so hot?

    One of the most common reasons for a PC or laptop overheating is poor ventilation due to dust build-up or obstructed vents. Other reasons include the age of your computer and its components, the system being overloaded with multiple requests, running demanding applications, and being in direct sunlight.


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