About a week ago I noticed that my laptop was running hotter than normal. I don’t go out of my way to monitor this, but I do run gkrellm which constantly shows me the temperature. I have a Dell Inspiron 600m it’s an older laptop, but it suits my needs very well. When I first got the laptop I had problems with it overheating. It would easily get to ~70C at full load and especially when playing a game such as WoW and WarCraft III. It has a Pentium M and according to Intel the maximum temperature for the Pentium M is 100C, but the BIOS throttled back the CPU at 70C as a protective measure. Believe it or not… this was not conducive to playing games or compiling your operating system (yay Gentoo 🙂 ).
My short term solution to the problem was that I purchased a laptop cooling pad. This is basically a base that you place the laptop on which uses a USB port to run some fans under the laptop. This cooled it down well enough that I could compile and play WoW without many troubles. However, I didn’t want to carry that dang thing around with me wherever I went! So eventually I opened it up and wet sanded the heatsink. This smoothed out the surface and allowed for better heat transfer. I also applied some Arctic Silver V which is, IMO, the best thermal paste there is. This dramatically helped it to cool and it no longer goes above 60C with ambient air temperatures of ~21C (at full load).
So I was starting to see ~65C temps and I figured something was up. When I took off the heatsink this is what I saw:
This is what I believe to be the number run reasons laptops start to overheat after time. This level of dust is actually quite small compared to some computers I have taken appart in the past, but even that small amount of dust was able to raise the temperature by 5C.
The moral of the story here is that fans like to be clean and dust free. They will run much more effectively without dust, and so if it is possible to clean them out it is in your interest to do so. I took apart my laptop more to illustrate a point than anything. It would have been just about as effective if I shot some compressed air in the ventilation ports. The only potential issue with that is that you can push dust further into the laptop. This can potentially be bad for two reasons:
- The dust will just end up being pulled right back into the fan.
- The dust will land on other parts, such as the potentially the hard drive. This could act as an insulator to the heat and allow the hard drive or other components to run hotter than they normally would be. However, this would probably only happen after a long period of time, or under extreme conditions.
In case I wasn’t clear, I just used compressed air to blow the dust off. I happen to have access to an air compressor, but the compressed air you buy in cans is easily as effective. If you are going to take everything apart make sure you are comfortable with what you are doing and find a good set of instructions BEFORE you take it apart! Things like taking off the heatsink, can be bad if you let dust get on the thermal paste without reapplying it.