Langa Letter: Curing Laptop Overheating - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Infrastructure
Commentary
2/10/2005
02:50 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
50%
50%

Langa Letter: Curing Laptop Overheating

Sometimes, Fred Langa says, fixing a too-hot laptop/notebook computer is as simple as "Whooosh!"

Fred LangaA reader recently sent in this letter:

Mr. Langa: A friend forwarded me your Year-End PC Tasks article, which was very interesting, except it doesn't apply to the millions (OK, maybe not that many) of us who have laptops.

My laptop frequently overheats, and besides buying a new machine, I have no idea what to do.... So what are the options?

Thanks, Samantha

You're certainly not alone, Samantha. When you include all the variants of portable PCs from slender, lightweight laptops up to full-sized "desktop replacement" notebooks, there are tens of millions of units in use. If you also include tiny, handheld PCs, the number goes even higher.

The problem in discussing notebooks and laptops is that portable PCs are much less standardized than are ordinary PCs, which enjoy a high degree of parts and technological uniformity from type to type and brand to brand. It's not just differences in shapes and sizes among portable PCs, but it's that different laptops/notebooks can employ different technologies, different ways to pack components inside the case, different power systems ....

Fortunately, Samantha's letter focuses on one particular issue--overheating--which is one area where a general discussion about laptops/notebooks actually can be quite useful.

You see, all "air-breathing" laptops/notebooks (those that rely on drawing air through the case for cooling) share at least a few similarities: There's usually one or more air intakes through which cool air enters the system; a heat exchanger that dumps excess thermal energy from the CPU or system as a whole into the incoming cool air; and one or more exhausts through which the now-warmed air exits the system, carrying the heat away.

Most higher-powered laptop/notebooks use one or more fans to assist the airflow; it's a miniaturized version of the same type of cooling system found in most full-sized PCs. But some laptop/notebook systems rely on natural convection--warm air rising--to move the air around. These systems still have case openings and an internal heat exchanger, but no fan.

Still other units, especially handhelds and some smaller, standard PCs, have no case openings for airflow. Instead, they use the case itself as a heat exchanger. These units tend to be lower-power to begin with, so they have less heat to dissipate. Overheating is a much rarer issue with these units; and any such problems are usually resolved simply by turning the unit off for a while, or moving it to a cooler spot (e.g., out of the sun).

For this article, we'll focus on the true "air breather" laptops/notebooks; those that have case openings, an internal heat exchanger and (usually) a fan. And, for convenience, we'll refer to this whole class of units as "laptops," even though some of them--"notebook" PCs, to the linguistic purists--are too large and heavy for routine laptop use. Similarly, we'll include "tablet" PCs in the general category of laptops; they fit into today's discussion as long as they have case openings for cooling.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 5
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Commentary
2021 Outlook: Tackling Cloud Transformation Choices
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  1/4/2021
News
Enterprise IT Leaders Face Two Paths to AI
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  12/23/2020
Slideshows
10 IT Trends to Watch for in 2021
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/22/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
Video
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Slideshows
Flash Poll