Infrastructure // Unified Communications
Commentary
2/10/2005
02:50 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

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.

Previous
1 of 5
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Elite 100 - 2014
Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.