Langa Letter: Curing Laptop Overheating - InformationWeek
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2/10/2005
02:50 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Curing Laptop Overheating

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

Start The Cleanup
Ordinary, clean, dry cotton swabs are fine for much of the cleaning you'll be doing. Later on, you'll be blowing dust out from inside the laptop, so at this step your primary goal simply is to loosen any stuck-on dust or "fur balls" inside the laptop. If necessary (and as shown in the accompanying photo) you can remove most of the cotton from the tip of a swab to access tight spots; you only need a small amount of cotton "fuzz" on the swab tip for effective cleaning of confined spaces. Work carefully and gently; don't force the swab into tight areas.


An ordinary clean, dry cotton swab will work to loosen or remove much of the dust and dirt visible through your laptop's openings. If the full swab won't fit, peel away as much cotton as needed (and as shown here) to reduce the swab's diameter.

(click image for larger view)
An ordinary clean, dry cotton swab will work to loosen or remove much of the dust and dirt visible through your laptop's openings. If the full swab won't fit, peel away as much cotton as needed (and as shown here) to reduce the swab's diameter.

Once the worst of the dust has been loosened or removed mechanically with the cotton swabs, use compressed air to complete the job. (Air carried most of the dust into your laptop; air can likewise remove most of it.) While you can use almost any source of dry, clean air, your best bet may be to use a product designed for the purpose. For example, I used a can of "Dust Off;" it's one of many similar products available at most office-supply and electronics stores. These cans of compressed gases produce highly controllable, highly directional, very intense bursts of dry, filtered air; and usually come with a long plastic nozzle that's ideal for working inside crevices and hard-to-reach places. A can costs only a few dollars and can last for many cleanings. (Read and follow all label directions.)

An inexpensive can of compressed air can help your cleaning immensely by providing highly controllable, highly directional, very intense bursts of air. The cans usually come with a long plastic nozzle that's ideal for working inside crevices and hard-to-reach places. Many brands of ''air in a can'' are available; your local office-supply or electronics store probably stocks several.An inexpensive can of compressed air can help your cleaning immensely by providing highly controllable, highly directional, very intense bursts of air. The cans usually come with a long plastic nozzle that's ideal for working inside crevices and hard-to-reach places. Many brands of "air in a can" are available; your local office-supply or electronics store probably stocks several.

(click image for larger view)

No matter what air source you use, be careful not to overspin the laptop's fan: A strong blast of compressed air can spin a small fan like a pinwheel, over-revving it enough to damage the motor or bearings. To prevent such damage, keep the fan from spinning as you clean it. As the accompanying photo shows, I gently inserted a clean cotton swab between the fan's blades so the fan couldn't rotate when I blasted the blades clean with compressed air.

With the laptop's fan blades secured, maneuver the flexible tip of the compressed air dispenser to access every part of the laptop that you can reach around and through the fan assembly, from every possible angle. And be careful: You may be surprised at how much debris whooshes out with the first few blasts of air!


To prevent mechanical damage to the laptop's fan, keep it from spinning as you clean it: I gently inserted a clean cotton swab between the fan's blades so the fan couldn't rotate when I blasted the blades clean with compressed air.

(click image for larger view)

To prevent mechanical damage to the laptop's fan, keep it from spinning as you clean it: I gently inserted a clean cotton swab between the fan's blades so the fan couldn't rotate when I blasted the blades clean with compressed air.

Note also that some "compressed air in a can" products can spray a supercooled liquid if you invert the can. This is good for neither the laptop nor anything else the liquid may touch; and it actually can cause frostbite on human skin. Once again: read and follow all the directions that accompany whatever compressed air product you use.

Work your way around the laptop, swabbing and blowing out all openings where you previously identified dust buildup.
Work your way around the laptop, swabbing and blowing out all openings where you previously identified dust buildup.

(click image for larger view)

Repeat the cleaning process for all other openings you identified previously. Use care with any openings near the fan to ensure that your blast of cleaning air doesn't spin the fan; if necessary, re-secure the fan with a swab, as before.

When you're done, the fan area and other openings will be clean, clear, and dust free.

When you're done, the fan area and other openings will be clean, clear, and free of visible dust.

When you're done, the fan area and other openings will be clean, clear, and free of visible dust.
(click image for larger view)
(click image for larger view)

When you're done, the fan area and other openings will be clean, clear, and free of visible dust.

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