It's easy to run programs that check your laptop's performance.

AP Photo/Jan Bauer

Laptop Cooling: Stuff You Can Do

Making sure your laptop's cooling abilities are working well can go a long way toward avoiding or fixing a problem. So one of the best ways to keep your laptop from overheating is simply to take care of it.

If you notice that your laptop is generating a lot of heat, and if the fans start kicking on at shorter intervals, the first thing to do is some basic maintenance:

  • Check your fans: The best way to make sure your fans are working properly is to use diagnostic software, since the fans are inside the case, and sometimes opening a laptop case can void the warranty. Go to the Web site of your laptop maker and see if there's a fan-diagnosing tool you can download. If not, you can download one from another reliable vendor online.
  • Clean the air vents: Most laptops use airflow to aid with cooling. They have intake vents near the front of the case, and exhaust vents at the back. Dust and debris can block these vents and impede airflow. Probably the easiest way to clean the vents is to blast them with compressed air. You can find compressed air products at any office supply store. You can also go over the vents them with a slightly damp (not wet) cloth.
  • Check your BIOS settings: There are software settings that tell your computer how hot is too hot and at what temperature the fans should kick in. Sometimes, BIOS updates implement revised temperature settings, which can help you optimize cooling. Check your laptop manufacturer's Web site for a BIOS update, but be careful -- BIOS is a trickier software system to update than the usual operating system stuff. You may want to request some experienced backup.

Once you've got your computer's cooling system on track, you can work on your laptop habits to keep it that way. It's mostly just common sense stuff: Don't use your laptop in the sun, keep it away from radiators and heat vents, and never let it sit in a hot car. One habit that can really help, though, is a bit counterintuitive: Keep your laptop off your lap.

This is where some external tools can help.

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