Even if your laptop's cooling system is working as efficiently as possible, you can still do more. The strange fact is, when you use a laptop on your lap, you're just asking for it to overheat. Any soft surface impedes airflow into and out of the cooling vents. It also can cause heat to get caught underneath the unit. This is how people's laps get burnt.
However, heat buildup can even happen when the laptop sits directly on a desk.
There are a few different approaches to avoiding this type of heat trap. One is the laptop stand, which puts some distance between the bottom of the laptop and the surface you're using it on. It basically creates a space where heat can dissipate. A stand is usually some type of flat, thin surface with short legs, and you can lay it across your lap or on a desk. With an inch or two of air underneath the laptop, heat can escape easily, and airflow through the vents is totally open.
Sometimes, a stand might be made of a special material like aluminum that acts as a heat sink. This device would actively draw heat out of the laptop to further aid in cooling.
Another way to go is a laptop pad or mat. In this approach, like with the aluminum heat sink, you're putting the device on an actively heat-managing surface. This might mean an insulating mat that traps the heat coming out of the laptop to protect your lap. It could also mean a thick pad with fans built in to actively draw out and dissipate heat.
While you can buy one of these cooling tools in any electronics store or from dozens of retailers online, you might have something in your home right now you can use. A little slatted camping table can work as a laptop stand. So can a large baking rack (that you use to cool cookies on).
One thing to remember is that the heat characteristics of your laptop are always changing, depending on age, environment and power usage. So even if you get yourself the perfect cooling setup, you might want to install some sort of heat-monitoring software. It'll help you be more aware of your laptop's fluctuating temperatures and learn how different situations can increase the heat.
For more information on laptop cooling tools, laptop maintenance and related products, look over the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Langa, Fred. "Langa Letter: Curing Laptop Overheating." InformationWeek. Feb. 14, 2005. http://www.informationweek.com/news/hardware/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=60300177
- Martin, James A. "Mobile Computing: Overheated Notebooks." March 25, 2004. http://www.pcworld.com/article/115158/mobile_computing_overheated_notebooks.html
- Moore, Charles. "7 Tools for Keeping Your Laptop Cool." Low End Mac. July 24, 2006. http://lowendmac.com/misc/06/0724.html
- Read, Paul. "How to Keep Your Laptop Cool." Suite101. July 15, 2007. http://computeraccessories.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_keep_your_laptop_cool