5 Simple Ways to Cool a Hot Notebook

If you’ve read our article on the causes and potentially devastating effects of laptop heat, you know that thanks to external temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit,  some notebooks can feel more like portable grills than portable computers.  While inadequate heat dissipation is the manufacturer’s fault, users aren’t helpless.

If your notebook is getting a bit too warm for comfort, there are several settings you can change to make it cooler. While none of these is guaranteed to transform a 110-degree palm rest into an ice machine, the changes can help.

Getting Into Windows Power Manager

Some of the tips below involve editing the advanced power settings in Windows Power Options.  To access the advanced power settings:

  1. Open Power Options either by clicking the icon in the All Control Panel Options menu or by double-clicking the Windows battery icon in your system tray.
  2. Select Change plan settings next to the power plan you are using (balanced, power saver, etc).
  3. Select Change advanced power settings.

Tip #1: Enable Active Cooling

Make sure that, in the Windows power settings or in your notebook’s proprietary power management software, the highest level of cooling is enabled. The menu option for enabling active cooling varies from notebook to notebook, but in some cases, the option will actually say “active cooling” and in others the option will say “maximum performance” as opposed to “maximum battery life.”

Always, select more cooling performance. This will keep the fan running longer and stronger to cool the system.

Tip #2: Enable all power saving options for the CPU, graphics, wireless card, etc.

It’s simple physics. The more power your notebook consumes, the more heat it generates. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little performance by running your notebook’s key components in low power modes, it will generate less heat.

To use less juice and generate less heat, we recommend changing the advanced settings in the Windows power manager’s, both for “on battery” and “plugged in” states:

  • Wireless Adapter Settings: Maximum Power Saving
  • Link State Power Management: Maximum power savings
  • Graphics Power Plan: Maximum Battery life or the equivalent, based on what video card your notebook has installed.
  • PCI Express -> Link State Power Management: Maximum power savings
  • Processor power management -> Maximum processor state: Set to a lower percentage such as 30-percent. You will want to experiment with this setting as it could severely impact performance by literally throttling down the CPU.

We took a Toshiba E205 — a notebook that reached 110 degrees along the chassis bottom in our initial review — and tested it both with its default, high-performance settings and with the power  settings set to low power as outlined above.  We measured the temperatures of the keyboard, touchpad, bottom, and vent after streaming a video at full screen for 15 minutes. The results were as follows:

Notebook Contact Point High Power Settings Low Power Settings
Touchpad 99 94
Keyboard 99 96
Bottom 108 105

As you can see, the notebook did not exactly turn into a portable ice machine when we lowered its power settings, but two key touch points — the keyboard and the touchpad — went from a toasty 99 to a much more comfortable 96 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit. The bottom — usually the warmest surface on any notebook — still remained well above 100 degrees, but if you were using the notebook on a desk or table, you wouldn’t notice. And performance was still solid as our full screen video still played just as smoothly.

Next Page: Tips 3, 4, & 5

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Rahul Says:

    You can also install undervolting software like RMClock. Same performance but less power consumption and thus less heat :)

  2. Brad Says:

    Why no mention of the XPad for cooling? According to SpeedFan the XPad, which is NON powered, substantially lowered the temps in our Gateway laptop. 20 bucks online, and it is a good cheap alternative. No I do not sell them, only a satisfied user(we have 4 of them)

  3. raymart Says:

    use must add celsius…

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