Powerbook heat tolerances or "It burns! It burns!"
May 12, 2005 8:02 AM   Subscribe

My Powerbook (15" G4 1.25 Ghz) is criminally hot. Temperature Monitor reports that my Processor/Controller Bottomside temp. is 140°F, Power Supply Bottomside is 142.2°F, Battery is 95°F, and my Hard Disk is 104°F. The metal bottom of the "laptop" is too hot to touch for more than a moment. Is this reasonable? Is my computer broken? [MI]

It's so hot that I have a sort of a sting-ey "half degree" burn on my right hand from typing on the built-in keyboard a lot yesterday and there's absolutely no way I can put it atop my lap, as intended by name and design. It is out of warranty, so Apple won't even talk to me about it without charging me for phone time. I can't find any information about the heat tolerances of this model, but I suspect the heat is partly responsible for the shortened life of the battery (I get about 12 minutes out of a full charge now) and may cause other hardware problems and possibly even ill health effects (i.e., sterilty and the burn on my hand). So MeFi friends, what can I do about it?
posted by maniactown to Computers & Internet (29 answers total)
I'm no Mac expert, but good gravy, that sounds unhealthy. If I ever had a laptop that got that hot, I'd get a new machine before the damned thing exploded.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:07 AM on May 12, 2005

That's not normal. I had a Powerbook that got hot but nothing like that. I could rest it on my knees while wearing shorts and I'd say it was "comfortably warm".

I would take it to an Apple store and if they tell you it's the battery, just buy a new one online.
posted by dobbs at 8:26 AM on May 12, 2005

Also, what happens when you run it plugged into the wall?
posted by dobbs at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2005

Try running it plugged in without the battery and see how the temperature is.
posted by josh at 8:31 AM on May 12, 2005

I'd like to add emphasis here that that ain't normal. I have a Powerbook G4 (1GHZ) and I constantly do intensive crap like Final Cut rendering and wanky stuff in Logic Audio (mostly while connected w/ an AC adapter but often enough with just battery power) and while it gets a little warm, it never never gets anywhere near that.

Take it into the Apple store ASAP lest it go one some awful burning rampage through your home. If you can get past the obnoxiously named "Genius bar" they are generally helpful people.
posted by xmutex at 8:36 AM on May 12, 2005

That's actually warm enough to be a potential consumer hazard. I would take it to an Apple dealer and tell them it is hazardous and ask them to fix it. If they won't, write to Apple customer support directly (a letter, not a call or email).
posted by Doohickie at 8:45 AM on May 12, 2005

With the battery removed, there seems to be a little less heat: 132.3°F Processor Bottomside, 137.8°F Power Supply, 100.4°F Hard Disk. I'll take it in to the Apple store, but I suspect since it's out of warranty they'll tell me to suck it. Eh?
posted by maniactown at 8:48 AM on May 12, 2005

Don't pull that "design and name" lap-top comment with the apple care folks. They will curtly remind you that you didn't buy an Apple laptop, you bought an Apple Powerbook™.
posted by jmgorman at 8:50 AM on May 12, 2005

Sorry to jump onto the thread, but has anybody noticed a big jump in processor use/temperature after upgrading to Tiger? I have a brand new 12" powerbook, with 768mb of ram, but since the upgrade last week, it seems like the fan is running constantly and the surface and base are nearly too hot to touch, not when running intensive applications, just when it's sitting idly. It's kinda freaking me out, since my last computer was a Sony Pentium4 that routinely burned its guts out from high heat.
posted by felix betachat at 9:00 AM on May 12, 2005

If you want quicker support for free, tell them that you'll continue to use the laptop as advised, and that should you burn yourself like this person (NSFW if your work bans medical terms, picture free), you won't hestitate to sue. :-)

Suggestion: Burn something less drastic than that body part.
posted by shepd at 9:00 AM on May 12, 2005

manaictown- The few times I've been to my local Apple store (Seattle) for out-of-warranty issues, they've been very cool about it, even telling me to go the local unofficial Mac store (that predated them) because it would be a lot cheaper _after_ identifying the problem with no charge.

Your mileage... it may vary.
posted by xmutex at 9:04 AM on May 12, 2005

the G4 processor runs fairly cool, as processors go, which is one of the reasons why the Powerbook line hasn't been updated to G5 yet. but your laptop will still heat up.

one of the challenges of laptop design is heat dissipation. in a tower computer, you can dissipate heat fairly well with a heat sink -- something that will conduct heat efficiently -- and lead that heat elsewhere, such as the open space that typically resides in a tower. laptops typically have no space whatsoever, and have poor air circulation through venting besides.

normally i don't get concerned about heat temperatures damaging the computer until you get into the upper 80s and anything in the 90s -- but in celsius degrees, not fahrenheit. your temperatures may have an effect on the lifetime of the battery, but the low power may also be a result of age. (i've replaced my laptop battery once in about 3 or 4 years.)

my powerbook (G4, 15", 500mhz) typically runs with no fan for as long as it can; then, when the heat rises too high, the fan engages and blows hot air out of a vent on the back of the laptop, just below the hinge that connects the LCD screen to the main component.

if your fan isn't engaging, this is likely your problem -- what little heat the G4 does produce is not being removed by the fan. it could be something with the fan itself, or it could be that the connector the fan is hooked into isn't sending power to it. the latter actually happened to me with my (small-form-factor) computer, but luckily the mainboard had a spare connector that fit the fan, and it's run well ever since. you may want to take it into an apple-authorized dealer and see if you can't get a better price or better service than through the apple store -- it's up to you.
posted by moz at 9:48 AM on May 12, 2005

Wow, and I thought my iBook got toasty.

Does changing the Processor Performance setting (in the Energy Saver control panel > Options) from "Highest" to "Reduced" help?

Is it possible that the vents to your machine are clogged with lint or sheep or something?

I would definitely second a trip to a Genius Bar. Having the person actually feel that the thing is dangerously hot might move them to say "yeah something ain't right, let's get this fixed for you".
posted by blueberry at 9:58 AM on May 12, 2005

Yes, check the fan.
posted by alms at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2005

Apple (and others) deliberately use the name "notebook" (or "portable") and never "laptop".

It's broken, take it to a dealer. What else are you expecting us to tell you?
posted by cillit bang at 10:35 AM on May 12, 2005

Just that it was really broken and not within "normal" tolerances... Thanks for all the replies.
posted by maniactown at 11:09 AM on May 12, 2005

The fan should be running when it is that warm -- and the Powerbook fans are *loud* -- shockingly so, the first time I've heard them. The only reason I tolerate this is that it is extremely rare for them to come on at all. I think the design decision was to have loud, high-volume fans that quickly cooled things down, then shut down, rather that have a quieter, but constant, drone.

140F on the CPU is hot, but most processors cope with 65C, so that's not a huge deal. But it is too warm if the case is that hot.

My 12" PB gets nicely warm near the track pads -- great carpal tunnel therapy. ;)
posted by eriko at 11:46 AM on May 12, 2005

2-3 years ago:

Friend of mine had a PowerBook G3 (way out of warranty, of course) where one of the batteries literally burst into flames and melted part of the battery compartment cover.

He advised Apple of this fact via email. They tried to get in touch with him *numerous* times the next day. When they finally got him on the phone, they asked him if they could send a pre-paid Airborne Express box for him to send the entire laptop (batteries and all) back to them in for "investigation" - along with a brand-new Titanium PowerBook G4 in exchange.

Of course, he took the deal.
posted by mrbill at 12:35 PM on May 12, 2005

I'm getting these numbers with the same monitor:

141.8 F (processsor/controller bottomside)
139.6 F (processor bottomside)
95 F (battery)
105.8 F (HDD)

Is this too high? Should I send it in?

G4 AlBook, 1.25Ghz
posted by gen at 1:17 PM on May 12, 2005

You might want to check for out of control processes and deal with them. After installing Tiger my PB became unbearably hot (62C on the CPU). After poking around a bit I discovered that the Virex antivirus program wasn't compatible with Tiger and was just spinning the CPU constantly. After uninstalling it the temperature returned to normal levels...
posted by pookzilla at 1:53 PM on May 12, 2005

felix and others: I can't remember the source, unfortunately, but I remember reading that Tiger has a bug of some sort that can keep the machine from going into idle mode properly. It sounded like the kind of thing that'd be fixed in the next point release.

A question for everyone: I'm thinking of getting an iBook or pBook, one of the smaller display sizes, and I definitely want one that stays cooler to the touch underneath. (My old G3 "Lombard" can sometimes get uncomfortably hot.) Does anyone know how these compare heat-wise?
posted by hattifattener at 2:24 PM on May 12, 2005

Doing a quick search came up with this thread about virex not being compatible with Tiger. It ended up in a run away process. Once uninstalled, cpu usage was better. If it's not that, I would suspect it's some process that is just eating up CPU time that shouldn't be. Using top from the terminal will be a quick way to check.
posted by chrisroberts at 2:50 PM on May 12, 2005

gen and maniactown: I also have a G4 1.25 15", and my temperature readings are similarly high... but they weren't before I installed Tiger. I don't have Virex installed, and I see minimal CPU usage. Honestly, I think there's something going on here. 10.4.1 is supposed to be coming out soon; I'm going to wait for it before I schedule some time at the mall. Let us know what Apple says if you call them or take it in right away.
posted by eschatfische at 6:44 PM on May 12, 2005

Also here and here.
posted by eschatfische at 7:03 PM on May 12, 2005

Thanks guys. I killed the Virex process and it's back to running normally.
posted by felix betachat at 8:10 PM on May 12, 2005

Quick update: I'm not running Tiger (yet... maybe tomorrow), I don't have Virex, and my temps have been high for a while. I usually use my PB on a iCurve with a external K/V/M; it was the burnt hand that really teed me off... I think I'll take it into the Apple Store this weekend and see what they say. Thanks again for all the responses. I'll post an update here for eschatfische and any other interested parties.
posted by maniactown at 9:01 PM on May 12, 2005

fwiw, no Virex but Tiger on my G4 AlBook...it's always been this hot, especially when I run it down and then charge it up. I'll also go to the Ginza store soon and see what the deal is- mine has the white spots too...
posted by gen at 10:53 PM on May 12, 2005

Dunno if this Apple battery recall applies to you:
In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other international safety authorities, Apple is voluntarily recalling certain lithium ion rechargeable batteries that were sold worldwide from January 2004 through August 2004 for use with 15-inch PowerBook G4 (Aluminum) notebook computers. These batteries were manufactured by LG Chem, Ltd. of South Korea.

The affected batteries could overheat, posing a fire hazard. Apple received four reports of these batteries overheating. No injuries have been reported. Apple urges you to stop using your battery and to order a replacement battery immediately. If you continue to use your battery, do not leave it unattended and check for signs of overheating.
It lists the recalled battery model numbers too.
posted by librarina at 11:00 AM on May 14, 2005

Just for reference, my PowerBook came down in temperature and much more rarely runs the fan after installing the 10.4.1 update. I think 10.4.0 was just a little bit goofy.
posted by eschatfische at 9:07 AM on June 9, 2005

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