Laptop Fan
June 7, 2013 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Does purchasing an external fan for a laptop work or are they just marketing? Mine can run a little warm when I am pushing it with games so I am considering a cooling pad.
posted by zzazazz to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
By "run a little warm" do you mean the computer is actually warning you of an overtemp or is it just warm to the touch? The electronics in your laptop will for the most part operate quite happily at temperatures that will cause discomfort to your skin - I think those cooling pads are more to save your bare legs than anything else. Just make sure the vents on the case are clear and you should be fine.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:53 AM on June 7, 2013

It runs warm enough to where I am noticing a drop in performance which, I assume, means it is close to overheating. I play Arma II on it and after about two hours it gets warmer than it normally does.
posted by zzazazz at 8:55 AM on June 7, 2013

It runs warm enough to where I am noticing a drop in performance which, I assume, means it is close to overheating.

This is not how computers work (computers could be built that slow down when they get hot, but so far as I know, none do so currently). If you are noticing a performance drop, it's most likely either a placebo or something else entirely that just takes a couple hours to take effect (certain types of memory leaks could cause a program to get slower the longer it runs).
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:04 AM on June 7, 2013

This is not how computers work (computers could be built that slow down when they get hot, but so far as I know, none do so currently).

Many (most? all?) current laptop CPUs/BIOSs do in fact do this. Google "thermal throttling" for tons of info.
posted by duckstab at 9:06 AM on June 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had a chronically overheating laptop for years that I couldn't afford to do anything about.

What I did was lift it up from the table by placing a few spacers underneath (I used empty tape circles but, you know, player's choice) which generally gave it enough clearance to get some extra cool air flow. It helped a lot.

Later on its life, when the internal fan broke and I still couldn't afford to do anything about it, I positioned a regular house fan to blow at the open space underneath. That worked, too.

What I'm getting at is, while I've never actually used a purpose-built laptop fan, the idea that the computer could stand with some cooling off is sound.
posted by phunniemee at 9:14 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks, Metafilter always has a few good answers. I have the back elevated to help with air flow. Maybe I could raise it a bit higher.
posted by zzazazz at 9:15 AM on June 7, 2013

Many (most? all?) current laptop CPUs do in fact do this.

Are you sure? There doesn't seem to be much info online indicating that this actually happens. Even if this is the case, it should be simple to find a utility that will tell you how fast your CPU is running, and then when you notice a performance decrease, you can check and see if it's actually slowed down from it's maximum speed. That would save the purchase price of a fan while you figured out if your computer was actually slowing down at all.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:16 AM on June 7, 2013

Had the getting-warm-performance-drop-oops-shut-down-from-overheating-problem with an old Sony laptop. It never warned of an overtemp, it just died. I put it in the fridge to cool it down and it would restart and work fine for up to two hrs, then it would get hot and slow again. The problem never went away so I replaced it. Not a cooling pad story per se but the same effect.

However, the problem was that I had used it in difficult conditions (desert-like, dirt roads, dust+ sand. In result the fan was probably clogged). CPU usage was always at 90%+, which was not ideal either.
posted by travelwithcats at 9:19 AM on June 7, 2013

My laptop felt like it was getting really hot (which was annoying when on my lap and potentially dangerous on the bed) so I got a cheapie fan/cooling pad similar to this which helps a lot.
posted by radioamy at 9:46 AM on June 7, 2013

I have an antique laptop that shuts down when it gets hot, but as long as I keep it slightly elevated off the desk it's fine. I can't use it on my lap. Sure is loud though, and I wonder how hard it would be to just replace the fan inside.
posted by mareli at 9:54 AM on June 7, 2013

I have a large laptop that gets hot and this seems to help.
posted by getawaysticks at 10:04 AM on June 7, 2013

>>Many (most? all?) current laptop CPUs do in fact do this.

>Are you sure?

Well, I am. I design computer parts. I'm sitting at a computer that does this. Any mobile x86 processor not on the low end (and even most of those) will support aggressive throttling for both temperature and power draw. I believe it requires operating system support.

Heat is the enemy of electronics, yes -- but quadruply so for batteries. Batteries hate anything above room temperature, while your electronics will be fine at ~70C. Get a cheapo laptop fan pad and your batteries will last longer!
posted by flimflam at 10:39 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for specific product recommendations, a few years ago I had a laptop that was running hot and shutting down; I knew it would be six months or so before I could afford to replace it, so I bought a USB cooling stand to keep it operational until I could spring for a replacement. I got a Logitech N100, and it worked extremely well indeed: it was a little cumbersome, but hey, that's just what it is, and it kept the creaking laptop alive for a few more months. I think the N100 has been superseded by a newer model, but I can definitely recommend Logitech models generally.
posted by hydatius at 10:53 AM on June 7, 2013

If you don't have one already, and you can afford it, consider upgrading your laptop to a Solid State Drive (SSD). My laptop ran the fan constantly before I got one, and now it hardly runs. Big improvements in performance and battery life too.
posted by scose at 11:14 AM on June 7, 2013

First of all, thermal throttling/speedstep is absolutely real.

Second, those cooling pads do make a difference, but generally not an amazing one. Have you cleaned out the fans/heatsinks with compressed air lately? I'd get some canned air and blow out all the vents.

That said, if I was going to get one of these I'd definitely get the "giant 200mm fan" type like this that seemed like it was actually going to move some serious air.

As I said, they aren't a placebo, but it might not actually solve the problem.

Oh, as one last note I used to own a laptop(asus g53sw) that had a problem with erroneously throttling. Definitely google the model you have and see if that's a documented or discussed issue, because the solution here might actually be a cooling stand and something like this.
posted by emptythought at 12:29 PM on June 7, 2013

My laptop is a 7 year old Toshiba that was starting to run hot a year ago. I bought a pad which helped a bit, but then last summer tore the computer apart. And no wonder it was running hot: the fan's vent was covered with a thick layer of lint and gunk. That was removed and it has run much better since. So if it's an older computer and you're feeling daring, taking it apart to clean may be worth a shot.
posted by lharmon at 1:41 PM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have used a cooling pad/fan that the computer sits on, a house fan, and a 2 dollar usb plug-in fan. They have all worked perfectly well in bringing the temp down.
posted by Vaike at 2:24 PM on June 7, 2013

When I had a desktop with odd behavior, I ran a CPU temperature app. Here's something that sounds similar.
posted by theora55 at 3:06 PM on June 7, 2013

Definitely not just marketing. I have a laptop that shuts itself down after 45 minutes or so if I try to run it without a cooling pad, but it runs just fine with one. I have the Cooler Master.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:12 PM on June 7, 2013

While I didn't need the cooling, the fans were already in a laptop desk I used, so I wondered if I had much use for them. I decided that putting a filter on those fans would result in the air my laptop was sucking being pre-filtered. which would prevent all the dust accumulating in the heatsinks inside the laptop, clogging up the cooling.

I used a sheet of foam rubber for my filter, and the fans still pull more air through it that the laptop fan needs.

So that could be an additional advantage to using a cooling pad, if adding a filter to it appeals to you.
posted by anonymisc at 6:27 PM on June 7, 2013

My macbook used to thermal throttle itself after about five minutes of use (and get hot enough to cause burns if placed on the skin). I bought a cheap ($10) laptop stand that has a fan inside. The stand is made of mesh, so it elevates the laptop and allows circulation anyway, and it helps a little even if the fan is not turned on. The fan has a USB connection to power it. When plugged in, the laptop never overheats at all, even when doing pretty intense things. I'm very happy. The only disadvantages are the noise (the fan is loud) and the fact that if I forget to remove the USB when I shut the laptop lid, the laptop won't hibernate properly, and the fan will keep running, wasting power.
posted by lollusc at 7:13 PM on June 7, 2013

I was in your situation last year. Machine was running hot and real slow, sometimes even shutting itself off. I opened it up to find mats of dust filling it up. Blew it all out with canned air and the laptop is running fine now.

After that victory, I went ahead and did the same on the machine I bought the other one as a replacement for (because it had gone from shutting itself off seemingly at random to not even staying up long enough to boot.) That machine is what I'm typing this on now.

So, I'm sure propping the machine up or using fans will help but ultimately I think you should look at how internally begrimed your laptop is and address that and your problems will improve.

Two tips: Be sure to concentrate your cleaning efforts on the infrastructure that goes from the CPU heat sink to the fan. Both of my machines use some intricate metal piping to do this, and it was pretty gummed up. Also, I've found that after you've done the cleanup, if you get any heat problems later, it usually just takes some canned air through the intakes and exhaust to loosen the dust and get your laptop humming again; you shouldn't have to pull it apart again for a long while (I haven't had to yet, with either one.)
posted by Opposite George at 10:11 PM on June 7, 2013

Thanks all.
posted by zzazazz at 7:29 AM on June 8, 2013

I want to nth the cleaning suggestion too. With a housecat it's an annual thing around our house. The difference is dramatic.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:28 AM on June 9, 2013

« Older How to deal with threat of violence against me...   |   Trying to find a short story about an alien and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.