Alas, poor Laptop!
July 19, 2006 10:15 AM   Subscribe

My laptop has suddenly run into problems... That is, it seems to like turning itself off with no warning whatsoever.

I have a Toshiba laptop (running Windows XP), about a year old (and thus past the warranty, for sure) and beginning yesterday it seems to want to just... shut off some times.

For the most part, my laptop is a desktop computer, but I brought it to school yesterday and after about 20 minutes or so, it spontaneously shut off. I turned it back on, it booted up, then the same thing.

It seems that if I leave it for a while it'll run... and I had it going for several hours later on where it was fine... but then late last night, the same problem cropped up. It's been plugged in most of the time, but I've tried it on battery (in case it was simply a power surge of some kind) and that didn't seem to help.

I can't really think of any common thread between any of the times that it's shut off (it didn't seem like it was overheating, no one was slapping it, there wasn't any particular processor intensive thing going on), and so I'm concerned that there's maybe something quite serious here. When it shuts off it makes the sound of a monitor shutting off (which is presumably the screen, I guess), and the whole thing just goes at once, no warning.

Any ideas? Is my laptop toast?
posted by vernondalhart to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You say it stays on if you leave it alone. If you are using/touching it when it shuts off, it could be static electricity, which I get a lot of in my air-conditioned office. I'd also bet that the sound that it makes is the HD spinning down.

Try grounding yourself before you use it.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:28 AM on July 19, 2006

When it shuts down, is it on your lap? My year old Toshy did what you described a few times, but only when my legs were blocking a fan.

IIRC, newer processors like the Pentium 4 will slow down or even stop if necessary to keep you from frying the internals if things get to hot.
posted by 4ster at 10:40 AM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: Sorry, by leave it alone I mean leave it off for a while and come back to it later. And it hasn't been sitting in my lap, but on a desk in each case.
posted by vernondalhart at 10:46 AM on July 19, 2006

Best answer: My Toshiba laptop was doing this, because it was overheating. After a year the air vents were plugged with dust. I had to disassemble the whole thing (there are websites with walk-throughs for the various models) , clean it up, and reassemble it. It never shuts down randomly anymore.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:06 AM on July 19, 2006

I had the same problem with my Toshiba laptop. It's unfortunately common and is due to overheating (even if you don't notice the overheating yourself). I took mine in to get cleaned out (I have a model that doesn't open easily) but that didn't help. I finally got a "cooling pad" (a laptop-sized fan that sits under the computer) that kept it noticeably cooler and stopped the shutdowns.

My hard drive crashed before I got the cooling pad, presumably because of heat, so I would recommend you find some solution to keep it cool to prevent that.

See this PCWorld article about a class-action suit against Toshiba for this problem.
posted by nevers at 11:19 AM on July 19, 2006

I vote for heat problem too. If you don't want to take it a part try a local repair shop that you can trust. You might just want to try spraying some compressed air in the vents too.
posted by bleucube at 11:21 AM on July 19, 2006

My toshiba satellite A15-S157 laptop used to shut off without warning all the time too, and I had to get the fan replaced. One day a I got a little pop up window telling me to shut down or it would overheat and fry. After getting the fan replaced it's worked like a charm (although its out of commission now because the power cable is shooting sparks and malfunctioning)
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:59 AM on July 19, 2006

Response by poster: Ok, this sounds like relatively good news. I'll try the compressed air thing tonight, then if that doesn't help too much I'll take it in somewhere.

I did notice at one point that where my hand rests on it was abnormally hot yesterday, so it really does sound like that's the solution.
posted by vernondalhart at 12:53 PM on July 19, 2006

Coincidentally, I'm having a similar problem with my HP ZD8000 (not that anyone cares about the model - just for those searching articles in the future). I don't really want to take it to a repair shop or send it in to HP, so I've simply started propping it up a bit by resting it on a small book, thus unblocking the fans underneath. I've had great success with this so far. You may want to look into getting a docking station which keeps the base of your laptop clear, or, as nevers says, a cooling pad, but the book is a quick and dirty (and possibly temporary) solution.
posted by converge at 1:00 PM on July 19, 2006

This happened to mine when it was seriously overheating. It eventually killed the hard disk, so be careful!
posted by easternblot at 1:13 PM on July 19, 2006

Better to use a vacuum.
Forcing the dust deeper inside is not good long term.
posted by Fins at 2:37 PM on July 19, 2006

I've had good luck with an inverted fast-food/cafeteria-style tray (also maintains room between the surface and my lap).

It could also be bad memory, though. You can find a test program for that at and on many Linux live CDs, such as Ubuntu.
posted by concrete at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2006

Toshiba Satellite A-15? The problem may not be the fan exactly, although cleaning it certainly won't hurt. When I removed the heat sink (the snaky-looking copper thing) from the cpu, I discovered that the thermal paste had been squeezed out.

Radio Shack sells a tube of heat sink compound for $1.99.

If you still think you need a fan, these guys look reliable.
posted by mischief at 7:19 PM on August 2, 2006

« Older Firefox hates me   |   And I thought the most stressful thing was... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.